GET A BIG
Arm your child with another awesome adult in their life. Life is hard - we all experience ups and downs, and we know the more people you have in your corner, the better. We’d love the opportunity to provide your child with another positive, adult role model and help ignite their full potential.
EVERY DAY WITH EVERY AGE
Together, we create and support one to one mentorship relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth.
GET A BIG
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwestern Illinois serves children and teens who want and need a mentor in their lives. We match Littles in 2nd-11th grade with Bigs in a one-to-one, life-changing friendship. Bigs and Littles hang out 1-4 times a month for a few hours doing normal, everyday activities, like going to see a movie, playing games, going out to eat, or just hanging out!
Each match is supported by a dedicated Match Support Specialist who is always there to provide resources and support specific to the Little’s age. With a Big in their life, children and teens in the program are empowered to ignite their potential as they grow in their self-esteem, earn better grades, and develop a lifelong friendship with their Big.
YOUR QUESTIONS, ANSWERED
We’re here to help you every step of the way. View the FAQ below or watch a video of us answering our most commonly asked questions.
Q1. Who are your volunteer mentors?
Bigs are volunteer mentors who are 18 years or older and want to make a difference in the life of a youth Little. These mentors are friends, role models, advocates and someone who stands with children as they realize their full potential.
Q2. What is the commitment?
We ask our Littles and families for a commitment to their Big and Little Match for one year, however the hope is that the Match will create a life-long bond! If the two create such a bond, the child would remain in the program officially until they turn 18 years old.
Q3. How do I know if the program is right for my child?
Life has many ups and downs, and the more support in life the better. We all need a role model in our lives. Many times, a non-parent role model can provide a trusted source in which Littles can confide. However, for an effective relationship to develop your child must have the desire and have the ability to form a friendship with an adult.
Q4. How do I choose a Big for my child?
Together you, your child, the Big and our team will work together to make the perfect Match. Matches are made based on many factors. Our professional team looks for Bigs that they think will be a good fit based on where they live, preferences, personality, interests, life experiences and more.
Q5. Can my other children tag along on Match outings?
One of the unique and important aspects to the program is that it is one-to-one. This is what makes the Match relationship strong and ultimately impactful for your child. If you feel that your other children could benefit from the program, consider enrolling them too!
Q6. What do Matches do together?
Match activities are discussed and decided on primarily by the parent/guardian and the Big, of course with input from the Little. Our Matches spend time doing activities they’re both interested in, which could be anything such as fishing, going to the park, baking, making crafts, riding bikes, going to the library, and much more!
Q7. How frequently will my child meet with their Big?
It is the parent or guardian’s responsibility to work with the Big to coordinate Match outings. We ask that Matches meet between 4-12 hours per month - this usually looks like 2-4 outings per month.
Q8. How do you screen your Bigs?
Child safety is our top priority. There is a thorough screening process including an application and an extensive one on one interview with a trained professional. We always confirm a volunteer's identity via social security number and driver's license. In addition, we run a layered criminal and driving background check along with auto insurance verification. But we don’t stop there. We look at the volunteers' social media account and run a Google search. And finally, we speak to at least three personal/family and work references, as well as provide ongoing volunteer training and support from professional Match Support Specialists.
Q9. How long does it take to get a Big?
We typically have a waitlist of Littles. However, we don’t match on a first come first serve basis, per say. Our team evaluates Bigs and Littles to determine a good fit for a lasting and effective relationship. Depending on your child’s needs and location, finding a Big can take anywhere from three months or longer. We actively establish new partnerships and recruit new Bigs on an ongoing basis to fill the needs of our Littles and their families as quickly as possible.
Q10. What is the role of the family?
The role of a family is very important: supporting the friendship, encouraging communication, developing your own relationship with the Big and being responsive and communicating with the agency once your child is matched are all essential.
Q11. What does it cost to get a Big?
The program is free of cost to our families. We suggest that Matches engage in little to no cost activities.
Q12. I want my child to have a Big. What do I do now?
Great! We are happy to welcome you and your child to the program! Simply fill out an inquiry form here to begin the process and you should hear from someone on our team in 1-2 days.