Justine Ziegler, Hood River and Klickitat County match coordinator; James Brauer, Hood River Big of the Year; Kathy Pierce, Wasco Big of the Year; Bill Ferderer, Wasco Match of the Year; Kateel Muhs, Wasco County match coordinator. Not pictured: Kimm Curtis, Klickitat County Match of the Year.
As of Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of the Columbia Gorge hosts an annual Mentor Appreciation event each year to say thank you to volunteer mentors (“Bigs”) for everything they do for children (“Littles”) in the program. This year, the event took place at Clock Tower Ales in The Dalles with approximately 30 attendees.
BBBS names Bigs of the Year annually to recognize the contributions volunteers make to improve the lives of children in the Gorge. This year, James Brauer was honored as the 2015 Hood River County Big of the Year.
“James is kind, humble, and a superb mentor to his 10-year-old Little Brother,” said Match Coordinator Justine Ziegler.
Brauer and his Little Brother were matched in February 2012, when the boy was just six years old. Like Brauer, his Little Brother is thoughtful, has many interests and lots of energy. The boy’s grandmother and sole guardian sought BBBS for him because he didn’t have a man in his life whom he could look up to and spend time with.
“Developing a trusting connection with his Little Brother took time, but James was patient with the relationship-building process. Despite his busy work and travel schedule, James has been consistent with his Little Brother since the very beginning of the match, sending the message that he’s in the boy’s life to stay.
“As of late, James’ Little Brother has completely opened up and trusts James fully, even telling James that he loves him,” Ziegler said.
Since the start of their match, Brauer and his Little Brother have enjoyed such activities as golfing, bowling, building rockets, biking, fishing, and swimming at the annual BBBS pool party. Brauer’s Little Brother has blossomed since the start of the match. He’s found love, respect, and understanding with Brauer. But if you ask Brauer, he’ll tell you he’s the lucky one.
Along with recognition for Bigs, BBBS also names Matches of the Year. The 2015 Klickitat County Match of the year is Kimm Curtis and her Little Sister. Their match began in February 2008, when the Little Sister was 10 years old.
Curtis came along at just the right time in her Little Sister’s life.
“As many can attest to, those middle and high school years are tough. Add an unsound home life and a new baby brother, and the girl was in serious need of the consistency and accountability a Big Sister could provide,” said Ziegler.
Over the years, the activities these two share have gone from making costumes for the Little Sister’s school plays and cooking to accommodate the girl’s “picky” pallet to yoga and shopping, though some of their early-days outings quickly became traditions, such as attending the annual BBBS pool parties and Christmas breakfasts.
Curtis’ Little Sister will be graduating from high school in June, and Kimm couldn’t be more proud. The girl plans to attend community college after she graduates, something she never would’ve thought possible before Curtis came into her life. And although the girl’s graduation date will mark the end of their official BBBS match, it’s safe to say that Curtis and her Little Sister will remain in each other’s lives for years to come.
BBBS currently serves 85 children in the region, including Wasco and Hood River Counties in Oregon and western Klickitat County in Washington. BBBS, a program of The Next Door, creates and supports mentoring relationships between children and adult volunteers. There are currently 27 Little Brothers and Sisters between the ages of 6 and 14 waiting to make a new friend. For more information, please contact Ziegler in Hood River and Klickitat counties at 541-490-9979 or Kateel Muhs in Wasco County at 541-399-0259.