With the Bowl for Kids Sake fundraiser just a few days away, the need for more Big Brothers in Langley has reached the critical stage.
Roslyn Henderson, executive director with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Langley (BBBSL), said for boys needing adult mentors, “it’s getting to the point where we are starting to have a conversation about whether or not we can continue to accept more boys on our wait list.”
There are 28 boys waiting to get matched up with a ‘Big’ on BBBSL’s wait list, with only eight ‘Bigs’ volunteering last year.
“When you think about how long it’s going to take to get all of those 28 boys matched, you’re looking at some potential wait times of two to three years,” Henderson said.
Happening Friday, March 9 and Saturday, March 10 at Willowbrook Lanes, Bowl for Kids Sake is a key event not only to raise funds but also awareness for BBBSL, which receives no direct government funding or fee for service, relying instead on donations to carry on its programs.
Last year’s event raised roughly $30,000, which went towards the growth and maintainence of the BBBSL’s mentoring programs. Currently, BBBSL is providing one-to-one and group mentoring, connecting volunteers with children in Langley’s, schools, and community centres.
More Bowlers Needed
There’s still lots of space for teams and individual bowlers looking to sign up for next weekend’s fundraiser, Henderson said. “We have been struggling with (attracting) teams and getting the same level of participation that we did last year. We have a couple of sessions on Friday and one session on Saturday, with plenty of room.”
BBBSL will try to accomodate individual bowlers by placing them on teams or combining them together as a team. It’s asked that each bowler raise a minimum $50 in pledges.
Teams can still sign up by calling 604-530-5055 or online at https://langley.bigbrothersbigsisters.ca/event/bowl-kids-sake/. The deadline for registration is March 7.
Companies, groups, or individuals who are interested in supporting the event but are unable to bowl can do so by visiting the Bowl for Kids Sake website. Prize donations are also being accepted.
BBBSL is always looking for ways of helping the unmatched ‘Littles’ in other ways while they’re waiting.
“But they want that mentor; they want that one-to-one match, and if we can’t provide that, it’s hard to say that we are achieving what we want to be achieving,” Henderson said.
So what’s the payoff of being a ‘Big’?
“It’s an amazing, fun time,” Henderson said. “We know so many volunteers who say they weren’t prepared for how much they got out of it. Not only is it fulfilling to know you are give back and helping someone else, but it also gives a chance for mentors to understand more about themselves and their own abilities and their compassion.”
In a nutshell, it’s a fun experience for both sides, Henderson said. “It’s really the same as going out with your friends and giving a chance to do so many of the activities that you might never have a chance to do.”
BBBSL also has about 14 girls on its wait list.
“We always receive more Big Sisters who come in, so we don’t anticipate as long of a wait list,” Henderson said.
Ideally, Henderson said, there would be no wait list or wait times for matches.
“We’d love to be one of those agencies that can meet a need right away or as quickly as possible,” Henderson said.
‘It’s so rewarding’
Matt van den Boogaard said being a Big Brother has been an incredibly rewarding experience.
When he signed up to become a ‘Big,’ the 23-year-old realtor was studying business in university full time, but was happy to sacrifice a few hours a week to give back to the community.
“I was looking at all the different options that I could have chosen and I just wanted something that was going to be long-term,” van den Boogaard said.
Being a ‘Big’ provided him with the opportunity to escape the grind of studying and to become a kid again.
He continues to mentor the same ‘Little’ who is now 11 years old.
“At the time when we first met he was the only male in his family so I came in as a male role model,” van den Boogaard said.
The two continue to meet once a week and their friendship has strengthened.
“I have the same bond with him as I do with my other (biological) little brother,” van den Boogaard said. “It’s really neat how over the years he has become my little brother.”
Van den Boogaard is there to answer any questions from his ‘Little’ because he has been through many of the same situations himself, growing up.
To other potential ‘Bigs’ van den Boogaard says it’s more than worth the sacrifice.
“It’s so rewarding,” he said. “I feel happier when I finish hanging out with him. At first it sounds like a lot – two-to-four hours a week but if you just schedule it within your calendar it’s really not a lot of time. When you think about it, a lot of people watch TV for longer than that each night, or do other things that aren’t as rewarding.”
Van den Boogaard hopes to continue to serve as the boy’s mentor until his ‘Little’ reaches 18 (the maximum age for the program). After that, he hopes to continue their friendship outside the program.