RAPID CITY, S.D – Since 1902, Big Brothers Big Sisters has paired children with a “big” to help mentor them and be a positive impact on their lives as they grow to reach their full potential.
“It’s not just mom and dad saying ‘I think you better pay attention in school. You need really good grades,’” Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Black Hills, Nicole Burdick, explains. “It’s now somebody who’s like ‘look, I’ve been there. I know what it takes, and this is what you need to do.’”
Burdick has been involved with them for almost 15 years, grateful to see how the children in the program – including her own – benefit from having a sibling-like figure in their lives.
It’s something that has been going on in the area for 60 years.
“It started with just a few community members and they started with just one kid,” she explained. “And now here we are, thousands of kids later, and we’re still going strong.”
However, for all of the kids they help mentor and guide, the need for volunteers is just as high.
“We have a number of kids on our waiting list right now. We’re looking for men or women that are able to volunteer some time,” Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Black Hills Board of Directors member, Brian Mueller, said. “Anywhere from just a few hours a month to even more.”
Through the matching program in place, volunteers undergo extensive interview and background check processes to ensure the safety of all.
Once paired up volunteers, children, and the children’s families receive any support and training they need to make for a long-lasting pairing – like John and Caleb.
“He reminds me of me when I was a kid, so it was instantaneous and I was super excited,” John recalled.
For years, John had wanted to be a big, but his schedule made it hard.
When he met Caleb just over three months ago, they bonded immediately over football and outdoor activities, having enjoyed every moment of their time together.
“If he ever has left me, I’ll still forever…ever be your little brother,” Caleb said.
To find out how to become a big or volunteer your time, click here.