PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — About 70 children are on the youth waiting list for a mentor in the Heart of Illinois Big Brothers Big Sisters (HOIBBBS) program, the organization posted on Facebook.
The organization is seeking out volunteers to fill this high demand. The post reported a “rollercoaster” of enrollment, with no enrollment at one moment of the pandemic.
Starting Wednesday, HOIBBBS will work to recruit 30 “Bigs” in 30 days. This is the fourth year of the social media campaign, and Director of Development, Sydney Daniels, said they are always in need of volunteers.
“There are lots of kids that have been on the waiting list for a long time,” Daniels said. “We don’t serve kids first-come-first-served. We try to make the best, most quality matches possible, so unfortunately that means some kids tend to wait longer than others.”
Throughout the month of June, HOIBBBS will share video interviews of littles, bigs, parents, and guardians about their experience in the program. They will also have information about how to get involved and what being a big may entail.
Currently, Daniels said, they are in need of Big Brothers more than Big Sisters. She said about 80% of the kids on the waiting list are boys.
Luckily, however, the waiting list isn’t as long as they have seen it in the past, Daniels said, but it still shows how badly mentors are needed.
“I think that as adults, we can all think of someone in our lives in the past or maybe presently that has been a mentor to us,” she said. “Ultimately, that’s what we’re doing here, is we’re providing kids with someone who is going to be there for them throughout their adolescence as they figure out how to do life.”
Daniels even shared her own experience in the program.
“I myself have been matched with my little sister, Lauren, for about 5 years now,” she said. “I was timid coming into the experience too, but over time… there have been so many things that have happened in her life that I have been able to be there for her.”
She said taking the first step simply involves following along with the social media campaign, #30bigsin30days, to learn more about the organization.
“I think that something that holds people up from wanting to become a Big is that they think that maybe they don’t have a lot to offer. And that’s truly not the case. Everyone has something to offer as a mentor,” she said.
To learn more or to volunteer, call (309) 637-1771 or visit the HOIBBBS website.