46 Big Bros and Sisters needed

By Geoff Lee

February 9, 2016 10:14 AM

Thirza Sunderland, right, gives a hug to Alexis Jardine a girl she's mentored for the past four years through Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Thirza Sunderland and Alexis Jardine are a poster pair for a new Big Brothers Big Sisters recruitment campaign for volunteers during the 29 days of February.
The 29 volunteers in 29 days campaign seeks to rally new volunteers and adult mentors like Sunderland to match with youth such as 12 year-old Jardine.
“We are looking for all sorts of volunteers, mentors as well as fundraising volunteers and board members,” said Jacqueline Weed, the charity’s director of service delivery.
“Our waiting list for Big Brothers, Big Sisters and in-school mentors and kids that need those mentors is 46 right now.”
Sunderland, who works as a receptionist at the Thorpe Recovery Centre, met young Jardine four years ago and they continue to find value in their relationship.
“I gain a little sister — a friendship,” said Sunderland, who takes Jardine with her to shop for items for the Thorpe store.
“She is very organized — she’s like ‘We need to go down this aisle,’ “said Sunderland.
“We have the clipboard and the highlighters,” she said. 
“I would maybe be lost without her doing that every month, so we’ve got it down pat.”
Shopping, swimming and playing with Sunderland’s cats are part of the fun for Jardine, who is now a Grade 7 student at Bishop Lloyd Middle School.
“Sometimes she picks me up at my house and then we do whatever we want, and sometimes we go to her house,” she said.
Jardine is also involved in the Big Brothers Big Sisters after school and summer programs.
“It’s really fun — we do a lot of fun activities during the summer,” she said.
“You get to experience new things.”
Mentors like Sunderland teach by example the importance of giving and giving back, of staying in school, and for having respect for family, peers and community.
“There’s a lot of people out there when I tell them they say ‘I want that too,’ but then they never go do it,” said Sutherland.
“I say take the step to go do it.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters is holding presentations at businesses and Lakeland College during the 29 volunteers in 29 days campaign for a variety of volunteer roles including fundraising.
“Becuase we raise more than half of our $400,000 budget ourselves we can always use the volunteers to help with that,” said Weed.
Anyone over 18 is eligible to be a big brother or big sister or help with fundraising while high school students can volunteer for the charity’s after school programs.
Weed said if you’re a volunteer you won’t be bored and you’ll meet other people and have fun.
Sunderland met Jardine while taking her practicum with Big Brothers Big Sisters in 2012 for her child and youth care studies at Lakeland College in Vermilion.
“I knew that in a week I was going to be done and I wanted to still keep in contact,” she said.
After hearing Jardine tell Santa Claus she wanted a big sister, Sunderland knew she could make that happen.
“So I went through the process and I’ve had her for four years,” she said.
The match will officially end when Jardine turns 18, but she knows they will stay in each other’s lives long after that.
Jardine totally recommends it to other kids like her who don’t have a brother or a sister.
“It’s good and if the person didn’t have siblings, they have another person other than their friends or parents to talk to,” said Jardine.
“Then they can just get out the house with someone they don’t always hang out with to go do stuff that they like.”
At first she said it was difficult to talk with Sunderland because she was nervous being with a new person. “Then you just warm up to them and it doesn’t feel so weird any more,” she said.
She and Sunderland also hang out together for special occasions like the upcoming Bowl For Kids Sake charity fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters, April 8 at Jack Kemp School.
Sunderland said they’ll do that with Jardine’s family and go out for a pizza afterwards.
xw

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