In early August, 28 excited children will board a bus in Dashwood, and travel to Toronto to visit the CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium.
It’s a common summertime treat for many, but these children likely wouldn’t experience it without Big Brothers Big Sisters South Huron (BBBSSH), and support from Grand Bend Community Foundation. Says BBBSSH Resource Coordinator Amy Wilhelm, “Some of our families can’t afford to do trips or have summer holidays. A trip like this is a whole new experience for the kids.”
The Foundation supports Big Bunch, a twice-monthly group program run by BBBSSH throughout the year. From fossil hunting at Rock Glen to mini-golf in Grand Bend, Big Bunch offers children who are waiting to be matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister an opportunity to socialize and interact with adult mentors. Children who do have a match are welcome to join in too. The funding ensures that families pay nothing for the activities and snacks.
“In the short term it gives the kids something to do, and gives the mums a break,” says Executive Director Bruce Shaw. “In the longer term, statistics show that kids who have a BBBS experience tend to do better in school and in life than kids without adult role models.” He adds proudly that one of the organization’s newest board members was once a Little Sister herself.
Research shows how important the work of Big Brothers Big Sisters is. Studies have found that mentored children are significantly less likely to use illegal drugs, skip school, bully, fight, or express anger. They are more confident and better able to express their feelings, have more positive attitudes toward school, and have better relationships with peers, their families and other adults.
The Foundation also supports an in-school mentoring program. Adult volunteers visit children at their schools for one hour a week, not to tutor them but simply to enjoy time together. BBBSSH provides activity bins filled with books, craft supplies, board games and more.
“Anything we can do to give kids a good start in life benefits everyone in the long run,” says Penny Nelligan, Chair of the Grand Bend Community Foundation. “The Foundation is proud to be associated with these wonderful programs.”