Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona (BBBSAZ) had their 60th anniversary gala and what a night it was! The event that was sponsored, co-chaired and co-emceed by National Bank of Arizona was held on Thursday, April 16 at JW Marriott Camelback Inn. The Lego-themed event had a motto of "Connect Now for a BIG Impact" and many influential and inspirational individuals took part in the gala along with "Bigs" and "Littles" that continue to inspire everyone with whom they come in contact.
The BBBSAZ organization pairs an adult (a "Big") with a youngster (a "Little") in a productive, fun and insightful mentoring relationship designed to assist Arizona youth facing adversity with a roadmap for success.
Laura Capello is the CEO and Vice President of BBBSAZ. "A big milestone is that we're really in a good place right now and we continue to serve more kids," says Capello. "Now I feel like I've been with the agency for so long-we're in a great space, we have a great team and we really want to grow." The organization is emerging from a few years where there weren't sufficient funds to match the number of kids that needed to be paired with mentoring adults. Currently BBBSAZ has about 1,200 Maricopa County and Pinal County Big-Little matches and a waiting list of 300 kids. Surprisingly, one of the areas most in need of adult Big Brothers and Big Sisters is the City of Scottsdale.
"We have two programs-community-based and site-based," says Capello. "Community-based is when we ask our volunteers to go out on the weekends or after work and just hang out. We don't ask our volunteers to be piggy banks." Activities might include a Big and a Little doing homework, visiting a pet store or going to a community-based event. Volunteers are asked to stay paired for two years, but often those relationships last a decade or even a lifetime. Site-based programs occur when Bigs and Littles meet in a school-based location for games, mentoring or just one-on-one visiting time. Additionally, the organizations is looking for ways to get involved with the homeless shelters to work with children in those facilities and in conjunction with President Obama's My Brother's Keeper initiative to serve and empower young men of color. Capello is a Big Sister herself and her son is a Big Brother and the experiences they have had have been rewarding.
Gala Co-Chairs and Co-Emcees were Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors for National Bank of Arizona Deborah Bateman and National Bank of Arizona Executive Vice President Jathan Segur. Although Segur was unable to attend because of a family emergency, Bateman stepped up along with the last minute commitment and assistance of Co-Emcee Tara Hitchcock to ensure a fun and engaging gala that ultimately raised $231,000 for the BBBSAZ organization. "Deborah is a mentor of mine," states Capello. "I know she is everywhere and is so passionate about different causes and she's a powerhouse. I approached her last year about helping me with this event. I thought it was going to be a tough sell and it wasn't!"
Bateman states, "We really brainstormed and created the vision for this colorful night. We saw the opportunity to bring Legos in because what mentors do is connect and build-exactly what Legos do. Yet, it brought an element of fun and the kid part of it to the entire event." The National Bank of Arizona money machine was present during the gala and four individuals got a chance to step in and spend 20 seconds inside and grab as much money as they could.
"This is the first year that National Bank of Arizona has been involved at this level with BBBSAZ," says Bateman. "We've always been supporters of them. One of our co-workers Maryann Richardson is on their board." Bateman's history with BBBSAZ goes back 35 years when she was a Big Sister with the organization. "It was incredible," she continues. "Everyone looks at the program and says, ‘This is adults being able to mentor and help the kids in the community that may not necessarily have resources and mentors available to them.' But I'm going to tell you, without a doubt, I began to realize that a mentor relationship is really a two-sided relationship. The gratitude in experience I had in helping a little girl was immeasurable and laid the groundwork for me to go forward. I believe today I'm known as a mentor in my profession but I do it because it feels so good." In fact, Bateman even mentored Jathan Segur earlier in his career.
Marcus McKinnor is a Little and senior at South Mountain High School and is currently deciding between NAU, Glendale Community College and Alabama State University. He'll be studying business in either the technology or sports management sector. The BBBSAZ organization has been instrumental in getting him to where he is today. "I've been with the program for 12 years and my Big is Matt Manoogian," says McKinnor. "We've done everything from golf tournaments to dinners with Larry Fitzgerald to hiking in The Grand Canyon-it's just been so many blessings and opportunities along the way that I'm thankful for." Pointers in life, tips on buying a car and fixing things around the house are just some of the everyday things for which McKinnor is thankful to Manoogian. Once McKinnor goes to college, he intends to continue his unique friendship with Manoogian and return to BBBSAZ as a Big someday.
Lyrik Shreiner is a Little who graduated from Westwind Preparatory Academy and recently got a scholarship to Texas Christian University where he will be a point guard on the basketball team. His Big, Troy Pottgen has been paired with him for 12 years. Shreiners says, "As I got older Troy had a family and it wasn't as close as when I was younger." Pottgen adds, "We were an official match for four or five years and we've stayed in touch. When we first got matched he was a scrawny little kid and loved basketball. I loved basketball as well and we bonded over that. I'm so proud of the combination of him getting to realize his athletic dream of playing ball at the collegiate level and to have the grades he had to get that opportunity and then to remain a well-rounded and grounded young man. He can take that credit and his mom can take that credit." Pottgen and his wife Sherry Pottgen were matched with Shreiner as a couple back before they had their own children. Once the Pottgens had their own kids they would still keep in touch with Shreiner and his mom and the couple is now thrilled for his latest college opportunity.
During the gala the following award recipients were named:
• The Chairman's Award went to Savers that has been partnered for BBBSAZ for more than 22 years.
• The President's Award went to Quarles & Brady LLP that has supported BBBSAZ for more than 35 years and helped provide legal guidance.
• The Enterprise Award went to Jack in the Box that has supported BBBS since 2003 with volunteer appreciation events and more.
• The Community Impact Award went to CBS 5's Paul Horton for his repeated efforts in doing a community car wash resulting in nearly $500,000 in support to BBBSAZ.
• The Big Impact Award went to CopperPoint Mutual Insurance Company that has supported BBBSAZ since 2003 through employee contributions and providing mentors.
• The Common Good Award went to Larry Fitzgerald for his continued support of the organization in serving as a Big, a donor, doing PSAs and much more.
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