As a Vietnamese refugee, Tri Pham has always been grateful for the life he and his family found when coming to Canada almost four decades ago.
When he started as a Big Brother a few years back, he hoped it would be a way to give back and to show his appreciation.
“I just wanted to help out,” the Willoughby resident said, anxious to pitch in and keep kids out of gangs and on the “right track.”
“I think, if I can help just one kid, it’s worth it,” Pham said, noting he and his wife always taught their two children from a young age – now adults – that it’s everyone’s duty to give back.
But reflecting on his past three years as a Big, the 62-year-old electrical engineer admits his motivation has become much more selfish.
It turns out he “loves it,” and Pham says he gets much more out of being involved as a Big and participating in the agency’s annual Bowl For Kids Sake bowl-a-thon than he could ever give.
“Honestly, I do it for myself,” he said.
Pham has been a Big Brother to 13-year-old Joe Hao for three years now, getting together at least once a week to share some time and partake in their similar interests of sports, electronics, and circuitry.
He describes Joe as shy, and said it took almost a year to “break the ice” with the boy, but now they classify each other as more than just Big and Little. They are friends.
While they’ve spend time playing badminton and basketball, and Pham has introduced him to baseball and golf, ironically the pair have never bowled together.
However, Pham love to bowl – not as much for the sport itself, but more for what bowling makes possible.
He’s referring to the Bowl for Kids Sake bowl-a-thon happening next weekend in Langley, which serves as one of the biggest fundraisers of the year for Big Brothers Big Sisters Langley.
“It’s a great cause,” said the event’s top individual fundraiser last year who typically raised about $2,000 a year in pledges and sponsorships.
Next Saturday, Pham will be at Willowbrook Lanes with at least 20 of his friends and family bowling and raising money for this cause that has grown dear to his heart.
Typically, he has 20 to 30 people participate in the bowl-a-thon. Even though he’s only at the 20-person mark as of Sunday evening, Pham said “But, I still have a week to go.”
Asked what the future holds with Big Brothers, Pham is adamant he’ll remain involved.
In fact, after he retires in a few years and no longer has to commute into Vancouver, Pham hopes to become more involved with the Big Brothers’ school mentoring program – where he can work with and help even more kids.
“I would like to be more than just a big to Joe,” he said, noting he has taught electronics, computers, and math at a trade school, and is confident his teaching skills will be helpful in such a role.
For now, he said, he’s content to be there for Joe, and to help with the bowl-a-thon.
Bowling run its course?
Bowl For Kids Sake may have run its course.
Registration for the Big Brothers Big Sisters Langley fundraiser has dwindled significantly through the years, the biggest drop notable for 2018, said executive director Roslyn Henderson.
Part of the drop in registrations is likely due to the fact that last year was expected to be the last for the Langley organization, because the bowling alley was slated to close last fall.
However, the closure was delayed while approvals were being sought to turn Willowbrook Lanes into a specialty Asian grocery store, and consequently Bigs were able to squeeze in one more Bowl for Kids Sake this spring, Henderson explained.
“A lot of people weren’t expecting us to return,” she said, consequently they only have 15 teams registered, that compared to 27 last year.
At the same time, Henderson said the bowling fundraiser has been around for a lot of years – 39 to be exact – and more than anything, she suspect it’s just time for a change.
The amount raised each year, along with the teams, has been dropping. Last year’s bowl-a-thon raised $34,000, and she’s still holding out hope that can be reached one last time – but is skeptical.
It’s unclear what will replace the bowl-a-thon on the Bigs fundraising schedule moving forward, but they’re going to be continuing their popular Golf for Kids Sake,this year set for Aug. 22 at Redwoods, along with the Charity Auction organized each November by John Pybus and the team at the Murrayville Pub.
Whatever new initiatives are pursued, Henderson said it’s mandatory the efforts stay within Langley.
“We’re still exploring options,” she said.
They also kicked off a WestJet raffle March 1 that is expected to help raise some big money for the organization. Tickets are $10 each and will remain on sale – as long as supply lasts – until the draw at the August golf tourney. The prize is two tickets to anywhere WestJet flies.
Still time to register
In the meantime, they’re planning for the bowl-a-thon to go out with a big bash. Embracing a western theme, she said many of the teams are coming in costume and will be lassoing themselves some loot to help the Bigs programs.
The Bowl for Kids Sake runs Friday, March 9 at 5 and 7 p.m. and Saturday, march 10 at 1:30 p.m. at Willowbrook Lanes.
Big Brothers Big Sisters Langley served 415 kids locally last year through their traditional one-on-one matches (like Pham and Joe), as well as their in-school and group mentoring programs.
“The one-to-one and in-school programs are were we still see our greatest outcomes,” Henderson said, but the newer (2012) group mentoring program is proving to be more adaptable to volunteers who have limited time to give.
They still need and welcome more teams, with the cut off for registration set for Thursday, March 8.
They’re looking for teams of four to six people, with each players raising a minimum of $50 in pledges.
To register, people can call 604-530-5055 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.