by Anna Ferraro
During the formative years of a child’s life, the “make or break” difference is usually found in the child’s role models or mentor – or their lack of one. Enter Big Brother Big Sister (BBBS), a national organization with local agencies that focuses on providing one-on-one mentoring programs to kids.
Shannon, a local volunteer for BBBS, grew up without them – and wishes she hadn’t. Facing lots of bullying in school, and dealing with the trauma that creates, she’s expressed that if she would have had someone to talk to, she feels that “it would have made a difference.” Now working with BBBS, she’s making that difference in another child’s life.
In October 2014, she was matched with Hanah. Fourteen years old at the time, Hanah had faced a lot of bullying in her school years, as well – and it had taken the happiness out of her young life. She didn’t have many goals or aspirations, and she definitely didn’t have any confidence in herself. Now paired up with her “big sister” Shannon for over two years, that’s changed. According to Andrea Murray, a leader in Jacksonville’s BBBS program, “Shannon’s given [Hanah] hope, confidence in herself.” Matching the two girls based on personality, interests and background, Murray shared after observing the two of them, “It’s pretty much a perfect match.” Today, Hanah’s motivated to go to college, and really do all kinds of things that before, she would have not wanted to participate in at all. Murray commented, “That came from Shannon’s support.”
BBBS is on a mission to make that kind of difference in the lives of as many children in this area as possible. Currently working in seven counties, the Morgan County BBBS is launching their big spring fundraiser in early April – “Bowl for Kids’ Sake.” Having coordinated this fun event for nearly 30 years, it’s an annual highlight, with last year boasting the participation of 49 teams! All the profits from this event go to supporting more awesome mentor/child matches in the community – like Shannon and Hanah.
Murray shared, “Our mentors are matched with a child in the community. They spend time together weekly doing different activities – sports, arts and crafts, etc.” The goal is to “provide the child with a positive role model, and give them someone consistent in their life that they can count on.” BBBS also provides afterschool programs, where high school students mentor elementary students.
In conclusion, Murray shared her heart for this incredible program, saying, “I’ve always had a love for children and doing what I can to help … these resources are fading with our economy and state, I certainly wanted to give back and do what I can.” To learn how you or your business can become involved with BBBS, visit them online at www.bbbswci.org or call 217-243-3821.