Gorge ‘Big Brothers’ program lauds mentors

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Gorge honored three special mentors Saturday at the annual “Big Breakfast” event in the Best Western Hood River Inn Gorge Room.

Mentors of the Year for 2012 are Mike Hendricks of Hood River for Hood River County, Karen Ostrye of Hood River for Klickitat County and Mike Kilkenny of The Dalles for Wasco County.

In BBBS, volunteers spend a few hours a month taking their Littles to events, sharing a skill or pastime, or just hanging out.

About 40 mentors, known as “Bigs,” attended the Saturday event along with community members and supporters.

Speakers included District 49 Rep. John Huffman of The Dalles, and Celeste Janssen, executive director of Oregon Mentors, which works with agencies such as BBBS to assist mentors. BBBS board member Bob Camillucci served as emcee.

The mentors were all thanked by Courtney Kendrick of Wasco County and Justine Ziegler, Hood River and Klickitat counties, whose job it is to match mentors and young people.

Ziegler said, “This program works small miracles every day in the lives of the children they serve. While doing things like attending a child’s sporting event or taking them out for ice cream may not seem life-altering, the Big-Little relationship is far more than these activities themselves. It’s not what you do for your Little, but the relationship that you have with them that makes the difference.

“For Littles, it’s having someone in their lives to listen to their troubles, support them in their aspirations, pal around with and look up to — and these powerful things are just part of what you Bigs do in the lives of your Littles,” Ziegler said.

She read a handwritten letter from a parent that she said “hit me about what this program is really all about.” The letter read:

“How do I even begin to say thank you? There should be another word that says more than ‘thank you’? Even the small things mean so much to my kids. I just want to say thank you to my children’s Bigs for having such a positive impact in their lives. They really are angels and my children’s lives would not be the same without them.”

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