Lynchburg Family Thanks Former "Big Brother" Ahead of Graduation

Lynchburg, VA - For a Lynchburg family this graduation season, they are looking back at the difference one man made in two young lives.E.C. Glass seniors Rakeem and Akeem Jones (R.J. and A.J.) don't just share similar looks, they share a passion for sports, especially basketball. They recently reunited on the court with an older friend, who is also an old friend. He came into their lives when they were just 8 years old. "I was a single parent with three sons. And I needed to have some help," said their mother Rochelle Jones. "I played sports with them. I could do some of it. But they needed a male to do some of the male things with them." In 2003, Rochelle Jones contacted Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Virginia, and Wayne Austin stepped up big time. He already had a full time job and a family of his own but agreed to be a "Big Brother" to both boys. "My biggest thing was trying to keep an eye on both of them when we were out, you know," said Austin. For years, he would pick them up once a week. "We went to McDonald's, fished, rode bikes, played video games, basketball. Did a lot of stuff," said R.J. "We'd get out there, and we'd be having so much fun. And the next thing you know two hours would just fly by," said Austin. Their "Big Brother" was also the father figure they saw on the sidelines at their games. "It encouraged us to do our best because he always told us to do our best no matter what," said A.J. And they listened. R.J. and A.J stayed on track, even after leaving the program when they were 16. Both boys are graduating next month, and both are headed to college. A.J. has a partial athletic scholarship. Rochelle and her boys both say, Wayne Austin didn't just help make their childhood special. They say he had an impact that will last into adulthood."They picked up the confidence, maturity," said Rochelle Jones. "When we was little we wanted to be "Big Brothers" too, because of the way he treated us we wanted to give back when we got older," said R.J. "I've always felt that we as adults, we've got to set the example," Austin said. "If they are going to look up to us, then we need to do the right thing." This fall, A.J. is heading to Emory and Henry College and R.J. has plans to attend Shaw University. Right now, there are 26 children in Central Virginia waiting to be matched up with a big brother or big sister. If you or someone you know could make a difference, contact the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Virginia Office at (434) 528-0400.