By Kylie Stamper
Tyler Harrell, marine biology senior, balances tennis, classes, and being a Big in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
Harrell makes time for her Little, Aidan, once a week. “I love doing things that she gets really excited about. Whether it’s going out and going bowling or looking through her sketchbook, it’s great to see her having fun,” said Harrell.
There is a reason she makes a commitment to this program. Harrell said, “I’ve always been excited about the program, I love working with kids and I love giving back to the community. My final push was the tennis team deciding to do it together, so now several of the tennis girls have little sisters.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters is a non-profit organization that combines education and mentoring with fun events and new ways to reach out to people. Their mission is to “provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.”
The Kansas division of BBBS is currently the second largest program in the nation, second to Texas. Although it is the second largest, they always need more volunteers to become Bigs to cut down on the waiting list of more than 100 children.
Stacy Townsley, associate vice president for academic administration, recently joined the program as a board member and college representative. “I think there’s just lots of opportunity here. What is it that we can do beyond the individual level? Is there something more that we can do?” said Townsley, “Certainly, it’s a worthy cause.”
A variety of types of people on campus are Bigs. Lindsay Wilke, assistant director of Leadership, was a Big for five years. “A lot of what I do is working with teams and lots of people all at once, so I really liked just having an hour where all I had to focus on was one person. I thought that was awesome,” says Wilke.
A Big has the opportunity to get to know their Little and learn about the Little’s background, their struggles, and gain a new awareness of the world. “[Volunteering] met my need to really want to give back to somebody. I liked having the routine and the structure of every week I would see her, so it was a very meaningful thing. It felt like I was building a relationship,” Wilke said.
BBBS hosts several events throughout the year to get the Bigs and Littles involved in the community and to build relationships that will last a lifetime. One major event every year is the Bowl for Kids’ Sake. Teams participate in a day of bowling to raise money for the organization to help children around the community.
Wilke said “It was very compelling to think, ‘Wow, I only have to give an hour of not watching TV or being on Facebook or something and I can really make a difference in somebody’s life.’ I thought that was cool. Those kids think you’re like a rock star.”
Kylie Stamper is a freshman majoring in communication. You can email her at email@example.com.