Big Brothers Big Sisters Ketchikan selling crepes at the Blueberry Arts Festival.
About 30 bigs and littles with Ketchikan BBBS got to go on a kayak bike trip recently with Alaska SeaCycles.
Story last updated at 10/2/2013 - 2:27 pm
Growing lifelong friends and mentors is something that comes naturally through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ketchikan.
Kelly Chick has been a "big" or big sister for more than two years and was matched with Chevelle, who is now 14.
"I decided to volunteer mostly because I felt like I was missing a piece as an adult, getting to connect with adolescents," Chick said. "I was single at the time, pretty well established in my career. I was also going through a really tough time and I thought it would be good to help a kid. Sometimes you wish someone was there for you when you were growing up. Sometimes parents aren't available and there's nobody else to turn to."
So far the biggest challenge in volunteering for Chick has been "self-inflicted insecurities." She sometimes questions whether she's doing enough for her "little."
"That's not coming from the kids, that's internal," she said. "The match support specialists do a really good job of helping to simplify it."
The rewards of helping far outweigh those insecurities.
"Getting to know a really awesome, awesome young girl and watching her grow," Chick said was the best. "I think she handles adolescence with a whole lot more grace than I did. Watching her develop her sense of self and self-confidence. I think for a lot of these kids, it's an esteem booster. There really is something special about having a big to them, or specifically to her. From the very beginning I could tell it made her stand up a little straighter, knowing she got to be with a big."
They've gone to a quilt show together, made a snowman in January, gone sledding, hiking, went to an animal shelter and walked a dog, done some baking, had tea, and gone to BBBS sponsored events like kayaking and speed cycling and volunteering at the Blueberry Festival booth.
"We did do a Relay for Life charity event, which is to raise money for cancer," Chick said. "My little is a real go getter in terms of supporting BBBS.
"When there's cool things to volunteer for, for her I see service as something she's open and willing to do. I think that's so cool for kids to want to do. I am so happy to have a little that thinks beyond herself. She's got a younger sister, and because she's got a younger sister I think that's why her mother got her a match. It's an opportunity for kids to get one on one attention. She would be a kid that would be lost in giving. I take her out to dinner every now and then, and we get a chance to talk."
Chick spends between four and seven hours a month with her "little."
She would recommend volunteering with BBBS to others.
"My dad had a little," she said. "I remember (his little) coming back years later and thanking my dad. I got to see that piece, somebody elses life from a generation before."
Chick asked her "little" to be her junior bridesmaid and will be helping with the wedding. Chick wants to keep her little until she ages out of the program.
Tawnya Dillard, mother of Dallas, 14, Brooklin Rose, 8, and Carson James, 6, enrolled her kids a year and a half ago.
"We were a new family up to Alaska," she said. "Some new changes have happened in our family. I was looking for positive mentorship, positive friendships for them. It's just me and them and it's kind of hard for one person to disperse themselves three ways and give them the attention that they need and desire. I try to have mommy dates with them. I grew up not having adult mentorship."
Dillard heard about the program through a coworker and thought it sounded like a cool idea for her children.
Both of her boys started the program first. She said Carson, the youngest, and his "big" have a special match. They hang out almost every week.
"Carson really looks forward to that," she said. "He's become a friend of the family."
Dillard sees her oldest son Dallas' life being enriched because he's experiencing things she wouldn't have been able to provide for him.
"Like going to another island to go four-wheeling, kayaking, or a tour with the Coast Guard," she said. "He's going to be learning to change the oil in my car."
Her daughter was the most apprehensive about participating, Dillard said, but once she saw the positive influence her brothers' "bigs" had on them, she became comfortable with it. Overall, the experience so far has been a positive influence on the family and they've gained family friends.
"Why not give your children more than what you can offer them yourself?" Dillard said, recommending the program. "Why not enrich their lives. Why not give them opportunities to explore and learn, more than what you have? For myself as a mom, I want to hold their hand as long as I can, guiding them in a direction that their interests and natural abilities and talents are. At some point that hand's going to be let go, and they're going to go in that direction."
Ketchikan BBBS has a matching program, with one person on staff in Ketchikan and one helps out from Haines, said Matt Walsh, leadership council member. It also has an advisory board. They ask the volunteers spend about an hour a week with their "little."
"The kids get a lot of things (out of the program)," he said. "... There's lots of opportunities for these kids, to help keep them out of trouble really."
The value for adults, Walsh said, is to help out the community, particularly someone who needs help growing up.
"They get to see them grow up over the years, even after the kids get to be too old to be in the program. They still stay in contact so there's years of friendship and interaction that goes on."
The program has 27 matches, but could always use more volunteers and youth.
The Dream Big Annual Event is Nov. 7 from noon to 1 p.m. at Ted Ferry, which is BBBS Ketchikan's main fundraiser of the year.
Sarah Day is the editor for Capital City Weekly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.