Bowl for Kids 2017 Was Dy-no-mite!

Peace signs, bell bottom pants and polyester ruled as participants took to the bowling lanes March 3 – 5 and raised over $135,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas. It was a dy-no-mite event as bowlers donned outfits from the 60’s and 70’s and participated in this year’s “Peace, Love & Bowling”-themed bowling marathon. Funds raised go directly to providing children with caring, committed mentors, and life-changing mentoring services.

“We totally enjoy this event,” said Maria Dunn of RSM U.S. LLP, Kingpin Sponsor for the event. “Ultimately though, it’s all about the kids. We want to give young people all the support we can, because they are going to be our leaders.”

The venue was packed as businesses and individuals came together to support Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas, and to have a lot of fun at the same time. More than 800 participants, sponsors, volunteers, staff members, and Bigs and Littles enjoyed the weekend’s activities.

“Bowl for Kids allows us to take time out to celebrate the uniqueness of our organization and the camaraderie we have as a team,” Maria continued. “And, when you look around, you see a lot of other businesses enjoying the same thing. We’re all here doing something great, but there’s a heck of a lot of laughter mixed into the evening as well.”

Teams representing businesses from the banking, architecture, engineering and construction sectors, as well as the American Society of Civil Engineers, showed up in full force, as did teams from the legal, gamers and designers, and media industries. Highland Lanes hosted the event over the course of the weekend.

Austin Powers made an appearance, along with Scooby Doo and Friends, the Fab Four (Beatles), and a group called The Bowling Stones, among others. The teams had fun posing for photos in front of the  event’s annual theme banner, as well as in a specially created “photo” bus.

Employees from Pape-Dawson Engineers made the foam core “hippie bus” especially for the event. “It was a groovy bus,” Maria laughed. “The bus was perfect for the theme, but the thought that went into it was also great.  They made it portable so that BBBS can re-use it, and they created low windows that Little Brothers and Sisters can pose behind. What a great example of how the community is not only engaged with, but also really thinking about, BBBS’ mission.”

Each year teams get into the event theme as they try to outdo one another with costumes and fundraising. Team Lucky Strikes, for example, has won the award for Best Costume in their time slot for the past four years. It’s an achievement they are very proud of.

“The theme and costumes, along with the bowling, make it a fun night out,” said Lori and Mark Ramseur, Chairs of this year’s Bowl for Kids. “It is fun seeing all the crazy costumes that people come up with. We are always surprised by the creativity.”

It is creativity with a purpose. “When we see the difference the fundraising makes, the brand awareness for BBBS, and the impact this event has for kids in the community,” Maria said, “it makes us all feel great, as individuals and as corporations. This is so much more than a bowling event. It’s about making a difference.”

Lori and Mark agree. “This is our fifth straight Bowl for Kids event,” they said. “It’s an event where people can have fun and also give to BBBS.”

It was also an opportunity for Bigs and Littles to spend some quality time together as several matches tried their hand at bowling.

“This is the 34th year we’ve held Bowl for Kids, which is one of our largest fundraisers,” said Brent Fields, CEO of BBBS. “This year’s event was ‘far out fun’ that provides real results for kids and their families. There were a lot of silly costumes, but participants were serious about generating support for children in Central Texas. And, thanks to everyone involved, it was another great year for the event and, most importantly, for the kids we serve. Bowl for Kids is truly an event where everyone wins.”

See photos from the event in our Flickr album here

See photos from our MyEventisTheBomb moving photo album here

Amplify Austin Has Begun!

Amplify Austin runs from 6 p.m. March 2nd to 6 p.m. March 3rd. We need your help to Amplify our impact for children in our community.  Please give now!

We have a goal of raising over $20,000 to provide life-changing mentoring services to even more kids in Central Texas! With more than 600 kids on our waiting list, every gift makes a difference!

Shannon and Mykayla

Shannon has been a Big Sister to Mykayla for over 8 years. The two have enjoyed seeing movies, swimming, eating out, and shopping. But most of all, they have enjoyed simply sharing what’s happening in each other’s lives.

It’s the sharing that’s been key, as Mykayla has been through a lot for someone so young. The only child of a single parent, Mykayla was the primary support to her mother who suffered through cancer, taking her mom to doctor’s appointments and providing day-to-day care. As a result, Mykayla’s grades and academic focus started to suffer, until her Big Sister stepped in to offer assistance and stability.

