Trauma from adverse childhood experiences can last a lifetime, and without early intervention, can define a lifetime. But we can help prevent the physical and mental effects that childhood trauma can lead to.

At Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto (BBBST), Littles (mentees) are carefully matched with a caring, consistent Big (mentor), and start a life-changing mentoring relationship designed to help children and youth reach their full potential.

The results speak volumes: 79% of youth who had a formal mentor reported good or excellent mental health. BBBST has a 90% efficacy rate and has been proven to be a top intervention to nurture young people across the city.

BBBST made more than 700 matches last year, but there are still 420 Littles currently waiting for Bigs, and that number keeps growing.

A new initiative launched by True Patriot Love Foundation is aiming to address that challenge, by helping BBBST connect to a ready-made pool of mentors: Canadian Veterans.

“There are more than 460,000 Veterans in Canada today, and each year, 5,000 more people leave the Forces,” says Eleanor Taylor, Manager, Community Engagement and Advocacy at True Patriot Love Foundation, and a retired Lieutenant-Colonel. “That is a lot of people-power, skills, training, and leadership now available that we desperately need in the non-profit and civil sectors.”

True Patriot Love’s Veteran Volunteerism Initiative is partnering with seven non-profits across Canada – Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto, Perley Health, Camp Aftermath, Veteran Farm Project, Mood Disorders Society of Canada, Team Rubicon Canada and Invictus Games Vancouver Whistler 2025 – to study the impact of engaging Veteran volunteers and, most importantly, to recruit Veteran volunteers to help address their program needs.

Each participating organization will be working with an external evaluator to track engagement, impact, best practices and outcomes, with a goal to create a national framework for Veteran volunteering.

“Surprisingly, no Canadian studies have been done about Veteran volunteers, so we’re also filling that knowledge gap,” says Taylor. “But this isn’t some study that sits on a shelf, it’s a dynamic partnership.”

Many people’s image of a Big Brother, Big Sister or Big Sibling is someone at a ball game with their Little, but there are many other ways to be a mentor.  Beyond individual outings, mentors can also make a significant impact by engaging with mentees in school settings, whether it’s providing guidance to a single mentee or offering mentorship to a group of young individuals. With programs based in the community and within partner schools across Toronto, volunteers are able to make a difference to Toronto youth in a multitude of ways.

“My son’s Big Brother is a blessing in our lives. This is more than what I expected. I have no words to express how grateful I am to have Big Brother in J’s life. Big was there for J when his grandfather passed. BBBST is changing lives and this mentoring relationship is an amazing form of giving, and it is so selfless,” said the parent of a BBBST Little.

“We’re so excited to have this new partnership with True Patriot Love, and are thrilled to connect with Veteran volunteers,” said Alexandra Clifford, Director of Service Delivery at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto.

“There is such a great need across Toronto for reliable and enthusiastic mentors to support children and youth who have or are experiencing adversity in their lives. With over 400 young people on our waitlist, the need is great and we’re looking forward to our Veterans answering the call to help children and youth in Toronto to thrive.”

Are you a Veteran? You can make a difference. To become a mentor with BBBST, click to access the volunteer application form here.