A love of nature helped connect Shyla Bosack, 15, and her “big sister” Laura Jolly, a longtime runner and walker.

“We’ve spent a lot of time walking my dogs, discovering a new trail…just walking and talking, which is just great,” says Laura, who lives in Traverse City.

It’s a simple activity—getting outside, enjoying quality one-on-one time—but it’s been significant for Shyla and Laura, who met through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan. 

The BIG Little Hero Race will take place Saturday, April 11, 2015 on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City.

The BIG Little Hero Race will take place Saturday, April 11, 2015 on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City.

The pair was matched as “big sister” and “little sister” four years ago through the organization’s community-based mentoring program. The idea is to “provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-on-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever,” according to Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“It’s been wonderful on so many different levels,” Laura says of her relationship with Shyla. “They do such a great job making sure it’s a good match … she’s come out of her shell—she’s blossomed.”

Laura and Shyla.

Laura and Shyla.

Laura says she’s found herself changing and growing as well.

“Shyla is incredibly talented,” she says. “She loves arts and crafts—something we have in common—and I was sort of in a slump creatively. Shyla taught me how to play again .. I’ve watched her make mistakes, then patiently go back and do it over again. I’ve thought, gosh, who is mentoring who here? We’ve really bonded on that level.”

Along with walking Laura’s dogs, the pair also has participated in a trail race and plans to take part in next month’s BIG Little Hero Race at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City. The April 11 event benefits Big Brothers Little Sisters of Northwestern Michigan.

“I’d heard about the race and I said to Shyla, ‘Do you want to do that?’ And she said, ‘Oh, yeah!’” Laura recalls.

They’re planning to walk the 5K route (there’s also a 10K race option), and Laura is looking forward to experiencing the race day atmosphere together. “You get this feeling when you’re around people who are healthy and active … I’d love to do more of these with her.”

“I am still amazed when I send her a text and say let’s get together. We’re still having fun. I think that as a relationship goes, I am just hoping that she has done some things that have open her eyes to possibilities. She is really bright …my goal is to help keep her on that track.”

To learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters – there are chapters statewide and across the country – go here »

The BIG Little Hero Race takes place Saturday, April 11 on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City. Use this special MRG reader code to pay just $10 to register:

For the 5K: TC105K
For the 10K: TC1010K
Register here »
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