Having a Big Brother has made a big difference in 13-year-old Tyler Royalty’s life.
The impact can be seen in the Seymour teen’s grades and at home in his attitude and behavior.
But the most noticeable effect is the ear-to-ear grin and excitement in his voice when he’s around Scott Sage.
“I just like spending time with him. We have a lot of fun, and he always makes me laugh,” Royalty said. “We play basketball and go to the movies and other places together.”
The feeling is mutual, Sage of Crothersville said.
“He brings a lot of joy to my life, too,” Sage added.
The pair were matched last March through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Indiana’s 1 to 1 community mentoring program.
“I’m a single guy with no kids of my own, so this is a good way for me to have a connection with youth and be a positive role model,” Sage said.
He has been involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters as a mentor since 1999 and is on his third match.
“It’s been fantastic,” Sage said of his time with the program. “I learn as much from them as they do from me.”
Sage had known Tyler previously from the church they both attend in Crothersville.
“He told me he had been on the waiting list for a Big Brother, so I went and talked to them about it,” Sage said. “It worked out for everyone.”
On Sunday, the two joined other matches along with local supporters of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program for an afternoon of bowling at Kingpins Bowl in Seymour.
The annual Bowl For Kids’ Sake event is the organization’s major fundraiser of the year. Money is raised through business sponsorships, team collections and a silent auction.
This year, 37 teams signed up to participate. Those teams, which typically consisted of four members each, raised roughly $16,300. Sponsorships brought in another $14,000 for a total of $30,300.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Indiana serves Jackson, Jennings and Scott counties, but the money raised at the Seymour event goes to support Jackson County only. The other two counties will conduct similar events at later dates.
“It funds all of our programming, match support, group activities and background checks for all of our volunteers in Jackson County,” said Kate Eder, executive director of BBBS.
The amount raised Sunday is shy of the $38,000 overall goal, but some donations continue to trickle in.
“Although coming up short of our goal is disappointing, we are still pleased with the overall results and support from the community,” Eder said. “As a nonprofit, we are equipped to adjust to the ebb and flow of funding from multiple sources.”
One of those sources is Jackson County United Way, which surpassed its fundraising goal this year for the first time in many years.
Eder said the agency will place greater emphasis on marketing to explore strategies to increase its general donations and giving throughout the year and seek out additional funding sources to make up the loss in revenue.
“We will continue to carefully assess and monitor spending to ensure quality programming and services,” she said.
The benefit of BBBS goes far beyond providing a positive experience for youth. It has proven to make lasting changes in the community, she added.
“When we talk about these matches, we’re talking about relationships that last sometimes years after the child has grown up and left the program,” she said.
Besides the 1 to 1 community-based matches, there are two other opportunities for mentoring through the Lunch Buddies program and the High School Bigs program.
Lunch Buddies allows adults to spend lunch with their match once a week, and the high school program pairs high school students with elementary school children during the school day.
Jackson Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Lizz Patterson said she has witnessed the positive impact of Big Brothers Big Sisters in her classroom. She has a student this year who participates in the Lunch Buddies program.
“He looks forward to it so much,” Patterson said of her student. “It’s good for students to have something constant in their lives and someone to look up to.”
Patterson and her fellow teachers and staff at the school formed two teams to bowl Sunday. They raised nearly $4,000 through fundraisers at the school, including an incentive to wear jeans on Fridays.
Another team taking part in Bowl for Kids’ Sake was employees from Centra Credit Union.
Marcia Banister and Meghan Taskey from the Seymour branch, Sarah Coomer from the Columbus headquarters and former employee Miranda Berry raised nearly $300 to support Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mission.
“We’ve had a team for probably five years now,” Coomer said. “It’s something we started to help out in the communities we serve.”
Taskey said she likes to be a part of a good cause, and Big Brothers Big Sisters is just that.
“There are a lot of kids that need this kind of support,” she said.
Banister said she likes being able to support the program and spend time with her co-workers outside of the bank.
“It’s a fun afternoon away from work,” she said of Bowl for Kids’ Sake.
With her own children now grown, Banister said she would like to become a Big Sister mentor someday.
“I think it’s something I would really enjoy doing,” she said.
Also bowling on Sunday were 15-year-old Katie Campfield and her Big Sister, Jennifer Burgan, both of Seymour.
They have been matched through BBBS for more than two years through the 1 to 1 program. Campfield said the relationship has made a profound impact on her life.
“She has helped by listening to what I had to say, and she talked me through tough situations,” Campfield said of Burgan. “She also has helped with homework when I didn’t understand it. She has been a big part of my life, and she feels like a real big sister.”
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To donate to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Indiana, mail checks to 105 E. Second St., Seymour, IN 47274.
To find out more about volunteering with the organization or signing a student up for mentoring services, call 812-522-9699 or email [email protected]