“Mykayla is an excellent student and has been in Advanced Placement classes. She loves to sing and is in her school’s most accomplished choir. She has many other great attributes, such as her amazing ability to stay focused and calm, as well as her sense of humor,” Shannon said.  “When I think back to the shy 10-year-old girl I first met, and the amazing 18-year-old young woman I know today, I can hardly believe she is the same person. I am so proud of who she has become.”

Now that Mykayla is graduating from high school, the conversation has turned to college preparations. “Our relationship has deepened so much over the years,” Shannon continued.  “I told her when we were first matched that our time together was a time she could just be a kid and have fun. Now our time is more about me trying to help her decide which college to choose.”

Looking back, Shannon acknowledges that while she became a volunteer in order to give to a child, she is the one who has received a gift. “Being a Big Sister has taught me what it means to give back,” Shannon explained. “I have had the opportunity to be a part of Mykayla’s and her mom’s lives and have developed friendships that will last for the rest of my life.”

Your gift creates relationships like these. Please give now!  Thank you!

Amplify Austin is 1 Week Away!

Let’s Amplify for BBBS’ Kids!

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas creates and supports strong, caring relationships that change kids’ lives for the better, forever.

We have a goal of raising over $20,000 through Amplify Austin this year. Your gift to Amplify Austin will help us serve more kids! With more than 600 kids on our waiting list, every gift makes a difference! Please consider scheduling a gift today!

Brandi and Brynn

When she was first matched, Brynn was a small 7-year-old with a baby face. Now her Big Sister Brandi describes her as a 9 ½-year-old young lady. “At the beginning of our match, I wasn’t sure if she enjoyed our outings, or me, because she didn’t show any emotions and was not a big talker,” Brandi explained. “These days, when I drop her off, she asks when our next outing will be. And ‘Can I tell you something?’ is something I hear many, many times.”

In the course of their relationship, Brynn has matured. She has learned how to accept disappointments without dwelling on them. She has also tried many new things and has discovered the importance of looking for the good in all situations.

But the growth is not one-way. “Me? I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve changed and grown. Being Brynn’s mentor has pushed me out of my comfort zone,” Brandi admitted, “and because of that, I’ve been able to do some really neat things in the last two years. Brynn has challenged me, and she has helped me to step outside of myself and to feel good about caring about someone else.”

During one of their recent outings, Brynn and Brandi were talking about family and what that word means…that ‘family’ can be biological or ‘family’ can be good friends.  “Later I said, ‘You’re my buddy.’ Brynn replied ‘No, I’m your sister.’ I think that sums up the last two years of this journey perfectly,” Brandi said. “I can’t wait to see what comes next!”

Your Gift to BBBS Creates Relationships Like These! 

  • Mark your calendar and donate between 6 p.m. March 2nd – 6 p.m. March 3rd.
  • Afraid you’ll forget? Schedule your gift today!

Your support matters. Thank you for making a difference for kids in our community.

Big Brothers Big Sisters’ 2016 Holiday Party

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Combine presents, good food, crafts and a photo booth, plus a planetarium, and you’ve got the makings of a very special holiday event for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas’ matches. Held at the Texas Museum of Science and Technology (TxMOST) on Sunday, December 4, over 150 matches turned out for the festive party.

“This is one of our largest gatherings of the year for matches,” said Joe Strychalski, BBBS’ Vice President of Programs. “In addition to the fun, it provides our staff with another opportunity to connect with the matches they’ve helped create, and it allows us to give a little extra help to families in need.”

Some participants wore reindeer antlers, others wore light-up stocking caps, but everyone was in a party mood at the annual Holiday Party. “Each year our matches gather to enjoy food and fun and to get a gift for the holiday. Littles are so grateful to be able to pick out a fun gift, at times not even for themselves but for a member of their family,” said Christina Snell, Match Support Supervisor.holiday-party-8c

While holiday music played, Bigs and Littles enjoyed games like Connect Four and Uno, created special souvenirs at the ornament and photo booths, toured the museum, and snacked on donuts, fruit treats and pizza. They also visited the toy booth where Littles were able to select their gifts.

“We love doing this,” said David Alben, CEO of U.S. Micro Products. “We love BBBS and we’ve been participating in the Holiday Party for 4 or 5 years. To get to see the look in the kids’ eyes when they’re picking out a present, to see their excitement, that really brings it home for us. One of our company’s goals is giving back to the community and this is a great opportunity to be involved.”

The event helps everyone get in the holiday spirit, but it also provides some great one-to-one time for Bigs and Littles. “So many of the activities here, whether crafts, the planetarium or the museum, provide an opportunity for discussion and bonding between Bigs and Littles,” said Kimberly Blair of RSM. “I enjoy seeing Bigs encouraging Littles who might be shy or a little scared. To see Bigs reminding their Littles that this event is for and about them, that is really great.”

