Over scoops of ice cream, Chris Rosburg tried his best to talk to the shy 8-year-old.
“What do you want to be?” Rosburg remembers asking Darrion Davis, trying to break the ice.
Darrion looked confused. It seemed like no one had ever asked him that before.
“I realized then this was going be life-changing for the both of us,” Rosburg said.
That was almost five years ago. Last month, the 38-year-old Rosburg was honored in Philadelphia as the 2015 national Big Brother of the Year. But for Darrion and Rosburg, the honor is just part of a friendship they hope continues for the rest of their lives.
“They’re truly friends,” said Micheal Lawrence, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City. “They truly care about each other.”
He said Darrion and Rosburg are an example of the program’s long-term success.
Lawrence said 1,219 children in the area participate in the local program — and 405 are on a waiting list.
When adults volunteer for the program, they’re asked to commit to a minimum of one year and hang out with their little brother or sister for two to four hours a week. Lawrence said the average match lasts about three years, but some can last a lifetime.
The length of Rosburg’s commitment impressed Madge Morningstar, program director of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Luis Obispo County, Calif. She was one of 12 judges who helped pick Rosburg as the national Big Brother of the Year.
“Long-term consistency is one of the huge reasons Chris has had such a positive impact,” Morningstar said. “That’s why they have such a strong connection.”
At the start, it wasn’t easy for Rosburg and Darrion to form a close bond — in fact, it was like pulling teeth trying to get Darrion to open up.
When Darrion did — after about five months — the two talked about their families, their daily struggles and the turns life can take. After years of go-kart rides, dinners around town and mini-golf, the two have now formed a close friendship, one they said they’d like to continue for the rest of their lives.
“He filled in a big gap in my life that nobody could fill in like him,” said Darrion, now 12.
Darrion said Rosburg has kept him out of trouble and helped him think about his goals and his future.
“He knows right from wrong, he knows good from bad,” Rosburg said. “I believe that it’s because of our relationship.”
Darrion now has an answer to the question Rosburg asked him shortly after the two first met: He hopes to someday work as a chef. Rosburg said Darrion’s ambition works out well for them. They both love to cook and eat. Darrion’s able to cook pork chops, steak, lasagna and spaghetti.
There’s a huge degree of honesty that keeps the two friends on their toes.
“He busts my chops, I bust his,” said Rosburg, owner and president of CR Promotions, and a former advertising employee of The Kansas City Star.
Rosburg said while the two hang out at least once a week, they talk on the phone three or four times a week and text daily. Rosburg said he’s always asking questions, figuring out where Darrion is in life and how he’s doing in school. He wants to make sure his young friend is being nice to his mom, his siblings, his family.
“I am the nosy big brother,” Rosburg said.
Still, Darrion said Rosburg never seems invasive.
“He ain’t nosy, he’s funny,” Darrion said. “But he’s not funnier than me.”
Both agree that the friendship they share is a lifelong deal. Rosburg said he’s hopeful that as Darrion continues through school that his young friend will get involved in sports, stay out of trouble and go to college.
Darrion said their example is one that should inspire members of the program to stay close as time passes.
“I think they should be close together like me and Chris are and become best buds,” Darrion said.
In the long run, Rosburg also expects Darrion to give back and become a leader in his community.
“Nothing would make me happier than for him to turn 21 and become a Big Brother himself,” Rosburg said. “I can’t imagine my life without Darrion.”