Experience of Big Brother, Sister program worthwhile

Danielle Toth

Kristin Beedle had a little sister.

But not the biological kind.

Beedle was a member of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Portage County, an organization that pairs adult mentors with children to form a sibling relationship.

“It becomes a mentoring experience,” said Ron Kilchenman, associate director of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Portage County. “The adult helps the child enjoy life more.”

The children involved come from various backgrounds, Kilchenman said.

“Many of the children are from single-parent homes, but we are starting to take children from two-parent homes,” Kilchenman said. “For boys, it’s normally a single mom with a son, and the mom would like the boy to have a male role model.

“Girls usually come from homes with several children, and the moms are spending a lot of time with the other children. Since the moms aren’t spending enough time with the girls, the mom wants someone to do girl things” with her daughter.

Currently, there are 15 Kent State students involved in the program.

Brothers and sisters are required to meet with their child at least three times a month, Kilchenman said.

Beedle, a senior human development and family studies major, had a ritual with her little sister, Brittany.

“We would go to McDonald’s and get ice cream sundaes and then come back to my house and watch movies,” Beedle said.

Beedle was Brittany’s big sister from November 2003 until she lost contact with her in August 2004. Brittany moved away, and Beedle never got her contact information.

“I’d like to think she remembers me and enjoys the time we spent together,” Beedle said. “I hope I impacted her in a positive way.”

To become a big brother or big sister, a potential candidate should call the office and inquire about the program, Kilchenman said. He or she would need to come into the office and fill out a detailed application form, which includes four references.

The potential candidate is given a background check for the safety of the child, Kilchenman said.

Andrea Neidert, the executive director of the program, interviews potential candidates in an intense 90-minute interview. Then the big and little siblings are matched.

“Bigs and littles are matched based on interests or specific ages,” Kilchenman said. “A volunteer can request a specific age, or the parent can request a specific age.”

To become a big brother or big sister, contact the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Portage County at (330) 296-6655.

Contact features reporter Danielle Toth at [email protected].