Children First: Kids wait for their match at the Big Brothers Bi - KOTA Territory News

Children First: Kids wait for their match at the Big Brothers Big Sisters

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Since they were matched two years ago, Rylee O’Connell and Kathryn Hastings have laughed a lot.

"She likes to joke around, so it's good for me that she doesn't think I’m a big weirdo," O’Connell said.

O’Connell said she wanted to get involved in the community, so she looked at the Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Black Hills program.  "I couldn't find anything. And then I started looking at the big brothers, big sisters and it was just perfect."

Executive director Mary Victor says the program matches about 100 children each year with adults who volunteer to serve as mentor and friends. 
 “This is an opportunity to give kids a chance to try new things that they would not normally be able to participate,” Victor said.

 O’Connell’s little sister Kathryn said she enjoys just hanging out with her big sister.  “We can just go out and do things whenever we want,” Hastings said.

Mentors are asked to spend at least 4 hours a month with their match for a minimum of 1 year.  "They might go hiking. They might go mountain biking. They might go bowling. They might go to a baseball game," Victor said.

Research shows that children with a big brother or big sister in their lives are more confidence and have better relationships with their family. While some children have found their perfect match, others are still waiting.  "We have 54 kids on the waiting list and 150 active matches right now. Of those 54 children on the waiting list, there are about 30 boys. There is a shortage of men who volunteer."

Joshua Mullen and Kairon Korn were matched just a few months ago. Mullen said the experience can be just as beneficial for the mentors as it is for the kids. "I've learned patience. He taught me to be patient, to understand where he's coming from," Mullen said.

"I really think it's been a positive impact. Otherwise I'd probably be home Facebooking. Instead, I have a new friend to hang out with,” O’Connell said.

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