Big Brothers Big Sisters of Coastal & Northern New Jersey (BBBSCNNJ) has named Stephanie DeFeo of Old Bridge and her Little Sister Jasmine as Community Based Big Sister and Little Sister of the Year.
Ernest Ebanks of Mount Olive Township and his Little Brother Dreveon were named Community Based Big Brother and Little Brother of the Year.
“We are inspired by Ernest and Stephanie’s dedication to the BBBSCNNJ program, commitment to their matches, and the incredible impact they have had on the lives of their Littles,” William Salcedo, executive director of BBBSCNNJ said in a prepared statement. “Ernest and Stephanie are true role models, the epitome of what mentors can and should be, and excellent ambassadors for Big Brothers Big Sisters.”
DeFeo and her Little Sister Jasmine were matched when Jasmine was 6 years old, and they celebrated their 11-year match anniversary last month, according to the statement.
Throughout this time, DeFeo has been a constant support to Jasmine. She was there to offer guidance and support as Jasmine was transitioning into high school, starting her first job, taking her driver’s test, and now as she prepares for her future beyond high school, according to the statement.
Jasmine’s mother has shared that Jasmine is more open with DeFeo than anyone, and credits her for helping Jasmine step out of her comfort zone by encouraging her to try new things, according to the statement.
From going on hikes, grabbing lunch, and trying photo-worthy milkshakes, to seeing concerts, plays, and ballets together, they’ve created many memories over the last 11 years, according to the statement. Some of these outings have even become annual traditions, such as going back to school shopping at the end of each summer and attending the BBBSCNNJ’s holiday parties.
Although they will be graduating out of the program soon, DeFeo, Jasmine and Jasmine’s mother have all expressed that this friendship is one that will last a lifetime, according to the statement.
Stephanie even recently reassured Jasmine, “You have me for life,” according to the statement.
“I have been a Big to Jasmine for 11 amazing years and have watched her learn and grow into a beautiful butterfly,” DeFeo said in the statement. “I have been able to provide guidance, build a wonderful relationship, and share experiences. Through these experiences, I have been able to learn and grow myself, and I have BBBSCNNJ to thank. Maya Angelou once said, ‘We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.’ ”
BBBSCNNJ continues to serve 1,350 children with one-to-one mentoring throughout 10 counties in New Jersey. From emotional support to the joy of having a trusted friend in their corner, Bigs provide the stability that Littles need to achieve their full potential, according to the statement.