An Evening with a Lasting Impact

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The ice sculpture may have melted, but the 2015 Ice Ball Gala will impact children for years to come. A record $600,000 was raised at the largest annual fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas to support its mentoring programs for local youth.  A capacity crowd of almost 750 guests attended the sold-out event in the Zilker Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Austin.

“It was the biggest, boldest, brightest Ice Ball event yet,” said Connie Nelson, Ice Ball Event Chair. “And what excites me most is that more children will now be helped as a result of this event.” There are over 600 children on the BBBS waiting list.

It was a night of sparkling ice sculptures, dazzling fashions, creative auction packages, food, and fun; a festive event with a serious focus as 100% of the funds raised will be used locally to create and nurture life-changing friendships between at-risk youth and caring adult mentors.

“When you invest in Ice Ball, you’re investing in a child’s life,” said Brent Fields, CEO of BBBS. “We use all of our resources to help children succeed and discover their talents so they can achieve their dreams and make a difference in the world.”

Featured among the night’s activities was a silent auction for prizes such as spa packages, golf vacations, culinary events at local restaurants, custom-crafted jewelry and sports memorabilia, including a signed baseball from Nolan Ryan. Live auction items included trips to Paris, Costa Rica and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. New this year was the “Ultimate Bobby Bones Package”, an opportunity to sit in on Bobby Bones’ top-rated morning show in Nashville, Tennessee, as well as a trip to see the Washington Redskins play the Dallas Cowboys offered by Colt and Rachel McCoy.

“The Gala is a significant event for BBBS,” said Fields. “After growing this event 300% over the last three years, I’m proud to say that Ice Ball 2015 experienced 20% growth yet again.”

A highlight of this year’s gala was recognition of the Walton-Allen family whose five children have participated in BBBS’ mentoring program over the past 19 years. This relationship is a perfect illustration of the work BBBS has done for over 44 years: that of creating lasting relationships that make a lifetime of difference.

“The success of the Gala is reflective of the impact of our work,” Fields noted. “It shows that what we do resonates with the community. They see how investing in our young people impacts the community as a whole in a positive way. We dream of a day when we have no waiting list and when we can meet the needs of all the children and families seeking our services. With the help of our generous donors and sponsors, we continue to get closer to that goal.”

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See photos from Ice Ball 2015 here

BBBS would like to offer special thanks to the following sponsors:

Diamond Sponsor – BB&T

Platinum Sponsor – Padgett Stratemann & Co.

Gold Sponsors – Bury; Connie and Bill Nelson; Proper Wealth Management; and US Microproducts

Silver Sponsors – The Burt Group; Deep Eddy Vodka; Honest Dollar, Maxwell Locke & Ritter; Nichols Engineering; Pape-Dawson Engineers; Wells Fargo; WSGR; and XYZ co.

Bronze Sponsors – Austin Revitalization Authority; Sam Bassett; Bixby Zane; CMIT Solutions; Graves Dougherty Hearon & Moody; HotSchedules; JMT; Kate and Hector Perez; Plains Capital Bank; the HT Group; and the UT Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.


BB&T: Investing in the Future With BBBS

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Branch Banking & Trust Company (BB&T) was founded over 143 years ago in response to a community need. At that time, help was needed in the Civil War-torn counties of North Carolina, where the bank’s founders set up tables in farm fields to provide trustworthy and reliable banking services to field workers – something in short supply at the time. BB&T provided low-interest loans to help rebuild farms and businesses that had been decimated by the war, restoring the economic health and vitality of the communities they served along the way.

That same commitment to community continues today, and it lies at the heart of BB&T’s relationship with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas.

BB&T’s partnership with BBBS stems “from seeing the great work that BBBS does… from helping Littles maintain and improve their grades, to increasing their matriculation rates,” said Blake Absher, Austin market president for BB&T and a former Big. “BBBS takes one child at a time and empowers them and works with them to create self-esteem, to create pride, and to help them find new opportunities for success in life. We have the same core values, and that’s why we’re so passionate about our alliance with BBBS.

