For nearly 40 years, a nonprofit group here in eastern Idaho has been pairing up at-risk children with adult mentors. In 1989, this group joined hundreds around the country when the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Idaho was formed in Idaho Falls.
Their mission is to provide children and youth from single-parent families an opportunity to become confident, competent, and caring individuals through stable relationships with adult role models. It’s a thorough process as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Idaho aims to pair each kid with their new grownup best friend.
“Most of the kids we work with live in single parent families,” said Judy DeRoche, Executive Director. “Most of them have very little, if any, contact with their fathers. Most live with moms; some of them live with their grandparents. We have two kids right now in the program who live with their grandparents and they have very little contact with their mom or dad.”
Even though the majority of parents who use this program are single mothers, Judy says there often is a gender gap.
“It’s interesting, a lot of times the mom’s that are raising boys know that their child needs an adult male role model and so we have always had more boys on our waiting list than girls,” said DeRoche. “We are always looking for girls.”
Big Brothers or Big Sisters are encouraged to have contact with their younger companions at least once a week. Periodically, larger events are hosted by the organization. Saturday, the City of Idaho Falls Parks and Rec. Department provided free admission to the ice skating rink.
For many of these little brothers and little sisters this is their first experience on the ice and that’s really what Big Brothers Big Sisters is all about, providing opportunities for those who might not have otherwise had the chance.
“Being a single parent is the toughest job in the world,” continued DeRoche. “In fact raising kids today is a tough job in a two-parent family. When you are doing it all alone and you don’t have those extra resources, you are basically almost doing the impossible.”
The southeastern Idaho chapter has seen its fair share of success stories. In fact just last week, a former little brother and recent college graduate returned to Idaho Falls to thank his Big Brother. It’s stories like this that have kept Judy motivated since becoming a chapter back in 1989.
“It’s a way to give back to the community,” said DeRoche. “It’s relatively easy to do. Whatever they do in their spare time they can probably do with a child in our program and it has a huge impact on the lives of these kids.”
If you are interested in becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister, or if you think your child could benefit from this program and you live in Bonneville or Jefferson County, you can apply at this link.