Did you know there are 20 million Big Brothers Big Sisters Alumni Bigs, Littles, volunteers, and champions worldwide? Every year, during National Mentoring Month, we take one week to specifically celebrate the Big Brothers Big Sisters Alumni community (January 15 – January 19, 2024.)
One of the primary ways we can help mentorship reach even more young people is by telling the stories of people from our community whose lives have already been positively impacted by mentorship. Stories like that of Exceptional Alumni Tim Crosson and Jeff Dongo—a friendship forty years strong.
In the summer of 1983, just months after graduating from UCLA Business School, Tim found himself embarking on a journey that would shape not only his life, but also that of a young boy named Jeff and thousands of Littles across Orange County and the Inland Empire.
“I didn’t have a role model as a kid, and I grew up in a bad environment,” Jeff remembers. “That’s why Tim is so special to me. He took all my questions seriously — the goofy questions to the serious questions about growing up. If he didn’t have the answer, if he didn’t have the advice, he went and searched for it.”
What Tim didn’t know then was that what started as an eight-year match with Jeff through Big Brothers Big Sisters would evolve into a lifelong friendship and call to service spanning four decades.
Tim and Jeff’s journey together triumphed through significant milestones, from Tim’s wedding to his wife Marie, to Jeff’s own wedding to Liliana in 2009. The bond strengthened further with the birth of Jeff’s two sons, where Tim and Marie proudly stepped into the roles of godparents to one of them, named after Tim himself. The two have also ventured into a business partnership, managing a small real estate investment that Jeff had identified.
“Tim’s shown me that with persistence and hard work, anything is possible,” Jeff said. “I still talk to him about everyday things, from financial decisions to my marriage of 10 years.”
“Bigs play a crucial role in helping their mentee dream bigger and navigate a path toward realizing those dreams,” Tim adds. “Our friendship is proof that a mentor’s influence extends far beyond the official match period.”
Transformed by his experience mentoring Jeff, Tim joined Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County and the Inland Empire’s board in 2008. In his time as a board member, two of which he served as governing board chair (2014-2015), Tim has elevated our one-to-one mentoring program delivery as the inaugural chair of the Program Committee. He secured funding and building space to grow the agency and youth served at 1801 E. Edinger, not only through Big Brothers Big Sisters, but by transforming it into the largest nonprofit hub in the region, partnering with like-minded organizations like Girls Inc., Groundswell and Families Forward. He has spearheaded the local launch of successful fundraisers like Bowl for Kids’ Sake and innovative pilot programs for college and career success, guided by his wife Marie. Never losing sight of our biggest and ever-present need, Tim has also recruited dozens of Bigs by sharing his personal story of mentorship.
In 2019, our agency presented Tim with the Joel K. Rubenstein award, recognizing him as one of the hands that built Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County and the Inland Empire. Jeff was honored to introduce his Big to accept the award at Gourmet Dinner. And most recently, Tim was recognized by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America as Board Member of the Year at its 2023 National Conference.
Tim reflects on the profound impact of mentorship, emphasizing the value of having someone in your life who can offer guidance, perspective, and honest feedback.
“I encourage everyone to consider the profound impact they can make by volunteering to be a Big,” Tim said. “By doing so, individuals not only enhance their own lives but also have the power to change a child’s life forever.”
As Tim and Jeff’s story beautifully illustrates, the ripple effects of mentorship can endure for a lifetime, creating a bond that transcends time and leaves an indelible mark on both mentor and mentee.