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|Prescott Parent Magazine (970)-270-2552 All rights reserved
One family’s story of making lasting memories with their new ‘little sister’
by Mary Taylor Birkel
There was a special kind of twinkle in the eyes of six year-old Rejoyce as she tried to think of her favorite part about
spending time with her new friends, the Bernier family. She crinkled her little mouth to the side and glanced upward as
though she was really concentrating and trying hard to narrow down all of the fun experiences to come up with just one
“Well, when we got hot cocoa and walked around and looked at the Christmas lights on trees in a little park,” she offered.
“And, um, when we drove to a house that had all of these Christmas lights and we turned on the radio and watched the
lights move with the music,” she added.
Christina Bernier, smiling, reminds Rejoyce of another fun memory: when the two stopped by the Treat Shop on
Prescott’s Courthouse Square to get a chocolate covered Twinkie and then headed to a park to play.
“Rejoyce turned to me as she was enjoying the Twinkie and said, ‘This is the best day of my life!’” Christina recalled warmly.
Rejoyce and the Berniers met last fall when they were paired up by Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters through the
organization's Family Match program. Though she has only known the family for a few months, it’s clear their time
together has already created lasting memories—and not just for Rejoyce.
“The Family Match experience has been excellent, just like I’d
hoped it would be,” said Christina Bernier, who, along with
her husband Dennis and their two children, approached
Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters about being matched with
Rejoyce after seeing her featured as YBBBS’s Child of the
Week in The Daily Courier last summer.
“When we read about Rejoyce, my immediate thought was
‘What a great opportunity for my daughter and I to be Big
Sisters together!’” said Christina. “And then we found out we
could be a Family Match and so my husband and son could
be involved, too. It was perfect.”
|Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters
matches children facing
adversity with caring adults and
families in one-to-one,
relationships. Currently, more
than 200 boys and girls in our
area are waiting for a Big
Brother, Big Sister, Big Couple
or Family Match. To find out
how you can help, visit
www.azbigs.org or call
928.778.5135 (Quad Cities) or
928.634.9789 (Verde Valley).
is to spend time, not money,” she said. “We are very
clear with our families that they are not expected to
be Santa Claus and to spend a lot of money. It’s
about the experience.”
And the feel-good nature of the experience is a two-
way street, noted Christina.
“When I see Rejoyce, I just think how much I love
her. In our family, all of us had room in our hearts to
love someone else,” she said. “Everything we have
done [regarding Rejoyce and YBBBS] has come from
a starting point of love. The Bible is clear about
loving your neighbor…”
loving home headed by a single mother. The primary qualifier for Little Sisters
or Brothers is that they are in single-parent or other-than-parent households.
Christina Bernier, pictured here with her son Caden, Little Sister Rejoyce,
and daughter Dakota.
Christina, who works as a nurse, and Dennis, who is studying to be a firefighter, lead busy lives, along with their daughter
Dakota and son Caden, who are both involved in sports teams and school activities. Yet, they make it a priority
to spend time with Rejoyce at least a couple of times per month. Sometimes, the family’s time with their Little Sister is
spent doing fun things that Rejoyce requests and other times it’s just a matter of including her in the family’s normal
routine. And that inclusion in a cohesive family unit is one of the most important aspects of Big Brothers Big Sisters’
programs, according to Kathleen Murphy, CEO of the Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter.
“We ask families to include a child in things their family does anyway, activities that the family likes to do,” she said. “The
idea is not to constantly entertain the child but to simply include her or him.”
As luck would have it, many of the activities the Berniers enjoy are also things that Rejoyce likes to do.
Seven year-old Caden likes “the daredevil-type playing,” his mom said, and Rejoyce will often roughhouse with him when
they play outside.
“One time we went to the dog park and I was climbing up these huge tires with Caden,” recalled Rejoyce. “That was so fun!”
Eleven year-old Dakota shares Rejoyce’s interest in baking and playing with dolls.
“It’s fun because Dakota likes to make cookies and so we do that together sometimes,” said Rejoyce. “And she likes playing
with Barbies, too. She used to have a Barbie Dream House, but then she gave it to me.”
Christina smiled as she listened to the girls talk. After Rejoyce bounded off to play, Christina elaborated on the Barbie
Dream House gift. “Dakota had had it for a long time and one day she told me she wanted to give it to Rejoyce. I was
surprised because she still played with it often, but she told me ‘I feel like it’s time to pass it on to someone else.’ I was
very proud of her. She has a heart of love for others and [participating in Big Brothers Big Sisters] has made her even
more aware of other people’s needs.”
Barbie Dream House aside, the most impactful gift that the Berniers give to Rejoyce is their time and attention.
“We don’t have to do something expensive or time-consuming; just be present,” said Christina. “She just wants someone
who cares about her and who is interested in her life.”
“…and helping those in need!” added Dakota.
Christina smiled. “And helping those in need. We knew it was a commitment that we could easily make.”
communication consultant and
principal of Taylor’d Communication—
a writing and relations agency. A native
of Missouri, Mary currently lives in the
pretty pines of Prescott, Arizona with
her husband and two young sons.