Goodness Report

Igniting Potential: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County & The Inland Empire

September 14, 2023

In this week’s edition of The Goodness Report, we’re highlighting Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County and the Inland Empire, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to mentoring and empowering local youth to realize their brightest future. Idea Hall partners with BBBS to provide strategic communications guidance and leadership. 

Change in Motion 

The Crisis of Humanity 

According to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County & The Inland Empire (BBBS), one-third of the nation’s youth are growing up without a positive role model in their lives. Additionally, 65% of the youth BBBS serves live below the poverty line, putting them at greater risk for poor academic achievement and other developmental delays. The youth are also 10 times more likely to drop out of high school than their high-income peers. 

In a world recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, people are struggling to develop in-person, lasting relationships in a highly technological world. Sloane Keane, CEO of BBBS of Orange County & The Inland Empire, dubs this experience “The Crisis of Humanity”. That is, how do we find, restore, and facilitate important organic human connection?  

With the rising cost of living in Southern California, it is much more challenging for young people to participate in community engagement. Pair that with a world emerging from a global pandemic, and you get a sharp decline in volunteerism, particularly in programs that have a higher call-to action than a single day of service.  

Sports Buddies

New this Fall, BBBS is launching an exciting new program called Sports Buddies. Utilizing the unique appeal of sports, the program aims to create a lower-commitment, stress-free opportunity to volunteer and get involved with BBBS, an alternative for volunteers who are not ready to dedicate their time to a longer-term one-on-one mentorship. 

“You show up and play for a few hours, then everyone goes home and you’ve had the chance to bond with a Little,” says Andrew Boyd, prior Big Brother and current member of the Big Recruitment Committee. “It’s organized with an instructor, taking all of the guesswork out for you. You don’t have to plan anything.” 

Sports Buddies is fully facilitated by BBBS as a low-cost, lower commitment series of seven weekend sessions of sports and activities, including activities like soccer, basketball, frisbee, kite flying, walking, flag football, hiking, rock climbing, softball, and more. It reaches an age group that is in desperate need of connection – middle school boys. BBBS begins matching youth at age seven and ends at age 17. Often, mentors want to connect with young people for the longest term of mentorship possible. On the other hand, mentors also love to connect with high school-aged students to help facilitate the important transition to college or trade school. This leaves a gap in the middle, in which middle school-aged students fill up the waitlist for mentorship. 

Sports Buddies also seeks to solve the ongoing mentor gender gap issue. Currently, women are three times more likely to volunteer as Bigs; as an effect, there are three times as many boys on the waitlist for a Big than there are girls. For safety reasons, BBBS requires same-sex matching for Big/Little pairs. With this discrepancy in supply and demand, BBBS has had to get creative in its recruiting tactics to bring in more male Bigs. While female Bigs are still desired, recruitment efforts have an urgent need to target male Bigs and volunteers. 

The Future of BBBS 

Boyd sees the Sports Buddies program as an opportunity to attain more potential future Bigs. In his experience, the mentor process is actually less intensive than many might think at first. 

“All you have to do is show up. You don’t have to be this ‘superhero’ person that you think you need to be. You don’t have to be rich. You don’t have to be the person with all the cool, fun, ‘Instagram-worthy’ ideas to go to stuff. You just have to show up,” says Andrew.  

With the Sports Buddies program, potential Bigs have the opportunity to “test the waters” of mentorship with a one-on-one weekend series. Ideally, many of these volunteers will gain interest in continuing mentorship in future series or as a full-fledged Big. 

The Sports Buddies program is opening the door for a diversified wave of volunteers. In the future, BBBS hopes to see the waitlist of male Littles shrink down to zero. This new program is a step in the right direction to encourage male volunteers, showing them that just “showing up” is sometimes all it takes to spark something amazing.  

By investing in local youth, BBBS ensures a brighter future, not only for the youth but also for the greater community. Mentored youth, particularly those in a structured, professionally-supported mentorship program like BBBS are significantly more likely to give to charitable causes and volunteer their time to community work. In other words, everybody wins!  

“We’re going to keep doubling down on what we do well: creating a bridge between potential and opportunity,” said Keane. “Every child was born with potential; it’s access and opportunity that are not distributed equally. We will continue to have a very client-centric approach to evolve with the world to make sure that every child has the opportunity to succeed on their path to the future.” 

You can support BBBS by becoming a traditional mentor, volunteering for Sports Buddies, making a donation, attending an event, or spreading the word about the program!  

Idea Hall is proud to support BBBS in creating support and resources for the youth of Orange County and the Inland Empire to unlock their full potential.  

Interested in how Idea Hall can help your organization make a difference in your community? Schedule a call today!