Across Two Generations: A Look at Mentoring’s Long-Term Positive Impact

It’s often said that a mentor makes a long-term positive impact on the life of a child. For former Little Brother Anson Wilkinson, however, this impact has influenced not only his own life. Its reach has extended into the next generation as a positive influence in the life of his daughter, and recently matched Little Sister, Azia.

Anson’s mother enrolled him in Big Brothers Big Sisters when he was a boy, not long after his father passed away. Having a Big in his life meant having a companion for playing video games and basketball, visiting museums and aquariums, and rooting for the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

“I felt like I had a friend of my own,” says Anson.

His Big also offered “little lessons that became life lessons,” he says, teaching him how to change a tire, mow the lawn and fix things around the house. Perhaps the most significant impact of having a Big Brother, however, was having someone to talk with about his future, his goals and his outlook on life.

“He helped me look at life from beyond my own perspective,” Anson says.

Years later, with his daughter struggling through a difficult transition of her own, Anson returned to Big Brothers Big Sisters—this time as a parent. He knew from his own positive experience, that a Big Sister could become another trusted person in Azia’s life– someone she could talk to and feel supported by.

“I wanted to give my daughter the same opportunity to have her life influenced for the best,” he says. “I thought this would be perfect.”

And just as Anson anticipated, Azia has thoroughly enjoyed being a Little Sister.

It’s been just a few months since their match, but Azia and her Big Sister Audrey have already enjoyed some classic summer activities together, like cooling off with sno-cones and visiting the bowling alley. They’ve also sought out some new experiences, including a visit to the Domain shopping center to sample a variety of international foods.

“Azia enjoys the friendship and social outlet she gets with her Big,” says her father. “They do fun things together, but they also confide in one another.”

Anson feels confident that Azia’s experience with Big Brothers Big Sisters will continue to have a positive impact on her life, both now and in the long-term—perhaps even into a third generation.

Ice Ball 2018 An Unprecedented Success For Our Kids!

It was the coolest event on one of the hottest nights in Austin as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas’ 14th annual Ice Ball gala exceeded all expectations. A record-breaking $850,000+ was raised – a $200,000 increase over last year – with donations still coming in and final numbers expected to exceed this early total.

A sold-out crowd attended the special event which was held for the first time at the Fairmont Austin hotel on Saturday, August 25. The black-tie affair was an elegant evening focused on raising funds to create more life-changing friendships between at-risk youth and caring adult mentors.

“We were honored to have over 800 generous friends and supporters gather to make a BIG difference for children in this community,” said Brent Fields, BBBS CEO.  “The unprecedented success of the event, with over $850,000 raised, will allow us to provide mentoring services to more than 700 kids who deserve the opportunity to reach their greatest potential.  We’re thrilled at the confidence and trust the community has placed in us to continue providing our transformational services for children and families in Central Texas.”

As attendees arrived, they were welcomed into a vibrant pre-event gallery where they enjoyed opportunities to take event photos beside the gala’s signature ice sculpture, and visit a pop-up shop filled with items from Kendra Scott’s new fall jewelry line. Guests also participated in a Big Board mini live auction, bid on numerous exclusive silent auction items, and purchased raffle tickets for a chance to win a trip for 4 to New Orleans, Miami, Chicago or Montreal.

A Dixieland band, Memphis Train Revue, led guests into the ballroom for the main portion of the evening where they enjoyed a delicious dinner, an exciting live auction, and a mission-centered ‘Fund A Friendship’ donation drive. Emcee Quita Culpepper, with KVUE-TV, got the program started.

New to Ice Ball 2018 was auctioneer Heath Hale and the Cowboys. This team has raised over $14 million for charities this year.  Using the classic auctioneer patter, Heath and his team motivated the inspired crowd to bid top dollar on many exciting auction packages.

The gala’s 2018 live auction packages included a UT tailgate party for 30 to 40 guests at Sour Duck Market, a King Ranch hunt with Colt McCoy, a wine lover’s trip to the Burgundy wine region of France, a dove hunt in Argentina, a golf trip and 5-night stay at a baronial castle in Scotland, a luxury trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming with a scenic tour of the Grand Tetons, and a “choose your own adventure” package featuring trips to 20 different world-wide destinations, among others.

A surprise addition to the live auction came courtesy of Austin Police Chief Brian Manley. The Chief offered guests the opportunity to bid on an officer ‘ride-along’ experience to demonstrate the police department’s support for BBBS.

A highlight of the evening was the match story featuring Big Brother Chris and his Little Brother Keontray. Their relationship provided attendees with a powerful example of the life-changing impacts Big Brothers Big Sisters’ services have for children and adults alike.

