Four years ago, “Rusty was really down and out.” Explained Rusty’s mom, Nicole. He lost his dad and then he lost his Pop-Pop. During this difficult time, Rusty stayed in his room and played video games. Nicole knew Rusty needed to connect with someone to help him through this tough time. That is when she learned about Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS), a United Way agency partner, and when Rusty was matched with his Big Brother, Dudley.
Fast forward, Rusty is 16. Dudley and Rusty have a memory book of photos capturing all of their shared adventures – hiking, rafting, overnight camping. In addition to adventures, Dudley shared spending time together was what was most important. “We have dinner, talk, and do homework.”
They also share an appreciation for Scouting. They attend meetings and participate in Scouting activities. Some of Rusty’s favorite memories include a winter camping trip, walking 20 miles of the Appalachian Trail and playing frisbee golf. Rusty shared, “I’m really glad Dudley came into my life.”
While the match between big and little is incredibly important, the support and trust of the parent is critical. Rusty’s mom is grateful for BBBS and Dudley. “Dudley has really come through, and he has been a big influence and role model for Rusty.”
United Way supports BBBS’s community and school based programs, including one-to-one matches, like Dudley and Rusty, as well as the COUL program, or Club of Unmatched Littles. COUL provides free activities each month.
SMART – Students & Mentors Achieving Results Together – is offered at six school districts. One hundred students are enrolled and participate in weekly one-hour activities focused on education and homework support. Sixty students also participated in a BBBS’s summer camp.
BBBS provided quality-driven mentoring services to 200 children facing adversity in 2021. Jim Smith shared, “Without United Way, that number would be cut in half, or more. That’s 100 kids who would not have someone standing beside them encouraging their potential. I don’t want to say NO to those kids. Thanks to United Way, I can say YES.”