West Hartford resident and ‘Big Brother’ Joe DeLutrie and his ‘Little Brother’ Ocean Mojica are the faces of a new Macy’s national campaign to promote youth empowerment.
By Tracey Weiss
If you’re doing some holiday shopping at Macy’s, you may see some familiar faces at the checkout counter.
Through the end of 2023, the smiling faces of Joe DeLutrie and Ocean Mojica will be an important part of Macy’s social media and checkout counters all over the country. It’s something Big Brother Joe and Little Brother Ocean will never forget – well, that, and the delicious taste of a toasted New York bagel smothered in melted cream cheese.
The duo was chosen to represent the 2023 Macy’s nationwide in-store holiday campaign and partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) called “Mission Every One.” For Joe and Ocean, it meant two trips to New York City, and a lot of fun.
Macy’s kicked off the campaign Nov. 3, and Joe and Ocean, along with Ocean’s mom, Janette, and grandmother, Julia, were there to celebrate. “Mission Every One” was introduced at the daily morning rally for Macy’s store associates in front of the New York City flagship store at the famous Herald Square, at 34th Street and 7th Avenue.
The rally was moved inside, and followed by a few short speeches from Macy’s and BBBS leadership. Then Joe thanked everyone and mentioned how glad he was to be there with Ocean.
“I encouraged the store employees to try being a Big, and make a difference [for their Littles],” he said.
The duo had more photos taken, most notably with the cards that will be at each register in all Macy’s nationwide. The big finale to the kickoff was watching the store’s massive Jumbotron, outside, sharing photos and videos of the duo (as well as the counterpart winners, Big Sister Patricia and Little Sister Serenity) that had been taken in July, during their first trip for the campaign.
Joe and Ocean were chosen for the Macy’s campaign over many other Bigs and Littles across the country.
“We got an email early this past summer from our contact at BBBSA inviting us to submit ‘Big’ and ‘Little’ candidates for a Macy’s national campaign photo/video shoot scheduled to take place in Manhattan in July,” said Brian Kelly. He is the director of Marketing for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Connecticut, an affiliate of BBBSA.
According to their press release, the Macy’s multi-year partnership with BBBSA was created “to serve young people through the power of mentorship, creating a path for future success and impact that lasts a lifetime.” This holiday season (through Dec. 24), Macy’s customers will have the opportunity to help fuel these life-changing mentoring experiences by donating online at macys.com, or rounding up purchases in-store (up to $0.99) through Saturday, Dec. 24” at their 500 stores.
“Because I’ve worked with Joe and Ocean on media projects in the past, I thought they’d be perfect and immediately recommended them,” Kelly said. “Joe and Ocean were invited to travel down to NYC to be reviewed by BBBSA staff, Macy’s reps and people from the ad group Macy’s hired to execute the production. At the end of the day, Joe and Ocean were selected.”
Joe and Ocean have an obvious chemistry, one that could be seen in an NBC CT news segment they did in January to honor National Mentoring Month. The two truly enjoy each other’s company and share so many interests.
“If I have a bad day, Joe said, “I’ll pick up Ocean and he’ll say, ‘Joe, how was your day?’ Ocean is positive, he’s thoughtful, respectful, and caring.”
“Joe taught me how to be better at basketball and balance myself,” Ocean said. “He teaches me words (and their meanings), like ‘accountability.’ It means, to count on yourself. Be responsible for your actions and yourself.”
The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters is simple: “Provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.” Big Brothers Big Sisters was founded in 1904 and has more than 230 local agencies serving more than 5,000 communities across all 50 states; locally, BBBS will celebrate its 60th anniversary next year.
The reason it still exists is its success rate. Parents like Ocean’s mom, Janette Mojica, who is divorced, knew Ocean needed a role model.
“I’m a product of it,” she said. She had a few Big Sisters in her young life. “They were life-changing experiences for me. They’re embedded in my heart.”
Joe wanted to be a Big Brother after his youngest child of three graduated from Conard High School.
“I like to volunteer and I always had an interest in sports,” Joe said. “I wanted to do something meaningful.”
The idea of being a mentor caught his eye so he filled out the paperwork and went through the training process. “I was initially nervous,” he said. “We spoke on the phone first. Then we went to the library, played games, and played sports. We bonded right away.”
The two bonded through that shared love of sports, too. “We’ve played basketball and soccer, gone rock climbing, to Dave & Buster’s, to a UConn basketball game and the Yard Goats, Wolfpack Hockey games …”
At first, Joe wasn’t sure about being nominated for the Macy’s campaign but decided it would be okay. “I thought we weren’t going to win, anyway,” he said. “And we ended up getting selected.”
In July, the duo went to New York City to be photographed and filmed doing various activities – playing soccer, bicycling, shooting hoops and having fun – in an all-day shoot for the holiday campaign.
“We went to New York City on a Thursday night and on Friday we were picked up in a Cadillac SUV Escalade. There was a crew of people and catered food,” said Joe.
“I didn’t want to eat the fancy food,” Ocean said.
“He called it adult food,” Joe said. “Someone went and got him a bagel with melted cream cheese,” and he loved it. In fact, he loved it so much, it was one of the foods he requested when the duo went back to New York on Nov. 3.
Macy’s campaign or not, Joe is a big fan of BBBS and has advice for those who are on the fence about being a mentor. “You can help someone else in ways you don’t even know by being yourself. Says a lot about you that you want to help another person. It’s six hours a month and a year commitment. Take what is going to fit and if you can’t do something on the weekend you can’t. BBBS does such a great job.”
For more information, visit www.CTBigs.org.
A version of this story previously appeared in the December 2023 issue of West Hartford LIFE.
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