Matches agreed that the chance to spend some quality time together was important. “We made ornaments so that we could remember our first Holiday Party together,” said Big Sister Kate. Her Little Sister Tiani agreed that she liked making crafts, but quickly added, “I enjoyed all of it!”

Some of the older Littles such as Elizabeth, who was attending her 4th or 5th Holiday Party, teased that their favorite part was the gift booth. But, she said, “I have a lot of friends in this program so I really enjoy getting to see them here.”

Littles Michaela and Lauren compared the gathering to a reunion of family and friends. Both said they enjoyed the good food and games, and this year really appreciated the fact that the party was held at a museum.

Being at the museum also added a learning element to the festivities. That was not the only educational component of the party however, as Gregory Harrington from the National Society of Black Engineers provided hands-on experiments for the kids to try.

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“This party is in perfect alignment with what we do,” Gregory explained. “We’ve purchased toys for the event and that is important, but we also want to expose these kids to what it might be like to be an engineer. The kids may say, ‘Hey, if that guy can become an engineer, maybe I can, too.’”

In one experiment, matches used marshmallows and toothpicks to build a bridge and to see how many cars they could stack on it before it broke. A second experiment illustrated electric circuitry using LEDs and playdough.

This year’s annual Holiday Party provided a lot of fun, entertainment, and companionship for Bigs and Littles alike.

A special thank you to the major sponsors who made this event possible: ADP; AECOM ; Alpha Phi Alpha; General Motors; MyEventIsTheBomb; National Society of Black Engineers; O’Connell Robertson; RSM; RWL Markets Inc.; South Austin Rotary; Texas Museum of Science and Technology; and U.S. Micro Products.

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See our Flickr album of event photos here

See MyEventIsTheBomb photo booth photos here

BB&T: The Gift of Giving

 

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It’s amazing what a little enthusiasm can do. No one knows this better than Branch Banking and Trust Company (BB&T), one of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ corporate partners and the Diamond Sponsor for the agency’s Ice Ball gala for the second year in a row.

“We believe in BBBS’ mission,” said Blake Absher, BB&T’s Austin Market President and a former Big Brother. “We know that BBBS’ mentoring model works. As an organization, we want to be more than BBBS’ Diamond Ice Ball Sponsor. We want our employees to be involved with, and invested in, advancing the agency’s life-changing work.”

It is this goal that inspired BB&T to organize a summer-long, city-wide competition amongst their branches to see which one could raise the most money for Big Brothers Big Sisters. The campaign began in May and will run through mid-August. “We’re very competitive,” laughed Cathy Haines, BB&T’s Retail and Small Business Leader, a former Big Sister and the person overseeing the organization’s fundraising initiative. “Our employees have really taken ownership of this effort and they have organized a lot of different activities, from selling candy bars at the branch offices to raffling off gift baskets.”

Employees have also taken their fundraising efforts to Business Network International (BNI) gatherings where they have talked about Big Brothers Big Sisters and made pitches for contributions, and they have coordinated happy hour events where a portion of the tab has been donated to the campaign.

One BB&T employee who attended Ice Ball last year has taken her fundraising efforts to new heights by creating a personal email campaign that she distributed to all of her clients. “Susan has really been a driving force behind this initiative,” Cathy remarked. “Other employees have been inspired by what she’s done. She will probably be our top individual fundraiser this year.”

“It’s been fun to see this campaign snowball,” Blake added. “The excitement is contagious. Last year our employees raised $10,000; this year, we’re on track to raise significantly more than that.”

But raising funds is only part of what this effort has achieved. BB&T’s city-wide campaign has raised awareness of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ work within the organization and within the community, created a greater sense of camaraderie among employees, and allowed employees to make a positive difference for children and families in Central Texas.

“By fundraising in this way, every associate in our organization has contributed to BBBS’ mission, and in doing so, they have helped to make the community a better place for us all,” Cathy said. “There’s a real sense of pride in that.”

Moreover, this effort exemplifies BB&T’s mission as an organization. “A lot of companies have giving back to the community as part of their mission statement,” Blake added. “Implementing this campaign has allowed us to ‘walk the walk’ and put our values into action. It has given our employees an opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves and to experience the difference their actions can have in the world.”

