BENNINGTON -- No matter their form, bowlers big and small contributed to raising an estimated $45,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bennington County at the 26th annual Bowl for Kids' Sake.
Saturday's event at Bennington Lanes, the main fundraiser for the mentoring program sponsored by United Counseling Service of Bennington County, brought out more participants than ever: about 720 bowlers through seven waves over the course of the day, after raising funds in the weeks and months before one donation at a time. UCS spokesman Robert Pini said while the economy is turning around nationally, the story is not quite the same in the local area -- giving the support for mentoring added significance.
"Honestly, it's very gratifying because I know a lot of people have needs for their resources," he said, "and they're choosing to donate their money toward this program."
The Big Brothers Big Sisters program pairs children ages 5 to 14 who need and want a mentor with adults interested in filling that role.
Children often come from single-parent homes, and while successful matches are rewarding experiences on both ends, national research indicates the program has a direct and measurable impact on children's academic performance and self-esteem.
This year, UCS recognized three local mentors for fostering long-lasting relationships with the children they mentor. At an event Friday evening, "Bigs of the Year" Suzanne Caraman and Margaret Bushee were saluted for their participation since 2009 and 2010, respectively.
Whitney Olin, a student at Southern Vermont College, was similarly recognized for her time spent volunteering over the past four years with the after-school program at Bennington Elementary School. Pini said UCS worked with SVC and also Bennington College to seek out new mentors, and college students made up a good portion of "bigs," but "we could surely use more."
As added value in addition to the funds raised, Pini said the annual fundraiser also raised awareness and new volunteers for Big Brothers Big Sisters. "We talk to people who share the ideal of mentoring," he said, and participants Saturday heard various success stories from youth who previously participated in the program: reinforcing the benefits of mentoring.
The number of interested youth routinely outstrip the number of adults seeking to participate in the local area. If interested in either role, more information can be found online at www.ucsvt.org/bbbs.php, or by calling one of two coordinators in Bennington County: Darlene Lockwood in the Southshire at 802- 442-5491, ext. 287, or Susan Cottrell in the Northshire at 802-362-3950.
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