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Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County always looking for male mentors

15 children on local organization's waiting list, 12 of them boys

Published: Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015 12:17 a.m. CDT

Peter Collins describes himself as just a “really tall friend with a driver’s license” to 13-year-old LeeAndre Williams.

Collins has spent more than four years as LeeAndre’s mentor, a big to his little in Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County, taking him to lunch or to the movies, playing ball with him, going to his football and soccer games and even serving as the assistant coach for his soccer team.

“It’s a very rewarding experience,” Collins said. “To see the positive impact that you have on someone else’s life is satisfaction enough, but then on top of that, to get to try some of the things that I probably wouldn’t have been able to do, that Big Brother sets up for us, that’s really neat, too.”

But not enough men such as Collins sign up to meet the demand, Executive Director Abby Fredrick said.

The group currently has a waiting list of 15 kids, 12 of them boys, from all over McHenry County in Cary, Crystal Lake, Harvard, McHenry, Johnsburg, Woodstock, Carpentersville, Huntley and Lake in the Hills, volunteer enrollment specialist Dana Briscoe said.

Typically more than 70 percent of children on the organization’s waiting lists are boys, but only 30 percent of inquiries from people looking to volunteer are from men, according to the group’s website.

“We always have boys waiting,” Briscoe said.

Fredrick doesn’t know why it’s so tough to get men to sign up because “once we do get them and we get them on board, they wondered why they waited so long,” she said.

The organization has 342 active matches at both its site-based and community-based programs and hopes to reach 500 matches for the year, Briscoe said.

Collins, who volunteered a lot through the Crystal Lake Lions Club, hadn’t thought of joining before he read a newspaper article his wife gave him, he said, adding he thinks men just tend to not even think of mentoring and when they do, they think they don’t have enough time.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County asks that bigs spend at least eight hours a month with their littles, or get together two to four times a month, Briscoe said.

“I thought it’d kind of be weird at first,” LeeAndre said. “But then after like a couple years with him, it’s been really fun. Peter’s just cool to be around and open. It’s just cool to hang out with him.”

LeeAndre’s mother, Tanya Harrington, had signed him up after she split up with his father and LeeAndre started getting in a bit of trouble, she said. She wanted him to have a consistent positive influence in his life.

“He’s done things that I don’t think he would have done on his own like the volunteer work that they’ve done,” she said. “Being a single parent, there’s just no time to really be involved in stuff like that.”

LeeAndre now has a father figure in his life, but most of the boys in Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County are raised by one parent, usually the mother, Match Support Specialist Angie Haurum said. 

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Northwest Herald. All rights reserved.

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