Friday, December 25, 2009

Take a kid out

Big Brothers and Big Sisters are needed

Express Staff Writer

Bronwyn Patterson is program coordinator for the Blaine County office of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Idaho. Photo by David N. Seelig

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Idaho, based in Boise, launched a satellite office in August in the Wood River Valley. The nonprofit organization has been in operation since 1979 and works to help children and youth achieve their potential through positive adult relationships.

Seeking volunteers, Big Brothers Big Sisters emphasizes that a volunteer does not need any special skills, but only to have an interest in spending time with a child and sharing experiences.

"We are looking for healthy role models and positive adults," said Bronwyn Patterson, program coordinator in Blaine County. "It is a community-based program with a flexible schedule."

Patterson said that every month, a group activity takes place. Groups have ridden the Sun Valley gondola and gone to the Haunted Forest in Bellevue for Halloween.

"Bigs and littles get together on their own and do activities that interest them," she said. "Most activities are free and low cost."


Big Brothers Big Sisters has partnered with the Wood River Community YMCA in Ketchum to allow "bigs and littles" to use the facilities there free of charge on two evenings per month.

"Volunteering spreads by word of mouth through the kids who take part in the program," Patterson said. "When kids have no sports or activities and their parents are working two jobs, there is an increased level of stress. Families have shifted and need help."

Big Brothers Big Sisters' statistics reveal that after one year of mentoring, parents of teenagers see improvements in self-confidence, sense of the future and ability to express themselves and make decisions.

In addition, teenagers who take part in the program are reported to have more interest in learning new things and in making friends. Volunteers of the program report that teenagers improved their relationships with other adults.

"Littles" range in age from 6 to 14 and once matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister are eligible to remain in the program until they are 18. The organization offers mentoring based in the community, at school or at the YMCA.

Patterson said the Blaine County branch is planning a fundraiser for next summer. For details or to volunteer, call 578-5405 or e-mail

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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