Big Brothers Big Sisters starts push for more men
Troy Graser acknowledged there was a little bit of awkwardness and anxiety when he first started mentoring a boy several years ago through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
But now, after watching his “little brother” grow from a 6-year-old just learning to read to a 14-year-old about to begin high school, those initial nerves don’t seem so bad.
“It’s just fun to participate in this and fun to see him grow up,” he said. “The cliché-type of comments are obvious and they’re true. Seeing somebody grow and learn new things, and seeing his interests shift from one thing to another, from schoolwork to the types of books he likes to read to the games he plays, it’s just been a lot of fun.”
But not enough men like Graser are getting involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Lacey Cole-Rae, the organization’s manager for Summit and Wasatch Counties, said the dearth of male mentors means there are far more boys than girls on the wait list for a mentor, and they typically wait for a longer time.
To help remedy that, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah recently kicked off a 60 Men in 60 Days statewide campaign, aimed at getting more men to sign on as mentors. In Summit County, Cole-Rae is hoping to get at least a dozen new volunteers.
“That would be fantastic,” she said, adding that there are currently 18 boys on the wait list in Summit and Wasatch Counties, which is actually fewer than there have been in the past.
The importance of the mentors for the children cannot be overstated, Cole-Rae said. Research shows that children who have an adult mentor in their lives are less likely to engage in risky behaviors and more likely to have good relationships with their peers and families.
“Having a man to look up to is huge,” she said. “We really do try to explain that the role isn’t a father figure or a babysitter or a counselor or a priest. It really is being a friend to somebody. We have so many active people in the community, and I want to tap into the mentality of, like, ‘Bring a kid along with you to go biking or hiking or skiing.’ Go introduce a 12-year-old to this stuff who’s never done any of it.”
Cole-Rae said she was unsure why men are less likely than women to get involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Graser speculated that the time commitment may scare off some men, and that many men with their own children don’t have time. And those without children of their own may be intimidated by mentoring a boy.
“There is a little bit of a fear about taking someone else’s child and trying to entertain them,” he said. “On the surface, it seems like you’re going to a babysitter once a week for somebody, but that’s not really what it’s like at all. It’s more like getting a new friend, although it’s on a different level, obviously. You get to be the big guy who knows everything.”
For more information on Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah, or to sign up to be a mentor, visit bbbsu.org.