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Best friends come in all ages

Frank Fisher, Of the Record staff

Big Sister Christine De Voy and Little Sister, Carla Bello, 11, laugh and look to each other like best friends often do. Other times, De Voy gently guides Carla, mentoring her and sharing life experience and wisdom with her. Often, Carla laughs, sharing her youthful exuberance and fun with De Voy.

Such is a typical Big Brother Big Sister relationship. The nationwide organization has a branch in Park City, run by Ericka Wells, the Summit County coordinator for the program.

According to Big Brothers Big Sisters, kids in the program are 52 percent less likely to skip school. They are 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs. They are 33 percent less likely to act violenty. They are also more likely to get along with their families and peers.

De Voy has been working with Carla to build her confidence and overcome shyness. The efforts evidently are paying off. Carla has a wonderful touch of shyness, mixed with sometimes irrepressible wonder and exuberance. As De Voy speaks of an event Carla will be attending, Carla breaks in with excitement. "Are you going to be there?"

"Yes! Yes!" De Voy answers with contagious enthusiasm.

"Carla certainly helps me stay young, young at heart with a burst of energy," said De Voy. Carla had her own take on their friendship. "When I’m sad, she always makes me happy."

Wells said that Big Brother and Big Sister volunteers are needed in Summit County. Several options can tailor-make a pairing.

School-based programs can involve as little as one hour per week at school to help with homework, eat lunch together, work on school projects or just talk..

Community-based programs allow the freedom for a "Big" to do fun things in the community with the "Little," as they are referred to by the organization. That may mean a trip to the zoo, museum or car races, video arcades, or whatever sounds like fun.

Wells said a match is made depending on similar personalities and interests, and based on gender.

Wells described a community-based child as "any child who will benefit from another positive role model."

"The best thing is having someone to hang out with, someone to talk to," Wells said.

De Voy began meeting Carla once a week at school, helping organize library books at Ecker Hill International Middle School. During the last hour of school, they worked on school projects then played for the last 30 minutes. Carla said that De Voy helped her get her grades up. She earned100 percent on a science project.

The friendship took off from there, and they have been going out to eat, and attending all sorts of events ever since.

Big Brothers Big Sisters receives generous help from the community with low or no-cost tickets to events, given by businesses such as the Eccles Center, the Egyptian Theatre and the Park City Ice Arena, Wells said. For example, Carla and De Voy were given tickets to the Nutcracker at the Eccles Center last year. De Voy takes Carla to movies, they sing songs together, and Carla got De Voy to go swimming and "prance around in a bathing suit," De Voy said.

Carla, who is bilingual, is now doing as De Voy is doing, giving back to the community in ways she can. For example, she acted as an interpreter at the dentist’s office recently. When De Voy told Carla she was going to make a trip to Johannesburg South Africa, to help Habitat for Humanity, Carla wanted to clean out her closet and give clothes to De Voy to take to orphanages.

The big event, for the coming year will be when De Voy, who works for Delta Airlines in reservations, hopes to take Carla to Disneyland.

Wells said that Big Brothers and Big Sisters is looking for volunteers, donations, including clothing donations, and sponsors. For more information, contact Wells at (435) 649-9366 or visit http://www.bbbsu.org


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