By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Westborough – The holidays got off to an early start as over 100 children and adults gathered at the Westborough High School Dec. 10 to enjoy the annual Big Brothers Big Sisters Central Mass./Metrowest (BBBSCM) program’s Christmas party.
Nearly 50 kids – “the Littles” – along with their adult mentors – the “Bigs” – attended the event. Approximately 25 kids who are not yet matched up were also invited to attend, along with an equal number of adults who agreed to be a match for the day so that each child would feel comfortable and welcomed.
Jackie Lyon, assistant director of marketing and special events, and Angela Martano, director of community mentoring programs, noted that many individuals and organizations had stepped up to ensure the party’s success.
“We are so grateful to all of them,” Lyon said. “We also have over 40 volunteers helping today – that is the most we have ever had.”
The women said the organization’s officials were hopeful that they party would also serve as a way to spread the message that there is still a great need for Bigs, particularly for boys.
“We have over 60 kids currently on a wait list for Bigs,” Martano said. “Sometimes kids can wait for up to a year and a half for a match.”
There is a misconception, she said, that one must devote a large amount of time to participate.
“There is only a three-hour a week requirement, for three weeks a month,” she said.
The other misconception is that many feel they are too “old” to be a big.
“All ages are welcome,” she stressed. “We have Bigs ranging from age 20 to some in their 60s.”
Many, like Dan Leese of Framingham, choose to become involved after their own children grow up. Leese has been a Big to 8-year-old Anthony, a high-spirited young boy, for just over a year and a half.
For Anthony, who aspires to be a police officer, the chance to find new playgrounds and parks and play laser tag with Leese has been “really fun.”
“The time commitment is worth it to be able to make what can be a long-term impact,” Leese said.
Jeffrey Swanberg, 32, has been a match with Sean, 11, a polite and articulate boy, for over two-and-a-half years. He decided to become a ‘Big” after hearing from some of his friends about the experience, he noted.
“It’s a way to give back but also enjoy some really fun things,” he said. “You get to be a kid yourself again.”
Sean said he was a little bit nervous at first about being matched with Swanberg but the two soon grew close. They have enjoyed such things as playing miniature golf, visiting zoos and the mega maze at Davis Farmland.
“My mom signed me up for this program because she thought it would be good for me to have a male to relate to,” Sean said. “Jeff is really fun and kind.”
Being matched with Janisha, 13, a pretty, shy young woman, for the last four months, has been “amazing,” Melissa Dion said.
“I love musicals, so I have had fun introducing them to her,” Dion noted. “We also like doing crafts together.
“I think it’s really important for those of us who choose not to have our own children still give back somehow and help the kids out there in the world,” she added. “We all have a responsibility to help.”
During the party, kids also enjoyed a magic show by Chris Graves and a dance performance by the Framingham State University group, Fusion. Santa Claus made an appearance with presents for all the kids. And thanks to the generosity of FedEx, 22 lucky kids won a raffle for a new bicycle.
Sponsors for the event included: Stop & Shop (Framingham and Worcester); Panera Bread (Westborough); Wegmans; BBBSCM Board and Corporaters; Agent 86 Magic Productions; FedEx; TJX Companies; BJ’s Corporation; First United Methodist Church (Westborough); Chapel of the Cross (Westborough); Framingham State University; Terry Smith; Rotary Club of Westborough; Westborough High School; Avidia Bank; Mathworks; Neilan Videos; and Kohl’s.
For more information about becoming a Big, go to www.bbscm.org.