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They’re unrelated and 50 years apart, but these brothers are celebrating 17 years of a ‘life-changing’ relationship

Through Big Brothers Big Sisters Victoria, the pair say they’ve found a second family

By Emily Fagan
March 4, 2022
Good news
Features

They’re unrelated and 50 years apart, but these brothers are celebrating 17 years of a ‘life-changing’ relationship

Through Big Brothers Big Sisters Victoria, the pair say they’ve found a second family

By Emily Fagan
Mar 4, 2022
Capital Daily is part of the Trust Project
Good news
Features

They’re unrelated and 50 years apart, but these brothers are celebrating 17 years of a ‘life-changing’ relationship

Through Big Brothers Big Sisters Victoria, the pair say they’ve found a second family

By Emily Fagan
March 4, 2022
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They’re unrelated and 50 years apart, but these brothers are celebrating 17 years of a ‘life-changing’ relationship
Wyeth and Wesley have known one another now for 17 years. Photos: Submitted.

About once a week for the past 17 years, Mike Wyeth and Nick Wesley have had standing plans. In spite of their 50-year age difference, Wyeth, 76, says he still manages to keep up when facing off with the 26-year-old Wesley in regular tennis matches. Early on, Wyeth trained Wesley in the sport; these days, Wyeth says, “he can blast me off the court.”

Over the years, they’ve been practically inseparable—walking with Wyeth’s dogs, fishing, attending Pacific FC matches, watching hockey, or taking a sailing tour from the Inner Harbour. 

Wesley, who was nine when they first met, says he doesn’t really remember a time when Wyeth wasn’t in his life.

“He's always just been there as long as I can remember,” Wesley said. “We've always had a blast hanging out.”

The two were matched through Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Victoria in 2005. While most Big Brother Big Sister pairs stay active through the organization for an average of three years, the relationships made between what the organization refers to as the “big” and the “little” often endure long after. Some, like Wesley and Wyeth, choose to keep up their regular meetups even after the program ends when the mentee turns 18.

In spite of the pandemic, Big Brother Big Sister Victoria has still been active and matched 400 kids with mentors in 2021.

Executive Director Rhonda Brown has seen the long-term impact of this surrogate sibling relationship firsthand, including some “bigs” who have asked their “littles” to be in their wedding party. 

“Our hope is always that we spark a relationship that's going to endure a lifetime,” she said. “For the kids and families that we're working with, to have that support as your life changes and you reach milestones is pretty incredible.”

In the beginning, Wyeth remembers their relationship was a bit more formal, with a stricter schedule called for by the organization to establish reliability. He had recently retired, with grown children of his own, when he decided to volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters. (Wyeth is now the former president of Big Brothers Big Sisters Victoria, after briefly taking on the position during the pandemic.)

Wesley, whose father died when he was six years old, said his mother signed him and his biological brother up for the program. To him, Wyeth was the perfect match he could have hoped for.

Many of Wyeth’s favorite activities to share with Wesley were outdoors and active—which Wyeth realized early on, when Wesley trailed a bit behind him and his dogs on walks, was a bit out of his little’s comfort zone. But that changed over time, as the two built up a shared love of hockey, soccer, and tennis through years of watching and playing the sports.

“Through Big Brothers Big Sisters, we would often get free tickets to events,” Wyeth said. “Because I was retired, as soon as I noticed I was one of the first ones on the phone to grab a ticket for hockey games, soccer games, whatever.”

For new mentors, Big Brothers Big Sisters typically asks for a one-year, weekly commitment of about two to four hours. Beyond the traditional community based programs, the organization also has school-based programs where mentors spend time with students, typically of elementary school age, for an hour a week. They also run a peer mentoring group called Go Girls, for female-identifying youth.

In each of these relationships, Brown says, there are careful steps that go on behind the scenes of every match. The organization vets potential volunteers, interviews the parents, identifies potential commonalities or barriers between the big and the little, and makes sure everyone is comfortable with the pairing.

These mentorships can start to make a difference pretty quickly, according to Brown.

“We see increased self esteem, increased problem solving skills, improvements in mental health, improvements in their ability to set healthy boundaries, they start to do better at school and they're more engaged in their community,” she said.

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However, the positive impacts aren’t only felt by the littles. 

“Many bigs say, ‘The relationship is as important to me as it is to him.’” Wyeth said. “In fact, the benefits are almost equal.”

As an immigrant to Canada, Wyeth doesn’t have family that lives nearby beyond his wife, children, and in recent years, his grandchildren. But through his relationship with Wesley, he says he’s gained a new family. 

And for what it’s worth, Wesley says he feels the same.

“It always felt like he has been there, as a part of the family,” he said “My mom, my family, me, we all consider him to be like that.”

No matter where they’ve been in their lives over the past decade and a half, Wesley says that Wyeth has always made a point to make time for him. The older man attended his high school graduation, and is careful to remember the anniversary of the day they met. 

Today, March 4, 2022, will be their 17th anniversary. Wyeth says the pair will likely go out for a beer to celebrate.

Although he’s currently busy with his career, Wesley says that in the future he’s considering the possibility of being a big brother to someone else—to give back and help shape another kid’s life for the better. 

Regardless, he expressed a deep gratitude for everything the Big Brothers Big Sisters program has done for him.

“It put me in a position to feel like a more empowered individual,” he said. “It’s life changing in a sense, for the better.”

Interested in supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters Victoria? You can sign up to volunteer or donate today.

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