24 Jun
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AT&T makes donation to Hartford-based nonprofit to virtually connect kids with mentors

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (WTNH)– A Hartford-based nonprofit was forced to change the way it works with kids amid the pandemic. That was made easier recently after an unexpected donation.

Marla Rizzo and 8-year-old Jayda have been buds for about a year.

“I went to her job once and she’s going to take me there again,” said Jayda Vargas, second grader.
In the literal sense, Marla’s Jayda’s mentor, matched through Hartford-based nonprofit Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“She definitely brings out a sillier side to Jayda. And Jayda feels really comfortable with her. I just see a really big growth in my daughter,” said Aleesha Rodriguez, Jayda’s Mom, New Britain.

But a year into their friendship the Coronavirus pandemic hit, making matches virtual.

“Now I just have to call her.”

Those calls just got easier recently after an unexpected donation from AT&T.

“Just talking on the phone. They’ve also done activities. They’ve played games together over Zoom and different video conferencing apps. So they’ve really managed to stay connected,” said Tara Gill, Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters, Manager.

Jayda’s one of 100 “littles” getting this new smart phone.

“That connection is helpful in helping the kids to not feel so isolated during this crazy time,” said Gill.

And kids in the program are doing more than talking to “bigs,” drawing and playing games. Many are using them for distance learning at school.

Meanwhile, during their calls, Jayda and Marla keep building up plans for when the pandemic ends.

“We’re going to do crafts and we’re going to go to Six Flags and Lake Compounce and the playground at her house,” said Vargas.

Check out the video interview here: WTNH Interview

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