DOWNTOWN — Standing 7 feet 8 inches tall, the Harlem Globetrotters' Paul "Tiny" Sturgess is the tallest professional basketball player in the world.
Perched on Willis Tower's 103rd floor Tuesday to promote an anti-bullying initiative, he cast a broad shadow on the crowd of children and adults, all participants in the mentoring program Big Brothers Big Sisters.
But Sturgess' hulking presence was far from the grandest accomplishment in the room.
Equally significant was a small victory 14-year-old Ayana Bowman shared with her Big Sister Britney Duson, a financial analyst.
Bowman has a fear of heights, so she and Duson had been psyching themselves up for the Willis Tower trip, their first outing together since being paired up three months ago.
"I'm so proud of myself," Bowman said as she inched her way toward the window, with Duson's hand on her back.
Interactions like this are the heart of Big Brothers Big Sisters, CEO Art Mollenhauer said. Kids and teens are paired with a "sibling" mentor, and every two weeks the pairs meet for a self-esteem building activity.
Last time, the brothers and sisters did a workshop on "finding their own personal sparkle," which included writing journals about what makes the kids unique, volunteer Hope Antoniello-Foley, 23, said.
The Globetrotters event, which also featured Kevin "Special K" Daley and Chicago native Patrick "Flip" Atkins, kicked off Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago's partnership with the team's nonviolence initiative, "The ABCs of Bullying Prevention."
"I wouldn't bully Tiny, anyway," Daley said, joking about his massive teammate's size while explaining the letter "C" (for "caring") in the bullying prevention alphabet, "because we care about each other."