By DAVID JONES
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma (hereafter referred to as BBBSOK) is about to consolidate its state and local offices and approximately 200 boys and girls in the Tulsa area are hoping it brings quick results. They are children in the BBBSOK pipeline who have not yet been matched with a caring mentor who will help them through some difficult years.
?Until about three years ago we were split into five regions,? says BBBSOK area director Sharon Brolick, ?but then we combined into one state-wide agency. Up until now the state and area offices have been split but this summer we are going to be combining offices into one building. It will make the operation run far more efficiently.?
The importance of organizations like BBBSOK is hard to overemphasize. Boys without male guidance or girls in desperate need of older and wiser female mentors who, says Brolick, act as friends. ?We emphasize that is what they are,? she says, ?not substitute parents.?
The youths and their guides are not connected haphazardly; the interests of child and mentor are cross-checked to ensure compatibility. The results can be dramatic.
Last year some 2,600 children across Oklahoma were involved in BBBSOK, of which 1,100 were in the Tulsa area. Another 200 are on the outside looking in; hoping some adult will take an interest in them.
What are the levels of involvement? The most common is the community program where a Big Brother or Sister can take their charge out to an event. The importance is to establish a relationship where the Little Brother or Sister feels they have a friend they can talk to openly. It is important that these meetings be at least weekly with a minimum of one hour set aside for each meeting.
A school program is available where the mentor goes to a school at least once a week and spends an hour helping a youngster get through some educational block such as reading or math, or just serves as a sounding board. Under this program the relationship is confined to the school.
A new get-together idea is Sports Buddies, which is sponsored by QwikTrip. In this sports enthusiasts are matched with youngsters with similar interests in going to games, sometimes on tickets supplied by the teams. ?Chuck Lamson and the Tulsa Drillers,? says Brolick, ?has been particularly generous in making tickets available.
?QuikTrip has been interested in helping us for a long time. Many of their employees are already Big Brothers or Sisters and through Sports Buddies they?re trying to get more of their associates involved. They?ve been a huge help.?
Such help is badly needed in the current economic uncertainty. BBBSOK in the Tulsa area has traditionally been innovative when it comes to fund-raising projects. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Bowl for Kids Sake tournament in which teams of bowlers find sponsors for a bowling competition that helps fill the agency?s coffers. The last tournament boasted 303 teams averaging $763 a team.
At last count the backlog stands at approximately 200 children looking for a friend. The question is, as it always has been, who will step up and be that friend?