For people who don’t have a little brother or little sister, Big Brothers Big Sisters has got you covered.
The organization provides an opportunity for adults to serve as one-to-one mentors for youth.
“It’s fun. It’s like hanging out with a little brother or cousin,” said Eric DiBlasi Jr., a volunteer with the program.
On Sunday, Big Brothers Big Sisters conducted its annual Bowl for Kids’ Sake fundraiser at Columbus Bowling Center.
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That event gives people an opportunity to raise funds for the organization while spending a few hours out of their day having some fun.
“Attendance was down a little,” said Kate Eder, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Indiana. “Moving the event from Seymour to Columbus is probably the reason.”
The closing of Kingpins Bowl in Seymour last summer resulted in organizers having to look for a new host site.
The number of number of bowling sessions went from three to two.
Eder, however, said she wasn’t deterred by the turnout because the event still raised around $20,000, including sponsors and donations.
“We continue to have people interested in volunteering and companies exploring ways they can help,” Eder said.
Participants who raised a minimum of $45 received an hour of bowling, a T-shirt and pizza. Those who raised more had additional prizes available.
There also was a silent auction for a variety of donated goods and services.
Eder said organization always is looking for volunteers to be Big Brothers and Big Sisters, especially men.
Perry Shepard, one of the volunteers with the program, said some kids don’t necessarily have a good role model, and some just need a little help.
“My Little’s father died when he was little,” Shepard said. “I’m not trying to replace a family member. I just want to give him a man’s point of view and provide a little guidance.”
Shepard started doing the Lunch Buddy program, which involves volunteering to spend time with elementary and middle school students during lunch.
After three years, he changed to the community-based mentoring program, becoming a full-time Big Brother.
“We just go out and do different things, attend social functions they wouldn’t be able to attend normally or take them out to dinner,” he said.
Much like Shepard, DiBlasi started with the Lunch Buddy program; however, he chose to remain in it, meeting with his Little for three years.
He said he eats lunch with his Little once a week or once a month.
They used to play board games during lunch, but DiBlasi said they play basketball instead now that his Little is older.
He said his Little’s teachers and guidance counselors say they have noticed the positive influences on his Little’s life.
“It’s nice to know that I’m having a positive influence on him. It’s kind of overwhelming,” DiBlasi said. “It’s rewarding to hear the difference you can make.”
To volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters, a person must be older than 18 and pass a multi-layered background check and an in-person interview.
Those who qualify must volunteer at least three hours a month to spend time with their Littles.
High school students also can be involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters as mentors for elementary school students by getting in touch with their school counselors.
By volunteering, Eder said individuals gain community service and have a chance to give back to the community in meaningful ways.
In addition, there is a direct relation between mentoring and a decrease in both juvenile delinquency and addiction among minors.
Shepard said he appreciates the opportunity to make an impact on a child.
“If you can change their thought process and maybe put them on the right path or at least a different one than they may be on, you can make a difference,” he said.
Eder said the organization plans to have its normal monthly activities for community-based matches.
In the near future, they will have an indoor pool party and attend Park Theatre Civic Centre in North Vernon to watch “The Sandlot.” And in August, a back-to-school party is being planned in Seymour to celebrate the summer and prepare students for their return to school.
Big Brother Big Sisters also has end-of-the-year parties set up for the Lunch Buddy program.
For information about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Indiana, call 812-522-9699, email email@example.com, visit bbbssi.org or search for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Indiana on Facebook.