Spotlight on Astoria Aviles

With our signature Ice Ball Gala just a few months away, Big Brothers Big Sisters’ new Special Events Director, Astoria Aviles, has hit the ground running!

“I am so excited to get out there and get to know volunteers and donors,” she says.  “I’ve had a lot of great support from the Ice Ball Host Committee and BBBS staff.”

As a self-described “people person” who appreciates the importance of building relationships, Astoria has the energy and enthusiasm to keep the momentum going.

“I’m really looking forward to telling BBBS’ story and helping people feel that they can truly be a part of our life-changing mission,” she says.

After initially planning for a career in marketing, Astoria unexpectedly discovered a passion for connecting people with causes while interning at a theater after college. Inspired by the generous philanthropists who wanted to give back, her professional focus soon turned toward the non-profit development field.

“I love it,” she says. “I love working with people who want to use their assets to reinvest in the community.”

Coordinating the agency’s two most significant fundraising events, Bowl for Kids and the Ice Ball Gala, gives Astoria the perfect opportunity for connecting with supporters of BBBS. While her job requires substantial logistical and planning skills, Astoria also recognizes that the success of Bowl for Kids and Ice Ball ultimately relies on building strong partnerships.

“I want to help donors feel empowered and excited about the work that BBBS is doing,” she says. “To  bring them along and make them a part of the mission.”

Complementing Astoria’s specific commitment to BBBS’ mission, is a passion for working in the non-profit industry in general. She welcomes the opportunities to learn that are found in non-profit environments where staff members often wear a “variety of hats.”

“I’m someone who is constantly trying to learn, gain new skills, and have new experiences,” she says, “so I think the non-profit industry is definitely the best fit for me.”

As a recent transplant to Austin, her work at BBBS also gives Astoria an opportunity to learn about her new city. She considers herself a bit of a coffee explorer and has made her favorite discovery so far at local roaster, Greater Goods. Bringing together her two passions for non-profits and quality coffee, Greater Goods donates $1 from each bag it sells to local charities, making the coffee taste even better!

Overall, she’s thrilled to be a part of the BBBS team and is looking forward to preparing for the Ice Ball Gala.

“Working in this role is such a great opportunity,” she says enthusiastically. “I get to serve a great organization like BBBS while also representing the agency to the larger community of potential supporters.”

What’s New at Ice Ball 2018?

As temperatures hover around 100 degrees in Austin these days, it’s a perfect time to think about Big Brothers Big Sisters’ frostiest signature event – the upcoming Ice Ball Gala. Complete with an amazing ice sculpture, the Ice Ball is a night of elegance, inspiration and revelry that makes a lifetime of difference for children in our community. It may be in the hottest month of the year, but this year’s event will be the coolest ticket in town offering many new elements and surprises, from a new location to the newly launched fall line of Kendra Scott jewelry.

“The first new element is the Fairmont Austin Hotel – a new location for this year’s gala,” said Lauren Portley, Vice President of Development at BBBS. “The Fairmont is a 37-story, luxury hotel in downtown Austin. We have the entire fifth floor and ballroom for the event.”

The downtown location offers a central gathering spot, as BBBS supporters come from all across the Central Texas area. Plus, the new location offers more room. This is critical as the event grew by 100 participants last year and is on tap to grow even more this year. “The Fairmont is a location that can grow with us. This year the hotel is also offering a limited room deal for participants who want to turn the gala into a ‘staycation’ to enjoy the event, the great hotel, and the downtown area,” Lauren added.

The event also has two new event chairs: Ashley and Justin Yarborough. Justin is the president of Big Bend Brewing Co. and serves as a captain in the United States Marine Corps Reserve. He is also a former Big Brother who truly understands BBBS’ mission.

Prior to joining Big Bend Brewing Co., Justin was a director at Kayne Anderson Capital, a leading manager of investment strategies specializing in oil and gas, real estate, credit, and growth private equity. Ashley is a former Miss Texas winner and a graduate of Texas Christian University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Broadcast Journalism. She has served as an ambassador for the state of Texas and traveled to numerous communities speaking on issues involving culture, politics, and community.

