KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — We have a lot of feelings these days, especially children, which is why Kelsey Altshuler and her little sister are taking up bullet journaling.
"Just kind of figuring it out as we go. I mean, no one is prepared for this," Altshuler said.
After months of waiting, 10-year-old Bri was finally matched with her mentor in February, but the pandemic kept them apart.
"That kind of led us to being like, 'Alright, what next? Let's get to know each other,'" Altshuler said. "We attempted virtual baking, didn't work out. We did virtual yoga, which did work out, so we set up a YouTube video and then a FaceTime phone, and both just kind of stared at each other doing yoga, but it was fun."
Kelsey, a teacher, was inspired to volunteer after watching the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program change everything for one of her students.
"Just seeing the growth from Juan, just all over the board from his bond with David and everything I was like I need to be doing this and try to get involved with a child," Altshuler said.
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For Bri, who hasn't spent much time with her friends, their virtual hangouts meant so much more.
"She asks me how I've been doing and I said good, and she just asks what I've been eating and I tell her," Bri said.
"It's definitely kind of put a roadblock in the way, but it's like now is the most important time because students don't have the extra support that they do at school and those extra people involved in their lives," Altshuler said.
Kelsey and Bri recently started meeting in-person again, and their friendship is blossoming in new ways.
"She was so shy when we first met and didn't want to say too much or anything and then the second it was just her and I in this in-person hangout, she was in the back of my car and talking a mile a minute like telling me everything under the sun like when do I get to come to your house? When do I get to see your dogs?" Altshuler said.
Until things get back to normal, they're enjoying each other's company any way they can.
"It's very good to get in this program because big sisters and big brothers help you out," Altshuler said. "She's definitely changed my life for sure."
If you'd like to become a mentor or you just want to volunteer for a couple of hours, it's easy to sign up on the Big Brothers, Big Sisters website.
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