united way of greater chattanooga

Vicky and Ingrid

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Big Brothers Big Sisters, Big Difference

The world can be a big, scary place, especially for an 8-year-oldgirl named Ingrid.  This incredibly bright and artistic child was dealing with fear and uncertainty due to her parents’ separation, fueled by her father’s alcohol and drug abuse. She needed that one special friend who could spend one-on-one time with her and encourage her to live up to her full potential.

Thanks to the Big Brothers Big Sisters program of Greater Chattanooga, Ingrid found that friend in Vicki — and that lasting bond that has made all the difference.  From ice cream socials to holiday parties, sleepovers to special trips, Vicki and Ingrid spent years building a loving and reliable relationship. 

“We’ve enjoyed some really fun times over the years,” begins Vicki, her voice full of pride. “I’ve never had kids, so she’s really given me that joy that you have from watching someone you really love and care about grow up.”

Eleven years later, and the pair are still as close asever. 

“She’s truly become an extension of my family,” says Vicki.“I didn’t realize how much it would impact my life. It has been an absolute joy for me to be a part of it at all.”

More than fun-filled weekends, fancy presents or elaborate trips, Vicki offered Ingrid a rare and wonderful gift:consistency.   

“The most important thing Vicki has done for me is simply be there for me,” says Ingrid. “As I’ve gone through things that are hard to deal with, it meant the world to have someone as caring and invested as she is.  She’s such a great listener!”

Another connection point for the pair is contra dancing, a traditional social dance that they have enjoyed together for years. Vicki and Ingrid now regularly dance together all over the region, pursuing a shared passion side by side.

“Not only do I have her as a friend, but because of her, I have this whole community I’m connected with,” says Ingrid. “And it’s all thanks to her. That’s one thing I’m incredibly grateful for.”

For Vicki, it seems like yesterday that the bright-eyed, curly haired girl was dreaming of going to college one day. Vicki proudly shares that Ingrid was accepted to the University of Georgia and will be starting in fall of 2016.

Ingrid admits that she doesn’t know exactly what her college days will bring her, but is grateful to have a home base in Vicki. 

“No matter what happens, I know I have someone in my corner.”

United Way is proud to fund programs like the one Ingrid took part in. Research supports that 87% of students served by partner youth programs were academically on track for success. 81% of former mentoring program participants surveyed agree their mentor gave them hope & changedtheir perspective of what was possible.