TAMPA, Fla. -- Two men who originally met through the Big Brothers, Big Sisters organization reunited on Sunday for the first time in 40 years.
"I wanted to give him a big hug and say, 'Thank you, I appreciate your investment in my life,'" says Christopher Allen, the former Little Brother, about his former Big Brother, Harry McAlister. "It made a difference."
As a kid, Allen grew up without his father around, and says he got into trouble. Eventually, he ended up in jail for stealing.
"The court system and my mother and the church got involved. They thought looking at Big Brothers would be helpful to me," Allen says.
Big Brothers, Big Sisters matched him with McAlister, a communications technician with the U.S. Air Force.
"He'd pick me up on a motorcycle and take me around town," says Allen. "He ended up getting me involved in electronics and helping me get into school. What it was about Harry was the character of somebody who was missing in my life, just a man there to look up to."
Allen started studying electronics, a career path inspired by his Big Brother. McAlister left for a tour of duty, and they eventually lost contact.
Then earlier this year, Chris saw a TV ad about the Big Brothers, Big Sisters Search and Reunite campaign. It inspired his hunt for Harry. He got some help from the organization, and called a lot of wrong numbers before he found the right one.
"All of a sudden, I got a voicemail on my answering machine," McAlister recalls. "It said, 'This is Chris Allen, I'm looking for Harry McAlister.'"
On Sunday, they reunited at a bowling alley that was raising money for the very group that brought them together 40 years ago.
Today, Allen is an electronics engineer for General Electric, who also helps on Sundays with video production at his church, Riverhills Church of God. He says his life may have never turned out this way if not for McAlister, who is happy to see such a successful change.
"Just keep doing what you're doing," McAlister tells Allen.
The two plan to keep in touch. Allen says he might even pay it forward as a Big Brother. Or, as he considers it at 59 years old, "a big grandfather."