It was Steve McMillian’s desire to be a strong male role model for today’s youth that got him involved in Big Brothers, Big Sisters of East Tennessee.

And since the Twin City native met his little brother, Ethan Ball, they’ve been inseparable.

“I first learned of the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program from the Boy Scouts of America,” McMillian said. “I wanted to have the opportunity to provide strong male guidance to a young person in the Tri-Cities region.”

McMillian picks Ball up once or twice a month during the school year so they can hang out. In the summers, their schedules allow them to spend more time together.

“We’ve done everything from putt-putt to baseball games, and even just grabbing a bite to eat,” McMillian said.

The program that he first got involved was strictly a school-based program, meaning he could only spend time with him during school. But he wanted to get more involved and a change in the program allowed him to do just that.

“At first Ethan was a little timid,” McMillian said softly. “However, since then he’s really taken to me well and truly cherishes our time together.”

McMillian said there are a lot of children throughout the area who need a strong influence in their lives and he encourages others to get involved.

“Anybody that has the time to give and help mold a child into becoming a well-rounded person, should consider becoming a big to a little through the program,” McMillian said.

The program is one of nearly 30 non-profit agencies around the Twin City region that receive support from the United Way of Bristol. The local chapter is currently in the middle of its annual local fundraising campaign, which has a goal of $1.4 million.

Big Brothers, Big Sisters has a long history. Since the early 1900s, the program has helped change kids’ lives and gives them the opportunity to reach their full potential by providing mentors who become a part of their lives.

“We’re glad that we’re able to be a glimmer of hope for children across East Tennessee to have the opportunity to have someone in their lives that can make a difference,” said Holly Kizer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee.

And the program doesn’t just benefit children. Since becoming involved in the program in 2010, McMillian says he has seen himself change.

“Big Brothers Big Sisters truly opened my eyes to different things,” he said. “The past two years that I’ve got to spend with Ethan have changed me as a person and for that, I’m grateful.”


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