Big Brothers Big Sisters at Bowlerama
Barrie policeman Blair King hoists the fundraising trophy awarded to the police for its fundraising efforts for the Big Brothers Big Sisters Bowl for Kids Sake for the past two years. PHOTO: CHERYL BROWNE/BARRIE EXAMINER
Stewart Duncan admits he was adamant when he was initially approached to be a Big Brother.
“I said ‘no, I don’t join organizations’,” Duncan said with a laugh. “So he said, ‘So you don’t want to help a boy?’ and it was like a light went off for me.”
Now retired, Duncan said he had a daughter and son of a similar age when he was matched with eight-year-old Blair King through the Big Brothers Association of Barrie and District (now called Big Brothers Big Sisters of Barrie and District or BBBS).
“He was a shy little guy, but he soon became a part of my family. He’d come for sleepovers and we had a boat at the time, so we went up the Trent waterway,” he said.
“When I think about it, I was also a little selfish. We had a good life and I think I thought there might be some lessons for my son to learn, that other people don’t have it so good,” Duncan said.
“Now, almost 40 years later, I’m thrilled with the way Blair turned out. And if I played a small part in that, I’m thrilled with myself, too,” he added.
As a member of the Barrie police tactical unit, King said the Duncan family had a great impact on him while he was growing up.
“I didn’t have a male role model in my life and he showed me how a father acts around his kids,” Blair said, and echoing what Duncan said, he added, “I was basically included as a member of the family.”
When King grew up, he became a Big Brother with BBBS and now sits on the board of directors.
Not only will King bowl during this week’s Bowl for Kids Sake at Bowlerama in the Bayfield Mall, he’s also one of the officers who helped the precinct win the largest fundraiser trophy for the past two years.
Last year, the Barrie police raised $2,123, the Simcoe County Paramedics brought in $475 and Barrie Fire and Emergency Service collected $1,500 in pledges for Big Brothers Big Sisters.
The next 13 days of bowling between emergency services, realtors, the insurance and construction industry is the organization’s biggest fundraiser, said BBBS’s executive director Marianne Arbour.
“It’s become a great networking opportunity in the community,” said Arbour.
The goal is to raise $100,000 to support the 2,500 children already associated with the program, as well as offer some services to the 60 children waiting for a big sister or brother of their own.
The Big Brothers Big Sisters offers six programs in the community, with everything from one-on-one mentoring for three hours each week, to in-school mentoring for one hour each week.
There’s also Go Girls and Game On programs hosted by 16 public schools over a seven-week period each year.
“Our main goal is to recruit many volunteers, so we can do things with kids on the waiting list,” Arbour said.
With about 250 volunteers on their roster now, she said they’re always on the lookout for more.
“You have to be a caring adult and commit a little time every week. It really does make a difference to the little brothers and sisters and it makes a difference in the mentors’ lives, too,” she said.
Barrie firefighter Chris Ivany said he really appreciated the experience of being a Big Brother.
“I was matched for two years to a wonderful kid. We did everything, we played outdoor hockey, we’d go bowling or play mini-golf,” Ivany said. “It was very rewarding on both ends. You help a little guy or girl just experience what they’re missing in their lives.
“We’ve made a lifelong friendship,” Ivany said of his former little brother, who is now attending university. “He’s doing great. It was the right time in both of our lives when we got together and it meant a lot to me.”
For more information on BBBS Bowl for Kids Sake, visit http://bit.ly/2cV4oMt.