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Bags for Kids benefits Big Brothers Big Sisters

Big Brothers Big Sisters leadership board celebrates anniversary with fundraiser

A community group created to help Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County is celebrating its first anniversary by holding a blow-out fundraiser for the charity it loves.

It was a year ago next Wednesday that community leaders banded together to form a Community Leadership Board to advance Big Brothers Big Sisters' cause by raising awareness, and raising funds.

It's been rewarding for leadership board member Lauren Young, who founded Crystal Lake business marketing firm Freshly Baked Communications. She is one of eight members on the board.

"It's been awesome, honestly. McHenry County is so supportive of a lot of non-profit organizations – they're really involved," Young said. "The community is extremely strong."

The group holds two signature fundraising events each year. This Saturday, they hope that bags enthusiasts countywide head to Buffalo Wild Wings in Crystal Lake to participate in its inaugural Bags for Kids Tournament.

"We want to have an event to welcome spring, get everyone out and show them what Big Brothers Big Sisters is all about," Young said.

Big Brothers Big Sisters Executive Director Robyn Ostrem said she and the board of directors are happy with what the new group has accomplished in its first year. McHenry-based Big Brothers Big Sisters served 540 at-risk youth last year by pairing them with mentors.

Ostrem recruited Young after reading about her in a February 2012 business profile in the Northwest Herald. The board of directors felt that a leadership board would help get more people involved, especially younger professionals who may want to help but do not have time to be a big brother or sister.

"They've helped us network and reach out to a lot of like-minded individuals in that younger age bracket," Ostrem said.

The leadership board's two fundraising events – the other being the August charity car show at Volo Auto Museum – augment Big Brothers Big Sisters' four annual events. Fundraising makes up about half of the charity's budget, with the rest split somewhat evenly among the United Way, grants and individual contributions.

But awareness is as important a mission as fundraising for the leadership board, Ostrem and Young said – they paraphrase the leadership board's mission as "networking with a purpose."

"We're all about helping youth succeed and lead happy lives, and having some fun in the process," Young said.

* * *

If you go:

What: The Bags for Kids Tournament is being held to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County.

Where and when: Registration for the two-person teams starts at 10 a.m. Saturday at Buffalo Wild Wings, 5755 Route 14, Crystal Lake. The tournament starts at 11:15.

How much: Enrolling in the tournament costs $50. People who just want to participate in the long toss competition can buy four bag throws for $5. Tournament participants must be 21 or older. Donations are welcome if people cannot attend or don't want to participate in competitions.

Prizes: Besides raffle prizes, the tournament pays $250 for first prize, $100 for second prize and $50 for third prize. The winner of the long toss competition will win $100.

Information: To learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County or to volunteer or donate, visit www.bbbsmchenry.org or call 815-385-3855.

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