April 13, 2016
Just over ten years ago, I sat in a Westport office building wondering if I was making a mistake. I had been in Kansas City only six months and was in the middle of a challenging first year at UMKC Law. Though the majority of my time was spent with my nose in a book, I was looking for a way to connect with my new community and do something worthwhile. I settled on applying to become a “Big Brother” with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kansas City. As I sat in the Big Brothers Big Sisters office talking with a recruiter named Scott, several worrisome thoughts rushed through my head. What would I talk about with a kid? What if the kid and I didn’t have a good connection? What if I just wasn’t very good at being a Big Brother?
Scott (who was about my age and a Big himself) calmed my nerves. He told me how the program worked and what I could expect, and I decided to go ahead with it. I was ultimately matched with an eight-year-old boy named Carlos. When we met, Carlos was shy at first but quickly warmed up and began asking (lots of) questions. He had a huge smile and an infectious laugh, and we immediately hit it off.
For the past ten years, it has been a pleasure and an honor to be Carlos’s Big Brother. We have had countless hours of fun playing games, going to sporting events and movies, and just hanging out together. There have also been challenges along the way. We have had tough conversations about education, accountability, priorities, and life in general. Carlos will graduate high school this May. He works three to four nights a week and has taken solid steps towards a career in law enforcement. He is a member of our family and I am very proud of the man he has become.
Statistics show that Big Brothers Big Sisters can have a profound effect on a kid’s life. While kids from single-parent homes are more “at risk” according to every available metric, 71% of “Littles” report improved academic performance, they are 75% more likely to graduate high school, and 84% report higher self-esteem. As for my own experience, Big Brothers Big Sisters has brought so much joy and purpose into my life that it has felt like I am the true beneficiary. It has also been great to watch Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kansas City flourish into an exemplary and nationally-recognized organization: BBBSKC is the fastest growing Big Brothers Big Sisters agency in the country and has won Agency of the Year an astounding 3 of the last 4 years…out of 400 affiliates. My time as Carlos’s official Big may be coming to an end, but BG Law will continue to support the program that has meant so much to me. This year I happily joined the Big Impact Group (B.I.G.), whose mission is to support Big Brothers Big Sisters, help recruit volunteers, and raise funds for the organization.
Due to the longtime success of Big Brothers Big Sisters in Kansas City, demand for new Bigs is through the roof: there are more than 450 kids on the wait list in KC. My first experience as part of the B.I.G. was the “March Matchness” recruitment drive, where teams of 5-7 people “competed” in a bracket style challenge throughout the month of March to see who could recruit the most new prospective Bigs. I was fortunate to lead a great team of people who spent hours talking with friends, acquaintances, and total strangers about the different programs Big Brothers Big Sisters offers and the impact those programs have on Kansas City’s youth.
After a month of hard work by dozens of volunteers, Big Brothers Big Sisters identified 401 new prospective Bigs. As of this post, over 60 have filled out applications. I am proud to say that my team accounted for 93 of those new referrals, and we ended up winning the March Matchness contest. It was a lot of fun and I am grateful to the many people who helped us spread the word and recruit new Bigs. As our young firm continues to grow, we look forward to supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters for years to come. – Blake Green