Shopping for clothes for the new school year is always hard — and especially for first-time college students. That’s why Big Brothers Big Sisters submitted six of our Littles for the $400 Igniting Confidence Shopping Spree at the Fort Wayne Express … and all six of them won!

Together with their guardians, Match Support, and Express personnel, our Littles set out to find all-new professional wardrobes for the next year, whether they’re looking forward to college or a career.

Little Sister Courtney said, “I used my gift card to buy jeans and tops. I loved finding clothes that actually fit me and that I can wear during student teaching! My favorite part of today was … all of it! I felt like a celebrity.”

Professional paparazzo Jake Schultheis followed each Little throughout the shopping spree for a personalized photo shoot, making sure that each Little felt like it was their big day.

Little Brother Alex shopped for dress shirts and business casual items and said, “Now I have the tools to feel more confident in a business setting.” Before showing up to Express, Little Brother Alex said, “I was nervous. I wasn’t for sure they would have my size. But I found lots of clothes I could wear and the employees were super nice and helpful.

“Being a part of Big Brothers Big Sisters has definitely helped me by providing me with positive and influential role models,” said Alex. “Whether that be my Big Brother himself or the staff that I interact with, they’re always giving me tips and guidance whether to comes to help with college applications or just everyday life.

“Having these people around me has helped me be more comfortable and confident in myself working my jobs and transitioning from high school to my adult lifestyle,” said Alex, “and it’s given me the ability to believe that I can be a meaningful and contributing member of society. My Big Brother Mike has helped me a lot with finding myself and to be a good person with good morals. Being kind to others can in itself be a rewarding experience!”

Two of the winning Little Sisters were both named Vanessa. Vanessa K. scoped the shop for clothes, shirts, and lots of pants.

“I found things that I look good in,” she said, “and I found new pants that actually fit!”

For Vanessa K., her Big Sister Gina has been an invaluable friend. As a kid, Vanessa K. would spend the night at Gina’s house and watch movies, play in the pool, and get to know all about Gina’s favorite hobby, bee-keeping.

“She gave me a lot of advice that I actually listened to,” said Vanessa K. “I never usually listen, but with Gina, I did.”

Over the years, Vanessa K. and Big Sister Gina went on lots of hikes, had plenty of long talks about school and friendship, and went to as many Big Brothers Big Sisters events as they could. Vanessa K. still has the stuffed animals and a book she won at BBBS events as a child, and she keeps a drawing of herself and Gina inside the pages of that book.

“I have learned a lot of things from Big Brothers Big Sisters,” said Vanessa K. “They helped me get scholarships for college and told where I can go for those and what was best. I will miss BBBS and how much they have helped me.”

During the Express shopping spree, Vanessa G. kept an eye out for clothes for future events, like her graduation and birthday.

“I found clothes that were outside my comfort zone,” she said. “Trying the clothes on was my favorite part!”

For Little Brother Ethan, who recently completed an internship at Big Brothers Big Sisters, he focused on good-quality clothes that will suit him either in college or in his future career.

“I found things that I look good in,” Ethan said, “and I found new pants that fit.”

And Little Sister Neveah had the time of her life.

“I got dresses, heels, pants, and tops for future events,” Neveah said. “I now have clothes for college next year and for prom.”

Neveah lost her little brother at age seven and said, “When that happened, it made me an only child and broke my heart. For about two years I went around seeing all these people with their siblings and having to wrestle with the revelation that I would never have mine again. Then my mom found Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“I remember being so anxious but when I walked in and saw my Big Sister Shawn all my nerves melted away,” Neveah said. “I genuinely thought she was perfect. She understood me and cared about me. Now nine years later I have a great relationship with Shawn. She’s taught me so many things and a lot of my best life experiences have been with her. I stopped worrying about other people with their siblings and really got to focus on building an amazing relationship with Shawn. I truly thank Big Brothers Big Sisters for bringing her into my life and saving me from the pain I felt.”

At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we’d like to give a BIG thank you to Express for giving our Little Brothers and Sisters this amazing opportunity!

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