Dozens of ‘Littles’ on wait list for ‘Bigs’ at Big Brothers, Big Sisters

Big Sister Kennedy and Little Sister Kylie have connected through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Butler County, which says it has a need for adult volunteers to serve as "Bigs." HAMILTONIAN/CONTRIBUTED

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Big Sister Kennedy and Little Sister Kylie have connected through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Butler County, which says it has a need for adult volunteers to serve as "Bigs." HAMILTONIAN/CONTRIBUTED

Many of us attribute some of our successes and happiness to the people who surrounded us growing up, from family members to teachers to community members.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Butler County makes connections between Littles, children ages 6-14 who could use more strong mentors in their lives, and Bigs, who are usually high school students or adults who are ready to share time with and build connection with a child.

“Our mission is that we create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth,” explains Becky Perkins, the most recent Vice President of Marketing and Outreach at BBBS Butler County. “We are grounded in the tried-and-true, one-to-one, face-to-face relationship, because it is this relationship that can be the most beneficial for people’s lives, especially for kids who are facing challenges.”

The organization enrolls any child as young as 6 and as old as 17, and they can remain enrolled until they turn 18 or graduate from high school, whichever happens last.

Many times, parents, teachers or other adults in children’s lives note that a mentor could be beneficial for them.

BBBS Butler County works to find the right program for each child, be it a site-based program in their elementary school or through matching with one of their community-based mentors.

Within the community-based program, there are individual programs that help find Bigs and Littles who share interests like art and sports and give them options for programming.

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Big Brother Alec and Little Brother Noah spent time together at a Cincinnati Bengals game. They connect through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Butler County. HAMILTONIAN/CONTRIBUTED

Big Brother Alec and Little Brother Noah spent time together at a Cincinnati Bengals game. They connect through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Butler County. HAMILTONIAN/CONTRIBUTED

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Big Brother Alec and Little Brother Noah spent time together at a Cincinnati Bengals game. They connect through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Butler County. HAMILTONIAN/CONTRIBUTED

The staff carefully reviews applications to become Bigs, interviews the applicants, and conducts background checks to make sure that the potential mentors are a good fit. They then carefully review their waitlist of children interested in enrollment to find the best possible match.

Even though many Bigs step up every year, there is always a need for more people who are interested in becoming a mentoring influence in a young person’s life.

“At any given time, we have about 70 children on our waitlist, with ⅔ of them being boys,” says Perkins. “We always have a need for men to be Big Brothers, which is a universal thing for Big Brothers Big Sisters nationally.”

Once matched, Bigs and Littles meet up 2-4 times a month for a few hours. Some of these meetings are at events coordinated by the organization, while others may simply be meeting for a meal or activity that both the Big and Little enjoy. In the site-based programs, the program is on a set day of the week and is held at an elementary school after school hours, allowing students at Miami or high school students to do an activity, help with homework, or just interact with their Littles.

Programming had to go virtual during the height of COVID-19, which put extra screen-time fatigue on both Bigs and Littles. As more in-person meetings are now possible, the team at Big Brothers Big Sisters sees a renewed need for in-person relationship forming.

“Now is an even more important time for people to get involved, since many kids who were disadvantaged to begin with are still suffering and struggling from the impact of the pandemic, whether that be with social or mental health issues,” says Perkins. “This is the time when they can benefit from a face-to-face relationship with a mentor.”

Perkins says that many of these relationships turn out to be lifelong friendships, with Littles eventually making their Bigs into godparents or other key roles in their lives. One memorable pair, Lee and Mike, ended up living down the street from each other later in life and talked to each other nearly every day even 30 years after matching. The connections forged through the program become organic continuing bonds.

If you’re not sure you’re ready to volunteer, you can get more details, and you might be surprised how easy it is to be a Big. Some couples and partners even volunteer together, which may help boost confidence and make the experience a great one.

To get involved, reach out to BBBS Butler County through their website, www.bbbsbutler.org.

This article originally appeared in The Hamiltonian Magazine, a content partner of the Journal-News.

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