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Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County set to launch ‘It Takes Little to Be Big’ campaign

Big Brother Jerome Flowers and Little Brother Malaki. (Photo: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County)

Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Dane County is launching an exciting new brand campaign, “It Takes Little to Be Big,” as they look to significantly cut the waitlist of young people seeking adult mentors.

“We’re super excited about ‘It Takes Little to Be Big.’ Of course, we’re recruiting year round all the time just trying to find Bigs for our Littles, but we’ve always wanted to do a big recruitment campaign so we thought we’d start 2024 off with this,” Tracy Anderson, the community outreach and volunteer manager for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County, tells Madison365. 

“One of the things that this campaign is about is highlighting those little fun things that make mentoring so fun – like getting a slice of pizza or getting some ice cream or even playing with slime. I just played with slime with my Little and it was actually really fun. It can be those little, everyday things that make being a Big so fulfilling.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County empowers children to reach their full potential by creating and supporting strong and enduring one-on-one mentoring relationships throughout Madison and Dane County.

“We believe in the power and promise of youth, especially those in Dane County,” says Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County CEO Sandy Morales. “We want the community to know that serving as a Big doesn’t require much time or expertise. At the end of the day, it doesn’t take much to make an impact on a kid’s life.”

With the new campaign, BBBS of Dane County is looking “to challenge the myths and shift perceptions of mentoring,” according to a press release from BBBS, adding, “It also aims to demonstrate why now, more than ever, mentorship is critical to the success of kids today.”

“The campaign is six weeks. The plan is just to take over; we want to be everywhere whether it’s a podcast interview, restaurants, or coffee shops with table tents. Some places are doing a drink of the month and we’re having yard signs,” Anderson says. “The goal is just to really put a dent into that waitlist and get 100 inquiries in during that time.”

Tracy Anderson

During the six-week campaign, which will run from Feb. 1 to March 15, BBBS is looking to recruit at least 100 new volunteer “Bigs,” especially those from diverse backgrounds.  

The waitlist for a mentor has been holding steady at slightly less than 200 because even as more kids are matched at BBBS, more new kids begin looking for a Big.

“As of December of last year, we were at 172 [on the waitlist]. Out of those 172, 142 are Littles of color,” Anderson says. “We’ve seen people step up in our community and that is great. But we really just want to see if we can cut that list in half.”

“We always have more and more parents and guardians signing up kids. We want to make high-quality matches. We want to make sure that the mentors are well-suited to be matched with the kids,” Bethany Ordaz, community engagement & events manager for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County, tells Madison365. “And so we want to make sure we have a lot of adults to choose from so that if there’s very specific requests for certain interests in specific hobbies, we can be choosy and make sure we have the absolute right best mentor match with the Little.”

Bethany Ordaz, community engagement & events manager for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County

The Big Brothers Big Sisters program is open to all youth ages 6-18 who want a mentor, and there is no cost to participate. As the Littles in the program are overwhelmingly kids of color, BBBS of Dane County is especially in need of mentors of color. Only 3 percent of the Bigs in BBBS of Dane County are African-American, for example, and the majority of those are women.

“We are looking for men, in general, and men of color, specifically. The boys are always waiting longer on the list,” Ordaz says. “A lot of the parents that sign up little boys are requesting male mentors. That’s the hardest one. We never have enough men and never have enough men of color.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County says in a press release that “the positive relationships they facilitate throughout Dane County have a direct and lasting effect on the lives of young people.”

“And you don’t have to have your life figured out to be a Big. You don’t have to be perfect. We’re all doing this. We’re all figuring things out,” Ordaz says. 

Anderson adds that for people looking to become a Big, it’s a year commitment minimum.

“You have to be 18 and older and pass a background check. And it’s once a week or once every other week … just spending an hour or two. It really takes little to be big,” Anderson says. “I even found that out myself.  I’m thinking as a Big I’ve got to do all these grand things. And honestly, the best outing we’ve had is sitting down and playing with my Little and getting lunch. It was two hours and we both left really happy.”

BBBS of Dane County is kicking off the “It Takes Little to Be Big” campaign with a happy hour event on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 5:30-7 p.m. at Lake Louie Brewing in Verona. The event will include drinks, snacks and raffle prizes.

“Lake Louie is one of our sponsors for the campaign. We have a number of local businesses doing a variety of things,” Ordaz says. “UW athletics is gonna highlight us at the February 4 men’s basketball game. They’ve been such great partners for us for years and we had some UW athletes with us at our gala last summer and we are continuing to find interesting ways to work together. 

“Our goal is 100 inquiries during the six-week time period,” Ordaz adds. “We like the nice round numbers since the waitlist can get as large as 200. We thought 100 was a nice round number to get people to sign up and just really put a dent in that.”

To learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County, visit: https://www.bbbsmadison.org/be-big-now.