Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana Impacts and Empowers Local Kids
Writer / Renee Larr
More than 1,000 local children are waiting for mentors through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana (BBBS), and over 80% of the waitlist is boys. In order to meet the need for adult volunteers, BBBS recently partnered with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS).
“From March to May, we partnered with the IMS to recruit 500 bigs by the Indy 500,” says Jackie Lai, senior director of community engagement and justice, equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives. “With a huge waitlist, we needed to get the word out about our program. We needed a massive goal, and recruiting 500 people to hear about what we do is a big goal.”
At the end of May, Lai says the organization recruited 586 potential bigs, as they’re called. She says not all of those people will become a big brother or big sister, but sees it as a foot in the door for potential mentors. She says the waitlist used to be even longer before partnerships like the current one with the IMS.
“We used to actually be closer to around 1,400 kids waiting for a mentor,” Lai says. “It goes down when we match mentors with kids, but we also have kids waiting so long that they age out of the program. Most of our kids are in Marion County but we also have kids waiting in Hamilton and Johnson counties.”
Lai says a common misconception is the time commitment for bigs. She says they only need to spend two to four hours per month for 12 months with their littles. She says the need for male bigs is more significant than ever. Potential bigs fill out a short inquiry form on the website to start the process of mentoring local children.
“We go through the application process and do background checks to ensure the safety of the children,” Lai says. “We take the information we gathered from the application process from the bigs and try to find commonalities between the applications of the littles. Our priority in matching is geographic location, and then we try to find the best match based on their likes.”
Lai was a mentor to a little for six years. She says their favorite shared activity was picking a recipe for dinner. She says she helped with homework or talked about life’s ups and downs. BBBS assists volunteers in finding exciting activities.
“We have an app our mentors can use to find ideas for their time with the kids,” Lai says. “We also host different events they can come to with their littles. We offer fun activities like game nights.”
There are additional options to get involved, for adults in romantic partnerships and adults in platonic friendships.
To become a big brother or big sister, visit bebigforkids.org.