Big Brothers Big Sisters: a little time, a big difference
WALWORTH Tyler Conley, 10, of Delavan said he enjoys having a “big brother” to share in some of his favorite outdoor activities.
Conley’s big brother, Harry Sailor of Walworth, feels the same.
Conley is a client of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rock, Walworth and Jefferson Counties.
The program matches adults with children and the demand is so great that new volunteer mentors are being sought.
(Read all of this week's stories from Walworth County Sunday HERE. )
“We get to go to a lot of places and do a lot of stuff,” Conley said. “We go to the movies sometimes, and sometimes we get to go to the parks.”
Sailor said his son currently is attending college, so having a “little brother” helps keep him occupied.
“I get to go back and see the world through a 10-year-old’s eyes again, and that’s a lot of fun,” Sailor said. “They come out with a very different perspective, and the thing that’s nice for me is that Tyler is a nature lover, so I see the world through him. He’s sort of eco-conscious and animal friendly.”
One of Conley’s favorite outdoor activities is collecting frogs and turtles, which he and Sailor plan to do once the weather becomes warmer.
“He claims to be a little pro when it comes to catching frogs and turtles,” Sailor said. “When it gets warmer, we will be visiting some streams and lakes. He has a turtle and a frog, so we will be looking to expand his collection.”
Sailor said he also plans to have Conley visit his farm, so he can work with his horses.
“Maybe we could have other ‘bigs’ and other ‘littles’ on the farm and introduce them to the horses,” Sailor said. “I would like Tyler to get comfortable around the horses. I think animals are good for kids. The kids get to learn how to take care of the animals.”
Vickie Conley, Tyler’s mother, said she is pleased that Sailor spends time with her son.
“I’m glad (Tyler) is a part of (Big Brothers Big Sisters). I think it exposes him to things that I can’t give him right now,” Vickie Conley said. “He has a pretty good positive attitude. I think it gives him somebody outside of the family to open up to.”
Vickie Conley said being involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters has helped Tyler become more comfortable around other people.
Volunteer mentors needed
Pam Carper, district director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rock, Walworth and Jefferson Counties, said the organization is in need of more volunteers like Harry Sailor and Sean and Pam Gjestson. (See story above.)
In Walworth County, there are 10 children on a waiting list for a big brother or big sister. In Rock County, the need is even greater, with 50 children on the list, with the biggest need in Beloit.
“There’s always children in need of a mentor,” Carper said. “Our hope is to one day have more volunteers than children. Right now, that’s not the case.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters also offers the Lunch Buddies program, in which the mentor meets with the child once a week at school during their lunch or recess hour. Volunteers are not required to meet with the child after school or during the weekend. Carper said the Lunch Buddies program is a good fit for someone who has a busy schedule.
“The Lunch Buddies program is a way to try it out, and it’s less time consuming. Those who often do the Lunch Buddies program like it, and they transition into the community-based traditional program ... ” Carper said. “Last year, we had a lunch buddy who said goodbye to a student after three years. She graduated elementary school for middle school. So, it was a long relationship.”
There also is the family match program, in which volunteers invite a child to spend time with them and their family.
“It’s becoming a very, very good way to get involved. It’s a good way to get everyone involved,” Carper said. “It’s good for the children in the family, because it’s a good way for them to give back. There have been quite a few family matches that have been successful. The husband and wife become mentors, and it’s a family thing. It gives people more opportunities to get together.”
Carper said most of the mentors have experience working with children. People who are interested in becoming a volunteer must complete an application and undergo an interview, reference and background check.
“Someone has to have a very natural desire to be a positive influence on a child’s life,” Carper said. “It could be someone who has experience working with children, either as a teacher, volunteer or Sunday school teacher. It has to be someone who has time to be with children. We’re looking for someone who wants to be with children, likes to play games and likes to be active.”
For more information about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rock, Walworth and Jefferson Counties, call (262) 728-8865 or go online to www.bbbs4kids.org.