“The Austin community came out and really supported our kids Saturday night!  It was a packed house!” said Lauren Portley, Vice President of Development for BBBS.  “Our mission takes precedence in planning this annual event, and BBBS’ Executive Board, Ice Ball Host Committee, and staff worked so hard to pull off what turned out to be our best Ice Ball yet!  At the end of the day, it’s all about serving our kids and making life-changing friendships that allow children to achieve their biggest possible futures.”

At the end of the evening, Ashley and Justin Yarborough, this year’s Ice Ball Gala Chairs, and the 2018 Ice Ball Host Committee, were recognized for hosting such an exceptional event. The celebration continued into the early morning hours as everyone enjoyed dancing to the music of Memphis Train Revue, and, as this year’s gala came to a close, guests left knowing that their support for Ice Ball 2018 will make a positive difference for hundreds of children in Central Texas for years to come.

See Ice Ball event photos here

Watch our BBBS Mission video here

See our Match Story video here

See photo booth photos here

Special thanks to our top sponsors:

BB&T, Big Bend Brewing Co., Kendra Scott; Heritage Title Company, RSM, US Micro Products; Sam Bassett, BMC Software Inc., The Christopher & Ross Families, Dr. Achal & Rajal Dhruva, Heather & Dominick Granato, H-E-B Tournament of Champions, Moody Bank, Connie & Bill Nelson, Pape-Dawson Engineers, Parsley Energy, ScaleFactor, Thessaly Startzell & Sam Burd, Candy & Rhett Stone, Strangeworks, Texas Capital Bank, Urbanspace, Wells Fargo, and Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich, & Rosati Foundation.

Hobie Day 2018

It was a beautiful day on the water as Bigs and Littles got to exercise their “sea-legs” at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas’ 2018 Hobie Day. Approximately 100 matches showed up at Bob Wentz Park on Lake Travis to experience the unique adventure that is catamaran sailing courtesy of the Austin Cats, a group of sailing enthusiasts who have hosted the event for close to 40 years.

Big Brother Jeff and his Little Brother Caden had a great time at the event. “We enjoy just being out on the lake, learning more about the Hobie Cats, and sailing in general,” said Jeff. “And Jim, our guide, did an awesome job of explaining everything. Caden even got to do some trampolining, where you hang over the side of the Hobie Cat. It was amazing.”

Many of the matches just enjoyed having a chance to be outdoors and enjoy the water. “Caden is really a gamer kid. He likes video games. So, any time we can get outside, we want to take advantage of it,” said Jeff. “We appreciate BBBS having this event, and the Austin Yacht Club, and the Austin Cats crew, that puts it on. We’ll be back every year that we don’t have a conflict.”

Other Bigs and Littles, like Christina and her Little Sister Isis, saw the day as an opportunity to have an adventure. “It’s our first time to be at Hobie Day,” said Christina. “It’s just nice to have this event and to have it on these boats. We’re excited to have the opportunity to go on an adventure like this together.”

It was an adventure Isis wasn’t totally sure about at the beginning. “I’ve never been on a boat before,” she said, “but I think it is going to be cool and I’m only a little bit scared.”

Following the ride, Isis was all smiles as she struck a victory pose when she got off the boat. She couldn’t stop talking about how fun and relaxing it was riding across the lake, and how much she enjoyed using a squirt gun to shoot water at her brother who was in another boat.

The Austin Cats supplied five catamarans for the rides throughout the afternoon. They also spent time preparing for, and hosting, the event.  In addition to the boat crews, the Young Men’s Service League Westlake Chapter and Cavalier’s Chapter provided volunteers who helped with tasks like equipping attendees with life jackets, assisting people as they got onto the boats, and cleaning up after the event.

“This is my first time volunteering with BBBS and already, in just the 1 ½ hours I’ve been here, what I’ve seen of the Bigs’ and Littles’ relationships is precious, more than precious,” said Michelle Hogan, of the YMSL Westlake.  “It is special to see all these Bigs spending time with children who need an extra loved one in their lives.”

For one match, Hobie Day 2018 marked the ten-year anniversary of their match relationship. Tom and his Little Brother Jordan spent their first outing as a Big and a Little at a Hobie Day event 10 years ago. “When we were first matched Jordan was 6-years-old and he was a tiny, little guy,” said Tom. “In the picture I have from that time, I had to bend down to be beside him in the shot. Now, ten years later, he’s about to be taller than me.”

“I used to be scared of the water,” said Jordan. “but I’m not scared any more, so today will be fun.”

Tom said that, early on, he tried to take Jordan swimming for some of their outings, but that he wouldn’t swim. “In year two I could see that he had decided, ‘I’m going to do this,’ and now he’s a great swimmer,” said Tom. “I don’t think we’ve missed many Hobie Days.”

