Celebrate Community: Overcoming obstacles

Big Brothers Big Sisters to hold Big Challenge fundraiser
2011-08-28T23:45:00Z 2011-08-29T13:25:04Z Celebrate Community: Overcoming obstaclesBy CLAIR JOHNSON Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
August 28, 2011 11:45 pm  • 

Over doughnuts and name games at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Yellowstone County, Billings high schools students enrolled in the organization's mentoring program quickly got acquainted.

Michaela Hartman, a senior at Skyview High School and returning mentor, urged the students to call her "Mickey."

"Like Mickey Mouse?" asked Gerrit Bruhaug, a junior at Senior High.  

"Yeah, but drop the mouse," Hartman replied, not missing a beat.

Hartman, along with Mariah Stiffarm, another returning mentor and a Skyview senior, both shared with other students why they liked the program that pairs high school students with two elementary-age students for a school year.

"I love my little. My kindergartner has quite a little attitude. I love it. Kids are just so cute," said Hartman, who wants to become an elementary school teacher. She mentored three fourth-graders and one kindergartner last year.

"I had a blast last year," said Stiffarm, who paired with a kindegartner and a first-grader and has plans to become a physical therapist. "The whole class came up to hug me."

New to the program, Bruhaug said he heard about it from friends and it sounded like fun. Plus, it was a good way to help the community and to get a break from the classroom, he said.

Bruhaug has tutored kids along with doing some babysitting. "I thought that was fun," he said.

The school mentoring projects one of the programs that will benefit from a new fundraiser Big Brothers Big Sisters will be holding on Sept. 17.

Money from "The Big Challenge" also will support its adult program, which matches adults with at-risk children to help them reach their potential and overcome challenges.

The Big Challenge is a fun run and obstacle course that will be held at Castle Rock Park beginning at 8 a.m.  

The event will feature a two-mile and a four-mile course. Individuals and teams will compete through obstacle challenges, like bean bag tosses and gunny sack races, and mental contests, like a trivia test on knowledge of various topics, like Montana history.

Bob Nagy, of Renew Fitness and Nutrition and a mentor and a former BBBS board member, is designing and supervising the course. "I think it's important to get the word out about this agency," he said.

"This is the first time anything like this has been tried in Billings," said Becky Webber, BBBS' executive director.

"Not only do we think people will enjoy the event, we also think it will be something that raises awareness of the important work our agency does in helping to shape children's lives for the better," she said.

"The demand for our services just keeps going up. We're seeing more kids coming in needing mentors," she said.

BBBS hopes 100 to 200 participants will participate the Big Challenge, which will raise money through registration fees. The organization has two other major fundraisers -- a bowling event and an auction.

BBBS is facing challenges to its $310,000 annual budget in the wake of cuts by the state legislature.

Webber said BBBS' nine agencies statewide each used to receive $10,000 from the Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Fund and $10,000 from the state Department of Health and Human services. The legislature severely cut those funds, she said.

"We each get about $6,000, and that's better than nothing," Webber said.

While participants in BBBS are volunteers, Webber said the organization carries liability insurance, makes sure the matches work and makes sure the kids are safe.

"We don't just match people and say goodbye and good luck. We want to be able to provide the services where we need to and it takes money," Webber said.

Contact Clair Johnson at cjohnson@billingsgazette.com or 657-1282.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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