Sometimes 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 www.bigmentoring.org 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 www.bigmentoring.org 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 www.bbbsevents.org. 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.
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.