“As an organization, one of our primary goals is to make the communities we serve better places to be, and that’s what BBBS’ work is clearly all about as well,” Absher continued.

And these aren’t just hollow words. “We encourage our employees to have a strong sense of purpose, and to get actively involved in giving back,” Absher explained. “Many of the members of our leadership team have served as Bigs, and have seen first-hand the difference that mentoring makes.”

This year, BB&T has taken its support to a new level by becoming BBBS’ first-ever Diamond Sponsor for the agency’s annual Ice Ball gala. Funds raised at this special event help BBBS provide mentoring services to youth year-round, and BB&T’s investment will support the formation of life-changing mentoring relationships for a number of children and families in Central Texas.

But the good news doesn’t stop there. BB&T has made a commitment to support BBBS as a Diamond level sponsor for three years. BB&T branches are also publicizing and promoting the August 22nd gala, and encouraging customers to get involved in supporting BBBS as well.

“At BB&T we have a saying: ‘No one can do everything, but everyone can do something,” said Absher. “Investing in young people by supporting BBBS’ mentoring services is an investment in the future… one that makes a difference for us, for BBBS, but most importantly for youth, for families and for the greater community as a whole.

“Investing in one another is the greatest investment we can make. We are proud to partner with BBBS of Central Texas to contribute to our community in a way that will have a positive impact now, and for years to come.”

Finding Activities to do With Your Big/Little

eventfindershot2Sometimes you just need a simple spark of inspiration, especially if you’re a Big Brother or Sister trying to find an activity or outing to do with your Little. In that case, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas has your back.

The first thing to keep in mind, however, is that what matters most is time, not money. The #1 question people ask when considering mentoring ­is one of financial responsibility. “We encourage participants to pursue free and low cost outings,” said Sophia Stephens, Match Support Supervisor. “We want Bigs to remember that the most important things Littles need are time and consistency.”

With quality time as the focus, BBBS offers several tools to make finding your next Big/Little outing as easy as can be.

The first tool is a weekly Activity Calendar – a listing of events that is emailed to all Bigs and to any family members who ask to receive a copy. This handy email calendar contains a link to a more comprehensive calendar of family-friendly events that is located on the BBBS website and that highlights events that are free. To access BBBS’ web calendar directly, go to and click on ‘Programs’ and then ‘Calendar.’

Another tool BBBS offers is the Match Discount Partner List. No more guessing about a good deal, this list features all of the area businesses that partner with BBBS to offer special deals for Bigs and Littles. Once a quarter there is also a highlighted special, which costs money, although the event is offered at a discounted rate. “For example, the quarterly special might be horseback riding,” said Sophia. “That might cost $15 for Bigs and Littles, but it is considerably cheaper than normal.” To access the Match Discount Partner List, go to and click on ‘Volunteer’ and then ‘Match Discount Partners.’

Finally, there is also the “Holy Grail” of tools – the BBBS Event Finder App. This is an app that plots daily events on a map, offering a convenient way to locate outing possibilities. Created by a BBBS Big, the app is compatible with Android, iPhone, and desktop systems. To access the app on your mobile phone or desktop, simply go to For instructions on how to load the app as an icon on your device, go here.

“I have personally found the app to be useful,” said Stefan Sinclair, one of the app’s creators and a Big Brother. “It’s a cool way to identify family-friendly activities and to visualize them in a geographical way. You can easily picture all of the information and filter some events out. For example, I can see where my Little lives, and where I live, and quickly tell if an event is even feasible for us.”

The app not only displays no-cost or low-cost events, it also maps the locations of BBBS’ match discount partners. “We’ve made it as user-friendly as possible,” said Stefan. “There is also a video tutorial in the help menu.”

The bottom line is the app is a time saver. “I used to search for events, then I’d find one but wouldn’t know the location, or how far away it was,” Stefan said. “Now, to be able to see how many events are near us is pretty cool.”

Stefan hopes that eventually the national BBBS program will be interested in offering the app to agencies nationwide. The app is not restricted to use by Bigs. It can be used by anyone interested in finding family-friendly events.

