Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washtenaw County hosted a fundraiser breakfast, Rise and Shine for Kids’ Sake, an event geared towards bringing potential donors together to inform and raise money for the organization, on Nov. 3. Among the donors in attendance were former Eastern Michigan University President Donald Loppnow, Governor Rick Snyder and Michigan’s First Lady Sue Snyder.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is a nonprofit organization based on a one to one mentoring program. The mission of BBBS of Washtenaw County is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships.
“The program is important to children of the community because it gives children access to experiences and opportunities without the support of the program,” said Ashley Sadler, BBBS intern, EMU senior, and social work major.
Through the program, free and low cost activities are facilitated for the matches. Interviews of the families the littles are coming from and of the applicants are both done in the people’s homes, and they last between two and four hours. In addition, match support is offered by a case manager to help facilitate consistent communication and the longevity of a successful match.
Volunteer applications are vetted and run through a criminal background check. In addition, there is a driving record check and verification of at least three references. Characteristics and qualities of applicants are also taken into consideration before making a systematic match. Big brothers and big sisters in a match are called bigs and the mentees are called littles. A one-year commitment is required due to the detrimental effects of short-term matches. Facilitating one match for a year cost just under 1,000 dollars.
“We are a reflection of how we treat the littles and little ones in our community, that need us so much,” said guest speaker, Warde Manuel, University of Michigan Athletic Director. “The younger that we can touch them the more that we can give them the experience. The experience that we have and the fundamental support that they need.”
BBBS is a program built on being a proactive measure to reduce potential intervention costs in the lives of youth. Nationally 20 percent of children experience a loss of a parent and 28 percent of children experience economic hardship. Economic hardship and separation from a parent are both factors that contribute to the existence of the program. Big Brothers and Big Sisters have consistently work towards alleviating barriers in the growth of youth.
“There is nothing much more greater that we can do for our society than do what we can to support our youth,” said guest speaker, Carol Hutchins, University of Michigan Women’s Softball Coach.
According to a study done by BBBS of Washtenaw County, 85 percent of littles have improved self-confidence, 97 percent have improved academic performance, and 94 percent have shown a reduction in risk avoiding behaviors. Over the 100 years of existence, BBBS has grown to support more than 400 mentees a year.