This year’s Ice Ball Host Committee includes a generous mix of new and returning members as well. The larger group is currently working on securing new and exciting silent and live auction items. “We are working to put together special experiences that you can’t just go out and buy,” said Lauren. “Our donors get very excited about the gala. Often it’s because they purchased one of the auction trips the previous year and had such a great time that they can’t wait to see the new items.”

Helping to move these auction items along is another newcomer, auctioneer Heath Hale and his cowboys. This group has worked special events across the state including the Andy Roddick Foundation Gala, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and the annual Mack, Jack and McConaughey fundraiser. “Each auction has its own unique goals, challenges and personality. This wide variety of experiences makes galas and fundraising auctions a specialty and a passion for me,” said Heath, who was born into a family of auctioneers. “Through my experience, I have learned what works… and what doesn’t.”

Hale brings with him some experienced “ringmen.” They’re the cowboy bid spotters, who he says are the best in the business. “They love auctions, always have a great time, and people love to watch them in action,” said Heath.

The cowboys will be rustling up plenty of excitement during the auction, but attendees will also enjoy fun activities before they ever enter the main ballroom, including another new addition to the evening… a Kendra Scott pop-up store. This new feature will offer guests the opportunity to try on and shop for select items from the 2018 fall line of Kendra Scott jewelry. As described in People magazine, Kendra Scott’s jewelry is known for its beautiful gemstones and timeless, affordable, chic styles that individuals and celebrities love.

“Kendra Scott has donated jewelry mystery boxes for the past several Ice Ball events,” said Lauren, “and those sold out within the first 30 minutes. I wanted to expand that experience for this year’s Ice Ball and asked if they would provide the pop-up store. They not only agreed to do that, they are also donating a piece from the Kendra Scott Fine Jewelry Collection for our raffle.”

Kendra Scott’s impact extends beyond Ice Ball, however, as the organization is also planning to sponsor a Sister to Sister event for BBBS matches where Bigs and Littles can create their own jewelry pieces at a Kendra Scott store ‘color bar.’ Afterwards, matches will get to meet some of Kendra Scott’s female executives to hear their stories.

“It’s all about women empowering women. It is important for our kids to see how these successful women have gotten to where they are. So often our kids see people in cool jobs but have no idea what it takes to get there,” said Lauren. “Finding ways to help our Littles understand what it takes to get certain jobs, helping them expand their knowledge and experiences, these are opportunities we look for when collaborating with companies. That’s why Kendra Scott is such an exciting partner. They are not only supporting BBBS in terms of revenue, which is wonderful, but they are also supporting our mission by providing learning experiences for our kids.”

It’s this type of direct impact that is a highlight of BBBS’ Ice Ball and one that shines a light on the best new element of the 2018 gala – the BBBS mission moment, an opportunity for everyone in the room to hear from a Big and a Little about the impact mentoring has had on their lives.

“The mission moment is the most exciting new thing for me,” said Lauren. “I love seeing the new match story we are featuring for the evening. We talk about what we do, but for our guests to be able to meet a match, to hear the Little’s story, and then to see people who are really touched and impacted by our work, is powerful. It really is what the event is all about. This event exists to help us create mentoring relationships that change children’s lives. The gala brings people together who care about making a difference for children in our community. We love being able to share the impact of our work during the evening itself.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters’ 2018 Ice Ball Gala takes place Saturday, August 25th at 6:00 pm at the Fairmont Austin Hotel, 101 Red River St., in downtown Austin. With ice sculptures, live auctions, silent auctions, dinner and dancing, it’s a fun event, with a life-changing purpose. Go to www.AustinIceBall.org for details.

Bowl for Kids 2018: A Win-Win for Everyone!

It was all hands on deck for Big Brothers Big Sisters’ pirate-themed Bowl for Kids celebration at Highland Lanes April 27th and 28th!

There were eye patches and hooks aplenty as the annual event raised over $136,000 to help Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas match more kids with caring adult mentors, changing their lives for the better, forever.

