Littles in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and their families got to see the UW campus, meet new UW Athletic Director Chris McIntosh, watch UW football and volleyball practices and get a backpack full of school supplies on Aug. 21 at the Big Brothers Big Sisters Back to School event held in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“UW wanted to do something to give back and we thought this was a great opportunity to bring our matches to campus to get a backpack for school and to also enjoy the other festivities that they were doing that day,” Sandy Morales, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County, tells Madison365.
Those festivities included a practice football game by the Wisconsin Badgers and a UW volleyball practice later on in the afternoon.
“Our Littles got a chance – either with their Big or their family and parents – to come to campus and really have a great day. They all got concession gift cards to get food and treats and lunch,” Morales says. “New UW Athletic Director Chris McIntosh was there and helping put the wristbands on all of the attendees. So that was exciting, too.”
During the week, UW Athletics staff members packed more than 200 backpacks full of school supplies that were presented to the kids from Big Brothers Big Sisters on Saturday at Camp Randall.
“We do this Back To School event every summer before school starts and this is just a way to see our matches,” Morales says. “Around this time, we usually start setting goals with our matches and find out what kinds of things they want to accomplish this year. It’s a backpack event, but it’s also a chance for us to do match support and for us as staff to keep up with the health and well-being of everybody … see how their summer has been going and get a sense of how the relationship is doing.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County’s mission is to create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County are always looking for more volunteers, Morales says, especially male volunteers, and especially men of color. There are 250 Littles who are currently waiting for a mentor.
“We’re also looking for Big couples and families,” Morales says. “You can do it as two people or you can do it as a family. There are some statistics that show that the most successful matches for boys are when they are matched with a couple or a family.”
For the Bigs and Littles and the families and couples that make up the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, it’s been a long and challenging pandemic. But Morales says that they have been finding creative ways to keep seeing each other.
“We know that a lot of our matches have been seeing each other throughout the pandemic and a lot of our older Littles have been vaccinated and all of our Bigs, for the most part, have been vaccinated,” Morales says. “We do have COVID guidelines that our matches have to follow when seeing each other in person. At all times, everybody has to be on board to make sure everybody is safe – Bigs, Littles, parents, etc.
“We’ve had a good amount of events over the summer that have allowed our Bigs and Littles to meet,” she adds. “We’ve done ski events, sailing events, and various things outside. We’ve had a couple of camps that we partnered on. We’ve been able to get out and about this summer.”
Including Saturday’s Back to School event at UW.
“It was a great day to come out to the beautiful campus and see sports and be with other people from BBBS,” Morales says. “For football [practice], they had a special section for us and it was cool for our Littles to see the players in action. One of our Littles came from his own practice and still had his Southside Raiders gear on.
“This Back to School event was a lot of fun. Youth are looking to get out there and do fun stuff. This was a great opportunity for everybody. We had parents come and volunteers come, too. Some had never really been to campus and had the UW-Madison experience so it was really enjoyable.”