Big Brother Big Sister seeks 30 male mentors in 30 days
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Kane and Kendall Counties is looking for 30 men in 30 days.
Not just any men — the organization is seeking males to mentor boys on its list of more than 30 waiting to be matched with Big Brothers.
"We have a very large waiting list" of boys in Kane County towns, from Batavia south to the county line and Kendall County communities, whose families want them to have a positive male role model, said Eric Dhom, school-based program coordinator. "We are always looking for male volunteers."
Each Monday in January, representatives of the organization are heading to Buffalo Wild Wings in Aurora or Oswego, where they provide information about mentoring and coupons for six free wings to all men who inquire.
"This is the first time we've had a specific event that's targeting volunteer recruitment, and especially male volunteer recruitment," Dhom said. "We're making sure people know there's no time like the present and there is that need out there."
The 30-plus boys waiting for a mentor through the Southern Kane and Kendall Counties branch of Big Brothers Big Sisters make up about 80 percent of the children on the waiting list, but Dhom said only three out of 10 people who apply to volunteer are men. The organization's list of five girls awaiting Big Sisters usually is addressed more quickly by the seven of 10 applicants who are women.
The numbers are about the same nationally, as more than 70 percent of children waiting for a mentor are boys, while only three out of 10 volunteer inquiries come from men, according to the Big Brothers Big Sisters website.
Men may be reluctant to become Big Brothers because they think the role is too important for them to handle or they misunderstand what mentoring is all about, Dhom said.
"They think, 'How can I make a difference? I'm just a regular guy,'" he said. "'Just a regular guy' can be an amazing mentor."
A Big Brother's role is simply to have fun with his Little Brother and be a consistent presence in the boy's life. It's a role firefighter John-Robert Egan of Batavia has embraced for the almost three years he's befriended his Little, a 10-year-old Aurora boy named Dylen.
"We can have the freedom to hang out and do whatever we want," Egan said. "Dylen really likes to play drums; I play drums. He likes hockey and I play hockey, so it worked out great."
Dhom said Big Brothers Big Sisters deliberately matches volunteers with boys or girls who enjoy similar hobbies.
"Once you're sharing some interests, it's really easy to have that foundation to build a good friendship — and that's what it's all about," Dhom said.
Making the time commitment to meet with a Little at least two or three times a month could be the biggest hurdle for potential volunteers, Egan said. He schedules his outings with Dylen about a week in advance and enjoys getting calls asking, "When are we going to hang out?"
The two played pond hockey for about four hours this month, and soon will be attending a Chicago Wolves game together.
"I would say it's one of the best things you could ever do," Egan said about becoming a mentor. "It's like stepping out of your world for a short period of time once a week just to help out somebody that basically just wants to hang out with you."
Dhom said the "30 Men in 30 Days" campaign allows men to learn about mentoring with Big Brothers Big Sisters in a "more neutral environment" — Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants, 1460 N. Orchard Road, in Aurora, and 1550 Douglas Road in Oswego.
The Aurora location kicked off the campaign and will host again from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21.
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