The shiny black bowling ball rolls down the lane towards the pins. Bryson stands at the end of the lane watching his ball, face gripped in anticipation. When the ball reaches the end of the lane, it knocks down all ten pins with the woody clash that accompanies a strike. Byson, his mom Becca, and Dave Smith all cheer in unison. Dave is Bryson’s big brother, a mentor matched specifically with Bryson by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Washington. Dave holds his hand up, and Bryson slaps him a big hi-five with a proud smile on his face.
Around 90 participants, mentors and mentees, families of the mentees, as well as families still on the waitlist, met at Tumwater Lanes for the BIG Holiday Party. They spent some time bowling, enjoyed healthy snacks and delicious holiday treats, and made festive crafts to celebrate the season.
Bryson and Dave have been hanging out together for the last six months, ever since Big Brothers Big Sisters matched them up. Before that, Bryson waited five years for a match. Becca says Bryson has gained a lot of confidence since he and Dave started hanging out. She likes that he has an adult outside his family to support him in his interests and be a part of his village.
The list for boys waiting for a Big Brother is especially long, says Moriah Candler, Community-Based Program Director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Washington. “Right now, there are almost 100 kids on the wait list and about 90 of them are boys,” she adds. With so many on the list, boys wait years to find a mentor match.
The holiday party is just one of many activities that Bryson and Dave take part in together. They like to go hiking, and they can also participate in activities that Big Brothers Big Sisters puts on just for the mentors and mentees throughout the year—such as snowshoeing, tennis, and arts and crafts, like a session at the Painted Plate in downtown Olympia.
“They do a great job matching personalities,” says Dave. He adds that the experience of being a mentor has been a positive one. He appreciates all the support the organization provides, especially the effort they put in to finding great matches for mentors and mentees. “It really brings out the kid in me,” he finishes.
It doesn’t take a lot to become a Big Brother or Big Sister. After a pretty thorough screening process, mentors make a yearlong commitment to their mentees, and after training, they begin hanging out with them two to three times a month. If you want to get involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Washington give them a call 360-943-0409, your perfect mentee match could be waiting.