The Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Wisconsin Match Hall of Fame was established in 2022 during our 50th Anniversary Gala. This prestigious award honors extraordinary mentorship that has left a lasting impact on both Bigs and Littles.
Each year we are thrilled to showcase outstanding matches that have created a lasting impact on one another with their influence extending far beyond their individual connection. The Match Hall of Fame highlights the profound effects of mentorship, emphasizing the positive ripple effect it can have on both individuals and the community at large.
Join us in commemorating the stories of these extraordinary matches and witness firsthand the transformative power of mentorship. The Match Hall of Fame not only honors the dedication of mentors and mentees but also serves as a beacon of inspiration for others to engage in our mission — to ignite the potential in every child. Be part of the celebration and discover the meaningful connections that are making a real difference in our community year after year.
Big Brother Whitey Ellsworth and Little Brother Adam Funk were matched in 1989 when Adam was 10 years old. Adam’s mom signed him up for Big Brothers Big Sisters because she felt he needed a positive male influence in his life. Adam’s parents were divorced and his mother was a single working mother. Whitey was a father to four children and was looking to have an impact on his community. He signed up to be a Big Brother, hoping he could make a difference.
“You were successful in business, you had a beautiful home, a nice family, and I wanted to emulate that. And the best way that I knew how was to repeat the steps that you took: work hard, do well in school, capitalize on opportunities, take some risks in business. You know, to get the good life takes effort. You were able to show me that not only you had the good life but all the effort that you put in to make that happen. You were a really good role model for that. That was the biggest thing I took away.” – Little Brother Adam Funk
The two spent almost every Saturday together and much of their time was spent in Whitey’s woodshop where Adam learned a lot from his Big Brother. Whitey showed him what it was like to own and operate his own business, something that would inspire Adam in his own career path. The two also built model train sets, saw movies together, saw a Johnny Cash concert together, and had many other special moments. Whitey was there for all of Adam’s big life moments even in the decades after their match officially closed.
“I would not be who I am today if you weren’t a part of my life and that that is absolute fact.” – Little Brother Adam Funk
Big Brother John Lombardi and Little Brother Pablo Juarez were matched in February 2016. Pablo’s family was new to the Green Bay area after immigrating from Mexico. Pablo’s mom signed him up for Big Brothers Big Sisters to find a male role model and someone who could help Pablo learn English. John had been retired for a few years and was looking for an opportunity to make a difference. His wife’s father, Whitey Ellsworth, was a Big and his story influenced John to become one, too.
“He’s a male role model I’ve always looked up to. I’m thankful for Big Brothers and Big Sisters that got us together. We weren’t just brothers; we were Mr. John and Pablo. There’s no other way to explain it but family. You get that close to somebody, and they do that much for you and sacrifice. It’s not easy to be with and try to talk to somebody that barely knows any English or can speak English and build them up from there. Family is the only thing that can explain that.” – Little Brother Pablo Juarez
John helped Pablo learn English by having Pablo read to him out loud. John was also there for basketball games, cheering Pablo on and giving him pointers. The two enjoyed watching movies together, playing mini-golf, visiting John’s home in Door County, exploring the Green Bay area, and sharing each other’s cultures.
“I tried to see him every week, if I couldn’t because of travel or whatever, I would let him know why I wasn’t there and where I was. I wanted him to know that he had a man in his life who cared about him, and I do, truly.” – Big Brother John Lombardi
John is a U.S. Navy Veteran. John’s stories and experiences inspired Pablo; after he graduated high school, Pablo signed up to join the Navy. John offered Pablo advice and kept in touch with him while he was at Naval Station, Pearl Harbor.
“I’d like to thank Big Brothers and Big Sisters for introducing me to Mr. John. Without them it never would have happened; I wouldn’t be here. I know I say this a lot Mr. John, but you’re family. The only word to describe it is I love you and thank you very much for your sacrifice, for spending your time with me, and for deciding to invest in this little kid you met in Green Bay. Thank you.” – Little Brother Pablo Juarez
Big Sister Ann Heyrman and Little Sister Traci Hutchcraft’s journey began in 1990. Traci, the youngest of five, faced the challenges of frequent moves and the absence of her father. Ann became a beacon of support and love.
