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Bowling for charity at Playdium

March 20, 2015

by Justin Porreca

An inaugural bowl-a-thon to benefit the Big Brothers Big Sisters and Best Buddies volunteer programs kicks off this Saturday at the Playdium Bowling center on 363 Ontario Street from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. The event will mark the first cooperatively run fundraiser by the two Saint Rose on-campus programs.

The bowl-a-thon fundraiser flier being spread around the Saint Rose campus and Pine Hills community/Matthew Woods and Marlee Wood

The bowl-a-thon fundraiser flier being spread around the Saint Rose campus and Pine Hills community/Matthew Woods and Marlee Wood

Big Brothers Big Sisters is a mentoring program in which the students at the college are paired with young children in need of a positive role model to help steer them in the right direction. The Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteers meet with their assigned kids, who are bused to the school, twice a month and keep in contact with them every week by calling them or visiting off campus.

​“We take them and do some group activities and we get some one-on-one time and develop their education and communication skills,” said Matthew Woods, Senior President of Big Brothers Big Sisters. “We ultimately give them someone that they can look up to.”​The Saint Rose volunteers for Big Brothers Big Sisters have a clear-cut goal in mind when matched with their “little,” and it stems from the mission statement.​“Our mission is to provide children facing adversity with a strong and enduring professionally supported mentoring relationship that changes their lives for the better forever,” said Sabrina Houser, chief executive officer of the Capital Region Big Brothers Big Sisters.

A pictorial poster of the events conducted between the “Bigs” and “littles” for the program Big Brothers Big Sisters/Justin Porreca

A pictorial poster of the events conducted between the “Bigs” and “littles” for the program Big Brothers Big Sisters/Justin Porreca

​As for Best Buddies, it’s an international non-profit organization that establishes a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Best Buddies volunteers hope that the friendships developed will be long lasting and create an avenue for students to branch out in their environments.

​The buddies in the program come from two on campus programs, the College Experience and Board of Cooperative Educational Services. The volunteer and buddies communicate through text, phone calls and Facebook and they meet in person twice a week. Campus President of Best Buddies, senior Marlee Wood, works with the executive board of the Capital Region chapter of Best Buddies  in Waterford to match buddies to volunteers.

​“It is important to me that I see a true dedication to the mission before I make any final decisions on my matches,” said Wood.

​Students can sign up online on the Best Buddies website to become a volunteer. After sign-up, future volunteers will have a one-on-one meeting with Wood to discuss the program and mission.

​Students interested in becoming a “Big” for Big Brothers Big Sisters can sign up by contacting the Capital Region Big Brothers Big Sisters located on Central Avenue, or Woods. The students will fill out the volunteer paperwork and will be contacted by Site-Based Manager, Jamie Stafford, for an interview.

The first 150-people to arrive at the bowl-a-thon fundraiser Saturday get free admission. After that, comers will have to pay $5 for admission. However, Woods is willing to pay out of pocket for some of the individuals who show up once the maximum occupancy has been filled. The organizations have high hopes that they can exceed the 150-person threshold.

Raffle prizes will include donations from  T.G.I. Friday’s, Pottery Place, Olympia Sports, K1 Speed Indoor Kart Racing and much more.

The majority of the attendees of this fundraiser will be the “Bigs,” the student volunteers in the program and their “little,” the students and  individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities who benefit from Best Buddies.

Several staff members from the Communications and Education Departments at the college are attending the bowl-a-thon.

Both Best Buddies and Big Brothers Big Sisters will be collecting donations for their programs, but a donation is not mandatory. Woods and Wood plan on asking Saint Rose staff members for a donation. All donations  will be split by the programs and will go to future projects, including trips and events.

“The fact that these college students who are already volunteering their time to be there and take this initiative, it’s very impressive. We are extremely heart-warmed,” said Houser. “I’ve been here for 10 years and I’m trying to think if a college has ever done this in the past. I think this may be the first from the college experience where students took the initiative and did it on their own.”

The event is less than 24 hours away and the organizers are putting the final touches on the fundraiser. Woods and Wood are still spreading the word about the event and still have to set up the day of.

​Woods came up with the idea to have a bowl-a-thon and keep it local because most of the kids in the two programs are local to the Pine Hills community, however it was not his original idea. Initially they considered a softball game, but it fell through because of transportation, entertainment and funding reasons.

Two bake sales were held over the previous two weeks by Woods, with help from “Big” Sarah Watson and vice president Grace Howard to secure the final funds for the fundraiser. Big Brothers Big Sisters made over a hundred dollars with the bake sales.

The final Big Brothers Big Sisters Bake Sale held March 17 From left: Vice President Grace Howard, “Big” Sarah Watson and President Matthew Woods/Justin Porreca

The final Big Brothers Big Sisters Bake Sale held March 17
From left:
Vice President Grace Howard, “Big” Sarah Watson and President Matthew Woods/Justin Porreca

Funds also came from Student Affairs, which grants the program $1,000 annually and Woods’ own pocket. “I’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars for the fundraiser, but it’s for the benefit of the kids and I don’t care if I use my own money,” he said.

The volunteers in both programs have a passion for volunteerism and a love for the individuals whose lives they change for the better, and ultimately make them a better person in the end.

“To be honest, it is extremely satisfying to know that in some way we are impacting the lives of these students by integrating them and providing them with a vast amount of friendship and support,” said Wood.

Watson, like Wood, has that same passion and takes it upon herself to be a positive mentor for the “littles” in the program. “It is my duty as a Big to provide everyone in my program with a smile and a true role model,” she said. “It’s a wonderful feeling to see that I am changing the life of my little in a positive way.”

​Woods, Wood and Watson along with the other “Bigs” and buddies will be in action this Saturday spending time with their “littles” and buddies. The event is mainly for the interactions between the volunteers, buddies and “littles,” to bring in donations for the programs and for the community to witness these programs in action enacting as true role models.

​“We are role models and that makes you feel proud as a person that you can own up to being someone’s role model, it makes you feel a lot better,” Woods said.    ​-30-

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