Fostering meaningful matches in the community

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Step up to the plate as a mentor and you never know who’s going to be your match.

Education student Amy Morrison found a familiar face in mentee Bethany Mifsud-Lem as peers in the small world of gymnastics before being made a match in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary and Area Okotoks division community programming in the summer.

“It was by total coincidence during our potential match meeting that she saw me and I saw her and we were ready to go,” Morrison said. “It helps us feel comfortable with each other. There was no awkward period of having to get to know each other. It was very natural to start hanging out right away.”

That goes both ways in this symbiotic relationship.

The two have been a perfect match since being paired together in August.

“I had talked to her a lot so I felt more comfortable being a chatterbox around her,” Mifsud-Lem said. “Usually around people I don’t really know I usually talk a lot and I’m scared I will scare them away with how much I talk.

“Just hanging out with her is awesome. She’s funny, she’s just amazing.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters is one of eight charities benefiting from the Western Wheel Cares charity campaign.

The organization features adult and youth mentoring in four programs in Okotoks and area including In School mentoring, Teen mentoring, Game On and the traditional BBBS community program featuring the likes of Morrison and Mifsud-Lem.

Weekly activities for the duo include baking, Pokémon GO and video games on the Nintendo Wii system.

They currently meet once per week for two to three hours and, schedule permitting, would like to make it much more frequent.

Morrison pursued mentoring to get more hands on interaction with kids as she pursues a career in education.

It’s proven to be a rewarding experience as a match.

“I can really tell that Beth loves it and her mom too is very thankful,” Morrison said. “I really don’t see it as a time commitment, I see it as quite rewarding. The amount of effort they put into getting the matches paired up, they really ensure that the time you’re spending with these kids is well spent and enjoyable on both sides of the party.

“The things we do I look forward to all week. It’s really a chance for me to forget about school and forget about work and be a kid for a few hours.”

Due to a number of factors potential matches aren’t always able to come to fruition.

There are currently 11 community matches with 14 youth in the Okotoks area waiting to be matched due to a lack of mentors. Moreover, the addition of more school programs is restricted due to sheer manpower.

The BBBS Okotoks division has served 94 youth in all of its programming so far in the calendar year.

“Our mentors come from all kinds of backgrounds. It doesn’t have to be anybody with a specific skill set,” said Kristy Packwood, Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring co-ordinator for Okotoks. “Primarily we’re looking for people who want to make an impact, make a difference. We have people who have experience working with children and people who don’t but want to have a young person in their life as well.”

Funds raised from the Wheel Cares initiative will go towards program delivery in supporting matches, the In-School programming and in the recruitment of mentors.

Packwood said for every dollar invested in Big Brothers Big Sisters $18 is re-invested or stays within the community. Children benefiting from the program are more likely to stay in school, have a better employment rate and attain better employment over time.

“Just by investing locally we end up with people who are more resilient and are in a really good position to be contributing members of our community,” Packwood said.

To participate in Wheel Cares, please call the Western Wheel office Monday to Friday from 9-5 p.m. (403-938-6397) to make a donation using your credit card.

We also accept debit, cash and cheques (payable to ‘Western Wheel Cares’), either dropped off at the office, 9 McRae Street or mailed to Box 150, Okotoks, AB T1S 2A2 (please do not mail cash). Or visit www.westernwheel.com to donate using Paypal.

All donations of $10 or more will receive a 2017 official tax receipt at the end of the campaign.

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