Justin and his Little Brother, Julianno, never like to settle on doing the same thing twice.
Since they were matched in 2016, the pair have made it their mission to find a different activity to enjoy every time they see each other.
“I guess you could say our favorite thing to do is try new things together,” Justin said. “I’m sure we’ll eventually run out of those, but until then we’re going to keep pushing ourselves to be creative and come up with new adventures.”
A fresh challenge was something Justin had in mind when he moved to California for a job opportunity just a few years ago. Fortunately, he didn’t have to look far for an opportunity to make a difference.
Shortly after settling in Irvine, Justin received a surprise invitation from an old college friend to a Big Night recruitment event hosted by Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“The speaker told us about all the kids waiting to be matched with a mentor,” Justin said. “Since I had just moved into town, I realized it was the perfect time for me to join. I signed up that night and the rest is history.”
Justin and Julianno were matched on March 16, 2016. When they first met, Justin thought Julianno was quiet and shy.
“At our first outing, we played basketball and other games in the park for three hours and had an absolute blast,” Justin said. “That day, I knew we were in for something great. And, as it turns out, Julianno is not quiet at all!”
After a handful of outings for Justin and Julianno to get to know each other, their friendship started to develop.
The pair have since enjoyed outings to places like the movies, Knott’s Scary Farm and a Lego Battlebots competition. One of the more unique things they’ve done so far involved going on an unforgettable drive to the top of Saddleback Mountain for a view above the clouds.
When thinking of all the memories they’ve shared together, Justin believes one particular outing stands above the rest: Julianno’s 13th birthday at Disneyland. It was an idea that Justin wanted to bring to life from the moment he learned his Little Brother had never stepped foot inside the theme park.
“We ate plenty of churros and corn dogs, rode all the best rides and Julianno even almost pulled the sword out of the stone,” Justin said. “It was such a great time.”
No matter where they go or what they do, Justin makes sure to offer his own words of wisdom to Julianno whenever he can.
“I’ve tried to encourage Julianno to think about his future, work hard and do well in school. He’s become much more confident in our time together,” Justin said. “I definitely want him to succeed.”
The growth Justin has seen in Julianno has been equally impressive in his own personal life.
Justin admits he harbored some apprehension early on about the time commitment and his ability to relate to a young kid on any meaningful level. He learned rather quickly that these fears were ultimately misguided.
“Although it can be hard to find time in a busy schedule, it’s something that I’m willing to do because I genuinely love hanging out with Julianno. Its helped me be less selfish with my time,” Justin said. “It turns out that investing in someone else’s life is far more of a blessing than a burden.”