We’re all created equal, and we all deserve an equal shot.

Meet my Little, who changed my life 26 years ago.

John Fetterman
3 min readFeb 18, 2021

As many of you may know, I joined up with Big Brothers/Big Sisters when I was 23 years old. 27 years ago, I officially met my “little,” Nick—one of the most transformative relationships of my life.

This little dude was so sweet and incredibly smart, and I felt so lucky to be his mentor. His father had just died of AIDS, and his mother would soon succumb to the disease as well, leaving Nick an orphan at just 8 years old.

Me and Nick circa 1993. Yea that’s hair on my head.

I remember meeting Nick’s mom in bed, under a blanket. She was just skin and bones. It blew me away to think that my “little” would lose both of his parents before his 9th birthday. Right before she passed away in 1994, I promised Nick’s mom I would continue looking after her son and help him graduate from college.

The Reagan White House had tragically failed to take action a decade earlier and even laughed off questions about the epidemic as it spread across the United States. The U.S. government’s failure to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic resulted in unforgivable mass death and the destruction of families like Nick’s.

This core observation of our society upended everything I knew. To fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic — and the American disease of systemic inequality — we needed to invest more in essential safety net programs and policies that help working families. I started following a new path of public service to fight inequality — and that’s exactly what I’m *still* doing today.

Throughout the years and across different states, Nick and I maintained our “big” and “little” mentorship. 15 years later, we both held up our ends of the bargain. This is Nick’s graduation from Washington & Jefferson College in 2009 with Gisele and baby Karl. It was one of the proudest moments of my life.

Nick’s graduation from Washington & Jefferson College in 2009 with Gisele and baby Karl

By then, I just won my 2nd term as Braddock’s mayor, a path that Nick and his circumstances put me on 15 years earlier.

Today, Nick is a 36-year-old man — 12 years older than I was when we first met — and works for an organization that helps the formerly incarcerated acclimate onto a new path.

What does it say about our country that a guy like me can be lucky enough to have two degrees, while many others like my little — orphaned at age 8 — are barely even given a chance in life from the start?

Nick’s circumstances were so divergent from my own and unable to reconcile that, I upended my whole path and took on a new one. I decided that I wanted to spend my career fighting inequality rather than making myself more comfortable.

We’re all created equal, and we all deserve an equal shot.

Both Gisele and I have been “bigs” with Big Brothers/Big Sisters for most of our adult lives. If you’re able, please consider enriching the life of a child by becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister today:



John Fetterman

Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania. Candidate, United States Senate 2022. Running to be that 51st Vote. 🇺🇸