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Fri, Aug. 23

'Big' Need

Like so many boys, 11-year-old Colton Roach loves the outdoors: fishing, camping, hunting, sports. Except rather than doing these things with a dad, this boy has no one to take him out.

Colton is one of the 291 boys from the tri-city area waiting for a male match through Yavapai County's Big Brothers Big Sisters. Of that number, 80 boys have been waiting for more than a year.

BBBS averages only seven men calling a month willing to volunteer their time, said Susan Stewart-Rickelman, Yavapai BBBS community development director.

"Guys apparently don't volunteer to be big brothers," said Colton's mom, Tina Roach. "(Colton's) father hardly has anything to do with him and my boyfriend is in the military."

After waiting almost two years for a match, Colton spends a lot of time playing with his dog ­ but that doesn't always cut it.

"My dog can't ride bikes and play football," he said.

His mom and sister can't play the part, either.

"He informs me all the time, 'You're a girl. You don't understand,'" Tina said about her son.

All together, Yavapai BBBS has 560 kids waiting for a "Big," said the organization's president and CEO, Kathleen Murphy. In general, not enough people are volunteering, especially men.

"We think it's because people don't know there's a crisis," she continued.

In addition, many people don't realize the incredible impact becoming a role model can have.

"Children who are in Big Brothers Big Sisters are 46 percent less likely to initiate drug use," said David Seigler, Vice President of development and marketing for Yavapai BBBS.

He said matched kids are 33 percent less likely to engage in violence and 27 percent less likely to drink.

"I learned from my father at a very young age, you don't hit girls. You respect your mother," Seigler said, adding that domestic violence can stem from men who didn't have proper male role models showing them the way.

Another revealing statistic, Seigler said, is that about 65 percent of the Yavapai County jail inmates come from single-family homes.

"It's the absent men. It's the absent big brother," he said.

The imbalance of kids waiting for a "Big" and the number of adults stepping up to volunteer could cause some serious consequences.

"It means you're going to have more kids in trouble with the law, more kids who don't do as well in school," Murphy said.

Changing a child's life is much easier to do before that child gets into trouble, she continued. Afterward, it becomes more difficult to intervene.

Stewart-Rickelman recalled a "60 Minutes" episode about elephants where people killed off the older males in a herd. The juveniles went crazy killing rhinos, a behavior never seen in elephants. They stopped once new older males entered the herd.

"In our society, we have a similar disaster, not having enough male role models for the kids," she said.

Both Murphy and Stewart-Rickelman emphasized that becoming a "Big" doesn't mean giving up time. Volunteers simply can include the kids in whatever activities they normally do. The idea is to be a role model, not a parent.

Colton, like many other kids is anxious to have a big brother. His birthday is coming up in December. He's hoping by then, he'll have someone to take him fishing.

People may call BBBS at either 778-5135 or 775-5336 for more information.

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