Six years as a Little Sister readies Nikki Carty for the Bigs

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Nikki Carty’s role as Big Sister for Destiny Adams didn’t end with graduation. Shown here, Carty treats Adams to a night out at Middle Township’s July 4 celebration at the Goshen Complex on the July 6 rain date. Nikki Carty’s role as Big Sister for Destiny Adams didn’t end with graduation. Shown here, Carty treats Adams to a night out at Middle Township’s July 4 celebration at the Goshen Complex on the July 6 rain date. DEL HAVEN – At 6 years old, Nikki Carty wasn’t sure whether she wanted a big sister in her life.

At the time, Carty figured she was doing just fine. Though her parents were recently divorced, Carty had her twin brother, Chris, her mom, and her grandparents.

“I was a tough little kid,” Carty said. “Not bad. Just tough.”

Not long afterward, Carty met Kim Crunden, a Mays Landing teenager with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Atlantic and Cape May counties, and with that meeting, the child’s life changed.

 

Little Sister

Soon after her parents divorced, Carty, now 17, said her mother called the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization.

“My mother wanted a Big Brother for my twin brother for a male figure in his life,” Carty said. “After we met, the woman who spoke with my mother wanted to know if I wanted a Big Sister.”

Carty wasn’t so sure. “I was mixed,” Carty said. “I thought I didn’t need it, but I also thought that it could be fun.”

At first, it wasn’t fun.

The first Big Sister Carty was paired with didn’t work out, as the older girl had a full life, and couldn’t spend time with the 6-year-old.

“But then I got Kim,” Carty said. “She’s the one who made a big difference in my life.”

It was a long-lasting difference, as the two bonded over the next six years. Looking back, Carty said that she realized that she wasn’t as tough as she thought she was as a child.

With Crunden, Carty found that she had someone she could talk to outside of her own close circle of family. She could share secrets and adventures with Crunden. Visit the boardwalk, or attend pottery classes.

“She got me out of the house,” Carty said. “Kim made a big difference in my life,” she said. “She was a positive role model that made me a better person.”

The two were inseparable, and for Carty, her Big Sister became family. Yet, like many families, people grow and change. Life steps in, and folks move on.

Five years ago, romance intervened in the Big and Little sisters’ relationship.

Crunden was a student at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. During a study trip to Europe, Carty’s Big Sister met a man she would later marry and then relocate with to Italy.

“I was devastated when I thought I wasn’t Kim’s Little anymore,” Carty said.

And while the relationship wasn’t over, neither was it the same. Carty said that she and Crunden continue to share phone calls and emails to this day, yet the face to face time with her Big Sister ended with the marriage.

Carty was 12 years old when her Big Sister moved overseas, and she said that the Big Sisters organization tried to match her with another older girl, but it didn’t work out.

 “I didn’t want another Big Sister after that,” she said. “I knew that no one else could match what Kim and I had.”

Two years would pass before Carty’s life changed again, when she took on the responsibility of helping a young girl.

She was 14.

 

Nikki Carty shows off a picture of herself and Little Sister Destiny Adams on her cellphone. Nikki Carty shows off a picture of herself and Little Sister Destiny Adams on her cellphone. Big Sister

Carty comes from a caring family that’s open in displays of affection for one another. During the interview, Carty took a quick call from her brother.

They spoke for a few moments, before she ended the call with, “I love you, too.”

Later, when her grandparents visited the home, Carty hugged both tightly, and kissed her grandmother.

Carty cares about her family, and she cares about the people she comes in contact with. One of her life-goals is to work in a South American orphanage.

“But I’m open to anything, as long as I can help people,” she said.

Three years ago, after attempts at finding a new Big Sister failed, the organization approached Carty with a different proposition.

“They asked me if I wanted to be a Big Sister to a little girl.”

Carty wasn’t sure she was ready. She was young, barely a teenager herself. But when Carty reflected on the good times that she’d shared with her own Big Sister, the young woman knew that she had to say yes.

 “I don’t think I would have done it, if I hadn’t had my own Big Sister,” Carty said. “It was my time with Kim that made me want to be a Big Sister.”

At the time, Carty was a sophomore at Middle Township High School when she joined the organization’s High School Bigs program.

“It’s a school-based matching program for Big Sisters and Little Sisters,” Carty said. “Since I had been a part of the organization for so long, they asked me to be a part of it.”

The High School Bigs program matches older girls with elementary or middle school children with one-on-one time, once a week during the school year, during school hours.

Carty was just 14 when she met Destiny Adams, who was then 8 years old and a student at Elementary No. 2.

Adams wasn’t Carty’s first match. The sophomore had been matched with another child who was on vacation at the time.

“But Destiny was a tough little girl with anger management problems,” Carty said. “She reminded me a lot of myself. I didn’t have an anger management problem, but I was a tough little kid. I saw it as, I wondered what’s going on with this little girl. I wanted to know.”

So Carty engineered a switch. She asked to take Adams on as her own Little Sister, when the girl Adams was originally matched with wasn’t sure she could handle the eight-year-old.

“The first week, Destiny didn’t want to be part of the program,” Carty said. “The second week wasn’t any different.”

Each week, Adams would threaten not to come back.

“But she always did,” Carty said. “She would get upset if I wasn’t there.”

The Big Sister program isn’t a required activity at the school. Though Adams said she didn’t want to be part of the program, she attended every Wednesday, from 2:45-3:30 p.m.

“There were days when I didn’t think I could do it anymore,” Carty said of the program. “Days when Destiny would ignore me. Days when I went home and cried.”

Yet, Carty didn’t give up.

“I wanted to make a difference in Destiny’s life,” she said.

One Wednesday, when Carty was sick, she called out of school. “But I still went to see Destiny that day,” she said. “I didn’t want to disappoint her. I couldn’t do that to her.”

After three years, Carty has seen progress. Remembering her own years as a Little Sister, Carty treated Adams to many of the events that Crunden had shared with Carty years earlier: walks on the boardwalk, horseback riding, shared secrets and adventures.

But Carty’s graduation from high school this year seemed to be the biggest breakthrough that she had with Adams.

“I invited Destiny to come to graduation with me with the rest of my family,” Carty said. “She’s part of my family, and everybody in my family loves Destiny.”

Being treated as a member of Carty’s family had an impact on Adams. After the ceremony, she told Carty that attending the graduation was her best day ever.

“That night, someone asked Destiny who her Big Sister would be, now that I’ve finished high school,” Carty said.

“No one,” Adams responded. “I’m Nikki’s Little Sister forever.”

 

For more information about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Atlantic and Cape May counties, call 609-573-5029.

 

David Benson can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Comment on this story at www.middletownshipgazette.com.


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