Dani Lovejoy Found Meaningful Relationship Thanks to Big Brothers Big Sisters

Dani Lovejoy and Aaliyah sit by a big B

When she looks back at her younger self, Aaliyah didn’t even realize she needed help when her mom, Malynda, signed her up to be a part of Big Brothers Big Sisters. Now, she can’t imagine life without her Big Sister.

Aaliyah had a great relationship with her mom, and she was very smart, but something was missing. Malynda worried because she worked long hours to keep the family going.

When Aaliyah was nine years old, she and Dani Lovejoy were matched through Big Brothers Big Sisters, and over the past seven years, the relationship has become so much more than just a match for both Aaliyah and Dani. Now, Dani is the Central Minnesota Big Sister of the Year and the Minnesota Big Sister of the Year. She will represent Minnesota in the national competition, and the national mentors of the year will be announced at the 2024 conference in Dallas in June.

While Aaliyah needed an extra support system to help her work through troubles at school or with friends, Dani had just graduated college and moved to St. Cloud, and was looking for a meaningful relationship – a relationship that made a difference in someone’s life – so she signed up to be a Big Sister.

They were excited to get paired up because they both enjoyed reading, crafts, sports, and being outside. Early in their match, they would go to the park together to read Harry Potter, or do crafts together. After being matched for two years, Aaliyah and her family moved from the St. Cloud area to Watkins. Around that same time Dani moved to the Alexandria area, and later took a job near the Twin Cities – but the pair made sure to stay connected. Aaliyah struggled adjusting to her new school early on, but Dani reminded her to control what she can and let the rest go – and Aaliyah was able to push through and not let anyone get in the way of achieving her goals.

One of those goals has always been maintaining good grades, and those grades are currently propelling Aaliyah into a future career that both Malynda and Dani are so proud of. Before she had Aaliyah and her siblings, Malynda was in school to become a nurse. When Dani and Aaliyah first met, Dani was an RN at the ICU in St. Cloud, and Malynda was thrilled – not only because she and Dani shared a career path, but that Dani was a young, successful professional – someone Aaliyah could look up to.

Over the course of their seven-year match, Dani has helped Aaliyah decide on a career path – and then pushed her in the right direction to get that career off to a solid start. She pushed Aaliyah to take PSEO classes, and helps Aaliyah decide what the best next steps would be for her to pursue a career as a Pediatric Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE). When Aaliyah first found out Dani was a nurse she became a role model. Now, as Aaliyah is immersing herself more into the healthcare field, she sees Dani as a hero.

When she’s not focusing on her studies, Aaliyah is very involved at school. After playing on the C-squad volleyball team as a freshman, Aaliyah decided she wanted to play football. Dani was nervous, but encouraged Aaliyah to pursue her passions and do what she thought was right. She’s now a consistent player on the school’s B-squad and dressed varsity several times – including the state championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium.

From reading and crafting to car rides and coffee runs, football games and weddings to texts and phone calls, Dani has built an incredible bond with Aaliyah – one they both are extremely grateful for.

“I don’t know where I would be without my Dani,” Aaliyah sad. “She is truly the best Big Sister I could have ever asked for and a best friend, all built into one. I cannot believe seven years have already gone by, but time flies when you’re spending it with the right people.

“I talk about Dani every chance that I get. She truly is my best friend, and holds a very special place in my heart.”

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