Big Brothers Big Sisters seeks support for mentoring youths

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 15, 2013 

To the lives of the children served by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Washington, mentoring matters. Our program makes a difference in the lives of our Little Brothers and Little Sisters every day.

Right now our organization needs you. The result of the loss of two significant grants a few years ago combined with the economic recession means that we haven't been able to build up our reserves; we've had to use them. We are at a critical juncture and there are two organizations with whom we are actively pursuing a merger. But we know that mergers take time. So we are coming to you, the community that we have served for 37 years, to financially help us as we continue the process of merging.

Mentoring is a preventative, back-door approach to improving the life of a child facing adversity. You have likely seen many of our matches out in the community -- having cocoa at a coffee shop, playing Frisbee at Boulevard Park, or at the movie theater -- but there's far more going on between that Big and that Little than it appears.

Changing the life of a child is a simple act. For one of our Big Sisters, the opportunity to change the life of her Little Sister came when she saw her Little Sister deal with peer pressure in middle school. The Little Sister's friends were choosing to have sex, use drugs and join gangs. She looked to her Big Sister, someone with whom she could have honest, candid conversations about these issues. Her Big Sister demystified and de-glorified these topics and presented real consequences to choosing those paths. The Little Sister fought the peer pressure and is now a thriving high school student.

Our impact on good decision making is felt long after Littles graduate from high school and from our program. Of the alumni Little who responded to the 2009 Harris Interactive survey:

Ninety percent said their relationship with their Big helped them make better choices throughout their childhood;

Eighty-six percent said their relationship with their Big has helped them make better choices throughout their adult life;

Seventy-six percent said they learned right from wrong from their Big.

For one of our Little Brothers, a boy who never thought higher education was within reach, the moment that changed everything was when his Big Brother, a WWU college student, explained to him that he, too, could go to college and develop his passion: fixing computers. That Little Brother is now planning to go to BTC for their computer technology degree.

Our impact on education is felt long after Littles graduate from high school. In 2009, Harris Interactive conducted an online survey of alumni Littles from across the nation. Among those former Littles:

Seventy-seven percent reported doing better in school because of their Big;

Sixty-five percent agreed their Big helped them reach a higher level of education that they thought possible;

Fifty-two percent agreed their Big kept them from dropping out of high school.

Many people are surprised to discover that we need to raise every dollar of our budget every year. We do not have a fee for service, any federally mandated dollars, or a passive source of income. We do have three fundraising events every year: our annual auction and gala, Bowl For Kids' Sake and our Golf Classic. We also aggressively apply for grants and depend on corporate and individual donations.

So, how can you help Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Washington weather this storm? There are three ways you can support us:

Join us for Mentoring Matters "Pledge for the Kids" event at Boundary Bay Brewery Beer Garden on Saturday, June 8, from 4 - 10 p.m. This event is a plea to you, our local community, to support the survival of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Washington. Come enjoy live music, entertainment, raffles and make a financial pledge to prove "Mentoring Matters" in our community!

Enjoy a game of golf and dinner with your friends at our annual Golf Classic on Aug. 9 at Shuksan Golf Club, Bellingham.

Or, if you'd rather skip the events and just make a contribution, go to our website at www.bbbs-nw.org.

Mentoring matters. Please help Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Washington continue to fulfill our mission to mentor youth facing adversity in Whatcom and Skagit counties.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Colleen Haggerty is executive director at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Washington. Contact her at colleenh@bbbs-nw.org.

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