Champions for children

Melissa Treolo

This Thursday and Saturday, April 12 and 14 respectively, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Topeka will host its second annual Bowl for Kid’s Sake. This event is a national fundraiser but Toni Scott, Big Brothers Big Sisters program director, views it a bit differently.

“We look at it more as a fun event for everyone in the community to come together and support Big Brothers Big Sisters,” said Scott.

The idea is to get teams together to raise money before the event. Those who register may register as a team captain and then they are responsible for enlisting a four-person team. If a team raises at least $125, they will get a free T-shirt. Food, drinks and prizes will also be provided.

“It’s to help get our kids off the waiting list,” said Scott. “As of February, we still had 202 kids on the waiting list.”

For those who may not know that much about what Big Brothers Big Sisters is about, it is an organization founded by Earnest Coulter in 1904. Coulter began a mentorship movement known only as Big Brothers but by 1977 this movement had grown to form Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. The Topeka chapter was founded in 1968. The organization pairs kids between the ages of 6 and 14 with someone older who can mentor them through activities they do together. These activities can include anything from going to a movie to reading a book to having a weekend sleepover. There is also a readership program where volunteers go to different schools and read with a child.

The benefits for the children involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters seem to be extensive. A Bowl for Kids’ Sake fact sheet notes that 46 percent of kids in the program were less likely to do drugs and 27 percent were less likely to start drinking. There has also been evidence for noticeable improvement in relationships with parents, siblings and friends.

“A lot of our kids come from high-risk situations and they don’t have a lot of positive role models in their lives,” said Scott. “We have a lot of families where there are moms raising three children. That mom cannot provide each child with the individualized attention the child needs. So when they have a mentor they can see that, ‘hey, somebody does have time for me. They care about me.’ They can see that there is a different way of life through another person.”

Scott speaks from experience. Though she works for the organization, she is also a volunteer in both the readership program and the community-based program. Volunteering with her “littles” is an extremely uplifting experience, she said.

“I can be having a bad day and when I meet with them, it’s like everything disappears,” said Scott.

The upcoming Bowl for Kids’ Sake is looking to be an extremely successful event, and not just because all of the expenses to put an event like this together have been taken care of by a generous donation from the Prairie Band Pottawatomie Nation. CEO Nancy Daniels believes it is also due to all the Washburn University support. Several sororities and fraternities on campus are taking part and Daniels couldn’t be more excited.

“The students have just been champions for us,” said Daniels. “They’re one of our largest sources of Bigs. Washburn students are so great and not just because of the number of kids that get involved but the quality of the mentoring. A little that’s paired with a young person like that can see from their example their willingness to put themselves out there for someone else and that’s pretty powerful. We love Washburn.”

Registration is still available via the Web site for the college night on April 12 and the community event April 14. For more information go to