Hobie Day is a BBBS event where Bigs and Littles get to spend time with the Little’s family members as well. In addition to sailing, attendees enjoyed swimming, eating pizza, playing games and lounging along the shoreline.

Special thanks to our great event partners – the Austin Cats, the Young Men’s Service League Cavaliers, the Young Men’s Service League Westlake, Domino’s Store #6384, and Howard Barnett with Zilker Park Boat Rentals – for their support and involvement. Thanks, too, to our staff, Bigs, Littles and their families for making Hobie Day 2018 such a special day.

See photos from the day in our 2018 Flickr album here

Trevlyn and Briana

It was exactly as they expected. Big Sister Tevlyn and Little Sister Briana both knew what they wanted when they were first matched. Six years later, their friendship still lives up to their expectations.

“I was looking for a volunteer opportunity and Big Brothers Big Sisters just sounded really appealing,” said Trevlyn. “I was excited about the chance to form a connection with someone and to become lifelong friends and sisters – exactly as we have done.”

Little Sister Briana echoed the sentiment. “I like that I am able to have a best friend, and someone I can hang out with a lot.”

Seeing the joy on their faces when together, it’s not surprising the two have always been close. Through the years they’ve shared many adventures while exploring all the different experiences Austin has to offer. One special activity has turned into a tradition for the pair. “Most summers we’ve gone to the Zilker outdoor theater and seen the summer musical,” said Trevlyn. “It’s been fun to sit in the front row and watch the singing and dancing and see the costumes.”

Briana’s favorite outings are going to see movies, but she does remember one special event they attended after being matched. “We went to the circus and that was really cool,” she said.

A more recent outing was to a Round Rock Express baseball game, where Briana was the recipient of a Minor League Baseball Rising Star scholarship check.  The pair were joined by friends and family as Briana got to throw out the “first pitch” of the game. Briana will use the scholarship money to further her education at the University of Houston.

“I want to become an interpreter and translator for the hearing impaired,” said Briana. “I am already taking sign language classes.”

Trevlyn has encouraged Briana with her career choice, but proudly points out that her Little Sister did all of her own research regarding post-secondary education. “I didn’t have any experience with sign language other than a class project in high school,” said Trevlyn. “It’s something Briana pursued when she got into high school. She took classes and then started researching the colleges and universities that have good sign language programs to determine what would work best for her.”

Briana was an excellent student throughout high school. Something that was not always easy considering that she helped with her younger siblings after school when her mom worked. That is not the only responsibility Briana has taken upon her young shoulders. She also works about 20 hours a week to contribute to her family’s finances.

Having a Big Sister to confide in and get support from has been important in Briana’s life. “Trevlyn has impacted my life a lot by helping me decide what I want to do for my career and encouraging me to do what I really love,” said Briana, “and by just being there for me when I need advice.”

Big Sister Trevlyn has also been impacted by the match. “We’ve been matched a long time. It’s something I’m very proud of, our relationship,” said Trevlyn. “I’m proud of the way we’ve gotten to know one another and each other’s families. We’ve all become really close. It’s been a really exciting and beautiful experience.”

It is an experience that will last well past Briana’s high school graduation as the two plan to be part of each other’s lives for a long time. It’s something they expected from the beginning.

Your support makes relationships like this possible.  Thank you.

Learn more about our Game Changers program at www.gamechangersaustin.org.

Learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Giving Society here

Back to School Supply Drive!

Needed: School supplies for our kids!

Summer is flying by, and it won’t be long before our Little Brothers and Sisters are heading back to school!

We are looking for donations of school supplies to help our kids prepare for the school year ahead.

You can organize a school supply drive at your place of work, in your neighborhood, at your church, or contribute as an individual.

A list of supplies needed can be found below.

We request that all donations be delivered to our office the week of July 30. For more information, please contact Joe at jstrychalski@bigmentoring.org or 512-807-3607.

Thank you!

2018 BBBS School Supply Needs
Greatest Needs (Middle & High School age):
Pencils
Pens
Pencil cases/bags
Pencil sharpeners
Backpacks (no solid red or blue)
Markers
Scissors
Highlighters
Pocket Folders
Planners/Calendars
Spiral notebooks
Composition Books
Three ring binders (1-3 inch)
Dividers
Rulers
Packets of college-ruled loose-leaf paper
Index cards
Calculators
USB flash drives
General/Basic supplies for Middle & High School age youth
Gender-neutral supplies

Other Needs: While we have a greater need for the supplies listed above, we will also gladly accept:

– Crayons
– Glue, glue sticks
– School/lunch boxes
– Construction paper
– Packets of wide-ruled loose-leaf paper

Please Note: Big Brothers Big Sisters is a 501(c)3 organization. As you received no goods or services in return for your gift, your contribution is tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law. Please print this document for your tax records.

