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Honored Big Brother driven by friendship it brings

February 04, 2002

Honored Big Brother driven by friendship it brings



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY
andreabh@herald-mail.com


Jerry Harris bagged his first deer in November during a hunting trip with Big Brother Rick Harshman.

Harshman beams when he describes how his Little Brother shot his first deer within his first hour in the woods. Jerry, 14, "just glowed" when he returned home from the hunting trip, said his mother, Bernadette Harris.

"I had tears in my eyes when I saw how happy he was," she said. "That's something I couldn't do for Jerry, take him hunting. I can do anything and everything for him but I can't be a man."

Jerry and Harshman, 37, have forged a strong bond since Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Washington County paired them in 1999. They've spent at least one day a week together ever since, enjoying sporting events and doing such "everyday stuff" as grocery shopping, running errands and hanging out with the active Harshman clan in Wolfsville, Md., Harshman said.

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"It's not like work at all," he said. "It's a friendship."

Harshman was recently chosen as Big Brother of the Year and Maryglenn Bare of Big Pool was chosen as Big Sister of the Year for their "extreme dedication" to their young charges, said Crystal Davis, case work supervisor for Big Brothers-Big Sisters.

"Rick is one-in-a-million," Bernadette Harris said. "Any award he could get wouldn't flatter him enough."

Harshman has been a friend, brother, role model and advisor to her son, Harris said.

"Rick is wonderful. He's a great, great guy," she said. "Jerry loves him."

Harshman was surprised and humbled by the recent recognition from Big Brothers-Big Sisters, he said.

"I don't think I deserve it," he said. "It takes a commitment on both parts."

Harshman credits his wife, Barbie, and Bernadette Harris with giving him and his Little Brother the "incredible support" they needed to develop a strong relationship.

Harris has provided transportation and often rearranged her schedule to accommodate her son's visits with the Harshmans. And she has instilled in Jerry positive values that have shaped his character, making him a pleasure to be around, Harshman said.

His wife, who serves as a Big Sister, also welcomed Jerry into the Harshmans' life.

"If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have gotten this award," Harshman said. "She's been incredible."

The Harshmans have no children of their own. They joined Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Washington County because they wanted to give of themselves, said Rick Harshman, who works as a benefits consultant.

He said he plans to serve as Jerry's Big Brother until he turns 18, and hopes their friendship will continue long after Jerry becomes an adult.

"You can't just walk away from it," he said. "You have to get into it for the long run."

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