Big Brothers Big Sisters to host Big Block Party Bash
Big Brothers Big Sisters is hosting a Big Block Party Bash Saturday, Jan. 29, from 8 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., at the Omni Club in Fort Myers to recruit additional “bigs” during National Mentoring Month.
Outreach Officer Lisa Terrill said the Big Block Party Bash is an event for the community, so Big Brothers Big Sisters can reach out and recruit mentors for the children who are on the waiting list.
“We are going to be recruiting bigs,” she said. “That is our main goal.”
The block party will feature laughing clown Jack balloon creations, football toss/games, paper airplane construction, face painting, the Game Guys, juggling, a Home Depot kids construction tent, family music time, Let’s Bounce, along with many other activities for adults and kids.
Big Brothers Big Sisters currently serves 1,200 children in Lee County. Terrill said there are 350 children on the waiting list who are waiting to be matched up with a big brother or big sister.
Lois and Mitch Kittenplan decided to join Big Brothers Big Sisters in June 2010, due to their ongoing interest in mentoring.
Mitch, 62, said his wife thought being a mentor would be a positive influence on their lives and “she was right.”
He is a retired school teacher of more than 35 years and Lois is a retired registered nurse. They moved to the area in 2008.
Lois, 58, explained that she first began mentoring for Big Brothers Big Sisters in high school for junior high students.
“There is always something that you can bring to the table … if you have the drive and energy to do that,” she said about mentoring.
Mitch explained that he used to tell people that working with kids always kept him young, which he missed after he retired.
“You miss not having that daily interaction with the kids,” he said.
Lois agreed with her husband because mentoring “brings youth back to us … we get to enjoy the kids stuff again.”
Lois explained that mentoring and being involved with Big Brother Big Sister provides a great opportunity to keep the kids focused and down to the basics, especially due to the way “the society has evolved in general.”
“The kids today are moving very quickly to a point where they are not getting the chance to enjoy the basics of childhood,” Lois said about a simple activity like riding a bike in the park.
Mitch shared that once you see your “little” gaining something from the interaction, you gain something as well.
“He is a tremendous upbringing,” he said about his “little.” “You start off saying you are going to do something nice for someone and you end up doing something for yourself as well.”
Mitch said it was almost frightening when he first became a “big” because he did not want to go over the top, but he wanted his “little” to like him.
“You want to mesh and make it work and when it does it is so rewarding,” he said.
Mitch said his “little” gains a friend, along with a different person to share what is going on in his life.
No matter how short or how long someone is matched with a child, Lois explained that it is important for the mentor to understand that “this is your stepping stone to help them move forward.”
She explained that her role as a “big” includes working with the family as a team to help pick up the child’s self esteem and make any stressful situations a little lighter by helping them focus on things that they enjoy.
A young child may not have learned the coping skills to deal with a stressful situation, Lois said, so she is helping her “little” focus on positive things.
Lois gains gratification when she experiences the feeling of helping the family by helping the child. She explained that she enjoys being a resource for the child because she likes seeing a smile.
Once a week Lois meets with her “little” or calls her because she feels it is important to build a relationship with the child to make them feel comfortable.
“The goal is that the child knows that you are there and the family knows that you are there,” she said.
Mitch said he also meets with his “little” once a week to do such activities as attend a hockey game or spend a couple hours at Mike Greenwell’s.
When Lois meets with her “little,” she said she believes it is important to keep her physically moving and doing something fun, while they are learning and building a relationship.
Since last year, Lois has learned that as a mentor she is not there to replace or step over the child’s guardian, but rather join forces with them and work as a team, so the child remains the focus.
“It is crucially important that when you are interacting with a child, you are part of the parental team, too,” she said because it brings positive energy and an opportunity for the child to witness the team work.