Big Sis Big Bro soccer game hopes to score new recruits


Lily Smith

From left: UI students Mellisa McLihon and Ben Flaherty speaks at the Big Brothers Big Sisters soccer game in the Fieldhouse on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

The Field House was full of joyous cheers on Sunday as Big Brother and Big Sister matches bonded during a friendly game of soccer.

Elementary-age children and their “Big Sibling” mentors paired to play. The idea for the event originated from a group of UI students, and it was meant to recruit new adult mentors for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Johnson County and to provide a fun bonding activity.

Kids and their mentors rotated in and out of the game from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. The joyful energy of the game seemed to be contagious for everyone involved.

Afterwards, adult mentors held a question-and-answer session to inform possible recruits.

The event was planned by several UI students enrolled in the class Career Leadership Academy.

Chanel Meredith, the community-based program supervisor for Big Brothers Big Sisters, said it was the first time the organization tried an event such as this for recruitment. She said the members were especially looking for male mentors because of a shortage.

“The group of students that came to us and offered to do this recognized that we need more people to come forward to be mentors,” Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters Daleta Thurness said. “I think sometimes people think that’s a scary thing to do and are not sure if they can take it on. So this is an opportunity for people to come and witness firsthand interactions of our matches.”

Thurness said the organization never has an issue finding the young people, but it’s always a challenge to find adults who are willing to make the time commitment.

The organization matches adults with young children. The adults, or “Big Siblings,” become mentors and friends to the children through various activities over time. Generally, the matches spend at least one hour together per week.

“I just hang out with them and talk about stuff,” in-school-based Big Brother Ben Flaherty said. “Then I eat lunch with them and go to recess. It’s a really great time and an easy process.”

Melissa McIlhon, who has been matched with Ramy for 10 months, said they have frequented basketball games, restaurants, pumpkin patches, and other events. She highly recommends college students take the opportunity of becoming a Big Sibling for the sake of knowing the effect they can make on someone’s life.

“He always gets a smile on his face when I show up,” McIlhon said.

Big Brothers Big Sisters’ purpose is to improve various aspects of children’s lives through mentorship.

“We provide one-on-one mentorship to children who are experiencing adversity in the community,” Thurness said. “Research has shown over and over again that young people who are mentored improve academically, do better socially, and avoid risky behaviors.”

Meredith said the one-on-one relationship of the matches can better a children’s life in a variety of ways.

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