It’s a cold, dark Monday evening in February. But inside Exeter United Church the atmosphere is warm. Five children and three adults have gathered for the bi-weekly Big Bunch mentorship group organized by Big Brothers Big Sisters South Huron. Tonight, it’s all about board games. Jenga, Snakes and Ladders, Connect Four and other games are spread out on the tables.
Within minutes, everyone is playing something. Soon the air fills with talk and laughter. Lauren, an adult volunteer, is doing an Uno “dare” – she spins around five times and then walks across the room like a drunken sailor. Her opponent, Ethan, giggles. Eddie celebrates his victory over Amy as he wins another game of Connect Four. Owen expertly grabs a piece from the Jenga pile and gives a wicked grin. Says Eddie, “I like Big Bunch sooo much – it’s fun!”
Some of the children who come to the group have already been matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister, a volunteer adult mentor. Others are on the waiting list for a Big. “Many of the children in our program come from homes with single parents, or stressful family situations,” explains Amy Wilhelm, Casework Coordinator. “Big Bunch provides them with some mentorship, support and positive guidance.” It also provides a short break for busy parents.
Although most events are fairly simple, there’s always one big day trip in the summer. In 2018, it was a visit to the CN tower and aquarium. There is no cost to the families – the salary of a coordinator, snacks, supplies and admission charges are covered by a grant from Grand Bend Community Foundation. Says Chair Penny Nelligan, “It’s so important to help kids get a good start in life. We’re proud to be part of Big Bunch.”