More than 1,000 participants enjoyed the spirited festivities complete with costumes, refreshments, souvenirs and prizes. A generous crew of fundraisers– including businesses, individuals, families, volunteers, staff members, and Bigs and Littles, all joined in for two days of bowling fun.

“Bowl for Kids is a good time that ultimately makes a huge impact for kids and families in our community,” said Brent Fields, CEO of BBBS of Central Texas. “This is one of our signature events that gets children off our waiting list and connected with mentors who can make a positive difference in their lives. With over 400 children waiting to be matched, every contribution matters.”

Pirate flags, parrots, mermaids and other buccaneer décor contributed to the festive mood, while a large-scale pirate ship constructed by Rhonda Karcher-Logan of Pape-Dawson Engineers and her merry crew provided a creative photo backdrop for capturing memorable moments.

Even the youngest of participants took part in the fun, donning tricorn hats and wielding foam sabers as junior pirates-in-training. Everyone came together, including many bowlers who have participated in this event for years, to have fun and help kids.

Essential to the event’s success, Bowl for Kids’ 2018 business sponsors included financial consulting firm RSM US LLP – the event’s Kingpin Sponsor, computer technology company ARM, Wells Fargo bank, and Bridgepoint Consulting, as well as our generous host, Highland Lanes. RSM, ARM, Wells Fargo and Bridgepoint Consulting all fielded bowling teams as well, and were joined by a variety of other teams and sponsors from Central Texas architecture, printing, construction, gaming, healthcare, technology, legal and media companies, among others.

“This is the first time my co-workers and I have participated in Bowl for Kids,” said April Justice of General Motors. Her team, Jolly Roger and the GM Gals, really got into the spirit of things by dressing up in pirate hats and specially decorated bowling shirts.

“Wearing the group costumes helped us become more immersed in the event. We had a great time learning more about Bowl for Kids, interacting with other companies, and learning why they are involved with BBBS,” said April. “It also gave us the opportunity to bond outside of work and to do it all for a great cause. It was really the best of all worlds.”

It was especially exciting to see so many fundraisers earn ‘Very Important Bowler’, or VIB, status by raising $1,250 or more.

“This year we had eighteen fundraising teams earn VIB status, which was really great” said development associate, Sara Grauerholz.

By reaching, or surpassing, this fundraising level, VIBs provide the funds needed to support a mentoring relationship between a Big and Little for an entire year. In recognition of their exceptional fundraising efforts, and the difference their contributions make, VIBs enjoy special perks and prizes.

Although the pirate flags have come down, the swords have been put away, and many of our participants’ ships have set sail for other lands, BBBS’ Bowl for Kids 2018 isn’t quite finished. Team fundraising pages will remain online to accept donations for another week or two, meaning there’s still time to contribute to the important work of helping children achieve success in life.

By any measure, Bowl for Kids is a ‘win-win’ for everyone.

Special thanks to our event sponsors: RSM US LLP, iHeartMedia, KVUE, ARM, Highland Lanes, Wells Fargo, Bridgepoint Consulting, Austin Emergency Center, HDR, IE2 Construction, Moody National Bank, O’Connell Robertson, Pape-Dawson Engineers, The Portley Family, Twisted Pixel Games, The Austin Chronicle, Do512, Los Comales on 7th Street, Mueller Living Magazine, and MyEventIsTheBomb.

To make a donation, go to www.bowlforkidsaustin.org

See our 2018 event photos here

See our 2018 photo booth photos here

BBBS & RSM: A Winning Partnership

Giving back is something accounting firm RSM takes seriously… Taking themselves seriously, is another matter.

“In general, somehow, it’s in the DNA of people who are accountants to be very competitive,” laughs Scott Haigler, Office Managing Partner for RSM US LLP. “So, the best thing we can do is make a competition out of our fundraising events.”

And RSM has some competitions that are real doozies – everything from sumo wrestling in over-stuffed “sumo suits,” to winning the opportunity to put a pie in the boss’ face, to finding out who the champion will be in a 10-key type-off event. “We did the sumo wrestling one year and I was one of the two wrestlers,” said Scott. “But we only did it once. I had this idea I would run across the room and knock the other wrestler down, but I’m a CPA, not an engineer, and it backfired. I bounced and crashed.”

