BENNINGTON -- Between noon and 4 p.m., teams of bowlers from different organizations pledged at least $200 each and bowled a couple rounds. Afterward, mentors, mentees and other program supporters had a pizza party and bowled.

"Little brother" Tristan Caroll beat everyone on his team in the first round of bowling by double the points, including his "big brother," Mickel Zuidhoek. Zuidhoek joined the program in October 2013, so never came to the annual "Bowl for Kid's Sake" before.

Zuidhoek said he admires the strong community support at the bowling event.

The funds that are raised during the event go into program operations and into some spending money for the mentor-mentee matches.

Zuidhoek said the program gives him some money to do some things, but he contributes a little of his own money to be able to do more.

A New Zealand native, Zuidhoek moved to Vermont in 2003 and works as a contractor.

He said since he's lived here for a while and has some more free time, the program would be perfect for him.

"I've never had a kid and kind of always wanted one," Zuidhoek said. "We go through an interview process; they matched Tristen with me, and I think it is a great match. I really look forward to spending time with him."

Eight-year-old Caroll currently lives with his grandparents in Manchester and goes to Manchester Elementary Middle School.


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He said Zuidhoek and him are best friends, "He really cares about me; he doesn't want me to get hurt."

Zuidhoek said he lets Caroll guide him with what he wants to do, "but as I've gotten to know him, I've shared more of my interests with him to get him interested in more things."

There are about 60 mentor-mentee matches in Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bennington, which has program members from across the region and is always seeking more mentors.

Mentees are recommended by area schools that work with Bennington County Head Start.

There are three programs within Big Brothers Big Sisters: a school lunch program in which the mentor eats lunch with a kid at school once a week; the most common community-based mentor program in which matches do activities outside of school; and finally a college-based mentor program.

"We always need men to help out," said Early Childhood Services Director Betsy Rathbun-Gunn. "Many young men need that male role model"

The Bennington program is celebrating 40 years, as Big Brothers Big Sisters has been established for over 100 years.