Leaving a Lake Legacy: A ‘Big’ contribution

Lake Area Big Brothers/Big Sisters continues to seek ‘Bigs’ for its many ‘Littles’

Big Brother Wayne Marlow continues to share a special bond, as also seen here with Brian grown up, pictured here outside of Baxter’s in 2009.

Big Brother Wayne Marlow continues to share a special bond, as also seen here with Brian grown up, pictured here outside of Baxter’s in 2009.

Editor’s Note: This is the second in the a two-part series highlighting the services, outreach and successes of the Lake Area Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization. As part of the National Mentoring Month, The Lake Today would like to help raise awareness of this valuable organization and allow readers to hear true stories of “Bigs” and “Littles” at the Lake of the Ozarks. In this final part of the series, learn about Lake Area BBBS’ learn more about its community mentors and special events.

“Spend an hour, save a child.”

As one of the not-for-profit organization’s slogans throughout the years, the Lake Area Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) is about enriching a young child’s life through positive mentoring from caring adults.

Serving Camden and Miller counties, Lake Area BBBS has been a longtime group of adults and students – also known as “Bigs” – who are committed to building up a young person or Little’s morale.

For Lake Area BBBS program coordinator Sue Creel, this is a gift that lasts a lifetime.

“Our Littles are typically from ages 6-14. However, just because the Little turns 14 doesn’t mean that the relationship stops,” Creel said. “Some of our students and adults, as long as you are good with the family, can keep the relationship going outside of Big Brothers/Big Sisters. This relationship can continue forever and that makes the best success for our Littles.”

Being a community ‘Big’

The Lake Area BBBS has its community program where adults are matched with Littles where they can meet at school, at home or out in the community. As discussed in the first part of this series, one of its more recently developed programs through the School of the Osage School District has been “booming,” Creel said. With nearly 30 Big and Little matches, both high school students and adults can interact with Littles (currently at School of the Osage, but with hopes to expand to other school districts) during a special time during school once a week.

A growing and successful venture, Lake Area BBBS also provides mentoring in the community as a big brother or big sister. Creel said currently there are 14 community matches and hopes to have more.

“I currently have five kids with community Bigs. They don’t attend the Osage Upper Elementary so I cannot match them with high schoolers,” Creel said. “Everybody goes through a big background check, plus a home visit of the child and of the adult to make sure it will be a good match.”

Creel said the Lake Area BBBS’ goal is to provide quality matches, noting that everyone interviewed does not get to participate in the program.

“I interview far more people than those who actually get matches. When they hear about what is going on, they may decide that this isn’t for them. One of the challenges we have is the brakes in a relationship. Sometimes, we have an adult that is matched up with one of the kids, and sometimes the Big feels they are put in a position isn’t to fix the family. That is not their job,” she said. “Sometimes it is hard to know when the brakes get put on the relationship. The idea for the big brothers and sisters is for the adult to be a special friend to this child. Many times siblings come along, but there needs to be that one-on-one time between a Big and the Little. That is what makes the relationship last.”

Contributing to BBBS

Creel said even though BBBS does participate in some of the nationally-known community events for the organization such as Bowling for Kids’ Sake, there are many other locally-based events that allow the Bigs and Littles to all get together to have a good time.

She said they have had a few family picnic activities at Marlan Frank’s farm, where the Bigs and Littles are able to enjoy a fish fry, with catfish provided by Big Scott Martin, hayrides, games, tractor pulls and many other activities.

“We look to do that again this spring, with a successful one we did last fall. We hope to do that twice a year and the Bigs and Littles really enjoy it,” she added.

Creel said they also hope to bring back a BBBS Christmas party and of course enjoy having their get-togthers at the schools. In addition, she said many local businesses and organizations also have helped in providing donations, fundraisers and even their locations to benefit and help fund the Lake Area BBBS. For example, Wells Fargo hosted a golf benefit, which raised money for the not-for-profit organization and Baxter’s donates a space and food when they are closed so the BBBS participants and kids can have their own social gathering.

“With BBBS, there are expenses involved, so we do accept contributions. However, if someone is willing to be a Big that is the biggest contribution for us,” Creel added.

As she had said in the first part of this special series, Creel noted that the prime age for a Little is between 6 and 14 years old. However, if a Big matched with a Little is successful, that relationship can carry on as long as they and the family would like. For example, Wayne Marlow (who told his story in this issue) is still good friends with his first Little, Brian, to this day and is a part of their family. He has since been a Big to other Littles and those relationships mean just as much to him as they do the young men he has mentored.

“Being a Big doesn’t have to cost a lot of money either. You can go to the park, go swimming or fishing, or spend time at the library. The contribution is such a wonderful thing,” she said. “I have all these adults that those thinking about becoming a Big can talk to and find out about their experiences. The kids need it so much. When the Littles do these community events and activities, they say, ‘This is the best day of my life.’ Sometimes it is a hard situation and they have good parents, but those kids just need an extra help and attention That is why Big Brothers/Big Sisters is here and believe me, it helps.”

“Big” success stories

As part of this series, The Lake Today asked different Bigs as part of the Lake Area Big Brothers Big Sisters to share their experiences with the organization and with their Littles.

