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BBBSNEW Blog

Match of the Month | Chris Van Lanen & Ben

March 1, 2019

Each month, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Wisconsin shines a light on the relationships that we are helping build within our community. Please help us congratulate Chris Van Lanen (54) of De Pere and his Little Brother Ben (16) of Denmark — our Brown County Match of the Month for March.

Where did you hear about Big Brothers Big Sisters?

Chris Van Lanen: I learned of Big Brothers Big Sisters though television and radio marketing.

Why did you want to become involved?

CVL: I am young at heart, and I love being a father and spending time with my two sons. When my boys reached an age when it was no longer cool to be doing things with Dad, I thought Big Brothers Big Sisters would be great opportunity to extend a chance to another child that might not otherwise have someone to do things with. I wanted to be a positive influence and friend to someone who could use it.

Why did you want to have a Big Brother?

Ben: I wanted to have a Big Brother so I could have someone to do things with and someone to look up to.

What do you do when you spend time together?

CVL: We discuss school, family and the future.  We also discuss problems and potential solutions.

Ben and I have been matched for several years. During this time our activities have included: visiting restaurants, Bay Beach, fishing, bowling, movies, baseball, freebie golf, pool, ping pong, darts. We have also attended Bucks, Packer, UWGB Phoenix basketball, Timber Rattlers, SNC hockey games, and visited the Neville and Milwaukee Public Museums, the NEW and Milwaukee Zoo.

But, most of the time, we just hang out.

What do you do when you spend time together?

B: We play basketball, watch basketball, play pool, go to Bucks and UWGB Phoenix basketball games.

Is there something in particular that stands out as a memorable time with your Big?

B: First time at a Bucks game, and doing exploring beforehand.

Is there something in particular that stands out as a memorable time with your Little?

CVL: There are several moments that come to mind:

1) We have thoroughly enjoyed the Bucks games that we have attended. We arrive in Milwaukee early to give us the opportunity to explore the big city and its tall buildings. We also enjoy a meal before the game. Ben was fortunate to obtain a player autograph on two occasions.

2) There was also the time we attended a Timber Rattlers game that went 18 innings. We never guessed that it would have gone that long. We kept thinking “just one more inning,” but it kept going on and on and on. After the 16th inning, I decided it was time to leave. It was already too late, but Ben would have liked to have stayed until the end.

3)  There was also the time on our first or second outing that we had ordered a banana split, but they forgot to put the bananas in it. That is something that we have joked for years since.

4)  There was also the time when Ben was in third grade and we went fishing at the wild life sanctuary.   He couldn’t believe that he was able to catch 18 fish on his own.

Is there something in the future that you would like to do together, or that you look forward to experiencing together?

B: Haven’t talked about it. We usually like to do the same things like Bucks games or go to his house. We have the same week by week activities we like.

Is there something in the future that you would like to do together, or that you look forward to experiencing together?

CVL: We are hoping to attend another Bucks game soon. They are great fun for both of us and probably our favorite outing. I am also looking forward to watching Ben graduate from high school and to pursue further education.

What have you enjoyed about being a Big?

CVL: There is nothing more rewarding than to make a difference in the life of a Little. I have gotten back so much more than I have given and have made a lifelong friend.

What have you learned from your Big?

B: To be grateful for what you have because you don’t know when it could be taken away.

How has being matched with a Big made a difference to you?

B: It has made a difference by giving me something to look forward to and has made me to appreciate the little things more.

In what way has being matched with your Little affected you and your life?

CVL: It is such a wonderful experience to feel like you are making a difference in someone else’s life. It is such a rewarding experience.

It has also even helped me to get through tough times in my own life. I have often reminded myself of advice that I had given that may apply to me.

What would you say to others about Big Brothers Big Sisters and to others who are thinking about becoming a Big?

CVL: Do it! There are Littles out there that would love to spend time with you. There is nothing more rewarding than to make a difference in the life of a Little. Being a Big can be like being a hero to a Little.  Life can become a lot easier for a Little when they know they have someone that is there for them.  Someone they can trust, talk to, get advice from and spend time with. A few outings a month with you can change a Little’s life forever.