BY ROSE M. J. HENTON
DANVILLE — When Graham Peck graduated from Franklin University, he knew there were two things he wanted to do.
First, start his own business and second, volunteer in the community. Today he is president and chief executive officer of Marketech, a marketing and advertising business he started in 2008.
While contemplating how and where he would volunteer, he talked to long-time friend Mike Hulvey.
“Mike told me if you want to make a difference in a child’s life, Big Brothers Big Sisters is definitely the program. I was sold.”
In October 2010, Peck was matched with 8-year-old Steven. Peck said it took a few meetings before they got used to each other but, now they talk constantly and spend a lot of time together.
Both Steven and Peck admit there have been some challenges along the way.
“I was getting in a lot of trouble in school” Steven said. But, all that has gone away partly due to Peck and his new school and teacher.
“I go to Danville Lutheran School now and my teacher is Ms. Mull,” Steven said. “She is a good teacher.”
In the last nine months, he has improved in every subject and gets A’s and B’s.
“Graham talks to me a lot about school and keeping up,” Steven said. “That helps me stay focused.”
Peck said he has learned it is important to be there for Steven, no matter what.
“I have to show Steven it is important to be consistent in everything you do,” he said. “I do that by modeling this behavior for him and listening to him.”
Steven said, “I look forward to seeing Graham. He trains me in sports like basketball and helps me collect Pokeman cards. One thing we always do is go out to eat.”
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 who 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 and school-based programs.
Millie Wilson, long-time board member said, “It is all about the kids and the support they need.”
She often tells of her own life and how important mentors were.
“Sybil Mervis was my English teacher,” Wilson said. “She was a great motivator and through her encouragement made me feel as if anything is possible.”
Wilson first became involved with the organization as the captain of a bowling team at the annual fundraiser, Bowl For Kids’ Sake.
“Our team was the top fundraising team, maybe that’s why they asked me to be on the board,” she said with a laugh.
The success of children is a passion for Wilson.
“Helping children is important,” Wilson said, “it is our future and their future. If you have an opportunity in your life to make the life of a child better, what more could you ask for? What better legacy could you leave?”
Big Brothers Big Sisters is a United Way agency. The annual fundraiser Bowl For Kids’ Sake provides nearly a third of the operating costs. Last week’s Hoopeston event had to be canceled due to lack of participation, which makes the Danville event even more important. The event is today from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Lincoln Lanes in Danville. The theme this year is “Hero Up.” The Danville Area Community College team will wear super hero costumes.
Big Brothers Big Sisters receives donations anytime at the office located at 100 N. Franklin St., or donations can be made through http://www.firstgiving.com/bbbsvc.
Bowl For Kids’ Sake’s best-kept secret is the raffle baskets. Each basket is valued at more than $250 and some as high as $750. Pictures of the baskets are on the agency website, http://bbbsvc.org.
“Some of the baskets you really have to see in person to appreciate them,” said Kristen Jones-Watson, case-manager.
Anyone can purchase raffle tickets by coming to Lincoln Lanes during the event. There also will be a table set up to recruit mentors. There are always children waiting for a mentor. Call 446-6601 for information about mentoring or Bowl For Kids’ Sake.