Big Brothers Big Sisters’ 2018 Promising Futures Scholarship Ceremony

The room was filled with excitement, pride and joy at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas’ 32nd annual Promising Futures Scholarship Ceremony. More than 150 family members, friends and Big Brothers and Sisters gathered to honor Little Brothers and Sisters who were receiving college scholarships and scholarship promise medals as part of BBBS’ Scholarship Program.  Kristie Gonzales, President and General Manager of KVUE-TV, was the keynote speaker for the event, which took place June 16 at Austin Community College’s Eastview campus.

“Turn the challenges you face in life into opportunities for growth and success,” said Gonzales, who shared her own personal and professional experiences with attendees. “Let your mentors help you achieve your dreams, and never stop asking their advice on how to get where you want to be. It’s evident from all the people in this room that you have a community standing behind you. And remember, as you climb – lift others.”

Kristie shared her story of becoming a television executive and how mentors made a difference for her. “I’m standing where I am today because mentors helped me find my talent and my path early in life,” said Kristie. “And I still have mentors who are helping me as I move toward my next goals.”

Students received scholarships that will be applied to a variety of institutions and fields of study. This year’s graduates will be attending the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, Blinn Junior College and Franklin University in Switzerland, among others. Graduates plan to pursue studies in forensic science, computer engineering, biochemistry, nursing, social work, music, counseling and business.

“The promise of a scholarship means commitment to me,” said Chris, a scholarship promisee. “This medal reflects a commitment to my education. It’s like saying, ‘I’m going to complete my studies. That’s my plan.’ I’m thinking about becoming a robotic programmer or an engineer.”

With the help of his Big Brother Scott, Chris has attended several engineering and programming events in the area. “We wanted to see what is happening here in Austin and what you can do with skills in robotics and artificial intelligence,” said Scott. “We wanted to learn what is available.”

One event they went to involved learning about self-driving cars. The pair had the opportunity to program a car’s speed and determine its direction. “It was really cool because that’s in line with what I’m going to need to know in the future,” said Chris, who just completed his freshman year of high school. “To pursue the fields I’m interested in, I’ll need to know programming like the back of my hand.”  BBBS’ scholarship promise is a first step on Chris’s journey to realizing his dreams.

BBBS’ scholarship program offered similar support to other Littles as well. BBBS awarded and promised more than $700,000 in scholarship funds to 210 Littles this year.

Graduating seniors who have been matched with a Big Brother or Sister for more than a year, and who are enrolling in a two or four-year college, university, or accredited trade or technical school, are eligible to receive scholarships of $2,000 – $4,000. Students who are at least 14 years old and who remain matched with a Big Brother or Sister for one year or longer are promised scholarships upon high school graduation.

“This is absolutely one of my favorite events of the year,” said Brent Fields, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas. “Pursuing a post-secondary education opens so many doors and opportunities for the kids we serve. Many of our high school graduates are first-generation college students. This ceremony brings our students together and allows us to celebrate their academic achievements and aspirations. When we put that medal around their neck or hand them their scholarship certificate, it is often a game-changer for these young people.”

Cheers and camera flashes greeted the graduating seniors and promisees as they crossed the stage to receive their awards from Thessaly Startzell of the BBBS Foundation Board. Lauren Petrowski of Fox 7 Austin was the emcee for the event, with speeches given by KVUE-TV President and General Manager Kristie Gonzales, Virginia Murillo Fraire, Vice President of Student Services for Austin Community College, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas CEO Brent Fields.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas’ Scholarship Program began in 1986 when the agency received a contribution from an anonymous Central Texas donor to establish a program designed to encourage Little Brothers and Sisters to complete high school and pursue post-secondary education. The program was the first of its kind throughout the nearly 350 BBBS chapters.

Since the program was founded, the agency has awarded more than $5 million in scholarship funds to 2,500 Little Brothers and Sisters in Central Texas.

“For these students and families to know that there is already an investment in their future is a big deal. What’s not to like about that?” said Brent. “BBBS’ Scholarship Program has a powerful impact on the lives of our Littles and their families.”

Following the ceremony, attendees were treated to hummus, chips, fruit, cheese, and chicken hors d’oeuvres provided by Primize Catering. Additional treats were provided by Chick-fil-A and Edible Arrangements. Families were also able to create memories in an onsite photo booth provided by MyEventIsTheBomb.

Special thanks to representatives from the College of Health Care Professions, Texas State University, The Financial Literacy Coalition of Central Texas, and the United States Army who provided graduates and promisees with additional information.  Thanks also to the volunteers who joined us from IBC Bank and the Young Men’s Service League.

See event photos in our Flickr album here

See MyEventIsTheBomb photo booth photos here

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.