Kristie Gonzales on The Power of Mentoring

There are thousands of TV stations across the country, but only 16.5% of them have female general managers, and very few of them are minorities since less than 8% of all general managers are minorities. One of these talented women is KVUE-TV President and General Manager Kristie Gonzales. Kristie is a community leader who will tell you that her success is due, in large part, to having a mentor.

“Mentors have had a huge impact in my life,” said Kristie. “Those of us who are in leadership roles in this business have had a lot of people who have opened doors for us, lifted us on their backs, and made the difference in our careers. If I hadn’t had mentors early in my career, there’s no way I’d be sitting where I am today.”

Kristie started her professional life as a college student working as a production assistant for the local PBS station in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A straight-A student in high school, her favorite pastime was painting but she soon realized that that was not going to pay the bills. “I didn’t recognize my own potential. I was following the path of least resistance,” said Kristie.

“As a student, I wasn’t worried about money because I had a full scholarship, but then I graduated and started looking for a job. I’d always been interested in journalism and television, so I took a TV 101 class. The teacher was an executive producer at KNME-TV and he said, ‘You have a real knack for video editing.’ He then hired me for my first television job when I was 19 years old, and it was a paid position, which was rare. That experience was pivotal, and it is why I am sitting in the general manager’s chair now. Early on, someone saw a talent in me and changed my path forever.”

After graduating, Kristie got hired at a local news station in Albuquerque where she became one of the best editors despite facing enormous challenges in her personal life. At 23, Kristie left an abusive marriage. A few weeks after her divorce, her younger brother died. “At that point I felt like my life was over, not just beginning,” said Kristie. “To deal with my personal struggles, I worked. It was a distraction and it filled up my time. As a result, the station made me chief editor.”

Kristie’s editing skills ultimately took her to one of the strongest TV stations in the country, WPVI in Philadelphia. She was hired for her production skills, but needed to write for the promotion department as well. “They didn’t know I couldn’t write,” laughed Kristie, “because I told them I could. I just had to figure it out on the job. I had to have some confidence to be able to do that, and I think it came from surviving some of the violence I experienced growing up. Those early struggles taught me that I could survive, and even thrive.”

It was in Philadelphia that Kristie connected with another mentor who influenced her career. “The general manager there, Rebecca Campbell, is someone I looked up to,” said Kristie. “I finally had a chance to have lunch with her and I said, ‘I want to find out how you became a general manager. How did you get to where you are in your career?’ Rebecca then took me under her wing and became my career sponsor for the next 10 years.”

As Kristie climbed the corporate ladder, Rebecca gave her a challenge. “She said, ‘You know what I did for you. Now, go and do that same thing for other women and minorities.”

It’s a challenge Kristie took to heart. Looking back at her high school years, she says she didn’t realize that she needed to maximize what she was learning in school. She didn’t know what she needed to do to succeed. It’s why she sees such value in mentoring today.

“In order to develop your own potential, you need to have conversations with people who can teach you how to get to where you want to go and who can show you new paths.”

“That’s why BBBS is so important,” Kristie continued. “BBBS exposes kids to different lifestyles and to new opportunities, and that is huge. Otherwise, kids have no idea that life can be different from what they experience every day.”

Kristie is quick to point out that mentoring is not a “taking,” but rather a reciprocal, relationship. She encourages young people in mentoring relationships to do their homework, to identify goals and to try to be specific about what they want to achieve. “When you’re younger, just being exposed to different paths that are open to you is important,” said Kristie. “For instance, it’s important to understand that you may start a media career as an editor, but that you don’t have to be an editor forever. You can become the news director or the general manager one day, because the people in those roles started out in the same place you did. But you wouldn’t necessarily know that without having someone there to show you what you are capable of and how to get where you want to go.”

Kristie also encourages kids to ask adults about their lives and careers. “If you see someone doing something interesting, ask them how they did it. Be curious and interested in the people and the larger world around you. You never know what kinds of doors your questions might open.”

