Stettler’s Heartland Youth Centre is a space for children, parents and volunteers alike to gather and enjoy in the community.
Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) is one of three organizations housed in the popular facility with Christel Shuckburgh at the helm.
She noted the first influx in male participation the organization has seen in Stettler saying that five people have stepped up to the plate to be matched with a child who could have been waiting up to four years for this moment.
The program has 17 boys on the waitlist as well as three girls.
“Lately we’ve been really lucky because we’ve had a lot of guys that have come forward lately. I have five guys in the waitlist process which is absolutely the most I’ve ever had [at one time],” said Shuckburgh.
Two common misconceptions surrounding the program are that it can be too costly to participate and that it is ultimately time-consuming.
A third would be that you are instantly paired with a youth without any thought behind it.
“This is important,” she continued. “I match them for interest, not the next kid on the list so we’re trying to make strong matches that will last so we match them for a child that has the same type of interests as them like I’m not going to match somebody that says they never want to go outside with somebody who only wants to go outside you know?”
Couples are also accepted with benefits on both sides including the child getting the benefit of both a male and
female mentor and the couple ultimately is more comfortable going together to give each other support.
One mentor, in particular, is almost 80 but still works well with children.
“He has tons to teach so that is an awesome match. We had a match where the mentor was 72 and it was an awesome match. It lasted for four years until the boy moved away. When he comes back tot down he still sees him so that was pretty awesome.
“People can think outside the box. It’s not just you have to be a certain age, you don’t have to be doing certain things, Basically, whatever you enjoy doing you can do that with a kid. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, it’s just whatever you enjoy doing with your time,” said Shuckburgh.
Teens in Grade 9 or higher have the option to mentor as well.
If anyone is interested in joining or learning more they can find the youth centre online where application forms can be submitted or call or come in person.
Once the application is complete, Shuckburgh will analyze the answers to find a perfect match with one of the children on the waitlist.
If there is no true match, then both mentor and youth continue on this waitlist.
If successful, an hour-and-a-half interview takes place with training being about the same length.
Thirteen-year-old Deacon Barclay, one of the Little Brothers of the organization, has come to be known as a spokesperson for the program, becoming a United Way Ambassador.
He recently spoke at the United Way’s 2020 Community Celebration Breakfast on Valentine’s Day this year.
Him and his Big Brother Ralph Kamlah were paired last year after Barclay waited four years and have had several memorable moments ever since.
“Sometimes we hang out, sometimes we go bowling, fishing, taking his dog Cooper for a walk, going to the new rec place, just hanging out and stuff,” said Barclay.
“That’s the nice thing about it too – It’s flexible. It’s not like you’re married to Tuesday at 4 o’clock every week for us anyways,” added Kamlah.
Fun activities include go-karting and ice fishing. Prospective mentors can also join the group to get to know everyone better.
The boys range from 6-year-old to 15.