By Wayne Marlow, Big Brother

“I originally signed up for BBBS in Kansas City in 1995. My children were out on their own. I had a friend who had mentored a boy in the program and decided to offer some time. My first match was from the typical single mom family and he just needed to do some guy things.”

“Brian grew up, went to school, married his high school sweetheart and now is a successful contractor in Columbia. We stay in touch. We did lots of projects, movies, boating and eating out. I even taught him to cook at our house. One of the best memories was the day of his wedding reception when he invited us to sit at the family table.”

“I have had two additional Littles here at the Lake. The typical story is true here … they live down a long gravel road in a 30-year-old patched-up trailer. Six people live together … several generations and cousins at times. They only have one car, and only one is employed. Doug's main transportation is the school bus so outside activities are rare. He has improved his grades. Each semester of excellence has been rewarded with a day trip of his choice. His choices have been to the Capital in Jefferson City and the Titanic Exhibit in Branson. I have included Doug in lots of community activities such as Feed The Children, serving Thanksgiving dinner, Kiwanis Peanut Day, Christmas for Kids wrapping, Second Chance Bikes refurbishing, etc. He has learned some more self confidence through working with other people. Doug was bullied for a year of our partnership by the older guys on the bus; he is now a freshman and past that.”

“I have also served on the BBBS Advisory Board for four years, two years as chairman.”

By Dave Creel, Big Brother

“I became a Big in the spring of 2009 when my little, Brett Parks, was 7 years old (second grade). Brett comes from a family of three boys (including himself) and his mother. The mother is the only common bond (none have the same father).” “Brett is a typical boy in that he likes to play sports (baseball, football and basketball). When we became matched, he was definitely in need of a male role model. Other than his brothers, he didn't really have anyone he could relate to. His experiences were few, as his family had little money. I quickly learned that friends his age were few, but he seemed to know everyone his brother's age. To an extent, that continues today. My only explanation for that is that Brett doesn't really know how to make friends his own age. Couple that with being poor, I think some kids may shy away from him.”

“During his sports activities, I noticed he didn't follow instructions very well. He had a short attention span. I've seen some improvement from that, but he has a long way to go. His mother and his older brother Nick seem to have the most influence on him.”

“When I first met him, I was constantly told of his ‘time out’ experiences in school. He would have fits of anger and would receive punishment for it in the form of visits to the principal's office or counselors. It happens much more rare now and generally, seems to be doing well in school.”

“It's been a very rewarding experience for me to see some small progress. I share experiences with him and I know I'm important in his life because he likes to include me in everything. I go to games and practices, pick him up at school sometimes or go to school programs.”

“I've many great memories with Brett. One of my favorites, which still chokes me up, is when we went go-karting and miniature golf in the same day, then out to eat. He told me it was ‘the best day of his life.’ It was obvious then that things many of us take for granted are a big deal for him. Before we met, he had never done those things. I've since taken him to a Missouri basketball game and a Cardinals baseball game.”

“Another time, out of the blue, he told me he's glad we got "matched." Those moments make me really happy. I take him every year to the Veteran's Day ceremonies at the School of the Osage. It makes me proud to have him there with me and he pays close attention to the ceremony.”

“There are so many stories I could tell, which to most folks would seem like ordinary things. To Brett, even the littlest experience can be the most exciting thing to happen to him.”

By Becky Panchot, Big Sister

“My husband and I don’t have children and I love doing kid thing. My nieces and nephews were grown and I felt that I had the extra time to share. I always loved school activities and wanted be involved in the community.”

“I joined the advisory board for the Lake Area Big Brothers Big Sisters and became a Big shortly there after. I don’t keep track of dates very well but I’m thinking I have been involved for 10 years or more.”

“I was matched with Patty when she was in the third grade. We started out in the school-based program; I would go once a week to school and we would read books, do homework and talk (just a little bit). Patty was very introverted and quiet for the first couple of years. We didn’t see each other over the summer but started back up once school was in session.”

“About the fifth grade, Patty started opening up, became much more talkative and wanted to do things outside of school, so we went to the community-based program. I started picking Patty up from school, once a week and we do basic girl things; shop, movies, hike, swim and always go out to dinner. The activities vary depending on the weather.”

“Patty has helped me become a much better person. I choose my words carefully and don’t push my opinions. I encourage Patty to try new things and let her know she is capable of doing anything she sets her mind to. Patty played volleyball for the first time this year; she is in the National Honor Society and volunteers for community projects.

“We try to do normal stuff each week but I think our trip to the Missouri State Fair will rank up there for Patty as a memorable moment. This was a first-time event for her; she took her sister and they enjoyed the Midway rides, lots of junk food, the livestock, agriculture buildings and the cowboy mounted target shooting.”

“Another one would be our community involvement. We have rang bells for the Salvation Army, participate in chamber events and wrap presents for Christmas for Kids each year.”

“Patty will soon be learning to drive and I will be a part of that-oh my! She is a very mature young lady and I feel we are good match for one another; she can depend on me for support and friendship and I am blessed to have her in my life.”

To inquire about donating to the program, becoming a Big or obtaining more information about Big Brothers Big Sisters, call 573-348-5507 or visit www.lakebbbs.org.

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