Big Brothers Big Sisters will hold its annual Bowl for Kids' Sake this weekend at the Rim Country Lanes.
The money raised at this event helps keep the mentoring program go strong into its second century of service. In the Rim Country, Big Brothers, Big Sisters (BBBS) has been helping young people for many years.
"My kids left so I didn't have any kids left in my life and I kind of missed that," said Susan Williams of her initial desire to become a ‘big sister.' "I thought it would be a lot of fun and it was."
Williams became a "Big" before she decided to take on the responsibilities of Central Arizona's BBBS director.
Vicki Van Camp, whose daughter joined the program as a "little," said her job as a single mother has been made easier with the help of Ann, her daughter's big sister.
"My daughter has had her big sister for over a year and we all get along really good," said Van Camp. "I have to admit at first I had to get over a jealousy thing. I'd think, ‘here is my daughter going off with another lady,' but it was good for me too. I love Ann -- who is her big sister. We communicate really good to each other and my daughter feels very open, like she can talk to Ann if she needs to."
Van Camp said her daughter's perspective has changed for the better since she's been in the program.
"She takes initiative to do things more on her own," said Van Camp. "She is more aware of her community and the kind of impact she can have just doing little things. Like she and her big sister went and helped at the school community clean up... they had the BBBS rummage sale and she helped get that organized and participated... it is really nice."
Twenty children in the Payson area are currently being mentored in the community-based program, which is funded entirely through local donations.
"We always need mentors because there are always children who have a need," said Community Relations Specialist Terry Luke.
"Bigs" mentor "littles." Bigs take their littles on outings, listen to them talk, and help boost their self-esteem.
School-based mentoring is a new program BBBS is implementing to reach its goal of serving 1 million at-risk children. It serves more than 225,000 children annually in 5,000 communities across the country.
In the Rim Country, after-school mentoring program will start this fall at Julia Randall Elementary School. They will meet once a week for an hour.
"It involves a little less commitment on the part of the volunteer because they just meet at school and don't actually go out on activities," Luke said.
Bigs and Littles are chosen from the interests and backgrounds they fill out on their application forms.
"We have eight matches for the after-school program and hope to have 15 by the end of September," Williams said.
She hopes to keep expanding the program with volunteers and referrals.
The program requires parental or legal guardian consent. Parental or guardian involvement in the program is important.
Matches will meet in the cafeteria and choose from a variety of activities -- crafts, reading, homework, board games or playing outside with their Big.
Occasionally there will be group projects, but the focus is on one-on-one attention according to Williams. She will be on-hand to supervise the matches.
"Big Brothers Big Sisters is firmly committed to its mission of helping children reach their potential through professionally supported, one-to-one relationships with measurable positive results," said Judy Vredenberg, president and chief financial officer of BBBS of America. "School-based mentoring programs and serving children of prisoners are key components of BBBS's commitment to serving more than 1 million at-risk children annually."
Adults who would like to mentor a child through BBBS or parents who would like their child to be matched with a mentor can contact Susan Williams at (928) 468-8375. For more information or to donate to Bowl for Kids' Sake can call Cindy at (928) 468-2139.
This feature is part of the Roundup's series on social services in the Rim Country.
Youth in BBBS are less likely to:
- Start drinking (27 percent)
- Start using drugs (46 percent)
- Skip a day of school (52 percent)
- Engage in violence (33 percent)