Big Brothers Big Sisters in need of volunteers

WHEELING – For many children, having their parent read them a bedtime story or play a game of catch with them is something they will be able to treasure for the rest of their lives.

Unfortunately, some local children and teenagers have lost the opportunity to engage in these loving activities. These children may come from single-parent homes, while some may have a parent who is deployed for military service. Others may be orphans or foster children who are just worried about how they are going to get through the day.

Though the organization cannot solve all of these problems, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Upper Ohio Valley connects generous adults with children in need.

“Many of these kids simply need someone to show that they care about them,” said Shannan Kemp-Watson, chief executive officer of the Wheeling-based nonprofit organization.

Kemp-Watson said the agency now has approximately 50 children across the area who are matched with volunteer adults – with another 120 children on the waiting list to receive a match.

The group refers to adult volunteers as “bigs” and the children they serve as “littles.”

“We have bigs who provide the only chance these littles have to get out of the house, other than going to school,” Kemp-Watson said. “Our bigs give the littles chances to do things they otherwise would not have.”

Every mentoring program is unique to the child served, according to Kemp-Watson.

These plans could call for helping the children with homework, something she said some educators take for granted.

“Some of these kids don’t have the chance to worry about doing their homework. They are just worried about where they are going to spend the night,” Kemp-Watson said.

Nevertheless, she said helping the children perform better in school is important, but is only one aspect of the organization’s focus.

“Mentoring can happen at the library, at the park, at the movies, or any number of places,” Kemp-Watson said.

The organization is holding its annual fundraiser, “Bowl For Kids’ Sake,” from 6-10 p.m. March 1 at St. Clair Lanes in St. Clairsville. The $50 per person cost includes two games of bowling, shoe rental and refreshments.

Call 304-232-0520 to register for the bowling event, or to receive more information about the organization.

“We appreciate – and our littles appreciate – anything you can do. You don’t have to do, or buy, extravagant things,” Kemp-Watson said. “Any amount of time you can give these kids will mean a lot to them.”