CRYSTAL LAKE – A wavy brown ponytail draping down the back of her long-sleeved purple T-shirt, the 12-year-old lined up, stepped forward and sent a red ball lumbering down the lane.
It was a sixth-frame gutter ball, but the day was far from a miss. Jada was having fun hanging out with her “big sister,” Peggie Wells of Huntley. Sharing time with Wells is something Jada has done most Sundays since she was 7.
Jada’s last name is withheld at the request of Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County.
Along with Kelly Wessel of Crystal Lake, Wells and Jada participated on the Althoff Strikers team during Big Brothers Big Sisters Bowl for Kids’ Sake kickoff Sunday at Crystal Bowl in Crystal Lake. Matches like that of Wells and Jada are what the nonprofit organization is all about.
Jada recalled her first meeting with Wells.
“We went to Burger King,” she said. “I brought my favorite doll, Tracy, with. I brought her with until she told me that she trusted Peggie.”
Jada said she now looks forward to her get-togethers with Wells – and she hasn’t brought Tracy along since about the second month of the match.
“We bake, watch movies, swim,” said Jada, who lives with her mom and little brother in Woodstock.
“We always try to do fun things,” Wells said. “We really like when [Big Brothers Big Sisters] has events.”
Jada, a seventh-grader, said she is in the Challenge Corps at her school.
“I’m also in high math and high literature,” she said, as Wells beamed.
Big Brothers Big Sisters matches children ages 6 through 18 with screened volunteer “bigs” of the same gender for one-on-one mentoring.
The program aims to help children most at risk of sliding into negative behaviors. Generally they are from single-parent households, often living in poverty and sometimes coping with parental incarceration, according to www.bbbs.org.
National research has shown that participating children are more confident in their school work, get along better with their families, are significantly less likely to begin using illegal drugs or skip school and also are far less likely to begin using alcohol.
Bowl for Kids’ Sake is the McHenry County agency’s biggest annual fundraising event, said Robyn Ostrem, executive director.
“Our goal is $100,000, and I think we are on pace,” she said.
Haylee Hall is director of fund development for Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County.
“The ability to give one-on-one role models, friendship, guidance, and to help steer children on a positive path, it can be really life-changing,” Hall said. “This particular event is so amazing because it allows everyone to participate.”
It’s not too late to become involved. Ostrem said events are going on through March 10. Information and registration is available at www.bbbsmchenry.org/bowl.
“All of the money goes to help us change the lives of McHenry County kids for the better forever,” Ostrem said, adding that the agency served 540 children in 2012.
To learn more, or to get involved, visit www.bbbsmchenry.org/bowl.