Jeffs Bowl for a Cause with Big Brothers Big Sisters

Lindsay Ewing ’15, CCE Athletics Liaison

On March 2 and 3, members of the Amherst College community bowled for a cause during the 18th annual Big Brothers Big Sisters Bowl for Kids’ Sake Bowl-a-Thon at Spare Time Lanes in Northampton, MA. Bowl for Kid’s Sake is Big Brothers Big Sisters’ biggest annual fundraiser, and raised more than $62,000 this year. Amherst students, coaches, and student-athletes represented the school with pride as they rallied to support one of the CCE’s most impactful community partnerships.

Amherst College and Big Brothers Big Sisters

Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) is a national organization that works to pair mentors “of all walks of life”—or “bigs”—with at-risk children ages six to eighteen—or “littles.” The program aims to provide children with positive role models through consistent weekly interactions at BBBS sponsored events, community events, and activities planned by bigs.

“We’ve had Amherst College students with us for years in the community match program,” explains Ruth Harms, the Case Management Supervisor for BBBS of Hampshire County. “In 2005, we also started the Kids to Campus program, where children go to Amherst College each week to meet with their big. Both are very successful.”

Amherst College Big Brothers Big Sisters Community Engagement Leader (CEL) and four-year big Gina Ringelberg ’13 speaks to the virtues of the BBBS program. “I forged a deep connection with my little her and her family,” she says. “No other program has consistent and meaningful contact with the same child…[My little] helped me to grow as a person just as much as my mentoring benefited her.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters’ data shows that the big-little friendships help to foster better academic performance, stronger familial relationships, stronger friendships, and smaller chances that littles will become involved with drugs and alcohol. Yet the success is not free. According to Harms, each relationship costs around $2,000 annually to maintain. “The bowl-a-thon, two craft fairs, and our daffodil run are the three main fundraisers,” explains Harms. “The rest is all donations.”

The Amherst BBBS CELs and bigs make it a priority to support the organization financially. The students always enthusiastically fundraise for and participate in the annual bowl-a-thon. While participants are required to raise at least $75 each, many students go above and beyond this baseline amount; in fact, the event’s top fundraiser this year, Amherst CEL and big David Brand ’14, raised over $900 for BBBS. “The total amount that Amherst College bigs and teams raised this year is actually very impressive,” says Harms. “$7,551.”

Amherst Athletics and the Bowl-a-thon

Jeffs from women’s tennis, women’s soccer, football, and men’s and women’s track and field donned festive disguises to participate in the event’s masquerade theme and bowl with the littles of their teammates. Children of all ages—including the many purple-clad twenty-something year old Amherst “kids”–bowled in masks and beads. Laughter and fun took priority.

“I may be one of the worst bowlers ever,” jokes Nia Harris ’14, a two-year big and member of the women’s track and field team. “I'm pretty sure all of the littles on my team beat my score, which was very funny.”

The athletic community’s support for the organization and event was astounding and exciting for the student-athlete bigs. “My team truly supported me,” says soccer player Maya Jackson-Gibson ’15. I didn't even have to contact them. A majority signed up to do it automatically.”

As a result of the event, numerous underclassmen student-athletes are excited to join the BBBS program as bigs. Both Jackson-Gibson and Harris are eager to see their teammates benefit—as they have—from involvement with the impactful organization.

“I think that the BBBS program is special because it allows college students to get more involved with the community and positively influence the lives of young kids,” explains Jackson-Gibson. “I have become a better person since I met [my little],” adds Harris.

Want to help raise funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters? Participate in the upcoming Daffodil Run 5K on Sunday, April 28, 2013 in Amherst Center! Participation is limited to 1,500 runners and walkers. The student registration fee is $16 before April 1 $20 after and $23 the day of the event.

If you are interested in becoming involved in Big Brother Big Sisters at Amherst, contact one of the BBBS partnership Community Engagement Leaders to find out more about info sessions: Gina Ringelberg ’13 (gringelberg13@amherst.edu) or Lindsay Gruskay’13 (lgruskay13@amherst.edu).

Lindsay Ewing ‘15 is one of four Athletics Liaisons for the Center for Community Engagement. Athletics Liaisons connect student-athletes and coaches to the resources of the Center for Community Engagement and work to create a sustainable culture of service within the Athletics Department.

If your team is looking for community engagement projects, contact Kate Beemer ‘15 at kbeemer15@amherst.edu, Caroline Broder ’15 at cbroder15@amherst.edu, or Nell Patterson ’15 at hpatterson15@amherst.edu.

If your team just completed a community engagement event, contact Lindsay Ewing ‘15 at lewing15@amherst.eduso that the campus becomes more aware of what your team is doing to get involved.

For more information, visit the Athletics Liaisons' webpage: https://www.amherst.edu/academiclife/cce/lead/athletes/Athletics_Liaisons