Do you remember someone who encouraged you to believe in yourself, to work hard in school and in life? Big Brothers Big Sisters, with the help of donors, volunteers, partners, advocates, and supporters, encourages the next generation of children to reach their dreams.
"Our programs encourage children to set higher goals for themselves, help them improve their confidence in themselves, and help them have better and stronger relationships with their family and peers," said Drew Kaiser, Marketing Manager from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Wisconsin (BBSNW), who joined our meeting to provide an overview of the organization. Drew also introduced Alyson Sauter, the new St Croix Valley Program Manager, who brings more than a decade of youth work experience to the team.

BBSNW specializes in building friendships between children and volunteer mentors. These unique, one-on-one relationships are carefully crafted, based on similar interests and chosen to be mutually beneficial for both the mentor and the child, with a goal of establishing long-term friendships. These friendships with caring adult mentors provide ongoing support to the child, volunteer mentor, and child’s family.
 
Mentors go through a background check and careful interview process. Matches are based on location, personalities, and preferences. And BBBS provides full support from the start, so matches can grow into lasting, meaningful friendships.

With both community based and site based mentoring, BBSNW empowers kids to make better decisions in their lives. Activities are agreed upon by both parties as peers, to help children practice forming a foundation for healthy choices throughout life. Having a Big Brother or Big Sister can help children reach their potential and get set on the right path in life.
 
Research shows that children enrolled in Big Brothers Big Sisters programs are more likely to improve in school, have better relationships with family and friends, are less likely to skip school or use illegal drugs or alcohol, and have higher aspirations and better self-confidence.

"Our River Falls Friends community program partners with UW-RF and local schools and finds its strength in consistency and longevity," said Drew. "We ask our Bigs (mentors), who must be 19 or older, to commit for at least a year. Many friendships span well into the Little's adulthood."

Waiting for a friend

There are 120 children on the waiting list for the program, so volunteers are needed.  The program carefully monitors mentors and children, checking in with parents and the child to make sure that the program is meeting its goals. 

Want to get involved? Sign up to be a Big Brother or Sister. Volunteer at Sporting World in River Falls, formed to help fund BBBSNW. You can also donate directly to the organization.