A group of UT students started their campaign, “Vols for Kids,” in order to raise money to pay for the training of two new mentors for Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee.
According to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee website, their vision is “that all children achieve success in life” and their mission is “to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.”
Freshman marketing major Bailey Reagan heard about Big Brothers Big Sisters for the first time in her public writing class when she was looking for an organization to work with. Big Brothers Big Sisters came into the picture when sophomore studying public administration Audrey Myer’s sister, who works with the organization through the police department, recommended they start a campaign for the group.
After Reagan, along with her group members in Myer, sophomore studying marketing Robbie Kirkpatrick, and freshman in business administration exploratory Devin Wilkinson, decided to work with Big Brothers Big Sisters, goals were made.
“We decided to have a goal of raising $2,000 dollars,” Reagan said. “It costs $1,000 to pair one match in the Big Sisters Big Brothers program. With a goal of $2,000, we’d be able to pair two kids with a mentor.”
Before a child is placed with a mentor, the volunteer mentor has to go through recruitment and training. Reagan and campaign members of “Vols for Kids” will put all donations towards funding for the training. The volunteers, known as “bigs,” are paired with children, their “littles,” aged 6 to 18 years old.
With the campaign ending on Friday, Reagan stated that the group is just $800 dollars short of their goal, having raised $1,217 in only a month's time period.
“It’s really crazy because for a while, we were sitting at $300,” Reagan said. “Our donations increased dramatically through a lot of generous donors in family, friends and the Knoxville community.”
Kirkpatrick also expressed his thankfulness for the donors on their GoFundMe page.
“We, as a group, want to thank each and every one of our donors. We are absolutely overwhelmed by the support that our campaign has received,” Kirkpatrick said. “No matter how large or small the donations, every person who contributed to our campaign has made an impact in the Knoxville community.”
Senior political science and English major Lillie Weirich is a volunteer mentor at Big Brothers Big Sisters and reflected on how much the organization and her “little sister” have made an impact on her life.
“My relationship with my little sister, Aya, has entirely transformed my heart and views of the world. She has taught me so much about patience, kindness and empathy. She has opened up my eyes to the struggles people face that I never knew about,” Weirich said. “It is because of our relationship that I decided to pursue my next chapter in life with Teach for America. I hope I have taught her about how to be confident, to be a leader and to be driven. I also hope she has felt loved by me.”
While Reagan had not personally been involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters prior to her campaign, she stated that the organization is great and has opened up her heart to want to help more.
“It’s definitely opened up my eyes to community service and the importance of Knoxville nonprofits,” Reagan said. “These organizations can shape the kids for a lifetime.”