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Making a ‘Big’ Difference

Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County has greatly benefited local at-risk youth with a proven mentoring program.

Do you remember your mentor growing up? Maybe it was a parent or a teacher. Or, maybe you had a “Big Brother” or “Big Sister” who made a profound positive impact on your life. He or she might have helped you through challenging times, guided you toward achieving goals — maybe you simply shared quality time hanging out, laughing and playing.

Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of McHenry County was founded in 1985 to give children from low-income and often single-parent homes a shot at a lifetime of success by creating meaningful, monitored matches between volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”).

“Big Brothers Big Sisters is proven to improve children’s odds for succeeding in school, behaving nonviolently, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and breaking negative cycles,” according to Robyn Ostrem, executive director of the McHenry County chapter.

In 2010, 558 children reaped the benefits of a Big Brother or Big Sister in McHenry County. “We recognize that the longer a child is matched with a Big and the stronger their relationship, the more positive outcomes,” Ostrem said. “We have the tools in place to deliver the best, most impactful services possible — tools that allow us to measure the success of every relationship, share important data with our funders, and continue to refine and enhance our programs.

“Our outcomes measure annual progress of children in our programs in three key areas: academics, relationships and risk attitudes and behaviors.”

Three Powerful Programs
BBBS offers three ways to reach at-risk children one-on-one — through the Community-Based  Mentoring,  Lunch-Time Mentoring and After-School Mentoring.

“Our community-based is a traditional program where carefully screened volunteers 18 or older are matched with a child,” Ostrem said. “Lunch-Time Mentoring utilizes volunteers from local corporations (Sage, Follett, Corporate Disk, Knaack and Intren); and After-School Mentoring utilizes high school students from throughout McHenry County.”

Today, the greatest need is for Community-Based Big Brothers, she said. “More than 80 percent of our waiting list at any given time is boys,” she added.

Other Ways to Help
If you want to help BBBS but don’t have time to spend with a Little, consider attending one or more of the many annual fundraisers the organization hosts throughout the year. At least $.80 of every dollar raised goes straight to the kids BBBS serves.

“Whether you enjoy a round of golf with friends, eating dinner at your favorite restaurant, bowling a strike or getting dressed to the nines, Big Brothers Big Sisters has the event for everyone,” Ostrem said. “We’re also always looking for event volunteers.”

The Results are in …

Researchers found that after 18 months of spending time with their Bigs, the Little Brothers and Little Sisters were:

•    45 percent less likely to being using illegal drugs
•    27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol
•    52 percent less likely to skip school
•    37 percent less likely to skip a class
•    More confident of their performance in schoolwork
•    1/3 less likely to hit someone, and
•    Getting along better with their families

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