All of this activity is in good fun and for a good cause, creating a win-win for everyone involved. “It’s a slam-dunk to be involved with an organization like Big Brothers Big Sisters,” said Scott. “Our relationship with BBBS has grown over the years and we certainly get more out of it than we give.”

RSM’s involvement with BBBS has grown into a partnership that lasts year-round. RSM is the Kingpin Sponsor for BBBS’ annual Bowl for Kids event, they are involved in BBBS’ Ice Ball gala, the company provides backpacks filled with school supplies for Littles at the beginning of the school year, and they help sponsor BBBS’ annual Holiday Party for Bigs and Littles, among other things.

For RSM, this extensive involvement provides a lot of pluses. “From a business perspective, we’re a service provider,” said Scott, “and part of that service is making Austin a better place to live. We do that through our work with BBBS.”

Another plus for the company is connecting with new job candidates. “The generation coming into the job market now is very interested in public service. It’s a question that is high on the list when we interview potential hires. They want to know what we are doing to give back to the community,” Scott continued. “And BBBS is a respected organization with a proven track record. Our association and involvement make a meaningful difference.”

A third corporate advantage relates to the year-round nature of RSM’s involvement with BBBS. “Partnering year-round allows our employees to be involved in activities that don’t have anything to do with auditing, consulting or tax work, and that’s always a good thing,” said Scott. “The average age of our employees is 26. BBBS’ activities get them energized, and that’s what we want. Doing taxes and audits like we do, especially during the busy season, can take a toll on everyone so we need to do something to recharge our batteries. Working with BBBS gives us ample opportunity to do that”

Scott also sees great value in the team building that occurs among employees who participate in BBBS’ activities and events, especially Bowl for Kids. He likes the camaraderie and socializing the event provides, plus the opportunity to give back that the fundraising offers. “And, everyone loves bowling. It’s all just a lot of fun.”

RSM is the 5th largest accounting firm in the country with over 90 offices around the world, but their Austin employees are giving back locally. At RSM, giving back and working with BBBS is something they are passionate about. It is part of their corporate culture.

“We are able to give even more to BBBS because our corporate foundation matches employee gifts,” said Scott. “This means that employee contributions are doubled and go twice as far.”

He added, “Working with BBBS is invaluable. It’s priceless. I can’t put a price on what the agency does and the incredible impact they have on kids and the community. Investing in BBBS’ work makes the community a better place for everyone. We are proud to be part of that.”

Playing The Long Game

For 19 years Brandon Christensen has been on a roll, participating in Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Bowl for Kids bowl-a-thon. And he’s not about to go on strike. He continues to be, in his words, “relentless,” in raising funds and forming teams for the event.

“I really like helping an organization that I feel has a direct impact,” said Brandon. “The first year I participated, I organized a group of 5 friends and we began collecting money. When I do a campaign or fundraiser, I’ve always been the type of person who goes pretty big. Especially if it’s something I believe in. That first year I think I raised $1,700.”

The reason he is passionate about BBBS? He can relate to the kids benefitting from this event. “Growing up, my mom worked really hard to raise my younger brother and me. We definitely struggled at times,” he continued. “I didn’t have a father figure in my life. I know what it’s like to have hard times, so I can relate to the cause and the kids BBBS supports.”

It was while he was in the Air Force that Brandon experienced a pivotal moment in his life. One that instilled in him a desire to give back. He was “volun-told” by his sergeant to sell raffle tickets to provide a Christmas party for local low-income families. Brandon took the project to heart and sold a lot of tickets, but he also took the assignment one step further and attended the event. “It was overwhelming,” he said. “It was great to see these amazing kids enjoying the food, the clowns and the gift exchange. At that point I knew I was going to be active in giving back and providing community support for a long time.”

