Wanted: male role models

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Topeka is in the market for some volunteers. It provides kids ages 5 to 18 one-on-one mentoring matches with an adult that has a little time to spare.

It does not take much. BBBS offers two volunteer options. Traditional or community-based matches meet at least three times a month for two or three hours. They go to sporting events, museums, movies and more. They may also stay in and play video games or try their hand at some woodworking. It is very flexible and can fit into even the busiest schedule.

The Bigs in Schools program uses school-based matches that meet at the school, once a week over the lunch period for about 30 minutes. You can play, do homework, read or maybe just talk. You pick the school and the day and they will find you a child ready to soak up your attention. All the matches are supported by the staff at BBBS.

Right now, 130 kids are waiting for a match. Most of these children are from single-parent homes. About three-fourths of them are boys. Unfortunately, for every 10 volunteer inquiries received, only three of them are males.

“We are trying to reach out to males in the community and let them know that there are close to 100 boys in Topeka waiting for a Big Brother,” said Colin Elwell, recruitment director.

Studies show that children who are matched with a Big Brother or Sister are 46 percent less likely to use drugs, 27 percent less likely to use alcohol and 52 percent less likely to skip school. The benefits for the children are clear but the mentors have a lot to gain as well.

“I get to see how the child’s mind works and what they need to be able to thrive,” said Kristina Gaylord. She and her little sister, Brianna, have been matched for just over a year. They like to go to the park, watch movies and get their hair and nails done. They have even tried gardening.

Katelyn Winrick has been matched with her little sister, Mia, since Oct. 14, 2008.

“We get along so well. It’s awesome,” said Winrick. Together they have gone bowling, swimming, skating and so much more. Recently, they got to see the Harlem Globetrotters.

“We like to try anything,” Winrick said.

“Just knowing I am such a positive influence in her life is the best part for me. I want her to know she can do anything she puts her mind to.”

BBBS of Topeka wants to encourage Washburn students to volunteer.

“We would love to double the amount of volunteers we have from Washburn because college students make such great volunteers,” said Elwell.

To get more information about being a Big Brother or Sister or to sign up, call Big Brothers Big Sisters at 234-5524 or visit www.topeka.kansasbigs.org.