Several BB&T employees will also have the opportunity to see the impact their efforts have made by attending Ice Ball. The two BB&T branches that raise the most money in the campaign will receive two Ice Ball tickets each, along with a hotel suite. The branches can then bestow these prizes on one employee or split them between two employees. “It’s really competitive because our employees all want to go to Ice Ball,” Blake explained. “And that is really neat to see. Attending Ice Ball is a reward for championing and advocating a cause that is near and dear to us. When employees attend the gala they get even closer to BBBS’ mission and they get to be part of a larger community of individuals and organizations who are also there to support the agency’s work. And it’s such a great event.”

For employees who have families or who live in outlying areas and can’t be Big Brothers or Sisters themselves, BB&T’s fundraising campaign gives them another means of contributing to BBBS’ work in a meaningful way.

“When you see all that is happening in the world, all these horrific events, you wonder if a positive influence or a mentor in someone’s life could have changed the outcome,” Blake said. “As former Bigs, Cathy and I have both seen the positive impact mentoring has on kids. In banking, we’re not in the business of saving lives, so for us to give back, to see that good in the community and to know we’re helping current and future generations – that means a lot to us.”

Cushman And Wakefield: A Commitment That Runs Deep

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Partnerships are an integral part of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ success. There are the matches created – the mentoring partnerships that change children’s lives and that are the focus of BBBS’ work. But there are also business and community partnerships that support and advance the agency’s work in a variety of ways.

The most powerful of these partnerships are those in which our partners engage with us on multiple levels, bringing a range of personal and professional resources, skills and expertise to bear. One such partner is Austin-based commercial real estate company Cushman & Wakefield.

Cushman & Wakefield in Austin was formerly known as Oxford Commercial and was started in 1993 by people who feel strongly about investing in the community. “As a business we have a responsibility to give back,” said Ford Alexander, executive managing director, Cushman & Wakefield. “We are fortunate to be leaders in the community and to make a good living here. It is our duty as leaders to help those who don’t have the same advantages we have. Helping others creates a stronger community and greater opportunities for us all.”

“Ford and his corporate family are models of philanthropy in that they have engaged with our organization and our work in so many ways over many years,” said Brent Fields, CEO of BBBS. “Ford has been a Big, a Board member and a donor. His company has supported our organization through financial contributions and by lending their professional expertise in the real estate field. They are champions for civic engagement and they understand the importance of investing in youth and supporting community needs.”

The former Oxford Commercial gave a portion of each real estate transaction they closed to non-profits. “We invited our clients to choose which non-profits they wanted to support with a donation on their behalf from our company,” said Sonia Houston, Director of Broker Resources. “It’s a more personal way to engage with our clients and work together to support our shared community.”

BBBS is, and has been, a recipient of this generosity. “With the incredible impact it’s had on the lives of thousands of young people in the Austin area, BBBS has always risen to the top of the non-profits I support. I’ve experienced the joy of working directly with BBBS in many capacities and I’m thrilled that my company can also join the cause through our corporate giving program,” Ford continued.

Ford’s personal involvement with BBBS began when he was a student at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. “I was in a fraternity and I decided that we needed to get involved in the community,” Ford explained. “I knew of Big Brothers Big Sisters, so I got half a dozen guys from our organization to become mentors with me. I was matched with my first Little Brother for two years and it was as rewarding for me as it was for him. That one experience led to my decades of proud support for BBBS and its mission.”

When Ford returned to Austin to finish his college degree he continued mentoring with BBBS, once again bringing friends into the organization as volunteers. As he moved into the business world, just like his company, Ford found new ways to engage with BBBS.

“Ford has stayed engaged with our mission over the years,” Fields added. “Not only has he brought his personal passion and commitment to our work, he has also brought his company’s philanthropic spirit and its professional expertise to the table to help us address organizational and operational needs.”

“His company recently contributed to the success of our 2016 Amplify Austin fundraising campaign, and the organization is involved in helping us sell our current property as we prepare to move to our new mentoring center site,” Fields explained.

Marketing manager Tony Napolillo says that it was the commercial real estate company’s commitment to helping the community that influenced his decision to work for the company. “I was extremely impressed with the company’s philanthropic efforts and with the impact they have,” Tony said. “These folks are helping BBBS provide mentoring services to young people in Central Texas that truly change lives. That’s significant and I’m so proud to work for an organization that is a champion of this important cause.”

“There are a lot of ways to get involved with BBBS in addition to being a Big,” Ford continued. “You can teach a class, give money, help with events or, like us, offer your business skills and experience. Every individual’s and organization’s talents can be put to good use.”

Ford Alexander and Cushman & Wakefield are partners who are truly making a difference… for BBBS and for the community as a whole.