Kaneohe ‘Big’ Wins Top Brother Of Year

Meet 2013 Big Brother of the Year Craig Tanaka, shown here with his Little Brother Raymond at the Windward YMCA. Staff and family staged a surprise announcement of the honor at the Y earlier this month. Photo from Big Brothers Big Sisters Hawaii.

A stork can’t deliver a big brother or sister to a child. But sometimes, all it takes is a perfect pairing with the help of Big Brothers Big Sisters Hawaii.

As the recipient of the 2013 Big Brother of the Year Award, Kaneohe resident Craig Tanaka, with his “little brother” Raymond, can certainly attest to that.

“Being a friend to these kids and listening to what they have to say, developing empathy to their feelings and letting them know that you care about them is a rewarding experience,” Tanaka said.

His involvement with BBBSH spans about 30 years. Tanaka rejoined the program after taking a break to raise his own son and was paired with Raymond in 2010. Raymond’s mother, a single parent, had sought the help of the program after he expressed a need for a male in his life to learn from.

Since then, Raymond and Tanaka have become integral parts of each others’ lives, Tanaka even wanted to share the award with Raymond. “I told them that there should be an award for my ‘little brother’ Ray, too, because without a great kid like him, this award would not be possible,” he explained.

Though BBBSH usually pairs “Bigs” and “Littles” who live near each other, Tanaka and his Little are practically neighbors.

“Ray lives about two minutes away, just on the other side of the block,” he said. “It is good because if there’s anything that he or I forget to bring to our outing, it is just so easy to run home and get it.”

Tanaka and his Little have bridged their age difference by learning from one another. “He teaches me what things, songs and people are cool nowadays, and I tell him about what was hot back in the ‘olden’ days.”

Tanaka works at the Windward YMCA as a fitness attendant, following his retirement from Pearl Harbor last March.

“I picked the Windward YMCA because its small size enables me to get close with the members,” he said. “I think the personal touch resulting from a small gym really brings members closer.”

Every year, BBBSH chooses two volunteers who are each an exemplary “Big” and honors them as its Big Brother and Big Sister of the year.

Most of the time, it comes down to the little things that can make the biggest impact in a child’s life. “Sometimes the child just wants someone to talk to,” Tanaka explained.

“Who wouldn’t want to be that someone?”