Big Brother match marks 50 years of mentoring, family, friendship

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Fifty years ago, a friendship began in Oxford County, leading to two families to be changed, connected and loved.

Omer (Jerry) Foisy, a barber in Thamesford, was speaking with a customer when his customer started speaking about a new mentoring program in the area called Big Brothers. He thought Omer might be a good fit to mentor a boy who had lost his father.

After speaking with his wife Kathy, as they were parents to two young girls, Omer decided to sign up.

That boy, Jim Clendenning, became involved in the Big Brother program at the encouragement of his mother after his father died. His siblings were all grown and away at school, building their own lives, so it was just him and his mom at home.

Omer and Jim were matched on March 21, 1971.

The two built a quick friendship, from playing chess to fishing, and Jim riding his bike 30 minutes to visit Omer while he cut hair in the barbershop.

Jim, now living in Tillsonburg, speaks fondly about the impact Omer had on his life as a role model, and how he had the opportunity to do things he likely wouldn’t have done or tried otherwise. Their relationship matured from Big Brother and Little Brother, to friends, and now to family.

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Omer and Jim’s connections extended quickly to their families. They invited each other to funerals, weddings and even baptisms where Omer accepted the honour of becoming Jim’s son’s godfather.

Fifty years later, they are still connected and describe their relationship as being as close as they were 50 years ago.

“I sure am glad and thankful I made that decision that day,” said Omer. “For 50 years, Jim and I have had so much fun and exciting adventures together. We also made a connection with both of our families.”

“The relationship Jerry (Omer) and I had was as strong as strong as when we first met,” said Jim. “We still continue to do things with each other, with our families, and there was no big event in my life that Jerry wasn’t invited to.”

Mentoring and relationships are still an important part of Big Brothers Big Sisters today in Oxford County.

“Omer and Jim are a testament to the power a positive mentoring relationship can have in a young person’s life, and how that connection can build into a bond that can change lives, not just those of the mentee,” said Kristen Ralph, the executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oxford County.

“Every time I speak about their story, their legacy and their continued support of the agency, I get emotional. Omer ignited the potential that he saw in Jim and encouraged him along the way. Their bond, to this day, is incredible and inspiring.”

Big Brother Omer ‘Jerry’ Foisy (left) and Little Brother Jim Clendenning have maintained their Big Brothers connection over the past 50 years. (Submitted)
Big Brother Omer ‘Jerry’ Foisy (left) and Little Brother Jim Clendenning have maintained their Big Brothers connection over the past 50 years. (Submitted) jpg, TN

Jim and Omer were part of a Big Brothers Big Sisters video in 2019 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgBn_qXXTpk) to announce the agency’s new branding and mission.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer mentor, visit www.bbbsoxford.ca for more information and to fill out the application.

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