Andrew Dys

Reunited: ‘Little A’ back in Chester for Thanksgiving with ‘Big A’

Chester County Sheriff Alex “Big A” Underwood and Alex “Little A” Collins of Pennsylvania are back together for Thanksgiving.
Chester County Sheriff Alex “Big A” Underwood and Alex “Little A” Collins of Pennsylvania are back together for Thanksgiving.

Dreams do come true, again, for a little boy nicknamed “Little A” – especially if your best friend is “Big A.”

“And this time, I want a deer!” said Alex “Little A” Collins.

“A big deer, huge!” boomed Chester County Sheriff Alex “Big A” Underwood.

Big A and Little A, together again in Chester.

Little A’s smile Friday was as big as his best friend, Big A. Maybe bigger.

The reunion of the unlikely duo, who charmed America over Christmas last year, comes just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday in the place where this rural South Carolina sheriff made the dreams of a little boy from Pennsylvania come true.

Even better, this trip came as a surprise.

“Little A had no idea,” Underwood said of his picking up the boy in Pennsylvania Thursday night. “Tricked him again.”

Underwood late Thursday strode into a dinner honoring Chester County, Pa., Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh – where Little A was in attendance, because he is a celebrity with the cops back home. Big A announced to a shocked Little A that he was not just there to honor his friend, Sheriff Welsh – he was there to pick up Little A and bring him back to Chester County, S.C.

Little A said what 10-year-old kids with the biggest best friend in the world say: “Awesome!”

The two will hunt and fish together for a week as part of Underwood’s annual youth hunt for Chester County kids – the same trip Little A missed out on last year, causing all the tears that Underwood and Welsh turned into smiles and hugs.

The great friendship was spawned by a mix-up. About this time last year, Alex and his mom, Leslie Collins, a single parent, dropped off hand-written letters to the Chester County, Pa., sheriff after seeing a Facebook post talking about the Chester County sheriff’s hosting kids for a hunting and fishing trip. A teacher even wrote in saying how great a kid Alex is.

Alex, 9 at the time, wrote how he had nobody to teach him how to hunt or fish, much less to actually take him. He begged to go. What he and his mother didn’t realize, though, was that the hunting/fishing trip was in Chester County, S.C. – five states away.

Alex was devastated when he learned of his mistake. But Sheriff Welsh was having none of that. She contacted Underwood, whom she already knew, and the two worked out how to get Alex to South Carolina.

The meeting of Big A and Little A, their becoming best friends, and then their tearful goodbyeall chronicled in The Herald, became a national story of joy, caring and friendship. Media all over the world picked up the story.

And the best part is that true friendships last. Little A came back for turkey hunting in the spring. Then Underwood surprised him at a convention in the summer.

This week, Underwood made the secret arrangement with Little A’s mother and Welsh to surprise Little A with a week in South Carolina over Thanksgiving break.

“My son is just absolutely thrilled to be spending this Thanksgiving with Big A,” said Leslie Collins. “He tells everybody about Big A and how he’s Little A.”

But more, these two guys, Big A and Little A, will hang out together. They will walk Big A’s dogs and hunt for hours and fish. They will eat until their bellies bust and walk it off in the woods.

They will watch football – Big A roots for the Dallas Cowboys; Little A roots for the rivel Philadelphia Eagles – and tell each other that their favorite team stinks. But both will root for Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.

Little A will fall asleep with the TV on, with his head on Big A’s shoulder every night, and the sheriff will carry the kid to the bedroom that Underwood and his wife, Angel, have set up just for him.

The pair will join nine other kids on Saturday for Underwood’s annual youth hunt, with 10 deputies serving as guides.

After that, through Nov. 29, the two buddies will hunt and fish every single day – even on Thanksgiving.

“I am thankful on Thanksgiving for my family and everybody I know,” Little A said Friday after stepping off the plane. “I’m thankful for the people here. Especially my friend.”

Little A hitched a thumb toward Underwood.

“Everybody knows him,” Little A said. “I’m Little A, he’s Big A. We’re a team.”

Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065