Bowling for the kids: Organization raises money for mentoring program


It’s a program that requires a little bit of time but has the potential to make a huge impact in the life of a child.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Indiana pairs mentors and youth each year with hopes to create a lasting positive relationship.

The organizations seeks volunteers to serve as mentors in Jackson, Jennings and Scott counties.

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On Sunday, some of those matches and members of the community spared some time — and a few dollars — to raise money through the organization’s annual Bowl for Kids’ Sake at Columbus Bowling Center.

Local businesses and organizations formed bowling teams and sought donations to help give the organization a boost.

The event also included a silent auction and a raffle.

In recent years, the event has struggled to raise what it used to after a move to Columbus following the closure of Kingpins Bowl in Seymour. The move has impacted funding from the event dramatically, Executive Director Kate Eder said.

She said the event used to raise about $30,000 or more, but in 2018, it brought in less than $15,000.

On Sunday, she said she hoped the organization would raise more than $15,000. She was hopeful as participation increased with 100 bowlers.

“It all impacts the number of kids we can serve because it goes into the costs associated with the whole process,” she said.

That includes background checks on mentors, time for interviews, match support, resources and more.

They match about 50 active in Jackson County. That number rises to about 100 at different times of the year.

The organization is considering other fundraisers to make up for the shortfall, including a circular marathon in April.

All of the funding goes to support the organization’s mission of creating a positive influence for children in the community.

“The great part of our program is it really creates positive impact on a wide variety of issues for our kids,” Eder said. “Some have struggles, and having a mentor can help with their self confidence, their academics, keeps them out of trouble and it’s really a holistic approach.”

Carsen Gabbard, 10, has been matched with Jeff Peters, 55, for two and a half years.

Carsen said he enjoys going to Peters’ house each week. The two go to the park, play games, work on puzzles, watch movies and do homework.

“He’s a lot of fun, is funny and entertaining,” he said. “He makes me feel happy.”

Peters said he also enjoys the match. He and his wife, Traci, prepare dinner for him each week, talk and help with homework.

“He talks and tells us what’s going, and it’s not just 10 minutes of eating but a half-hour of conversation,” he said. “We are planning a trip to the zoo this spring, but it’s the week in, week out things and quality time that are the most important.”

Peters said he likes to encourage Carsen to do his best in school and has seen his grades improve.

“That’s something I’m really proud of him for doing,” he said.

Peters, who lived in Kentucky prior to moving to Seymour, participated in Big Brothers Big Sisters when he was there.

Traci also participated when they were in Kentucky, so the couple have been part of it for about 10 years. She is matched here, too.

“We enjoyed raising our three kids and felt like when they were grown that we’d want to help mentor other kids,” he said. “You can make a difference in a child’s life.”

The matches oftentimes are for life, Peters said.

A boy he was matched with in Kentucky has grown into an adult and has gotten married. Last year, he and his wife had a baby and invited Jeff and Traci to meet the newborn.

“That’s nice to feel that they think of you as an important part of their life where they want to let you know about these things,” he said.

Another match has joined the U.S. Air Force, and Peters is retired from the military. He recalled a time when he had taken the boy to see aircraft before Thunder Over Louisville.

The experience likely had a significant impact on the boy.

“When I called him at his base, he told me he was working on airplanes, and that experience was really something for him,” he said.

Carsen’s mother, Kathy, said she is thankful for the time Peters spends with him.

“That’s another role model and another person who he can go to for support, mentoring, fun and even homework,” she said.

Kathy said her other children, Garrett and Kristyn, also have been matched. Garrett was matched for 10 years, and Kristyn, 16, has been with her match since she was 8.

“We’ve had three awesome matches, and it has been a great experience for our entire family,” she said.

Garrett and his match still see each other for breakfast when time allows. He is engaged to be married later this year, and he asked his match to be his best man, Kathy said.

“That’s an amazing relationship that started here,” she said.

Kristyn said her relationship with her match has evolved through the years.

“We used to do a lot of games and crafts, but now, we really like to shop and go out to eat,” she said. “I really enjoy knowing I have someone else to go to to talk with.”

Eder said those relationships are what makes it such a vital program for the communities they serve. She said countless volunteers have told her that they get just as much out of the experience as the kids.

“I think it’s the feeling that you have a purpose, you’re making a difference and you really are contributing to making your community better in such an easy way,” she said.

Time spent together for a small amount of time has the potential to make a large impact, Eder said.

“This is lifelong change and not just for a day,” she said.

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How to become a mentor

Call Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Indiana at 812-522-9699.


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