Big Brothers Big Sisters mentors who make a difference in SWFL

Reporter: Amanda Hall
Published: Updated:

There are kids in Southwest Florida who need your attention and your time. What you get in return is probably better than any award you could receive.

You know Chris Cifatte from here at WINK News. He’s in your living room every night. What you may not know is that he became a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters shortly after moving here 22 years ago and was named Big Brother of the Year in 2006.

“This is something I always wanted to do, and when you move to a new place, sometimes it’s kind of easy. It’s a way to meet people and get out and do things, and I had no idea what I was walking into at that time before everything was computerized,” he said.

Cifatte talked about how it allowed him to gain a little more knowledge about the area before the internet.

“They pulled out a book that was like an old Sears catalog and said, these are the boys in this area that are waiting for big brothers, and she asked me how ambitious I was before she showed me twins,” he said.

Twin brothers Austin and Justin grabbed Chris by the hand the moment they met. The twins loved to go swimming and, according to Cifatte, do his errands.

“One of the things that their mother and grandmother always said to me is that, ‘I want them to see what somebody who’s successful with a good heart does or looks like because I want them to see that that’s what you’re growing up to be,'” Cifatte said.

John Osbrink is one of Cifatte’s predecessors. He was a Big Brother of the Year in 2000, also pulling double duty to mentor two brothers, Scottie and Marcus.

But this story is different.

Marcus was shot and killed on his grandmother’s porch. He was just 18. Growing up in a bad area, time with Osbrink was a brief escape.

“I was just trying to get him out of there as much as I could to have some fun, take him out of that world, and, of course, sadly, you got to take him back,” Osbrink said.

Scottie reunited with Osbrink for our interview.

Scottie didn’t hide his criminal past but said he’s on a good path now.

Former Big Sister of the year Michelle Ciuffetelli would love to reconnect with her little sister Johnny someday. They lost touch when Johnny’s family relocated seven years into their match.

“I do believe we’re going to reconnect. You just hope that those memories are in there and we seek each other out someday because I think it’d be super fun,” she said.

One particularly fun memory was a trip to Washington to see President George W. Bush.

“I mean, really just sat down and did a crash course on it. Got on the airplane and to see life through her eyes, to look out a window and know that’s her first; there’s so many firsts that we get to expose them to, and that’s the joy as a big,” Ciuffetelli said.

There’s a common theme here. If you can be a Big, you get something too: Joy and the privilege of impacting someone’s life, maybe even two, with something priceless: your time.

“Our job is to expose them to other choices in life, and then it’s up to them what they do with it, but I think our job is to show them,” Ciuffetelli said.

And they’d all do it again.

In fact, Ciffate is in the process of being matched again. This will be his fourth.

Cifatte and WINK News anchor Amanda Hall, 2023’s Big Sister of the Year, are going to team up to host A Toast to Potential on Thursday night.

It’s a fundraiser to make sure these matches continue to happen. If you’re interested, click here.

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