Action News Jax is collecting backpacks to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida

Action News Jax is trying to help kids with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida get the supplies they need for a successful start to the school year.

The organization has been helping families in our community for over a century.

It’s the nation’s oldest youth mentoring program.

14-year-old Rickey Evans is about to start high school in the fall so a backpack filled with supplies would really help him and his family.

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Another thing that’s really helping Rickey get ready for the school year is his mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Rickey remembers what it was like meeting his mentor Corey Cooper through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program three years ago.

“He’s just a real person to talk to when you need somebody to talk to,” Rickey said.

“Before you know it within a few minutes we connected like it was nothing,” Cooper said.

The two bonded over sports.

Cooper even encouraged Rickey to try out for the soccer team at Jean Ribault Middle School.

“I didn’t want to do it, but he told me like go for it so I went for it and I play forward on my soccer team,” Rickey said.

Because of the pandemic Big Brothers Big Sisters have had to meet their littles online, but Cooper says that challenge hasn’t stood in the way of being positive role model.

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“We both enjoy like joining in on the Zoom call meeting each other. Talking about how the weekend went. Talking about this weekend is going to be,” Cooper said.

Without Cooper in his life, Rickey said his future could have been very different.

“It really changed me because I was going down a path I did not want to go down. When I got to meet a big brother, he showed me, you get in trouble, this is going to be over for you. This and that you won’t be able to play sports,” Rickey Said.

“I mean he’s an A/B honor roll student now. That’s great. He’s always getting his work done,” Cooper said.

Big Brother Big Sisters paired a child with an adult for at least a year but often they become friends for life.

“Whatever he needs help with you know I’m always here to help,” Cooper said.

And as COVID-19 restrictions lift, Rickey is looking forward to hanging out more outside of Zoom.

“Hopefully, we can go skating and like bowling and stuff like that,” Rickey said.

Action News Jax is collecting backpacks for the new school year to help kids like Rickey and if you would like to help, click here.