• Program offers kids relationships with lifelong impact
By Christina Whiting
Polly Prindle-Hess and Charity Stewart, one of 48 Big Brother Big Sister matches in Homer, just celebrated their one-year anniversary watching movies, eating pizza, drinking root beer floats, skiing and hanging out.
“I love being a Big Sister,” Prindle-Hess said. “As the weekend approaches, I find myself looking for activities for us to do.”
Stewart thinks being a Little Sister is pretty great, as well.
“The best part of hanging out with Polly is that I have found a new best friend,” she said.
Stewart’s mom Tabitha is grateful for their relationship as well.
“To see the joy and excitement that Polly and Charity have together brings joy into our family’s life,” she said.
The two have many things in common, from having the same favorite color to preferring dark chocolate to milk chocolate and finding the same things funny. They try to get together every week.
“We’ve gone skiing and had pizza and had pizza and gone skiing,” Prindle-Hess said. “We’ve explored the best grilled-cheese sandwiches in town, gone snowshoeing, walked on the beach, gone to the movies, played cards and just hung out.”
From the very beginning, Prindle-Hess admired how smart, courageous and adventurous her Little Sister is. And Stewart said she appreciates that her Big Sister is funny, plans great outings and smiles all the time.
“Polly smiles at everything I say,” she said. “That makes me smile and I feel very special.”
Stewart’s family enrolled her in BBBS at the suggestion of a teacher, who noticed that she was very energetic and smart, came from a very busy family where both parents worked and was being bullied at school. Stewart was excited to try it out.
“I have friends who are Littles, and when they told me about all the cool things they did with their Bigs, I thought it sounded fun,” she said.
Her parents enrolled her in the program.
“I hoped that Charity’s having more one-on-one attention would bring her self esteem and confidence back,” Tabitha said. “And it has.”
Prindle-Hess said she was at a place in her life where she felt she had the time, energy and resources to be of service and was looking for a deep and meaningful experience.
“I noticed that several women in my Nordic ski program were mentoring Littles,” she said. “I watched their relationships and my interest grew.”
Prindle-Hess then attended the BBBS annual luncheon, where Bigs and Littles share stories of the fun they have and how friendships were formed. She was inspired by the stories and by the support and encouragement of Jenny Martin, the director of the local program.
“All children need support, guidance, love and care in order to grow up to be healthy individuals,” Martin said. “This can come from parents or primary caregivers, supplemented by others like teachers, coaches and relatives. In the case of BBBS, by adults or high school student mentors.”
Martin acknowledges that one of the most important parts of matching Littles with Bigs is finding similar personality traits.
“The more the Big and Little have in common, the better the chance that the relationship will be successful,” she explained.
Martin marks the success of a pairing when Littles run up to her with smiles on their faces and share what they’ve been doing with their Big.
“One Little learned how to fix his 4 wheeler and built a small skiff,” she said. “Another Big helped their Little cope with the loss of a close relative.”
Mentoring success comes in all shapes and sizes, through all types of activities and varying amounts of time spent together. Some hang out once a week, while others may do once a month.
“Some matches are constantly on the go, and others spend a lot of time just hanging out and talking,” Martin said. “If the Big, Little and parent or guardian are happy, it’s a success.”
At the heart of BBBS is the goal to provide children with a strong, enduring and professionally supported one-on-one relationship that has a lifelong impact. These relationships model the positive benefits that mentoring has on families, kids and communities.
“I absolutely love that Polly has taken the time to be a mentor,” Tabitha said. “She loves to do a lot of different things and has given my daughter the opportunity to try new things. The bond they have is amazing and it means the world to me to see Charity happy like that.”
Charity appreciates Polly introducing her to activities she’s never done before.
“I didn’t know how to ski or snowshoe before,” she said. “Now I just love to ski.”
The relationship has broadened Prindle-Hess’s world too.
“Charity has enriched both my and my husband’s lives so much,” she said. “I look forward to watching her grow into a beautiful young woman and I’m excited about all the experiences we’ll have together in the coming years. She is definitely a part of my family now.”
In honor of mentoring month, BBBS will host a free movie night for all community members. Watch “Despicable Me 2” at the Homer Theater on Jan. 30, at 5:30 p.m.
BBBS is offered free-of-charge to children and families, and relies on donations, grants, their clothing project and fundraisers to help support their programs. Help BBBS raise funds during their annual Bowl for Kids Sake event on Mar. 29. Register as a team, join a team or donate to other teams by calling the BBBS office or online at bbbsak.org/bowl.
For more information on the local Big Brother Big Sister program, contact Jenny Martin at 235-8391.
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