Saturday, March 6, 2004

Big Brothers Big Sisters bowl for kids

By Lindsay Whitehurst
The Cincinnati Enquirer

When bowlers take the lanes for the Big Brothers Big Sisters Bowl-A-Thon today, the event will be a step down the long road to saving a community organization that almost left Clinton County less than a year ago.

2004 Bowl for Kid's Sake

Today at Strike Zone Lanes, 65 Millard Court, Franklin.

March 27 at Royal Z Lanes in Wilmington.

Bowl-a-Thons start at noon. Bowlers collect pledges by the pin or by the strike. Each team gets one free game.

For more information, call Big Brothers Big Sisters at (513) 935-3966

When the agency announced it would be shutting down its Clinton County services last August, saying there were too few volunteers and too little money, Wilmington resident Connie Doyle was one of the first to step up to save the program.

"We had a core group come forward and say, 'We don't want to see you go away.' They started connecting with us, coming to board meetings, showing a greater interest," said Big Brothers Big Sisters Executive Director Joanna West.

The group began a letter-writing campaign, "more or less begging for money," Doyle said.

In October, the board passed a resolution to continue services in Clinton County.

Lebanon resident Vicki Kolthoff, a big sister, says, "I'm always there to listen. We can always talk to each other." She and her "little sister," Tabitha, have spent three to four hours a week together since they were matched 10 years ago.

"We made a Halloween costume for her little sister when (Tabitha) was 11 or 12. She was real proud of that," Kolthoff said.

With Kolthoff's encouragement, Tabitha will attend Kent State University in the fall.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Warren and Clinton Counties has matched 140 at-risk children with adult and high school mentors. The Clinton agency wants to double its matches by 2006.

"I believe there are kids in Clinton County who need these services. There are results," Doyle said.

To increase the number of children served, the agency has developed an on-site program, in which at-risk children are excused from school to spend time with their adult mentors.

Instead of going out to the movies or shopping, like Kolthoff and her little sister do, the adults come to school to do arts and crafts, help with homework and just talk.

The on-site program means that volunteers have to dedicate less time, usually 45 minutes to an hour instead of two to four hours, plus traveling time. A school can also be a more comfortable environment than a child's home, West said.

Since the addition of on-site programs, participation has spiked, with 45 new matches.

"This is a different kind of commitment. And we're hoping to match more children," West said.

This year's annual Bowl-A-Thon fund-raisers are today at Strike Zone Lanes in Franklin, and March 27 at Royal Z Lanes in Wilmington.

Both events begin at noon. Bowlers can collect pledges by the pin or by the strike.

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