When Ocean Medina, 11, and Joe DeLutrie, 52, first met through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of CT mentorship program, they bonded fairly quickly. The pair got to know each other by going to the library, playing basketball, and spending time at the playground.
Almost two years later, the pair has traveled to New York City for a photoshoot and a celebration as part of Macy’s upcoming holiday campaign, which Medina and DeLutrie were chosen to participate in.
“It was pretty exciting, knowing how it was country-wide that we were selected,” DeLutrie shared about the experience. “Ocean’s definitely the star, I’m just a costar to compliment him. It was pretty incredible.”
Between November 3 and December 24, the 2023 holiday campaign will be shown at over 500 Macy’s retail locations across the country—including six Macy’s retail stores in Connecticut: Danbury, Farmington, Manchester, Milford, Stamford, and Trumbull.
Macy’s and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America have partnered this holiday season on several other engagement efforts in New York City and across the country: Bigs and Littles across the country will have the opportunity to attend and participate at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Macy’s has launched a donation campaign from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24 to support BBBS’ work, along with other events that look to celebrate the achievements and contributions of participating Bigs and Littles throughout the nation.
Each Big Brothers Big Sisters Chapter across the country had nominated a male and/or female Big and Little pair to be featured in the Macy’s Campaign. When Medina and DeLutrie were approached about being nominated, DeLutrie was hesitant at first but the pair ultimately agreed to give it a shot.
“I’m like…what are the chances that we’re going to really be selected?” DeLutrie said. “And I’m like, even if it does happen, it’d be pretty cool and pretty great for Ocean and…that’s why I’m doing this. So, I’m like ‘Don’t think about me, think about what he would like’.”
A few weeks later, around mid-June, Medina and DeLutrie were notified about being selected for the campaign and the pair was stunned. They soon received an itinerary to travel to Manhattan for a photoshoot.
“It feels like a dream,” Ocean Medina’s mother, Janette Medina, told CT Latino News. “I always think that my son is amazing. But people are like ‘Yeah, of course you think he’s amazing, he’s your son.’ He’s so outspoken and his personality is so amazing. He’s so charismatic and for somebody else to actually see that, It’s amazing to me, it’s like wow.”
When the pair first visited Manhattan, DeLutrie said it was the first time he ever saw Ocean act shy since it was a brand-new experience for them both.
“But as we’re going through it, we’re starting to get more comfortable [and] we’re getting excited. Then he really got into his own. He’s like, ‘Oh, can we do this?’…”Can I go and play on this playground and get some pictures of me here?’” DeLutrie explained. “I think he’s ready to go back because he always says he wants to be a star, so this is part of his early stardom.”
“I was very happy and excited,” said Ocean Medina in a phone interview. Although there was a lot going on during their first trip to Manhattan, Medina said he felt good about going back and was not nervous at all—he was a professional now.
On November 3, Medina and DeLutrie returned to Manhattan for a celebration that would kick off the holiday campaign at Macy’s flagship store.
“Their personalities together, I mean, they definitely got it,” Janette Medina said about the pair during the campaign photoshoot. “Everything they did, they got it in the bag. They were pros and to me, they barely tried, it was natural.”
The campaign will be across Macy’s social media, in its stores, as well as shown at Times Square. DeLutrie spoke at the campaign’s kick-off celebration on the impact that the mentorship program—and Medina—has had on him.
Medina and DeLutrie were matched in the mentorship program back in January 2022. DeLutrie was looking to give back to his community and Janette Medina, who was a Little Sister in the program, was hoping her son would have positive experiences through the mentorship like she did.
“I just remembered one day how much of an impact it was and going through a divorce, being a divorcee, and him not having a male role model, it was just like a lightbulb went off one day. I said ‘Wait a minute, there are options out there,” Janette Medina told CT Latino News.
Jannette Medina had been paired with two Big Sisters in the program. She still has photos from trick-or-treating with both of them to the time her first Big Sister taught her to bake cookies from scratch.
“You know, these are things that are going to be embedded in your mind and in your heart forever. Having a big sister was pretty life-changing for me. Who knows how things would have turned out if I didn’t have one,” Janette Medina said, who remains in contact with her second Big Sister. “I just want him to feel that experience. I didn’t want him to feel like he was missing out on a male role model. And I couldn’t have asked for a better Big Brother like he’s so amazing. I know for a fact that he’s already impacted his life.”
Medina and DeLutrie see each other once a week—sometimes for an hour, sometimes for two to three hours. The pair has spent time at the library getting to know each other and playing games, going to the basketball court and to a few UConn games, and visiting the playground.
“It’s a great program. It’s really exciting when you see the other mentors with their Littles and you see the kids getting along. The adults, they can talk to each other, they might have some suggestions or shared experiences that you can talk about,” DeLutrie said. “Not all of the kids have opportunities that, whether it’s myself, my kids, or you, had when you’re younger to be out and playing. Whether it’s playing with friends, in the neighborhood, or doing sports, or whatever it might be, they don’t have all those opportunities. So, when they go and get together, it’s pretty cool. They make a friend here and there that they can see from time to time.
DeLutrie commends the Big Brothers Big Sisters staff for their work and highly recommends the program to residents looking for a volunteer opportunity with a flexible schedule and hours, where they can support youth in their community.