Since the Sept. 11 attacks, many not-for-profit organizations have had trouble maintaining an adequate level of financing. But thanks to “Bowl for Kids’ Sake” and other programs like it, Big Brothers Big Sisters keeps rolling along.
“This is our biggest fund-raiser for the year,” said Rebecca Gordon, director of development and public relations for the group. “This is the 35th anniversary of our first bowling fund-raiser, and we’re on target to have our best event ever.”
The event, which took place March 6 and 7 at Columbia Town and Country Lanes on North Providence Road, raised about $45,000, Gordon said.
“We had a record number of teams last year with 103,” Gordon said. “This year we were able to get 119.”
The donation increase helps offset the loss of $90,000 from the federal Juvenile Mentoring Program grant that was pulled from the foundation in December 2002, as economic ramifications of the Sept. 11 attacks forced the government to cut back on donations to not-for-profit organizations. At the time, such donations accounted for 25 percent of the Big Brothers Big Sisters’ budget.
“We had to hustle to make budget last year,” Gordon said. “But this year looks to be a banner year and we’re excited about that.”
Despite the speedy economic recovery, Boone County’s office of Big Brothers Big Sisters still has about 200 children waiting to be paired with a “big.”
“This event is about raising as much money as we can to assist at-risk kids,” said Joe Callahan, a former member of the board of directors and current Alumni Committee chairman.
Callahan said “at-risk” children are, but not limited to, those that come from single-parent homes with low incomes.
“These are kids that are in need of a role model,” Callahan said, “whether that be a big brother or a big sister.”
Callahan designed the Alumni Committee and launched it last month as a tool to regain contact with former members of the program.
“We want to reacquaint anyone that was involved in the organization in the past to the organization again, to get involved,” he said. “We could use their help in any way possible. We had a good year, but we always need more volunteers.”
One of those aspiring volunteers is Columbia resident Carl Jackson, a member of the Missouri Association of Realtors.
“It’s just a good thing for the kids, so why not support it?” Jackson said. “I know people that are involved with the organization, some co-workers and others, and I’m in the process of becoming one this year.”
Jackson was one of about 750 patrons who donated time and money to help the Big Brothers Big Sisters foundation and enjoy the atmosphere of fun, friends and Shakespeare’s Pizza during the bowl-a-thon.
“People always say, well, we’re too busy for this or too busy for that, but time makes all the difference in the world to these kids,” he said.
Callahan and Gordon said black children make up a large percentage of the 200 children waiting for a “big,” a much higher percentage than the percentage of the black population in Columbia.
“We serve the most at-risk, under-served communities in Boone County, and much of Columbia’s black population falls into that category,” Gordon said. “They’re great kids and we do the best we can to help them.”
Callahan said the publicity the program has received causes more children to want to be involved with the program, accounting for the surplus of “littles.”
“With the success that we’ve had, we keep attracting more and more littles, and in turn, we’re always looking for more help,” Callahan said. “Hopefully we can figure out a way to get all these kids someone to look up to, no matter what their circumstances are.”