Big Brother of the Century award winner, Tom McElvogue, has been a mentor to many kids over the years. Even as a busy executive and father, he has always had time to make a difference as a mentor.
Here’s a great anecdote that Tom shared when he received his Big Brother of the Century award from our local Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring organization. The mentoring organization matches adults (Bigs) with kids (Littles).
I got a surprise call from the Big Brothers Big Sisters CEO. The CEO said, “We’re getting free advertising space, and we’re using real Big Brothers and Little Brothers in the ads. If you and your Little are interested, we’re having a screen test in our office.”
I told the CEO I’d check with Joe, my little brother. He was 8-years-old at the time and ecstatic. “Tom, we’re going to be on billboards. All my friends will see us. This is going to be the greatest thing ever,” Joe said.
Joe was so excited that I tried to set his expectations. “We’re a great match, but we might not get the part. Very few of the people at the test will be in the ads.”
Joe heard none of what I was saying. He told me I was wrong. He knew we would get the part.
On the day of the screen test, I drove to Joe’s house. He was sitting outside waiting for me. He was wearing his nice clothes, hair combed and ready to go. Unusual for him.
Joe was a bundle of energy. He was so excited, that he couldn’t sit still in the car. Of course, with his growing excitement, I became more and more concerned about his disappointment if we weren’t chosen. I again tried to set expectations – I said things like — “We might not get it.” And “It’s just great that they chose us for the screen test.”
Joe kept telling me that he knew we would get it, and he couldn’t wait.
The screen test went well and Joe’s excitement didn’t wane. In fact every time I talked to him or saw him after the screen test he would ask enthusiastically, “Did they choose us yet?” He’d continue to tell me how fantastic it was that his friends and family would see him in advertisements.
Finally, I got a call from the CEO.
CEO: “Hi Tom. We heard back from the ad agency.”
Me: “How did we do?“
All I could think of was how bad it would be if I had to tell Joe we weren’t chosen.
CEO: “The ad company loved Joe. He is great in front of the camera and they’d like him in the advertisements.”
Me: “That’s fantastic.”
CEO: “One more thing . . . they didn’t think you were photogenic, so they want to put him with a different Big Brother for the ad campaign. Is that ok?”
Me: “No problem. I can’t wait to tell Joe.”
What a relief. All that mattered to me was that Joe made it.
I immediately called Joe.
Joe: “Did you hear yet? Did they tell us we got it yet?”
Tom: “Yes. You’re going to be in the ad!”
Joe went crazy screaming and I could picture him jumping up and down on the other end of the phone. When he calmed down, which took several minutes, I continued.
“Just one thing. They said that I wasn’t as photogenic as you, so you’ll be in the advertisement with another Big Brother. I will still be your mentor. He will only be in the advertisement with you.”
There was silence on the other end of the phone.
Finally Joe said, “Tom, I’m not going to be in the advertisement. We’re a team and if you aren’t right for the ad, I’m not right for the ad either.”
Joe and Tom started as a great team and have grown stronger over time. Joe was in Tom’s wedding, and the best friends and their families have gotten together every Christmas since they met — for 43-years so far.
Tom had such a big influence on Joe’s life, that Joe’s mother donates money to our local Big Brothers Big Sisters every year, to help other kids get mentors.
Tom is a great role model — but not just to the kids he mentors. To all of us!