Even though she is currently a general manager, Kristie is still working with mentors in the media business and still has goals to achieve. “My CEO is now mentoring me,” said Kristie, “because I’ve told him that I want to be a CEO one day.”

Being responsible for the ins and outs of a TV station is a demanding position, but Kristie says she handles it by having a good circle of friends and by giving back to the community and mentoring others, which is where her kinship with BBBS surfaces. Kristie will be speaking to BBBS’ high school graduates and incoming freshman as the keynote speaker for the agency’s 2018 Promising Futures Scholarship Ceremony on June 16th.

“I’m very excited to share my story at the Scholarship Ceremony,” said Kristie. “I feel a connection with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas. I grew up in a difficult, and often violent, household. I know what it’s like to face hard circumstances and to have to figure out how to survive and thrive. That’s when mentors can make the greatest difference and offer hope.”

Kristie was able to find hope and strength despite her struggles. And, with the help of her mentors, she developed survival and work-related skills that have helped her later in life. “In this industry you have to have a strong voice,” said Kristie. “As a child, I developed a strong voice in response to the violence I saw at home. I have turned that into a gift because now I’m not afraid to be on stage, to face a room full of people, or to fight against social injustice.”

“I refuse to be limited by my past. And that keeps me pushing forward and sharing my story.”

And, as Kristie continues to move forward in her own life and career, she is committed to making it possible for others to do the same.

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.

Spotlight on Emily Burdette

Just a few years ago, while working in the online marketing field in Nashville, Emily Burdette realized she was ready to make a change.

“I started thinking about how I wanted to be remembered,” she says, “and how I wanted to make a difference.”

Seeking time and space to consider new possibilities, Emily left Tennessee to teach English in South Korea and travel throughout Asia. Discovering meaningful and enduring new friendships along the way, she ultimately felt drawn to follow a new professional direction in the non-profit world.

Her move to Austin set her on the path that eventually led to her current position as a Customer Relations Specialist with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas.

Serving as the initial point of contact for the families and volunteers reaching out to BBBS, Emily gets the ball rolling logistically when people want to become involved with the agency. By keeping these first steps moving smoothly, she plays an essential role in supporting BBBS’ mission to help all kids succeed in life.

“I find a lot of satisfaction in knowing that I’m starting the process that ultimately leads to good outcomes,” she says.

Families and potential volunteers rely on her to learn the essentials about BBBS and to decide if the agency’s programs fit their needs. If so, Emily guides them through the necessary application and screening processes, finally bringing together clients and Enrollment Specialists in-person for intake interviews.

In her customer relations role, she generally sees just the beginning of a match relationship. After helping families and volunteers move on to the interview process, her first-hand contact with them lessens. Even so, she remains enthusiastically engaged in BBBS’ progress, proudly watching the numbers on the waitlist decrease and knowing that she’s played an essential role in helping Bigs and Littles find each other.

“That’s my favorite part of the job– connecting people,” says Emily.

At other times, however, her work is more challenging. Families approaching BBBS for the first time are often facing difficult circumstances and strong emotions. “They come to us for help in all kinds of situations,” she says.

As a result, at times she finds herself offering not only information, but also an empathetic ear.

Balancing work with a variety of outside interests, Emily makes time to travel, upcycle furniture, listen to live music around town, and spend downtime with her husband and their Rottweiler. Currently, however, her favorite way to relax is to float in a sensory deprivation tank.

“I wish I had one in my home!” she says.

She and her husband also pursue a shared interest in indoor and outdoor aquaponics, enjoying a bountiful harvest of kale, spaghetti squash, lettuce, tomatoes and peppers!

Relaxing and recharging helps Emily maintain her energy and enthusiasm for her vital role as BBBS’ first point of contact with families and volunteers. Creating a positive first impression, instilling confidence and extending empathy, Emily is undeniably helping to set the course for life-changing relationships.

