Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Big Brother is watching - but he prefers playing.
"I get to act like I'm a kid for an hour," says Jake Kenyon, a 21-year-old frat guy who spends an hour a week volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Douglas County.
"I look forward to it every week," Jake says. "I can go there and not really worry about school and just play kickball."
Jake is the Big Brother of Sammy, a jovial third-grader who shares Jake's affinity for sports and creek-jumping. The two friends met because Jake's frat house requires "community involvement." But when Jake completed his required amount of hours, a funny thing happened - he stuck around.
"I was actually pretty sad because the last couple times Sammy was saying he might move," Jake says. "I felt like I was going to lose that friendship."
Volunteers like Jake are in high demand at BBBS, which is currently seeking mentors for approximately 60 boys and 20 girls. The agency matches volunteers with Lawrence youth, organizing after-school and community activities for the "bigs" and their "littles."
"So many volunteers are convinced that it's more rewarding for them than the little," says Sarah Taylor, a case manager for BBBS. "We ask for a minimum of a year but we're really hoping that they'll stay longer."
The hardest part about volunteering for BBBS may be the screening process, which involves lengthy interviews and background checks.
"The faculty and staff at BBBS help with discipline and things like that," Jake says. "It's supposed to be fun ... I don't want him to feel like he's losing out because I'm coming in like, 'Well, we should probably work on homework before we go play.'"
Big Brothers Big Sisters is located at 1525 W. 6th St. next to Quick's Bar-B-Q. The center hosts volunteer meetings Tuesdays at 5:15pm and Wednesdays at Noon. Male volunteers are especially needed. More volunteer opportunities available in Lawrence through rhvc.org
Interested parents should expect a 4-6 week wait before their "little" finds a match. The program is open to all Lawrence youth between the ages of 5 and 17 regardless of their family situations.
"I try not to pry, just because I'm there to hang out with him and be his friend," Jake says. "If Sammy wants to offer up anything I'm there to listen."