Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Big Brothers for the Day, Steve and Rob, spend time bowling with their Little Brothers during Big Brothers Big Sisters' Bowl for Kids' Sake 2014. (Big Brothers Big Sisters of Elkhart County)

Big Sister for the Day Natalie spends time with her Little Sister, Tuesday, during Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Bowl For Kids’ Sake 2014. (Big Brothers Big Sisters of Elkhart County)
Dear Big Brothers and Big Sisters for the day: thank you

Posted on June 4, 2014 at 4:40 p.m.

Have you ever been excited for someone because you knew that person was about to experience something wonderful? Have you ever found a smile on your face simply because this person didn't yet realize how that one thing was going to change his or her life forever?

Yeah, you can say I have a huge smile on my face right now. My staff at Big Brothers Big Sisters and I are preparing for an event on Saturday called Be Big For A Day.

The concept is simple: Our agency has over 110 children on the waiting list (our Littles) for an adult mentor--a Big Brother or Big Sister. The event gives adults a chance to see what mentoring through our agency would be like through some fun activities that we are providing. More importantly, the Littles have a chance to have a really great day with an adult who has made time just for them.

Stephanie Patka is the executive director and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Elkhart County. She writes for the organization’s community blog, Give a Little More

But, the event isn't just a three hour appointment on a Saturday: It’s a BIG deal. And you could say that the smile on my face isn’t just because the children participating are going to have an absolute blast spending time with their Big Brothers or Big Sisters for the day – I’m smiling because the impact on the adults there will be BIG, and they don’t even know it yet. How big? That answer is best summed up in the thank you letter below that I shared with the men and women joining us this weekend.


”Dear Big Brothers and Big Sisters for the Day,

On behalf of all of the Littles who are anxiously awaiting your arrival on Saturday, I wanted to express my gratitude for your commitment to do something really special.

You’ve said YES and agreed to spend a few hours to be a Big Brother or Big Sister this weekend to one of our Waiting Littles. I assure you this is no small gesture. As they’re enrolled in our program, these children have all dealt with some kind of adversity in their lives. You showing up this Saturday is a ray of sunshine in their worlds, which experience a lot of rain and cloudy days. Thank you.

The BBBS staff and the Be Big For A Day committee has been working hard in anticipation of your arrival, and much like the Littles, we’re pretty excited too. We’ve planned a lot of fun activities like bowling, sidewalk chalk drawings, cornhole games, soccer, football tosses, crafts and even making edible bracelets (and of course, much more!). There’s something for everyone! Every Little and Big will get a fun swag bag and free t-shirt upon arrival, as well a pizza buffet to start off the afternoon.

I think that my favorite piece of the planning process was matching the Bigs and Littles together. This charge was led by my talented program staff. As executive director, I got to just weigh in and give feedback for the recruited Bigs I knew personally. I can’t tell you the name of the child that you will be matched with just yet, but I will tell you this: Saturday is going to be a special day, because each and every one of you was matched with your Little for a reason. When deciding which Little you would be paired with, the staff took into consideration where you both live, the child’s school, some of your favorite hobbies and yes – there are a few of you who will be paired up with your own mini-me versions of yourselves this weekend.

I hope you are looking forward to Saturday as much as we are. While we have had events for Waiting Littles in the past, none of them have been to this extent or as large before.

I will never forget the story of Waiting Little Brother Robert who participated in such an event a few years ago. About 10 young men and women came from Best Buy to host an event at the Tolson Center and were playing all kinds of sports and games with some of the kids on the waiting list.

Robert had just gotten tagged out in a game of dodgeball, and as he stood next to me, he asked, “Can we play again?” Thinking that he was referring to the current game, I tried to explain the rules when he interrupted and said, “No, can these guys come back and play with us again?” Robert went on, “You know, I had a Big Brother once. But he had Crohn’s, so we had to close the match because he got really sick.” I nodded, remembering the early match closure.

But then Robert’s 7-year-old face lit up. “I will get another Big Brother one day. But today,” he leaned in to whisper, “Today, I feel pretty cool because at least I have these Big Brothers who are playing dodgeball with me.”

For Robert and all of the Waiting Littles, it’s not about the score of the game; it’s not about even being good at it. He recognized that there was someone who made time for him, someone who made a commitment to show up and followed through. He recognized that someone who made him feel special simply by being there. You signed up to be a Big this weekend, but your impact on the lives of these kids will be BIGGER than you know.

With deepest appreciation, thank you.“

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