The organization is focused on recruiting more men to serve as volunteer mentors to local boys.
Tampa Bay- Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay is launching its annual campaign to enroll more male mentors, called 100 Men in 100 Days. The need has never been greater, as there are hundreds of Tampa Bay children on the organization’s waiting list, and the vast majority of them are boys seeking a positive male role model in their lives. These are boys who, with the approval of their parent or legal guardian, have raised their hand and asked for help from Big Brothers Big Sisters.
The campaign kicked off on Friday, August 18 and runs through November 25. Last year more than 150 men completed their Big Brother Big Sisters orientation and training’ during the 100 Men in 100 Days campaign, and the organization is hoping to exceed that number in 2017.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is the oldest and largest youth mentoring organization in the nation and has been operating in the Tampa Bay area for more than 50 years.
The agency matches caring adult mentors (called Bigs) to boys and girls (called Littles) who are facing any number of challenges – including living in poverty, coming from a single-parent home, living with a relative or having a parent who is incarcerated.
The program boasts an impressive success rate, with 98 percent of the children matched for more than a year in 2016 advancing to the next school grade, and 98 percent having no involvement with the juvenile justice system.
“Of course, we need-and appreciate-all our volunteers,” said Stephen Koch, President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, and a long-term Big Brother himself. “But we’ve found with so many great young, local boys waiting, we need to put an emphasis on getting the message out to potential male volunteers.
Many of these young boys need a positive male role model in their lives and having a mentor can make the difference between those kids getting in with the wrong crowd or staying on the right track.
It’s easy to get discouraged for a lot of our kids, who are growing up in some difficult circumstances. Our Bigs help motivate our Littles to keep working hard in school and life, because it is so worth it! It’s time for us all to step it up and make it happen for these boys who have asked for our help. It’s time for the men of Tampa Bay to GO BIG!”
Volunteers are carefully screened and trained before being matched with a child. Bigs must be at least 18 years of age (there is no maximum age limit) and are asked for a minimum 12-month commitment in the school-based mentoring program, where they see their Little one hour each week during the school year.
They are asked for a minimum 15-month commitment in the Community-Based mentoring program, where they pick up their Little from home (typically on the weekend or in the evenings) twice a month and engage in activities of mutual interest — going to ball games, hiking/biking, spending time at the beach, etc. Many of the relationships last well beyond the minimum commitment, with the match officially staying together until the child graduates high school, then remaining friends into adulthood.
Koch said that their Bigs come in all sizes, shapes, backgrounds, and age. Those men who have a particular love of sports might consider signing up for the Sports Buddies program which is supported by the Tampa Bay Rays, where the Bigs and Littles spend their time together either watching or participating in sports.
“The options are limitless,” Koch said, “and the difference you’ll make can be life-changing for this young person and for the volunteer, as well. In fact, most of our volunteers tell us that they think they get more out of the relationship than our Littles.”
Anyone interested in becoming a Big can get started by attending one of our Big Orientation & Training sessions. For a complete schedule of sessions near you, go to our website at www.bbbstampabay.org and follow the “Volunteer” links. And check the website regularly for a list of 100 Men in 100 Days events and progress toward our goal.