Finding their perfect match

2nd annual Doylestown Un-Run to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bucks County

Making a difference: On Sunday, Aug. 25, the second annual Doylestown Un-Run is taking place, with all proceeds benefiting Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bucks County — a one-to-one mentoring program for local children facing adversity. Source: Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

For anyone who cringes at the idea of waking up for a 5 a.m. 5K race, never fear – the most laid-back sporting event of the season is here. On Sunday, Aug. 25, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., the second annual Doylestown Un-Run is taking place at Burpee Park, with all proceeds benefiting Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bucks County – a professionally-supported, one-to-one mentoring program for local children facing adversity.

Open to all ages, participants stroll, jog or run a quick, .5-mile course, which ends at Chambers 19 Bistro & Bar. Here, they will be rewarded for their “strenuous” effort with live music, drink specials, hors d’oeuvres, a silent raffle and 50/50.

“What a fun way to get involved with your community while serving a great cause,” said Rachel Kurtz, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bucks County. “There are currently 220 children waiting to be matched. Of that number, 65 percent are boys. Any funds raised during the Doylestown Un-Run will help our staff recruit more mentors, interview more potential ‘bigs’ and ‘littles’ and make a difference in a child’s life.”

Founded in 1963, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bucks County, which is affiliated with the national organization, pairs children ages 7-14 with an adult volunteer. Over the span of 15 months, the “big,” who must be at least 18 and undergo an in-depth approval process, meets with their “little” at least twice a month as part of BBBS’ Community-Based Mentoring Program.

The adult picks the child up at their home at a time determined by themselves and the child’s parents, and spends a few quality hours with them.

“We tend to emphasize low-cost or no-cost activities because we really want the volunteer to spend a lot of time with the child, not necessarily spend a lot of money on the child,” said Sharon A. Mccoy, customer relations specialist/community relations coordinator of BBBS.

Examples of outings include taking a walk in the park, visiting a library or museum, attending an outdoor festival, fishing or bike riding.

“Things of that nature that’s going to give the child that one-to-one experience with this adult, and basically an opportunity to just sort of get to know one another and to chat,” Mccoy said.

While this program is available throughout the entire county, the second initiative of BBBS – the STEM/School-Based Mentoring Program – is exclusive to certain locations, including Bensalem’s Benjamin Rush Elementary, Bristol Township’s Mill Creek Elementary and the Pennsbury School District.

In this more structured program, the volunteer commits to seeing their “little” once a week for an hour. They visit the child’s school during recess or a free period, and eat lunch with them, work on STEM projects and help with homework.

In September, BBBS is set to launch a third program for children waiting to be matched. After completing most of the required clearances, mentors will be asked to make a commitment of meeting a “little” on the waitlist three times a year.

“That way the child and the volunteer both get a taste of what the program is like because, unfortunately, some of the children that are waiting to be matched, they could potentially age out before they ever get matched,” Mccoy said. “So this will give them an opportunity to experience the program. Our end hope is that the volunteer will say, ‘Oh, this is a great kid. I can do this more often,’ and then continue the process to becoming a ‘big.’”

According to Mccoy, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bucks County, which served 480 children in 2018, is ultimately a preventative program.

“We’re getting to children prior to them being exposed to drugs and other things that could really put them on the wrong path of life,” she explained, adding how children often gain greater self-confidence and do better in school after receiving guidance from their “big.”

At BBBS, there is an in-depth pairing process that takes place in order to ensure both “bigs” and “littles” enjoy the best experience possible.

“We try to find some common denominator that both the volunteer and child have. We’ll even go as far as trying to match a volunteer with a child with like-minded personalities. If we have a child that is painfully shy, we’re not going to match them with somebody who is an alpha personality and very loud,” Mccoy said. “Quite a deal of thought and insight comes into this, and the volunteer can make their preferences known, as can the parents.”

Some parents request an older mentor to serve in a grandparent capacity, while others want their child to spend time with a millenial who’s closer in age. “Big” and “little” matches are always same-gender. Mccoy stressed that mentors, especially males, are urgently needed.

“A lot of people think this is going to take a lot of time and it’s going to impact their personal life tremendously. And that really is not the case. Meeting your child two times in a month is not going to detrimentally impact your schedule,” Mccoy said. “You don’t have to plan extravagant excursions for the child. They’re learning experiences.” ••

If you go…

The second annual Doylestown Un-Run takes place Sunday, Aug. 25. Check in is at Burpee Park, located at 51-99 Church St., Doylestown, between 11:30 a.m. and noon. The .5-mile course ends at Chambers 19 Bistro & Bar, where an after party will be held until 3 p.m. Pre-registration is $25 per participant. Registration for children ages 12 and under is $15. There is a $30 same-day registration fee. Registration includes an exclusive Un-Run T-shirt and a voucher for a complimentary drink at Chambers 19. To register, text “UnRun” to 414-44 or visit bbbsbc.org/special-event

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com