Blackfinn Gives BIG This Summer

By LeeAnn Dornak and Veronica Fox

Searching for something fun to do this summer? Look no further!  Blackfinn Ameripub is hosting Summer Fest @ the FINN from June 27-August 10, to benefit BBBS kids right here in Austin.

The Blackfinn Ameripub at the Domain is offering a special Summer Menu where $1 from each featured food item—and 100% of limited edition drinkware —will be donated at the end of the summer.  Guests will even have the option to donate at the bottom of their receipts, if they’d like to make a gift on the spot!

What makes this event even cooler is that there’s a Big Sister at Blackfinn’s helm! Brett Keenan is the Sales and Marketing Manager at Blackfinn in the Domain – and she’s been matched with her Little Sister for four years! She’s a great example of how a caring, adult mentor can make a positive difference in a child’s life.

We’re so thankful to Brett and Blackfinn for their support – we’re lucky to know such great folks who care about kids in our community. If you stop by, make sure to tweet (@BFinnAustin and @BigMentoring) and share your experience!


Blackfinn Summer at the Finn


Promising Futures: Reflections on Scholarship Ceremony 2014

By LeeAnn Dornak and Maggie Schmitt

Little Brother receives his scholarship Promise medal.

A Little Brother receives his scholarship Promise medal. PHOTO CREDIT: Travis Sellers, River City Photography

On Saturday June 21st,  we marked the 28th Annual Promising Futures Scholarship Ceremony!  This is an event where we recognize “Littles” for making a promise to stay in school and who later fulfill that same promise when they graduate, and in the process earn scholarship funds of $2,000 or more toward higher education. This year over $150,000 was promised to 75 newly eligible Littles, and over $308,000 will be made available to 154 high school graduates! Not all students are able to attend the ceremony, but for those in attendance, it’s an opportunity to shine.

This year’s ceremony was held at the Eastview Campus of Austin Community College (ACC).  This was exciting since a large percentage of our Little Brothers and Sisters typically attend ACC and were provided an early opportunity to explore the campus. Brent Fields, our CEO, spoke to this year’s Promisees and Graduates about the value and importance of using the words “thank you” throughout their life; how those two words can open up communication and create new opportunities for them. When Fields asked the Bigs in the audience to stand, and thanked them for their contributions, he asked them to remain standing while Fields had the Littles say those two words. There was some nervous laughter, but they did say thank you, and it was heart-felt and sweet. When he asked the parents, grandparents and guardians in attendance to stand and be recognized, he noted that no mentoring program is successful without the hard work and sacrifices that families make on behalf of their kids every day. He asked the kids again to say “Thank you!” to their families who helped to get them where they are today, and it really seemed to resonate with everyone there. How often do we actually say “Thank you” to those close to us? I can imagine these Littles thinking about that afterwards, even if saying thank you in unison might have felt strange.

Before the scholarship promise medals and certificates were given out, CJ Legare gave her personal testimony as a former Big Sister.  Additional thoughtful comments during the opening ceremony were provided by Carlos Barbosa with Wells Fargo, Kathleen Christensen of ACC, and Loraine Brown, Chair person for the Scholarship Foundation.

The BBBS Promising Futures Scholarship Program is something to be proud of. We invite our qualifying Littles to make a promise to stay in school and succeed in school. When they fulfill that promise, we invite them back to be recognized for their accomplishment. They have two years to apply for their scholarship, and their funds can be applied to any university, college, or trade school.

Little Sister receives her scholarship award certificate.

A Little Sister receives her scholarship award certificate. PHOTO CREDIT: Travis Sellers, River City Photography

We still believe in the potential of education as a meaningful path to being a successful person. This ceremony is a reminder that our Littles are the future of our community. It is a delight to see our kids with their peers and families and Bigs, and it’s an opportunity to see that mentoring is a positive force in the community. As someone who observed the ceremony and who lives in this community, I say thank you. Thank you to the Bigs, Littles and families who attended the ceremony, to the event volunteers (staff members and interns), and to the wonderful folks at ACC who helped to put on such a wonderful event.

The Scholarship Ceremony is a great opportunity to see that mentoring does make a big difference to the families we serve and to our community, and that deserves a thank you too!

BBBS got hacked!

(Left to Right) Jose Manriquez, Westley Bonack, Veronica Fox (BBBS), Jamie Tran and Dan Bunker

(Left to Right) Jose Manriquez, Westley Bonack, Veronica Fox (BBBS), Jamie Tran, Dan Bunker and Pham Thang

We were lucky to participate in Hack4Austin last weekend, where talented developers banded together to solve tech challenges for local nonprofits. Each organization pitched their idea for an application that could help them better serve the community. We chose a challenge that is near and dear to our mentors’ hearts —  we pitched an app that would allow Bigs and Littles to find age-appropriate, low-cost, fun activities in the Austin area.

Finding such activities may not sound challenging, but it really is, especially when you consider that nearly 1,000 Bigs need to  find an interesting, affordable activity that is appropriate for their Little. (A 7-year-old may enjoy finger painting, but a 17-year-old may not!) Additionally, many event sites don’t allow for filtering of age-appropriateness (serving beer or showing R-rated movies? No, thank you!).

So, you put 5 developers at a table for 36-hours straight and they come up with a pretty fabulous product.  Our awesome Hack4Austin team (Dan Bunker, Jamie Tran, Jose Manriquez, Pham Thang and Westley Bonack) created a web site that will allow anybody to search for kid-friendly activities throughout Austin. It even allows for crowd-sourcing so that anyone can recommend an event that Bigs and Littles may find interesting! The team is still putting on the finishing touches, but they aim to have it complete by mid-July. Stay tuned for the big debut!

Last, but certainly not least — we’d like to thank some special people. Thanks to all the developers and Stefan Sinclair, to Tech Ranch for hosting the event and to Trish Ellis of Talent Lattice for making it all possible. All of you are truly changing the world through technology!