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Today's Family Magazine

Become a “Big Sister” –– become part of the family

L-R: Kelsey, Simone and Sydney Harris

By Mary Flenner

Amy Cronauer and Kara Cutcher couldn’t be happier to be Big Sisters.

“I had been reflecting on some of the challenges on our society, and how we can live in a city with someone and yet be so divided.  By race. By politics.  By religion.  By socio-economic status.  We’re divided by so much and I thought the way you can make a direct impact on that is through family,” Cronauer says.

So she joined Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) and became a Big Sister to Kelsey Harris (age 12) of Cleveland.  Her younger sister Sydney (age 11) also has a Big Sister in teacher Kara Cutcher.

“Mentorship from many different people has helped me throughout my life,” Cronauer continues.  “It was so important to have diverse opinions in my family.  The most important thing we can do is give back to our own community.  Kelsey lives just a few blocks from where I used to.  So I think of it as investing in your neighborhood, investing in families… in young people as they’re becoming adults.”

“In both cases, BBBS has given the girls exposure to some of the things I can’t always do as a single parent.  It provides different outlets, and avenues.  They’re able to nurture some interests I may not be as familiar with because of their backgrounds. Kara is a teacher, for example, and
Amy is involved with the Museum of Art,” says the girls’ mother, Simone Harris.

She continues, “Amy and Kara have become like family.  They took the girls Christmas shopping and they both came over for a holiday dinner.  They’ve met all the family members.  I try to incorporate them and make them feel like they’re family.” 

“I love watching Kelsey become herself.  It’s amazing to watch her individualize.  The way I see the program is just growing that child’s village to have different or interesting life experiences,” Cronauer continues.  “They truly treat me like family.”

Kara Cutcher had experience working in underserved communities in Chicago, and felt called to join after hearing a student’s positive experience with BBBS.

“Philanthropy and altruism have always been important to me and it’s really important to me to do something to get involved in my community.  I love working with young women and I love serving as a mentor… we learn a lot from each other.  Sydney teaches me to see things from another perspective,” Cutcher says.

“We’ve been to SkyZone, the library, we’ve done homework together, made a cake, taken dogs on a walk, gone to movies, gone to lunch, done crafts, browsed craft stores… Sydney is such a good, well-rounded kid.  It’s been a great experience getting to know her and her family,” Cutcher continues.

Amy, Kara and Simone all spoke highly of the way BBBS prepares everyone for the relationship. They have an in-depth matching process and orientation to make sure it’s the right fit.  BBBS also has match specialists who check in frequently to help with any concerns and offer guidance.  BBBS also hosts Big-Little group events and offers up ideas for socializing one on one.

When it comes to finding time in your schedule, Cutcher says, “You can tailor it to your needs; your availability.  It’s just a great opportunity to build a relationship with a child.”
“It is such a benefit in my life.  It is so fulfilling for me,” Cronauer says through teary eyes.  “Kelsey gets me out of my shell, and more active.  I’m doing things I never would have done without her.” 

“I hope people consider supporting the organization through a donation—it’s so deserving, and it’s so directly related,” Cronauer urges.

To make an online donation, or for information about becoming a mentor or enrolling your child in the program, visit

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