Brandon has been true to his word, as he has not only participated in BBBS’ Bowl for Kids, he has steadily raised awareness of the event at the company he works for, SHI International. He’s encouraged co-workers to form bowling teams as well, and even established a competition to see which team could raise the most money. The winner received a very nice dinner provided by one of the company’s partners. “These are sales teams so they’re very competitive,” Brandon laughed. “My team won last year, and we’re in the lead this year. I take this very seriously.”

He takes fundraising seriously, but Brandon has also upped his game with BBBS, becoming a Big Brother himself two years ago. It is another part of his life that he feels passionate about. “I was matched with Javon,” said Brandon, “and he is awesome. He is a fun kid and very outgoing. He’s also artistic and very creative.”

The two share a love of comics and comic book movies, and Brandon has nurtured Javon’s interest in robotics, programming and art. They have visited Austin’s Blanton Museum of Art and the Art on 5th gallery.

“On our one-year match anniversary, I gave Javon a collage of pictures of our outings, and he sent me the nicest card about how he values our friendship and our relationship,” said Brandon. “I think it is critical for Littles to have adults (Bigs) in their lives who they know have made time just to be with them.”

Time with Javon has intensified Brandon’s commitment to raising money for BBBS and participating in Bowl for Kids. He now serves on the planning committee for the event and he works to help people understand that the event is not a bowling tournament or competition – it’s an event where participants can dress in costume, have fun, eat pizza, do a little bowling, and raise money for a great organization and cause.

“As a Big, I see how the money we raise allows BBBS to create mentoring relationships for more children in Central Texas, and I know, first-hand, what the campaign is truly about and what it means to be matched. Being a Big myself, I understand how the money raised affects kids from single-parent or low-income homes, as well as kids who need additional motivation or positive reinforcement to be successful.”

Bowl for Kids is a fun event but, for Brandon, it is more than an annual celebration and tradition. It is about forming, and sustaining, mentoring relationships that create lasting change, growth and opportunity for children and adults alike.

Bowl for Kids is coming soon, but there’s still time to get in the game. Join Brandon in making a positive impact in our community. Donate or form a team and participate in Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Bowl for Kids 2018 – an event that makes a lifetime of difference.

Register or donate at www.bowlforkidsaustin.org

All About The Team: This Former Little is ‘Playing it Forward’

Years ago, he was credited with being a Little Brother in one of the longest-lasting matches at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas. Today, Dave Rappold serves on BBBS’ Board of Directors and is heading up the agency’s 2018 Bowl For Kids event.

“When I was 4 years old my dad passed away suddenly and unexpectedly,” said Dave. “That set the stage for BBBS becoming part of my life.  I went through the next few years in a sort of daze. When I was about 7 years old my mom talked to me about an organization that helped kids by matching them with adults. My first response was ‘I’m getting a dad,’ but she explained how BBBS worked and asked what I would look for in a mentor. My only thoughts were that I wanted him to like bicycles, to like tennis, and to have a mustache. That’s when I met Dale Wiseman.”

Dale became Dave’s Big Brother, and it turned out that he not only liked bicycles, he also liked motorcycles, was a spelunker, played tennis (which he taught Dave), and didn’t live far from Dave’s house. He also had a “wonderful Tom Selleck mustache.” “Having Dale in our lives was great medicine for me and my mom,” said Dave. “I didn’t have the deck stacked against me like a lot of the kids in our program do, but Dale came in fresh and he took me away from all the stuff going on at home. He never knew about everything I’d been through. We never talked about the loss of my dad. We just went and did fun stuff that kids are supposed to do. And I think that’s one of the main things it takes to heal and move forward.”

Dave’s Big Brother helped him cope with the difficult loss of his father. There were still negative things in his life, however. He says he stumbled through school, and that he was distracted and angry, but that having a Big Brother kept him engaged in constructive activities with someone who was a really good person and a wonderful influence. A situation that reduced the chances of his getting into trouble.

When a child loses a parent at such a young age, Dave believes that that loss is always with them in some way… that the sense of loss never leaves. But for Dave, that sense of loss is combined with a deep love for BBBS. “They were there for me,” Dave said of the agency. “And it never really left my mind to re-engage with BBBS at some point.”

