Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lacombe and District will mark 30 years of helping the community this January.
But before that, the organization is hosting its annual Great Big Christmas Dinner and Awards Night on Monday.
This year, a number of people will honoured for five and 10 year matches, plus there will be one pair recognized for their long-lasting match of 40 years.
Andy Pawlyk was matched with his ‘little’ Chris Sellathamby in 1978 in Red Deer before the organization had branched out to Lacombe. Sellathamby is flying in from his current residence in Victoria to thank Pawlyk, whom he’s kept in touch with all these years.
"It means to me that whatever volunteering I did in the community and being a big brother for Chris, whatever Chris accomplished, I felt I was a part of his total success in life," Pawlyk says. "My theory is if you can keep a child off the streets, you have successfully done your job."
A year after the pair were matched, Pawlyk and his wife adopted a baby girl, whom Chris was named the godfather of. Pawlyk and Sellathamby talk at least once a month since Chris moved to BC, Pawlyk adds.
Crystal Zens, Executive Director of BBBS Lacombe and District, says becoming a big brother or big sister can have an extraordinary impact.
“It’s that extra support, not only to the child, but to the family unit that’s missing that foundation and extra help through times of trouble, or when children go through different stages in life that, then that child can have that big brother or big sister to turn to and talk to,” says Zens.
“Our littles attend their big brother’s or big sister’s weddings, or their children's weddings, and lots of families get together at Christmas or Thanksgiving. As well, many of our littles actually give back and become mentors or teen mentors themselves because they know the impact it made on their life.”
There are currently about 90 matches throughout the organization’s service area, and there is usually a waitlist of 15-20 kids.
“It does have some really long-term successful impacts,” Zens adds. “Many of our littles that maybe wouldn’t have went on to post-secondary education are now accepted into college and university because they had that extra guidance and support system.”
BBBS Lacombe and District also recently wrapped up a 40 mentors in 40 days campaign, and is currently taking sponsors for their Landlord for a Month campaign.
The full list of special award honourees at this year's banquet includes:
Big Brother of the Year - Travis Marcott
Big Sister of the Year - Sheila McIlwain
In School Mentor of the Year - Kristin MacKenzie
In School Mentor of the Year - Cary Shelstad
Teen Mentor of the Year - Skylar Allarie
Teen Mentor of the Year - Emily Mueller
Business of the Year - East Side Eatery
Organization of the Year - Lacombe Oilmen's
40 Year Match Award - Big Brother Andy Pawlyk and Little Brother Chris Sellathamby
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