By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Mississippi has one fundraiser each year, and it combines running, Christmas spirit and Santa beards.
The 5k Santa Run is Dec. 1 at 8 a.m., before the Reed’s Tupelo Christmas Parade, and each runner will receive a Santa hat and beard to wear while running. The proceeds go to help connect Itawamba County and Lee County children with mentors.
This year, Angie Owen, Big Brothers Big Sisters program specialist, said the group is asking for more than just runners.
“We need more games, things like footballs, soccer balls, basketballs or simple quick games like Trouble, Sorry, Connect Four or Uno to play while the mentors are in the schools,” Owen said.
She said the group also needs more mentors from the community.
“Our goal, by the end of this calendar year, will be serving 200 children,” said Program Specialist Sarah Davis.
Currently, 185 children, or littles, as they are referred to in the organization, are matched up with a big. However, more than 100 children are on a waiting list.
“We always have people waiting but we would really appreciate the people in the public stepping up, especially adults stepping up,” Owen said. “It takes 45 minutes once a week, and that’s nothing compared to the difference it makes in the life of a child.”
The organization offers two mentoring programs, the in-school site mentoring and community mentoring.
Site mentoring involves a mentor visiting the little at school once a week for 45 minutes and playing with them or helping on a subject they are struggling with in school. Each mentor also brings up a safety topic during each session.
“We include topics like not drinking, not smoking, not taking drugs, staying away from strangers, stop, drop and roll, always wear your seat belt and also good behavior in class and making good grades,” Owen said.
Community mentoring involves picking up a little and taking them somewhere in the community to spend time with them. Davis said community mentors spend about six hours with their little each month.
“They might take them to church and then lunch at grandma’s house,” she said.
To sign up for the race, go to racesonline.com or pick up an application from the Big Brothers Big Sisters office in the CREATE building.
To learn more about becoming a mentor or supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters, call (662) 687-1299.