WILKES-BARRE — Stanton Lanes was abuzz on Saturday with area residents bowling, not just to make a strike or get the highest score, but to raise money for Catholic Social Services’ Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bridge program.
The Bowl for Kids’ Sake event is the signature fundraiser for the program and was anticipated to raise over $82,000.
The program provides opportunity for children ages 7 through 14 to be matched with a mentor who will take them out into the community, introduce them to new activities and often just be there to listen.
“This is an indication of how wonderful people are and how much they care for area children and families,” Monsignor Joseph Kelly said as he looked out on the bowlers filling the lanes.
Kelly, the executive director of Catholic Social Services, said mentorship supplied by the Big Brothers Big Sisters program gives kids something to lean on and provides role models for young people.
He said often big brothers and sisters provided by the program add another dimension to a child’s life in addition to good parenting. He also stressed the great need for the program because of the high incidence of single-parent families and economic stress.
Rich Kramer, chair of the Catholic Social Service board, remembered back to 1971 when the idea of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program was first presented. After an initial survey and necessary preliminary work, the first big brother/little brother match was made in 1974.
“I was that match,” said a smiling Kramer. “I wanted to be involved in the program because I believe when children have someone to rely on, to guide them, and to value good family values, their lives change.”
Kramer said he was initially naïve in regard to funds needed for running the program. Utilizing volunteers, he thought expenses would be minimal.
He then realized that the program needed to be managed and maintained. He stressed it is for that reason the Bowl for Kids’ Sake is essential, raising approximately 40 percent of the funds needed to run the program.
He said Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteers have big hearts, lots of love and a commitment to community. The waiting list, however, is still sizable and many young people wait and hope for that mentor to come into their lives.
Bowler Jennifer Reklaitis has been participating for 12 years, with the event now becoming a family tradition.
Reklaitis’ daughter Emily, 6, and father A.J. Decker, joined her on a lane. Reklaitis’ mother, Debbie Decker calls herself the family’s “cheerleader” for the event.
“As a teacher many of my students have had the privilege of having a big brother/big sister and it has been a great benefit,” said Reklaitis. “This is my way of giving back to a great organization.”
Cathy Kolcum, Robyn Snyder and Mike Collins, representing Web.com, said the group has participated for the last several years because it was a great opportunity to get together and simply have fun for a good cause. The group said they also “laughed a lot!”
Tanya Oloviany, program director, said participation in the program can make the “difference of a lifetime” in a young person’s life.