KNOXVILLE, Tenn — Chelsey and her big sister, Susan Martin, love to meet up on the playground outside the 9-year-old's school.
Being together is something they don't take for granted anymore after having to spend months apart.
The pair were matched two years ago through Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee.
"We'd been matched [for] maybe five months and Covid hit," Martin said.
Like most people, they had to get creative.
Exchanging letters and hanging out virtually became part of their new routine.
"That was really good just to be face to face, even through a computer and just to see how things are going and check in," Martin said, "It was just an encouraging word or just so she would know that I was thinking about her and wished we could be together."
"It was kind of hard, but I felt better," Chelsey said.
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Now that they're back together, Susan visits Chelsey at school every week.
"She helps me with my homework that we get," Chelsey smiled.
"We both love to read. Chelsey is very, very smart, you know just one of those people you can depend on," Martin said.
Martin is a resource coordinator at West View Elementary and works with students that are part of Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee which gives her a unique perspective on how the program is helping other children.
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More than 150 children are currently on the waiting list for mentors with BBBS of East Tennessee, but there are not enough volunteers.
"I think consistency is really important for kids and them just having someone that they can hang out with, be themselves, ask questions, and talk about the good or the bad," Martin said.
She is taking advantage of the time she does have with Chelsey, making up for all the months they couldn't play in-person.
"Our time is very special to me," Martin said.
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