Big Brothers Big Sisters need volunteers in the tri-area
By Thomas Miller, Spruce Grove Examiner/Stony Plain Reporter
A year and a half ago Breanna and Desirae were in a serious car accident.
Breanna shattered her ankle and needed surgery, Desirae broke her arm and had some internal bleeding, but they can count themselves lucky — the driver of the other vehicle didn’t make it.
At the time, the two were a new friends, matched by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton and Area because Desirae, now 14, needed more one-on-one time with an adult. After sharing that terrifying ordeal together, they’re now life-long friends.
The crash brought them closer together, but it doesn’t have to be something so traumatic — sharing new experiences together creates a level of trust and a strong friendship.
“We always have something to talk about because we’re always talking about our new pains,” said Desirae with a laugh, explaining that she’s still going through physiotherapy.
“Being able to share with her, confide in her about my life and everything that’s been affecting me … takes a lot of pressure off.”
Desirae’s complicated home life had a void in it, one that a mentor would be perfect to fill.
“When I was living with my real mom things were really rough there and there was a lot not good stuff that happened,” she said.
“Just being with Bree has helped me emotionally cope with things. I feel like I can tell her anything and talk to her about anything.”
As a Big Brothers Big Sisters match, the two get out and about in both the tri-area (Desirae lives in Stony Plain) and Edmonton, where Breanna hangs her hat.
Most recently the two spent time together at the Taste of Edmonton in Churchill Square and are planning to visit K Days as well, but they also do small things like watch TV, go to the movies or West Edmonton Mall — it’s more about hanging out and spending quality time with one another.
Desirae is currently working on her streak of not spilling anything, a streak that stands at zero, they laughed.
And even for the big sister in this relationship, the match is having a positive impact on her life.
“It’s a huge improvement on my life … just making a difference in Desirae’s life. I’m involved in her family, too, and she’s involved in my family,” said Breanna, who is a soccer coach and wanted to spend more time mentoring young people. “Our families have gotten closer over the years … it’s a lot of fun.”
Bree Hazelaar, the match facilitator in Parkland County for BBBS, said Desirae and Breanna are one of her favourite matches because they’re so close, and Hazelaar herself is a big sister as well. She and her little sister like to get together and cook or bake from time to time and she says watching relationships like Desirae and Breanna’s grow was one of the reasons she decided to get involved as a volunteer herself.
Bigs and littles generally meet once or twice a week and BBBS matches them based on common interests so that they can share experiences together.
“Some of my matches are very sports oriented, so they do a lot of sports activities together,” said Hazelaar. “I do have some matches that do enjoy volunteering together, trying new activities, going to festivals, taking in a sporting event, cooking and baking together. Just that one-on-one time, exploring similar interests.
“It’s something you wouldn’t normally do on a week-to-week basis. And it’s really nice that you can explore those activities with someone, that you look forward to when you get together and get out and about.”
Parkland County is just one of the areas served by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton and Area. The non-profit organization also has satellite offices in Strathcona County, Camrose, Morinville, Vegreville, Lac La Biche and Cold Lake.
“The benefit is that the small communities don’t have to worry about infrastructure, human resources, finances — it’s a lean way of managing a not-for-profit and allows the service delivery dollars to stay in the community,” explained Lana Tordoff, who works in marketing and communications for BBBS.
Additionally, the organization is now tied in with the Boys and Girls Club, allowing them to combine their services and reach 5,000 kids.
“The real benefit of having these two organizations together is the ability to serve kids in the way that they need it,” said Tordoff. “If we have to wait a while for a match for a child we can potentially put them in a club environment so that they continue to benefit from a certain level of support.
“Sometimes we take these things for granted; some of us have had access to different kinds of lessons and things like museums and art galleries, things like recreational activities. For some kids the only time they have access to these things is within a mentoring relationship or a club environment.”
There is always a waitlist of young people who need a mentor in their life.
In addition to being a big brother or big sister, you can also participate as an in-school mentor by helping out at a local elementary school in a more education setting.