OWEN SOUND – Wilfrid Laurier University student Matt Thompson returns home to Springmount every weekend looking forward to spending a few hours being a Big Brother.
He does whatever it takes to get his homework done there so once he’s home he and his Little Brother, ten-year-old Caleb Frost, can go out for fun activities, including Saturday’s Bowl for Kids’ Sake fundraiser at The Bowling Alley.
They bowled with other Bigs and Littles, as they’re known in Big Brothers Big Sisters of Owen Sound, and with volunteers who helped run the event, helped raise a conservatively estimated $27,000.
It was a level of community support Big Brothers director Glenn Breadner called “humbling”.
Thompson, 20, had a great childhood and wanted to help someone else experience one too, he said over the din of excited chatter, music playing and flying bowling pins.
As soon as he turned 18, he applied to be a Big Brother. Thompson is one of the younger among seven Big Brothers in the Owen Sound chapter. “We’ve had a lot of fun. It’s a rewarding experience not only for him but for myself as well.”
The organization has 42 Littles, both boys and girls, in different programs, including in-school mentoring for an hour a week, through traditional Big Brothers/Big Sister arrangements, and through group programs.
Five boys are on a waiting list for a Big Brother.
Money raised Saturday morning and the night before, when Big Brothers/Sisters joined the weekly Rock ‘n Bowl, goes to volunteer recruitment, community outreach, program development and support, executive director Jennifer Miller said.
Thompson said that in the two years he and Caleb have been paired, Caleb has begun talking about going on to college or university. Thompson is pleased his involvement is having an impact like that on his young friend.
They go fishing, to the movies, have Nerf gun fights and are basically up for anything for the three or four hours they spend together weekly. “A lot of fun,” Caleb said of time spent with his Big Brother. And he’s made friends with other Little Brothers.
Even after Caleb is past the maximum age of a Little Brother, 16, they’ll keep in touch, Thompson said.
“We have lots of fun adventures to come in the following years. I don’t see him more as a Little Brother, I see him more as family.”
Thompson never had a Big Brother but while he was a kid his family billeted Owen Sound Attack goalie Scott Stajcer, who played for the team for 2007-8 through 2011-12 seasons. He looked up to Stajcer, who felt like a big brother to him.
After Thompson applied to be a Big Brother, he learned his father had volunteered as a Big Brother too.
Executive director Miller said the benefits of pairing Bigs and Littles are many. With the mentoring influence and bond of friendship comes an increased likelihood that the kids will grow up to be more socially conscious, will volunteer and be community-active.
“They also are more likely to finish school and get a post-secondary education, they’re more likely to not abuse drugs and alcohol, they get better-paid jobs as adults. So its sort of that ripple effect.”
By Scott Dunn, Sun Times, Owen Sound