In her role as a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, Bradenton's Monica McField said she tries to provide her "Little," with someone to lean on.
That role is about to be reversed Feb. 10 when McField and Ruskin 13-year-old Mikylie Blue compete in the second annual Run for the Beads Mardi Gras 5K Run/Walk Feb. 10 at Waterside Place in Lakewood Ranch.
McField said she never has run a 5K before, and neither has Blue. But McField said Blue might be holding her up by the end of the run.
"I'm going to suffer a lot," McField said with a laugh. "But we always are trying to do something different. She said, 'Let's do this.'"
While the emphasis will be on the Lakewood Ranch Community Foundation's effort to raise money for regional nonprofits, McField and Blue are great examples of the end result of the proceeds raised during the race.
Those proceeds are returned to community nonprofits in the form of grants. Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast is a grant recipient of the Lakewood Ranch Community Foundation.
"We serve 10 counties, but the grant (money) we receive from (the Lakewood Ranch Community Foundation) stays in Manatee County," said Gina Taylor, the vice president of communications and marketing for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast.
Taylor said the money received from such grants go mostly toward their programs. Ninety percent of the funds they receive go toward programs, 5% goes toward administrative costs and 5% go towards producing events for the public.
"We provide one-to-one mentoring," Taylor said. "We call them our 'Bigs' and Littles.' They do things together. It might mean going to a park, or just hanging out."
Taylor said each pair meet a minimum of twice a month.
McField, 35, said she has enjoyed her time mentoring Blue, and added that building a relationship has not been stressful at all. She said the program is essential because there are so many parents out there who work endless hours just trying to make ends meet, and that can curtail the parents' time with their children.
As a mentor, McField said she tries to use her best listening skills.
"They need someone who is grounded in life," McField said. "They need someone they can lean on."
McField said their trips have varied from the movie theater, to Dave & Buster's Arcade, to the 5K run.
"I just ask her what she wants and then we try things," she said. "You spend four hours at a time with your 'Little.' It's pretty simple."
While it might be simple, McField said she realizes it also has been effective.
"These (kids) just want to be seen," McField said. "Mikylie speaks out more now. She is more calm. She is more mindful in how she interacts with others. It is just nice for her to have someone listen to her about her feelings."
McField said she has been in the same situations that Blue is facing now as a teen.
"I know how to navigate them," McField said.
Those who want to know more about Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Suncoast can call the Manatee County office at 746-7000 or go to BBBSSUN.org.
Of course, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Suncoast is just one nonprofit of the many helped by the Lakewood Ranch Community Foundation. On Jan. 11, the Lakewood Ranch Community Foundation presented 13 grants to area nonprofits for a combined $60,363. Since its inception, the LWRCF has awarded $1.5 million in grants, and In 2024, it will award grants quarterly as opposed to the previous once-a-year grant presentation.
The Run for the Beads is one of the nonprofit's biggest two fundraisers of the year.
Participants will enjoy a scenic, meandering course through Waterside that will include its peninsulas and parks. Runners and walkers receive a T-shirt, a finisher's medal and a free beverage. There will be a Mardi Gras costume contest, giveaways, and top finisher awards ceremony immediately following the race.
Brayan Hernandez-Valdez, a finalist for LWRCF’s inaugural Junior Humanitarian of the Year Award in 2023, will officially start the race.
Major sponsors for the race include Stalnaker Law; Cileone Jewelers; Williams Parker; David Ahrens, RE/MAX Platinum Realty; and New Balance Sarasota.
Lakewood Ranch's David Proudfoot was the winner of the inaugural event a year ago. The race drew almost 300 runners.