By Cassidy Hudson
“Everyone can positively change the life of one person just by being themselves,” says Terry Dougherty, director of the Brazos Valley branch of Big Brothers Big Sisters.
As the only local staff person, Dougherty says confidence in the impact of Big Brothers Big Sisters is what allows her to run the program as a one-woman show. Her job is to match at-risk youth ages 6-18 with an adult volunteer to act as a mentor, friend and source of encouragement, Dougherty explains.
With two to four outings each month, Dougherty says volunteer big brothers and sisters spend time with a child doing something as simple as seeing a movie, going to a park or baking a treat. With more than 100 current matches of mentors with area youth, Dougherty notes the significant impact the nonprofit is making in the lives of local children.
“All the kids face adversity in some form or fashion,” she says, explaining how Big Brothers Big Sisters caters to children and youth with a history of serious problems at home or who are just in need of a friend. Simply spending time supporting and encouraging the kids, Dougherty says, are the little things that can make Big Brothers Big Sisters a life-changing experience.
“It’s always an organization you know of in the back of your mind,” says Katy Dempsey, Candy 95 radio personality and big sister. Whether attempting a new recipe, renting a movie, or a simple coffee date, Dempsey says that in a few short months, the program has helped her form a relationship with her 15-year-old little sister.
“We’ve really connected, and she’s a very special person in my life,” says Dempsey. “I can’t wait to see her live out her dreams.” Whether it’s supporting her little sister while she marches with the band in her high school’s halftime show, or helping her little sister get ready for her first date, Dempsey says she is more of a friend than a mentor.
“She’s like another little sister of mine,” Dempsey says.
Dougherty is emphatic about the positive impact time shared makes in the life of a child. “Somebody thinks they’re awesome just the way they are…How good does that help a kid feel?” Dougherty asks. “I can tell you stories of matches to make you cry,” she adds.
Dougherty describes one volunteer who is guiding her little sister through college applications and financial aid. Because of the program, this little sister may be the first in her family to attend college. This experience brings the volunteer full circle, says Dougherty, as the big sister received similar mentoring when she applied to school, too.
In some cases, the program supports the entire family, not just the children. For the sons of a single mother dealing with illness, the program acts as an escape allowing the boys to take a needed break from worrying about their mom while getting out of the house. Dougherty has also visited the mom when she has been in the hospital.
“[Big Brothers Big Sisters] gives kids the opportunity to be out in the community and explore interests,” Dougherty says. It’s a time for kids to develop their passions and get excited about things they love to do.
“All nonprofits brag on volunteers, but I have the best,” Dougherty says.
With local big brothers and sisters investing in kids for as many as four consecutive years, she notes these relationships have the potential to last much longer than the one-year requirement.
“The most common reason a match closes is because the family or volunteer moves away…that makes me happy,” Dougherty says. “We do almost no advertising for volunteers,” she says, explaining how the organization’s national success has led the local branch to seldom see a shortage of volunteers or interested families.
A local Resource Advisory Board provides support for the work of agency through fundraising, building community partnerships, hosting match events and other activities. Some current members have been actively involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters for more than a decade.
“Fundraising is still a challenge,” Dougherty says, noting the high cost of maintaining a volunteer and child match – about $1,000 for each match.
With a goal of raising $81,000 this year, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Brazos Valley has their next fundraiser, Bowl for Kid’s Sake, in March. The organization has a fundraising goal of $25,000 for Bowl for Kid’s Sake.
WHAT Bowl for Kid’s Sake
WHEN March 7, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
WHERE Grand Station Entertainment
WHO This bowling tournament provides the opportunity for local businesses, civic organizations, and families or other groups to sponsor lanes and raise money for Brothers Big Sisters of the Brazos Valley.
HOW By registering online, participants can personalize their own fundraising page to raise donations through friends, family, and social media. To register for a morning of bowling and celebration of Big Brothers Big Sisters, contact Terry Dougherty at (979) 224-3660, firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.bfks.kintera.org/brazos