In the three years that Kansas Citians Airrial Tutton and Mandy Jordan have known each other, they have formed more than just a great friendship.
“I feel like I’m also part of her family,” said Airrial, who was matched with Jordan through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City.
That warms Jordan’s heart because she feels the same way. “I don’t have any family in Kansas City, so because I know Airrial and her family, I do have family.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City on Sunday evening honored Jordan and four others for their involvement in the program, which matches adults with children.
Jordan was named this year’s ACES Big of the Year. The program also honored Spencer Gentry of Oak Grove as Big Brother of the Year, Natalia Sierra of Kansas City as Big Sister of the Year and Tracy and Aaron Twombly of Blue Springs as Big Couple of the Year.
“I want people to know how great Mandy is,” Airrial said, explaining why she nominated her. “I know she is a great person. I want to share with everyone how great she is.”
The Sheraton Crown Center hotel took on a festive atmosphere for the organization’s Match Appreciation Banquet, complete with mascots, a human Statue of Liberty and jugglers. Even the red carpet was rolled out.
It was time to celebrate the friendships between “Bigs” and “Littles.”
The festivities drew hundreds of people who were there to honor the winners, who were selected based on essays submitted by their Littles, parents and case managers.
Gentry and 10-year-old Leland Sanders of Independence wore matching outfits to the celebration. Gentry was matched with Leland 2 1/2 years ago.
“It’s really cool because I did the (essay) about getting Big Brother of the Year and we got Big Brother of the Year, ” Leland said.
Sierra, who is the Big Sister to Stephanie Xolot, 15, and Jasmine Almanza Ramirez, 13, both of Kansas City, stopped by the Big Brothers Big Sisters office nine years ago for more information and joined right away.
“I was nervous. I didn’t know who she was. I was scared,” said Stephanie, who was matched with her nine years ago. “After all these years, she’s become a second mom to me.”
Jasmine, who has been matched with Sierra for about a year, said Sierra is fun and nice. Jasmine also likes Sierra’s dog.
Walter Capps, 16, of Independence, who was matched with the Twomblys, said besides getting out of the house for a while, he likes to be able to do things he doesn’t have the opportunity to do with friends.
“They are good people,” Walter said. “They’ve really been there and for whatever reason they are comfortable to be around.”