MADISON, Wis. -

As Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County celebrates its 50th anniversary, a little sister through the program got a big surprise Saturday on her own 50th birthday.

Diane Bray and Kelly Vivian were paired up through the program in 1975. Bray was 24 and Vivian was just 9 years old at the time. Little did they know their friendship would continue 41 years later, even after Bray had moved.

“It hasn’t always been easy to keep that connection because I’m so far away,” Bray said. “But it’s been really well worth it.”

Bray lives in North Carolina, while Vivian stayed in the Madison area. Vivian sent Bray an invitation for her 50th birthday party, but Bray originally turned the invite down. After talking with her husband, Bray decided to make the trip back to Wisconsin and surprise Vivian for her birthday.

“I wanted to be special in Kelly’s life,” Bray said while tearing up. “And that’s why I had to show up because I wanted her to know how special she’s been to me.”

When Vivian saw Bray walking up to her singing “Happy Birthday,” she ran to give her a hug.

“I can’t believe it,” Vivian said, hugging Bray.

“I can’t believe it, either,” Bray said.

The pair reminisced while looking at a scrapbook Bray had made for Vivian with pictures and letters.

"That's one thing that's really, really special... we just pick up right where we left off," Bray said. "There's no awkwardness. It's just a hug and then we start talking."