Sometimes when a big sister is matched with a little sister a bond is created which will last a lifetime.
Such appears the case for Brandi Thomas and her big sister Deana Jesmer.
The two have been matched for years, and while it officially ends soon, the relationship will continue.
"I have been in the program 10 years in June," said Thomas, adding she was 11 when first becoming involve with the program.
Initially she was matched with another big sister, "but it didn't work out," said Thomas, explaining her match was going back to school and simply didn't have the time.
Then Thomas met Jesmer, who at the time was employed at Big Brothers Big Sisters in Yorkton. The two got to know each other and over time formed a bond.
Thomas said at the time she was just turning 16 and needed a car to practice driving, and to use in her test for a license. As it turned out Jesmer was going on maternity leave, and had a month free before the birth.
Jesmer took Thomas driving just about every day over that month to help her with her license test, and the bond was made.
Jesmer said the driving experience was enough for her to realize she and Thomas were going to be great friends.
"I knew she'd be in my life for a long time," she said.
And Thomas felt the connection too.
"I kind of asked her to be my big sister," she said. "… We've been matched six years on Oct. 9 … It's been an adventure. By the second year we were attached at the hip."
Thomas said she and Jesmer have similar personalities, and with only 10 years difference in age the two hit it off on many levels.
"People mistake us for real sisters," she said.
Jesmer said having worked at the Yorkton Big Brothers Big Sisters office she had seen the excitement of a little being matched and then the disappointment when the match lasted only a few months.
"I felt bad when a match only lasted six months and they were gone," she said, adding she knew if she ever took on a match she would be committed to the long term.
Thomas said she and her younger sister "are very close." But, she added Deana still offers her a much needed ear at times.
The connection is one Thomas said even surprises her, especially after her first match didn't work out, "so I didn't know what it would be.
"But after that first year we became super close."
"When I'm in town we see each other at least every day," said Thomas, noting that may mean lunch, a movie, shopping, "and I spent a lot of time with her family."
Jesmer said because there is only 10-years difference in age, and Thomas was a teenager by the time they were matched, they had a lot in common. She said they enjoyed similar music, movies and could just go shopping and hang out, which made it easy to arrange their weekly sessions.
Often they would just watch a movie and talk.
'"She'd pick up ice caps on the way over and just hang out," said Jesmer, who added at times she'd be going grocery shopping and Thomas would come along. "We'd just chat as we pushed the cart and wandered around."
In that respect finding activities to fill the two, to three hours a week was rather easy, and the bond of friendship grew.
Thomas was the first Saskatchewan recipient of the CIBC Youth Vision Scholarship for $34,000.
With the scholarship Thomas has spent the last four years at the University of Calgary taking nursing. That has meant less time with Jesmer, but the two have remained close over the miles.
"Things haven't changed one bit," said Thomas, adding they might go a few weeks without contact, and then "there'll be a long phone call and it's like we never lost touch."
Jesmer said as Thomas went to university the relationship became one where they were more adult equals, with Thomas as much a sounding board for her, as she was for the young nursing student.
The pair have remained so close Thomas said she knows they will always be in each other's lives.
Jesmer has already been invited to her upcoming university convocation.
"She's already been sending me photos of the dress she may wear to it," said Thomas.
Jesmer said the convocation will be "pretty exciting" for her as well as Thomas.
"She's worked very hard for it. It's well-deserved. It will be an exciting experience — for both of us," offered Jesmer.
And in the future she said Deana is likely to be the Godmother to her children.
And Thomas already sees herself as a big sister to Jesmer's children. The relationship has really created an extended family.
"Hands down we're going to be friends forever," said Thomas.
Thomas said as most teens do, she hit a few rough spots.
"I needed a safe haven, and Deana was that for me," she said.
Thomas said Jesmer was always there to bolster her whenever she needed it.
"She always encouraged me to reach for the stars, was always telling me how proud she is of me," she said.
It was a case of Jesmer being a sounding board.
"She would give me her opinion on things to keep me on track," said Thomas. She said even when things would go wrong in university Jesmer was available to help her see things were not as bad as she might have imagined. "… And she always kind of backed it up with an experience of hers."
"To sum it up it's just that extra support, that extra person to lean on," she said.
In the future Thomas said she will become a big sister herself, but she said she has to have the time to do it right.
"I see it as a big commitment," she said, adding while you can do it year-by-year, her experience with Jesmer has shown the best matches are long term connections. "… I want to be able to commit to that."
So it may be a year, or two down the road as she settles into her life as a nurse, but Thomas is already involved, I've signed up as an in-school mentor."
And Jesmer said Thomas has become more than a little.
"She's one of my best friends," she said. "… We're just part of each other's lives."
Given her experience Jesmer encourages others to take on the role of being a 'Big'.
"I would recommend anybody that has the time to do it. It's an amazing experience," she said.