Their initial meeting at McDonald’s marked the beginning of a profound connection. Ann, who had experienced loss, felt compelled to share her extra love and attention with a child in need. Over 30 years, Ann became a pivotal figure in Traci’s life, participating in significant milestones such as baptism, prom dress shopping, high school graduation, and much more.
“Some of my lasting memories involved just talking and laughing when we were together. As I got older, I found that we had more things in common and the relationship evolved from a mentor and mentee into a friendship between adults.” – Little Sister Traci Hutchcraft
Traci fondly recalls shared interests like attending plays and musicals, back-to-school shopping, and holiday traditions. As their relationship evolved from mentorship to friendship, Ann’s positive impact extended beyond personal growth. Ann exemplified the importance of helping others.
“Ann demonstrated the positive impact of helping others. Family has always been a priority for Ann but somehow, she made time to see me consistently over the years. She also helped those that she didn’t know; she has been a blood donor for years, helped at church, and sponsored a kennel at an animal shelter. Ann also modeled what it meant to be a good friend – how to listen and to be thoughtful and non-judgmental. Her resilience, positivity, and sense of adventure has inspired me as well.” – Little Sister Traci Hutchcraft
Even after the formal match ended, Ann remained a constant presence in Traci’s life. College visits, wedding celebrations, and family interactions solidified their enduring bond. Inspired by Ann’s mentoring, Traci became a Big Sister herself during high school and worked towards bringing Big Brothers Big Sisters to Shawano County. Her efforts, supported by the community, led to the establishment of a flourishing BBBS Shawano County program in 2014.
“It is difficult to imagine not having Ann’s support and friendship as I was growing up. It was her mentoring that motivated me to work to bring BBBS to Shawano.” – Little Sister Traci Hutchcraft
Traci’s journey from mentee to mentor reflects the profound impact of mentorship. She encourages others to become Big Brothers or Big Sisters, emphasizing the power of showing children that they are cared for, capable, and that they matter.
Big Brother Paul Schierl and Little Brother Nick Hafeman were matched with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Wisconsin in 1992. Nick was 9 years old and he was facing challenges after losing his father and moving frequently. Despite initial reluctance to authority figures, Nick respected Paul from the start and cherished the trust and respect that blossomed between them.
“I don’t think my mother would have ever known how big of an impact it would have on my life when she took a shot and contacted BBBS to have me become a Little all the years ago, so I have her to thank as well. There is no other program like BBBS that connects adults and children into friendships, and if they’re lucky like me, into family.” – Little Brother Nick Hafeman
From pivotal life moments to everyday lessons, Paul was there for Nick. He attended graduations, speeches, birthdays, and taught Nick how to drive. Even the seemingly small lessons, like holding doors open and saying please and thank you, left a lasting impact.
“He really did want the best for me. He taught me all the little things like how to treat others, how to treat and respect women, hold the door open for others, say please and thank you. He taught me how to drive, how to respect coaches in sports, be respective vs competitors. These things all seemed little at the time but it molded me into the person I am today, and I wasn’t going to learn many of these things without him.” – Little Brother Nick Hafeman
Paul’s influence extended beyond the formal mentoring relationship, as he and his wife, Carol, became family to Nick. Their connection persisted for 25 years, until Paul’s passing in 2017. Nick still maintains a close relationship with Carol, who met Nick’s daughter, Alessi.
Inspired by Paul’s legacy, Nick and his wife, Alex, became a Big Couple in our program and were matched with a Little named Paul. Reflecting on the impact Paul had on his life, Nick strives to pay it forward and continue the tradition of mentoring.
“Shortly after Paul passed, BBBS approached me to give away an award honoring his name. In the process of going through the details of the event, I was asked when I was going to become a Big myself. I always had the plan to do so, what better time to start. I began the process to become a Big, though with my frequent travel with work I thought we could be more consistent in spending time with a Little if my wife and I became a Big Couple. We were matched with a Little shortly after, and guess what?! His name is Paul! How perfect!” – Little Brother Nick Hafeman