Little brothers and big brothers don't always get along, but Todd Sutton, 28, was such a great Big Brother he recently received a bronze "Heroes in Our Midst" medallion.
Sutton is a "Big" in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah program that matches adult role models with children who need mentors. The award came from the national Greeting Card Association recognizing Sutton as an everyday hero who connects with his community and shows he cares.
Sutton is a humble man, who deflects the attention away from himself and to his "little brother," 11-year-old Chase Kalm.
"Getting the award during the Salt Lake Bees game was a great experience for me, but I was thrilled to see how my 'Little,' Chase, reacted to being in the spotlight, too.
"It was the coolest thing," said Sutton. "It's done so much more for my Little. He even got to be on TV."
It all started five years ago at Bennion Elementary School when Sutton began helping with an after-school program. Sutton's first match was Chase. As May rolled around, Chase was pretty upset that he wouldn't see Todd until the next school year.
"He was so sad," said Sutton. "That's when I realized this is a big deal, I had someone depending on me."
Chase had come to depend on Todd as a mentor and a friend.
"The Big Brothers Big Sisters program gave me Todd," said Chase. "He's changed me. When I first came to Salt Lake I was angry, and he helped me see the brighter side of life."
Sutton arranged for him and Chase to become part of the regular BBBS program conducted off the school campus.
"It's not hard to become a Big," said Sutton. " They do an in-home interview, a background check and ask some personal questions. They are very, very careful and the training did a lot to assuage my fears."
The typical commitment is to meet with your little for two to four hours a week, for one year.
"All you have to do is take them out and play," said Sutton. "You're not giving birth to a child you have to take care of for the rest of your life."
Watching the two play at Liberty Park, it's hard to imagine Sutton worried about finding activities to do with his Little.
"It didn't take long for me to realize the possibilities were endless," said Sutton. "Chase likes the humanities, so we try to do activities like museums and going to Hogle Zoo."
Sutton says he realized the importance of interconnectedness in the community as he got older. Not everyone needs to join BBBS to become a mentor.
"My Scout leader was the outside influence in my life," said Sutton.
Sutton has also received the 2006 Big Brother of the year award from the BBBS of Utah and the Silver Bowl award from the Utah Food Bank where he and his Little have volunteered.
BBBS always needs more volunteers, especially males. Only three out of every 10 volunteers are male. Research has shown the positive influence a Big Brother can have on the life of a boy. Those interested in the program can go to www.bbbs.org.
Sutton's plea is to others is simple, "Just get involved."