Dave has always felt that he should have become a Big himself, but his life changed as he went through college, military service, got married and became a father to two kids of his own. He has found other ways however, to plug in and to advance BBBS’ mission. In 2016 he joined BBBS’ Executive Board. Now, he is leading the campaign for BBBS’ 2018 Bowl for Kids event set for April 27 & 28 at Highland Lanes.

“Last year we had a record-setting Ice Ball gala,” said Dave. “This year, I’d like BBBS to have a record-setting Bowl for Kids event. That would really help reduce the agency’s 600-kid waiting list.”

For Dave, the opportunity to participate in Bowl for Kids cuts across all socioeconomic lines. “Corporate donations are important and get the fundraising ball rolling,” he said. “but everyone can participate. Individuals giving $20 of their gas money are just as important.”

Creating a successful Bowl for Kids event is a team effort that embodies the BBBS spirit. “Bowl for Kids provides a great opportunity for a different type of social mingling and camaraderie,” said Dave. “Participants get together for pizza, beer, water, sodas, and to cheer each other on. There are no diamonds and high heels at Bowl for Kids. It’s just a bunch of folks getting together to support BBBS’ mission and to have a great time in the process. There are participants from corporations, from the community, Bigs, Littles, Board members and staff. All these people come together with one thing in common, they believe in BBBS and want to help the agency serve more kids.”

Dave challenges everyone to participate. “Come and make an impact,” said Dave. “At BBBS we’ve proven ourselves. We’ve proven that our one-to-one mentoring model works. We have a new building. We have a great staff and board. We have all of these important tools and processes and people in place to take care of kids and to serve them really well. We also have a long list of children waiting for the life-changing opportunities that a Big Brother or Sister can provide. What we need to be able to serve more kids is money.”

“Bowl for Kids is a wonderful way to impact BBBS’ ability to serve more kids in a quality manner and to reduce the waiting list for children in need.”

Dave knows all about the difference BBBS can make in a child’s life. He’s been there. Now, he wants to extend that same opportunity to more children whose lives would be impacted, just as his was.

Our 2017 Holiday Party – Snow Much Fun

It truly is the most wonderful time of the year! On Sunday, December 10th, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas held its annual Holiday Party. This merry celebration welcomed over 300 Bigs, Littles and staff members to the Texas Museum of Science and Technology (TxMOST) where matches came together to enjoy the holiday season.

It was an afternoon filled with classic games, educational experiments, and engaging museum tours. From playing Connect Four to touring the museum and visiting the Planetarium, Bigs and Littles enjoyed yummy snacks as they bonded over countless activities. They snapped silly photos at the photo booth and learned how to create circuits with the help of LEDs and playdough.

One of the most popular attractions was the toy booth. Our Littles’ eyes gleamed with joy as they saw the abundance of toys! Their faces lit up when they were told they could chose a gift to take home.

“This Holiday Party is very special to us and it keeps growing year after year!” said Brent Fields, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters. “It is awesome to see the museum filled with matches bonding with each other. This is a great opportunity for us to connect with matches, and with one another.”

This is the second year BBBS has held this event at the Texas Museum of Science and Technology and our matches were in for a treat! Attendees were able to experience the Leonardo da Vinci: Machines in Motion exhibit. The exhibit features over 40 interactive pieces of Leonardo da Vinci’s designs and the kids loved it! They experimented with the impressive recreations as they learned more about Leonardo’s career.

“Everyone has a great time,” said Adriana Adams, BBBS customer relations supervisor. “A lot of the matches come every year and look forward to seeing their friends. And we look forward to seeing them too!”

This special event would not have been possible without the help and participation of our sponsors and donors. A huge thank you to the Texas Museum of Science & Technology, AECOM, RSM, General Motors, Alpha Phi Alpha, MyEventIsTheBomb, ADP, Young Men’s Service League, Junior League of Austin, National Society of Black Engineers, and Hapi Drinks.

Thank you for creating holiday magic and lasting memories for the children, families and volunteers we serve.

See our Flickr album of photos from the event here

See photo booth photos here