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Make a Difference: Mentor as a Family

Many our our KZOOkids readers have been asking for more information about family volunteering opportunities. I recently heard about this program and asked Big Brothers Big Sisters to share a little more information about their Big Family volunteering opportunity. ~Jill P

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By Cindy Schrauben, guest contributor from Big Brothers Big Sisters 

 

Our Family’s Story

When I started working for Big Brothers Big Sisters, A Community of Caring in 2011, the older of my two sons learned about the option of mentoring as a Big Family. He quickly started lobbying for our family to get a Little Brother. I had a reactionary response: “As if my life isn’t complicated enough? How can we fit more responsibility and commitment into our schedule?”

But Zack was persistent (he’s very good at this) and, in the end, persuasive (another one of his well-honed skills). In the summer of 2012, our family (my husband Woody, our younger son Sam, Zack, and me) became a Big Family and met our Little Brother, Travis. We quickly learned that Travis is a great addition to our lives.

Making a commitment to having a friendship with Travis has shown my sons the impact they can have on someone just by spending time together. It has also shown Zack and Sam a family that is different from ours and they’ve learned that these differences are OK.


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Travis, who is now in eighth grade, has learned about high school, homework, and the importance of education just from hanging out with two older students. He experienced Zack’s college search and attended his high school graduation. We told him we are looking forward to seeing him walk across the stage in a few years to receive his diploma.

I was wrong in thinking that having a Little Brother would further complicate our lives. Actually, it’s amazing how easy it has been to include Travis in what we’re already doing.

If we are going to a ball game or a movie, we ask Travis to come along. When we go to family birthday parties or barbeques, he often joins us. He’s attended many of my sons’ sporting events and even spent time in the dugout during baseball games. Often, Travis just comes to our house and hangs out with us. We’ll play whiffle ball and basketball; play some intense touch football games; play the Wii; and we always make a meal together (food is vital when three teenage boys are in the house). Soon we will take Travis to visit Zack at college so he can get a first-hand look at campus life.

Basically, it doesn’t really matter what we do with Travis, it just matters that we are with him. Hanging out with him a couple times a month is always a positive experience for us all.

 

Big Family Information

  • You and your family commit to spending four to 12 hours a month with a Little Brother, for at least a year.
  • Most Big/Little matches meet every other week or so.
  • Activities can be in the community or at your home and can be as simple as including your Little in things you already do together.
  • There are about 200 local children waiting for a Big Brother, Big Sister, Big Couple, or Big Family.
  • Call 269-382-6800 or email customerrelations@bbbsmi.org for more information and to begin the interview process to become a Big Family.

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About the contributor: 

Cindy Schrauben, Big Brothers Big Sisters’ communications manager, is married to Woody, mom to Zack and Sam, and Big Sister to Travis. When she isn’t working, with her family or trying to get the family’s pets to behave, she’s taking long, de-stressing walks around her Kalamazoo neighborhood.

 

 

 

One Comment

  • Cindy Schrauben

    Update: Our Little Brother Travis went with us to visit our son Zack at college recently. He loved it! The visit gave him an insider’s look into campus life. He saw Zack’s dorm room (and realized quickly that college life isn’t necessarily glamorous), saw classrooms, got an up-close look at the athletic facilities, and saw Zack interact with new friends. Now, when he hears about “college” he has concrete visuals and an experience to help place it into context. Travis may not decide to attend a four-year college and that’s OK, but he now has a better idea of what’s out there.
    Cindy Schrauben