Male Mentors Serve Big Role

Big Brothers Big Sisters Recruiting 100 Men in 100 Days

by Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director – United Way of Charlotte County

Reflecting on the May 24 shooting at a Uvalde, Texas elementary school, 9-year-old Gabriel asked his Big Brother, “Why did that happen?”

Big Brother Ed was unsure how to respond. “I didn’t have an answer. And that’s ok,” he said. While Ed doesn’t see himself as a replacement for Gabriel’s father, he knows that he serves as a male role model when he meets with him every week at Liberty Elementary. In that moment Ed knew that it was ok to simply respond, “I don’t know, but I’m here for you.”

Ed first met his Little Brother last fall and spends an hour with him each week. “We read. We do math. We just do stuff.” Over time, Ed and Gabriel have formed a relationship that allows for open conversations like the one about the school shooting, but also about lighter topics.

Regardless of the topic of conversation, Ed strives to set an example for Gabriel, who is being raised by a single mother, with no father in the picture. “I am not trying to step in as a dad,” Ed explained. “My role is to be a role model, a male role model in his life.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast are actively seeking more male role models like Ed to spend quality time with Littles like Gabriel. This week they are wrapping up their 100 Men in 100 Days recruitment campaign. Currently there are 91 Little Brothers on the waiting list in Charlotte County hoping to get paired with a Big Brother soon.

Volunteers can choose from a school-based visit once a week like Ed does, or the community-based program where Bigs and Littles spend time together outside school hours. Big Brothers Big Sisters makes the community-based program easy by providing free activities, free tickets to events and suggestions for fun outings that don’t cost a dime.

On Father’s Day, we reflect on the value of not only the fathers in our lives but also the male role models who stepped up to help our young men grow. Ed said, “I think it’s important to step up.” Ed added that a positive male role model sets the example but doesn’t have to be perfect. His top tips for being a great father or father figure are:

  • Know that you are going to make mistakes, just make sure they aren’t big ones.
  • Be physically present and emotionally present.
  • Set a good example.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is aiming to reach their goal of 100 new Big Brothers by June 23. Volunteers are not expected to have all the answers, just a willingness to spend quality time with a young man like Gabriel who could benefit from a male role model. If you have ever thought about becoming a Big Brother, please call 855-501-BIGS (2447) and be a man who inspires potential in a child’s life.

For more information about United Way of Charlotte County’s mission:  Mobilizing the power of our community to break the cycle of poverty, please contact Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director. She can be reached at