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Touch a life—bowl! (03/20/2013)
By Sarah Squires
Studies show they are less likely to use drugs or alcohol, less likely to skip school. They are more confident in their school work. They get along better with their families. As Little Brothers and Little Sisters move through the impressionable years toward adulthood, they have a proven, life-changing edge.

They have Bigs.

Right now, Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) is asking for people in the Winona region to step up and help the organization that assists so many. One of its two big fundraisers of the year, Bowl for Kids' Sake (BKS), will be held April 18-20, providing an opportunity for just about anyone to help area youth.

BBBS served 244 children in the Winona region in 2012. Kids are matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister volunteer, and the pairs spend meaningful time with one another throughout the year. For the Little Brothers and Little Sisters, the program provides a mentor, someone to look up to and confide in, and studies show how important that adult-child relationship can be.

"At Big Brothers Big Sisters we know that having a caring mentor changes a child's life in the most amazing ways," said Cynthya Porter, BBBS 7 Rivers Region Board President. "The happy success stories we hear happen every day thanks to people who step up with just a couple hours a week of their time. You cannot imagine the difference this little amount of time can have for a child."

BBBS leaders are looking for bowling teams of five members to sign up for the annual fundraiser. Teams that register before April 1 will be automatically entered into a drawing for a chance to win $25 Visa gift cards, and there will be plenty of prizes during the event. Teams can register by visiting 7riversbbbs.org or by calling 507-452-2227. When registering, teams can choose which day and time they would like to bowl.

Each team member is asked to raise at least $100, although the fundraiser is flexible. Team members who raise at least $300 will be entered into a drawing to win a Kindle Fire, and those who raise at least $1,000 will have a chance to win two Packers versus Vikings tickets at Lambeau Field. Each team member will also receive a T-shirt and pizza during the event, to be held at Westgate Bowl.

"We definitely rely on this fundraiser because it [generates] a good portion of our income for the year," said Ashley Santolin, BBBS development specialist. The funds provide for Big and Little matching assistance, background checks, and monthly outings.

"We are so dependent on the community to support us as we work to help its youth, and we are so blessed to have such enormous support through fundraisers like Bowl for Kids' Sake," added Porter.

Bowling for Kids' Sake provides an opportunity for those who might not have the time to volunteer as a Big Brother or Big Sister, but who truly care about the children in their community, to help.

A study conducted in the mid-1990s on the impact of BBBS programs showed that the relationship with a Big can make a huge difference in the life of a child. Kids who had spent 18 months with their Bigs were found to be 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs, 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol and 52 percent less likely to skip school. Kids with Bigs were also 33 percent less likely to hit another person, and BBBS officials say the data shows what they see every day: mentors change lives.

"Together with the community we are helping more than 160 kids right now, but there are more to serve, and our work won't be finished until every child in the community who wants a caring mentor has one," said Porter.

BBBS is almost always looking for Big Brothers who are willing to volunteer. Right now, 10 Little Brothers are on a waiting list, hoping that more men will step up to be their mentors. Visit 7riversbbbs.org to find out more, to volunteer, to register a team for BKS, or to donate.



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