Little “Littles” in the Big Woods

I recently sat down with Big Brothers Big Sisters “little” and Opal Creek Expeditions veteran Tanna to talk with her about her experience in our partnership program last year and what it is that drew her back for a second year. Tanna happens to be my little, so we sit down together a lot. I couldn’t be more thrilled that Tanna’s taken to the wilderness like she has.

Sidenote: Tanna just finished her sophomore year at Franklin High School and Kristina has been working for Opal Creek for nearly six years now. Tanna and Kristina have been matched for three blissful years and can’t imagine life any other way.

Kristina: What can we say about how it all started?

Tanna: Us?

Kristina: Mmhmm! What got you involved in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program?

Tanna: [laughs] I was a trouble maker and needed less time on my hands! And someone to look up to.

Kristina: And would you say the chemistry was immediate when we met?

Tanna: Sure, yes.

Kristina: Would you?

Tanna: [laughs] Yes!

Kristina: And we made a list of all the things we wanted to do. What was on the list?

Tanna: Hiking, going to the Saturday Market, going to a concert, going to the beach, crafts, games, cooking…

Kristina: Did I start trying to talk you into backpacking right away?

Tanna: Not backpacking, but hiking.

Kristina: What was the first hike we went on?

Tanna: I was turning 13 and we went to the gorge.

Kristina: So a couple years later Opal Creek was looking for a partner to get more kids on Expeditions and I really wanted you to go on one…

Tanna: And that was last year.

Kristina: Tell me about your first Expedition.

Tanna: It was last year, the first year of the partnership, and it was a lot of fun. And a disconnect from life, the internet and life and friends and drama.

Kristina: In a good way?

Tanna: Yes.

Kristina: You don’t have to say that because you know it’s what I want to hear… Was it difficult at first?

Tanna: I think I prepared myself well by telling all my friends I wasn’t going to be in cell service, but by Wednesday I somewhat missed talking to my friends at night. But that just encouraged me more to talk to the people I was backpacking with.

Kristina: Okay, so tell me about the physical experience.

Tanna: It was difficult at first because I felt less prepared than others, they had backpacked before. But there was one girl who hadn’t, so we were on the same page. And by Tuesday, we were in the front. It gave me space away from my parents, I had to do things for myself.

Kristina: So that was a good experience?

Tanna: Yeah.

Kristina: What do you think of the BBBS program?

Tanna: It’s someone for me to look up to in a good way, someone there to listen to me and help me through times being a teenager.

Sidenote #2: So a partnership with Opal Creek is a little bit out of the ordinary for BBBS, because these kids aren’t used to doing BBBS activities WITHOUT their “big.” And the bigs don’t go on the Expeditions. SO this year we did a “match activity” first (which happened the first weekend in May). About 25 of us, bigs, littles, OC staff, and BBBS staff, went to Opal Creek together for an overnight trip.

Kristina: Tell me about the match activity in Jawbone.

Tanna: I felt it was good for the kids to learn where they’re going to be, and that they’re going to be away from their families and bigs, and I felt like since I’ve been there before, I helped with teaching the kids about Opal Creek and about their Expeditions, because I went on an Expedition last year. And I feel like that helped them in a way.

Kristina: Do you think hearing the information from a handful of peers was more valuable to the other littles?

Tanna: Definitely. Because it’s coming from the point of view of someone who was sort of like them, not an adult.

Kristina: What do you like about Opal Creek?

Tanna: I like how pretty it is there, like the nature of it is simple and pretty and away from the city.

Kristina: So there’s something simple and refreshing about it.

Tanna: Yes. And it’s just a break from your normal, everyday life.

Kristina: Why do you think that’s important? To have a break?

Tanna: I don’t know! ‘Cause sometimes life can be stressful and it’s a break from stress.

Kristina: So what are you looking forward to this summer?

Tanna: Going to Opal Creek, my amazing fantastical big sister, and for my Expedition, and to meet new kids on the trip.

Kristina: What would you say to someone who was interested in going on an Expedition, but was a little apprehensive?

Tanna: That once you get up there it is definitely a joy. And a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Kristina: Do you really think that? That it’s a joy and a once in a lifetime opportunity?

Tanna: I mean, not for me, because I have you and can go anytime I want. But for them, yeah!

Sidenote #3: A huge thanks to The Juan Young Trust, Oregon Parks Foundation, and Herbert Templeton Foundation for funding our partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters this year. Our thanks also go to Columbia Sportswear for giving us access to their Employee Store where we were able to outfit our “littles” in hiking boots to make their trips awesome. Twelve “littles” will be attending one of four Opal Creek Expeditions this summer thanks to their support!