In a kitchen inside of Madison House, fourth-year UVA McIntire student Liam Flaherty makes brownies with a 9-year-old boy from Charlottesville named Jasper.
They are no ordinary brownies. Feeling adventuresome, Jasper has put a piece of lettuce into the batter. Later, in keeping with the spirit of the activity, Jasper also squirts lemons he has found from a leftover taco bar into the mixture.
In the end, Jasper said the brownies—which, of course, he had one of his sisters taste first—were actually pretty good.
“It was like eating lemon cake,” he said, smiling. “It wasn’t too bad. Our experimentation worked.”
The get-together was one of many between Jasper and Flaherty through Madison House’s Big Siblings program.
The independent volunteer center for UVA students (established in the aftermath of Hurricane Camille in 1969) cooperates with Big Brothers Big Sisters to register volunteers and pair each student, who is known as a “big,” with a child between the ages of 6 and 12 from the Charlottesville community, who is known as a “little.”
Flaherty, a Rhode Island native, knows a thing or two about siblings. He has eight of them.
“My siblings were always a really big part of my life growing up,” said Flaherty, when asked why he wanted to become a Big Brother. “With there being so many of us, we relied a lot on each other and looked up to each other. They’re still a huge part of my life, even though I’m in school and they’re scattered across the country.”