How to help
Volunteers must be over 18, pass a background check and commit to one year. Call (312) 427-0637 for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago, www.bbbschgo.org, and (815) 725-4324 for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties, www.bbbswillgrundy.org.
South suburban focus
Dorothy Foreman of Calumet Park enrolled her 14-year-old son, William, in Big Brother Big Sister of Metropolitan Chicago hoping to find someone to fill the void William’s father left.
"I want William to have a man in his life that he can talk to...learn what he needs to help him get through life," says Foreman who adopted the boy along with his younger brother Cameron and sister Carlena when William was only 2. "My husband tries to be there for him, but he works long hours and the kids are asleep by the time he gets home."
She says William has only seen his real father twice, the last time three years ago. "Promises were made, promises that were broken," she says.
Nikko Jackson, 13, of Lockport has his dad at home, but his mom, Antonia Ellis, says her husband works long hours to provide for his family and has little time to spend individually with their eight children. She enrolled Nikko in the program so he could find someone who is there just for him. "Someone who could motivate and mentor him."
Lori Hubbard’s sons, Riley, 10, and Ramsey, 9, have not seen their father in seven years. Hubbard says she did her best to be both mom and dad to her sons, but worried it wouldn’t be enough. "I can teach my sons a lot of things," Hubbard says, "but I can’t teach them how to be men." Hubbard turned to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties for help.
Match maker, make me a match ...
Nikko Jackson met his match a year ago—Bob Persak, a retired 66-year-old Homer Glen father of five and grandfather of 15. When Nikko heard about his big brother, he thought it was more of a mismatch.
Nikko learned quickly that Persak is not your average retiree. Persak owns a horse, scuba dives and cross country skis. Together they take care of Persak’s horse Doc, horseback ride, bowl, hike, roller skate, play basketball and even do homework.
Since the match Nikko has made the honor roll and has had perfect attendance. Persak says he wants Nikko to go to college.
Riley was paired up with Big Brother Dan Hamilton of Channahon. Together the "brothers" play soccer and baseball, go snowmobiling and attend baseball games and NASCAR races. Hamilton also attends father-son scout events like the Pinewood Derby.
"Sometimes the other boys will ask Riley if I’m his dad," Hamilton says. "He doesn’t say anything, he just looks up and smiles at me, and I smile back."
Riley’s brother Ramsey found his Big Brother around the same time Riley found Hamilton. William’s sister and brother have also found theirs.
But William has been waiting for three years.
A shortage of Big Brothers
"We have approximately 250 matches and 366 kids still waiting," says Rhonda Lofton of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago.
Sue Balicki, the senior enrollment and match specialist of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties, reports that the group has 50 boys waiting.
For many boys, the organization is a lifesaver. According to a study published in 1995 by Public/Private Ventures, a national research organization in Philadelphia, kids with Big Brothers or Big Sisters were 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs, 27 percent less likely to use alcohol and 52 percent less likely to skip school.
"These boys just want to have someone they know is there for them, even if it is only four hours a month to play catch in the park," Balicki says. "It is the little moments that create magic."
Jean Dunning covers the South and Southwest suburbs of Chicago for Chicago Parent. If you have story ideas or would like to be a part of the South/Southwest Parent Source e-mail list, e-mail email@example.com.