Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Winnipeg
1969, when the local Big Brothers was founded, and 1970, when Big Sisters was launched separately. In 1997, the Big siblings joined forces under one roof to mentor kids in need of a grown-up friend.
In a season that can be bittersweet for many, quality time with a caring mentor can make a big difference.
"We know for many of our families, (the holidays are) a tough time," executive director Greg Unger says. "The biggest thing we ask of our mentors is just to be there... so that things continue to be as normal as possible, but still have that positive impact."
To help boost holiday cheer, the organization hosted its annual Rudolph Penny Sale last weekend, inviting kids from the program to "buy" donated presents for their families -- such as books, and even a pair of downhill skis -- for mere pennies. The event gives kids a chance to have the satisfaction of buying a gift for loved ones, while bonding even more with BBBS volunteers.
And there are a lot of them. The BBBS started with a handful of dedicated volunteers; now there are over 300 grown-up "bigs," and last year they helped about 480 kids. This year, the organization is hoping to connect with 550 "littles."
Because the number of kids hoping to find a fun grown-up pal isn't shrinking, more volunteers and more donations are needed. "As we grow, we need to find new ways of spending the money, or find new money," Unger says. "We have a wait list... at any time, you could have 100 kids waiting to be matched."
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Have at least a few hours a week to spare? Think about volunteering as a mentor. Have more money than time? Donate money, vehicles, or auction items at bigwinnipeg.com. You can play your way to help too: In February, Big Brothers and Big Sisters will hold the biggest fundraiser of its year, the Bowl For Kids Sake bowling tournament at Academy Lanes.