Promising Futures: New Opportunities

As the school year comes to a close for most students, many high school seniors are making plans for the next chapter in their educational journeys.  Whether attending trade school or college, securing scholarships and resources to achieve their goals is key for most students. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas’ Promising Futures Scholarship Program is an important resource for Littles who want to further their educations.

BBBS’ scholarship program was founded in 1986 when the agency received a donation from an anonymous Central Texas donor to establish a program to encourage Littles to complete high school and pursue post-secondary education. The program was the first of its kind throughout the nearly 350 BBBS chapters.

Jacelyn Calderon, a health care student at Texas A&M University, is a recent scholarship recipient. “BBBS opened a window for me to continue my education,” said Jacelyn. “I appreciate that so much. The scholarship the agency provided helped me get the books I needed and enabled me to be successful in my classes.”

Jacelyn is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in health. After that, she plans to apply to nursing school to get her nursing degree. “Ten years down the road I plan to be working in my field and I hope to own a home,” said Jacelyn. “That would give me a sense of stability.”

Scholarships can fuel such life-changing goals. Since 1986, Big Brothers Big Sisters has promised nearly $5 million in college scholarships to 2,500 Little Brothers and Sisters in Central Texas.

This year, the agency has established two new scholarship opportunities for BBBS Littles: one that is being offered through a partnership with the Cagle Law Firm, and another that is being offered in association with the College of Health Care Professions (CHCP).

“We love presenting our kids with scholarship opportunities,” said Joe Strychalski, Vice President of Programs at BBBS. “Anything we can do to encourage our young people to pursue higher education, and to make it more accessible to them, is a good use of our time, energy, and resources.  We’ve made scholarships that range from $500 to $5,000 available to our youth, and we love helping them apply and seeing them awarded!”

The Cagle Law Firm of Austin reached out to BBBS to initiate a new scholarship opportunity last year. As a business dedicated to helping others, the firm was drawn to the lasting impact BBBS has on the lives of young people. Mr. Cagle, in particular, thinks very highly of BBBS, so when the company elected to offer a scholarship, partnering with BBBS was a natural fit. In 2018 the firm will grant two scholarships worth $1,000 each to two students who are part of the BBBS program. Each check will be made payable to the recipients’ schools to help cover tuition costs and related expenses.

Another new BBBS scholarship opportunity is being offered by the College of Health Care Professions in Austin. It is a matching scholarship for students interested in studying one of CHCP’s many clinical and administrative health care programs. BBBS Littles are eligible to receive up to $4,000 in scholarship funds through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas’ existing scholarship program. To support the agency’s mission, CHCP Austin will match this BBBS scholarship, in the amount of $2,000, which combined with the BBBS scholarship, could significantly decrease the cost to BBBS Littles attending CHCP.

“CHCP believes in helping students change their trajectories in life,” said Sara Rambikur, CHCP Austin Campus President. “There are many BBBS Littles who might benefit from a smaller college setting that has additional support services and career guidance in focused areas of study. We hope this scholarship eases the financial burden on BBBS students and helps them pursue careers in health care.”

“Big Brothers Big Sisters exists to help kids succeed in life,” said Brent Fields, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas, “and we’re always looking to establish connections within the community that facilitate that goal. Partnering with The College of Health Care Professions opens a door for BBBS kids to enter the health care field that we haven’t had before. We are also grateful for our new relationship with the Cagle Law Firm. We appreciate their generosity in supporting the academic aspirations of our students.”

BBBS has established scholarship matching opportunities with a number of institutions of higher education in Texas as well, thereby helping Littles’ BBBS scholarship dollars go twice as far. For a complete list of matching opportunities and application details, visit www.BigMentoring.org or call 512-807-3642.

BBBS’ scholarship program provides significant support for Littles who are entering their college years and taking steps toward academic and career success. We are proud to partner with our Littles, Bigs, families, community partners, businesses, and academic institutions to help BBBS Littles develop their talents and pursue their dreams in the world.

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