Armed with these different tools, BBBS’ Big and Littles can spend less time wondering what to do together and more time enjoying the time they actually have together.

About Stefanmiguel_stefan2015v2

Bowling is what got Stefan Sinclair connected to BBBS. A software developer, Stefan moved to Austin in 2008 and formed relationships with others in his profession. Some of his friends participated in BBBS’ annual Bowl for Kids’ Sake fundraiser, and even sponsored a team. “I heard that a friend in the group was looking for sponsors, so I started a team in 2009 and I’ve had a team every year since then,” he noted.

The more Stefan learned about BBBS, the more he liked the organization. “I had a cousin who was helped by BBBS,” he said. “The bowling event is only once a year and I felt like I could do more than that. I’ve had a lot of people who were mentors for me, so I thought I could give back.”

It turned out that BBBS was, in his words, “the right opportunity at the right time” – a perfect match that has enabled him to create something perfect for matches.

Padgett Stratemann & Co. – Reimagining Corporate Philanthropy & Inspiring Others to Give Back

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Sumo wrestling? Whack-A-Mole? To raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas? Are they serious…?! Oh, yes. Padgett Stratemann & Co. is as serious about fun as they are about giving back to the communities where they live, work and play. They are also quite serious about inspiring other companies to create innovative approaches to corporate philanthropy as well. Their out-of-the-box thinking has been a good match for BBBS. “Our partnership with BBBS is not philanthropy in the traditional sense,” said Maria Barrett, director of marketing and community involvement at Padgett Stratemann. “We believe companies should use the same creativity in giving back as they would in creating a business model.”

Every year the organization schedules a week of events to raise money amongst their employees. It is a week that features a host of crazy competitions. “We start with a kickoff breakfast,” said Maria, “then we may have the employees vote on which two senior partners they want to have a sumo wrestling competition. We’ve had Whack-A-Mole in the office, bowling, and Karaoke competitions. It gives the teams a break, gives them a chance to laugh together, and build camaraderie.”

The money raised from these events is a personal contribution from the employees. The firm then matches and goes beyond this amount. From the company’s perspective it’s a win-win for everyone. It’s a great team-building exercise for employees, the employees see and know their efforts are impacting their community, and the company knows that it is expressing its core values and making a difference in the world.

The desire to make a difference, combined with a spirit of innovation, is what led Padgett Stratemann to Big Brothers Big Sisters. When the business solution organization opened a new office in Austin, they were looking for a program they could support year-round as a ‘charity of choice.’ “We weren’t looking to partner with an organization where our involvement was 100% financial or 100% volunteer-based. We wanted to engage in both ways and more,” said Maria. “BBBS was open to these ideas. I think we are now connected to nearly every program they have and we continue to look for new ways to work together each year.”

Maria is personally involved as a Big Sister herself. “My Little wants to be an attorney. I used to work at a law office so I coordinated a meeting for her with some female attorneys,” said Maria. “She loved it! Our relationship has allowed her to experience some things she might not have had the chance to experience otherwise, and she has taught me a great deal as well.”

“This is what corporate responsibility is,” she added. “It is about giving back in ways that strengthen current and future generations of youth, because our youth will ultimately be responsible for the well-being of our world, our population and our planet. At Padgett, we want to inspire and challenge other organizations to give back as well. Because when all is said and done, we all want to bring value to the earth.”

Padgett Stratemann is bringing value in a big way as they partner with BBBS. “What we’re really doing is creating a pathway for a better future. Everyone deserves a chance,” said Maria. “BBBS provides us with ways to make a meaningful difference in the world. Partnering with BBBS allows us to provide young people with opportunities that not only change their lives and futures but, ultimately, ours as well.”


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In business since 1945, Padgett Stratemann & Co. is dedicated to professional excellence, integrity, and community service. Headquartered in San Antonio, with offices in Austin and Houston, they are one of Texas’ largest, locally-owned CPA and business advisory firms. The firm has recently been named one of the best places to work in San Antonio for the 9th year.