BY ROSE M. HENTON For the Commercial-News
---- — Kala Hammer, case manager at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Vermilion County, spends a lot of time with her mentor matches to help them build strong, impactful relationships.
On Feb. 24, she scheduled a bowling event for the community-based matches.
“The events help our matches have a great time without a cost to them,” Kala said.
Carly Tamalunis, who works at Genpact, agreed. “I have been matched with JaTay since December 2013, so we are still getting to know each other and the events help.”
Each time JaTay threw her bowling ball down the alley, she gave Carly a high five, no matter the score. She was just enjoying herself.
JaTay is a ball of energy in the second grade at Pine Crest Elementary in Georgetown. She is a self-professed “gymnast.”
“I haven’t had any classes, I just learned on my own,” she says with a big, smile. She said she really enjoys “hanging out” with Carly. “She seems like she is part of my family. We went to a girls college basketball game. I got a poster, a ball and a high five from some of the players. It was a lot of fun.”
Blake Wells and his little brother Steven met for the first time at the event. Blake is always busy. He has a part-time job, a full-time job, two children, is a village board member in Muncie and a volunteer firefighter in Oakwood.
“I have had it pretty good in my life and I want to share that with others,” he said. “I see a lot of kids out there getting into trouble and I know I can make a difference.”
Steven said he was enjoying himself and was excited about the plans the match has been making.
“Soon we’re going to visit the firehouse, and I get to look at the trucks,” he said.
Kala matched the pair because they had a lot in common, including sports. “I will have to teach Blake tennis, that’s one game he doesn’t know how to play,” Steven said.
More than 25 mentors and littles attended the event where they were able to bowl, eat pizza and build their friendship for a couple of hours.
Jesse Pierce, new to Big Brothers Big Sisters also attended. “I love events,” he said as he cheered on the group.
Kala is not only a case manager, she also is a mentor. Her little sister Maddie attended the event. While Maddie enjoys the events she said, “Kala makes the best cookies. That’s my favorite activity.”
When the mentors were asked how they manage their busy lives and mentor, all of them said “you have to make the time.”
“It’s that important” Blake said. “You can do it if you really want to.”
Jaclyn Marganski, a mentor who also attended the event with her little sister Jade echoed that sentiment. “You have to quit saying ‘You can’t’ and say, ‘You can,’” she said.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Vermilion County was established in 1971 by concerned Vermilion County residents. Those residents saw a gap in services for children from single parent homes that needed one-to-one support and encouragement. They contacted Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and started an affiliation. The agency now serves children from all walks of life whether there are two parents in the home or not. One-to-one mentoring is the focus in the community, school-based and new site-based freshman mentoring programs. After-school leadership programs are available through Young Women Aware, an outreach program supported by Big Brothers Big Sisters, Presence United Samaritans Medical Foundation and Danville District 118.
Jane McFadden, board president said, “Everyone can remember that person in their life who took an interest in them and gave them the encouragement and support they needed to make it over some hurdles. That’s what our mentors do for children all over Vermilion County.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters is a United Way agency. Its annual fundraiser, Bowl For Kids’ Sake, will take place 4-8 p.m. March 14 and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. March 15. The theme this year is “Bowl For Kids’ Sake SPORTS.”
Bonnie Gaston, office manager, is excited about all the prize donations. “We will have a variety of baskets, from cooking to birthday parties to designer accessories,” she said.
Bowl For Kids’ Sakes’ best kept secret is the raffle baskets. Each basket is valued at more than $250 and some much higher. Pictures of the baskets are on the agency website, bbbsvc.org and Facebook page at Bigbrothersbigsisters Vermilioncounty. Tickets went on sale Monday for the baskets and a 50/50 drawing. Individuals can purchase an arms length for $10 and a wing span for $15 and place their address label on the back. Anyone can purchase tickets whether they bowl or not, and the purchasers don’t have to be present to win. Last year, the 50/50 winner received $1,200.
There also are some special baskets, including a gaming basket with a PlayStation donated by Gold Rush Pawn, games donated by Sony and other items. Tickets for the PlayStation will be $10.
“Funds raised through Bowl For Kids’ Sake go to meet our vision that all children achieve success in life”, McFadden said. “We serve children all over Vermilion County, not just Danville and we need community support to continue. This is a fun way to help out.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters receives donations of any kind at the office located at 100 N. Franklin St., Danville or monetary donations can be made through http://www.firstgiving.com/bbbsvc/bowl-for-kids-sake-sports. There will also be a table set up to recruit mentors. There are always children waiting for a mentor. Call 446-6601 for more information about mentoring or Bowl For Kids’ Sake.
Rose M. Henton is executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Vermilion County.