There are many things one can point to when defining what makes a man. Arguably one the most important qualifiers, however, lies in assuming civic responsibility and being a good role model. That’s exactly what Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Suncoast is seeking in its 100 Real Men Mentor campaign.
The organization, a one-to-one mentoring program that pairs children, ages 6 to 18, with volunteer mentors, or “bigs,” has nearly 300 boys waiting to be matched with a volunteer. CEO Joy Mahler says she hopes to draw more attention to the fact that 52% of the organization’s matched children are boys, while only 39% of its matched volunteers are men. Launched Friday, Nov. 1, the campaign aims to recruit 100 male volunteers in 100 days.
“A lot of young men have not had a man in their life,” says Mahler. “Maybe their father is missing or their grandpa isn’t in their life, either. It’s important that these young men learn the male experience and have a role model to emulate what it’s like to grow up and be a man in the community.”
Gina Taylor, vice president of communication and marketing at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Suncoast, served as a big sister in the program for 15 years. She says the experience is almost as rewarding for the mentor as it is for the child.
“Talking with other volunteers, it’s the first thing out of their mouth,” she says. “We hear that over and over.”
Mahler emphasizes the flexibility and customization of the volunteer positions, and that all it requires is a caring attitude. She says even the busiest of men can find time to meet with a little brother — even an hour a week can make a difference.
“The thing we always hear from the littles is, ‘They cared about me when no one else did. They never gave up on me. They believed in me,’” says Mahler. “That’s big. A lot of these children are dealing with so much more than most, and these volunteers can be a key motivating force to help them through the speed bumps of life.”
BY THE NUMBERS
100 — Number of male volunteers sought
276 — Number of boys awaiting a big brother
52% — Of matched children are boys
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