Stettler resident Deacon Barclay, 12, who is part of the local Big Brother Big Sisters organization, has landed the special honour of being named a United Way Ambassador.
“Client Ambassadors help make the connection between our donors and the agencies we fund,” said Brett Speight, United Way Central Alberta CEO. “Having a Client Ambassador like Deacon to represent Big Brothers Big Sisters Stettler lets donors know how their contributions make a real impact in the community.
“Ambassadors share personal stories about how United Way funding has made a difference in their lives, and Deacon’s story is truly inspiring – he wants to ‘pay it forward’ by being a Big Brother when he is older.”
For Deacon, who is in Grade 8 at William E. Hay Stettler Secondary Campus, Big Brothers Big Sisters is certainly a program worth spreading the news about.
He’s already planning on mentoring a youngster by the name of Malcolm in a few years, and is excited to share with him what he himself has experienced through the tremendous organization.
“It’s a lot to take in,” he explained of being named a United Way ambassador. “I am really excited. It also helps to get the word out more,” he said, adding that with a young person directly involved in the program speaking up, it’s more likely that folks will take note of the continuing need for mentors.
After being on the wait list for five years, Deacon was paired earlier this year with Ralph Kamlah – and it’s proven to be a perfect partnership. Kamlah said he’d been considering signing onto the program for some time, and with his own kids being grown, he knew he wanted to contribute through this type of organization as well.
Although the expectation is to get together for about two hours a week, Kamlah noted that he and Deacon have enough in common that the time they spend together weekly could easily run longer.
“It’s not nearly as time-consuming as people might think it would be,” he said, noting the guys have done everything from going fishing to heading out on their bikes to taking it easy with a few board games. The key thing is the building of a relationship. “Finding things to do with him is pretty easy.”
Deacon agreed that it’s been terrific getting to know Kamlah. “He’s someone to talk to, and someone to hang out with that isn’t my age,” he explained.
Christel Shuckburgh, mentoring coordinator for Stettler’s BBBS, noted that the United Way asks the programs that they fund if they have someone who would be a good ambassador.
Deacon was unquestionably the right choice.
“Deacon has spoken at a tonne of events for us, so we put his name forward,” she said. “And one of the reasons he’s a good ambassador is that he is always speaking up for the need for male mentors.”
Shuckburgh pointed out that, in general, there is flexibility for folks looking to get involved as a mentor.
For example, people can sign up to be an in-school mentor for one hour a week.
“Anybody from the age of Grade nine up can do that,” she said. “You can go read with a kindergartner, or play a board game with a teenager. It’s a short period of time, but it certainly makes an impact.
“The community-based program is two to four hours per week. We have one mentor who is 79 years old, and he meets with a teenager who is 15. They meet usually on a Saturday for up to five hours because they work on a car together,” she said, pointing to another success story. “Anyone 18 and up and be a Big Brother or Big Sister.”
Currently, as mentioned, there is more of a need for Big Brothers to come onboard.
“It’s about imparting what you know to a kid. We are very flexible – and we also have a ‘couples match’ where a couple can mentor a child together.
“We’ve had a retired teacher who was 72 who came in here and mentored a boy at the youth centre. We also have teenagers who mentor the younger kids in the in-school mentoring program, too.”
For Shuckburgh, seeing successful matches take place offers a constant source of fulfillment.
“For me, seeing that take place is my reward for my job.”
In the meantime, Big Brothers Big Sisters has launched a new look complete with a new logo. A fundraising barbecue hosted by both Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Stettler-based Association of Communities Against Abuse on behalf of the United Way is also set for Sept. 27th in the No Frills parking lot from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Since 1913, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been matching children and youth with role models.
“In Stettler, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been operating since 1985. Last year, we worked with 25 young people to ignite their potential.”