A festive spirit was in the air as children and adults filled the AMF Rodeo Lanes bowling center Saturday, March 21 in Clovis. More than 200 people came together to participate in Bowl for Kids’ Sake, a fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central California. Together they raised $23,000.
Diane Phakonekham, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central California, was pleased to see the event sell out, because all the money raised will directly benefit the Clovis community.
“All the money raised here stays here,” she said. “This is all for the kids. There’s such a need for kids to have a positive role model, and there are so many kids on the waiting list.”
Phakonekham said the program is greatly in need of more volunteers, especially male volunteers. The majority of the current volunteers are women, and there are a lot of Little Brothers in need of a Big Brother.
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“You don’t have to be rich to be a volunteer, just rich at heart,” she said.
To become a Big Brother or Big Sister, volunteers go through a background check and an interview process. Once they have passed, they are matched with a Little Brother or Little Sister with similar interests. Bigs and Littles usually meet a few hours every week, but that is dependent on personal schedules.
Some Big Sisters and Little Sisters participated in the event and only had good things to say about the program.
“It’s been such a wonderful experience and has made a big impact on my life,” said Big Sister Ronda Rafidi. “The program has done a great job on matching our interests and personalities.”
Rafidi said she had wanted to become a Big Sister for a long time after hearing about it from her cousin who was a Big Sister.
“I saw firsthand the impact of a positive role model, and in this day and time it’s really important,” Rafidi said.
Rafidi and Little Sister Janell Shute were matched a year and-a-half ago.
“It’s good to get out and have fun, watch movies, go out to eat, and do fundraising,” Shute said. “The best part, though, is just making a friend.”
Cindy Carter has been a Big Sister for two and-a-half years and is currently matched with Shelby Mathews. Carter decided to become a Big Sister after seeing the relationship her biological brother had with his Big Brother while he was growing up.
“He bonded so strongly and it made a positive impact, so when I had time I decided to join,” she said.
Carter says she and Mathews spend time walking, cooking, knitting, painting, and watching movies.
“My job is to give her as my different experiences as I can,” Carter said. “I hope I’m doing good for someone, and that I’m making a difference. If our time plants a few good seeds, then I’m happy.”
There is also a High School Bigs program that Phakonekham hopes to see open in Clovis Unified School District in the fall. That program matches high school age children with elementary age children. The high school mentors also go through a screening and interview process.