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MacDill sponsors Big Brothers Big Sisters for a day

by Senior Airman Robin Drake
Thunderbolt staff writer
photo by Senior Airman Carlye LaPointe

Airman 1st Class Marshall Hayes, 6th Civil Engineer Squadron, demonstrates the different functions of the pumper on the fire truck to Jordan Thompson. Jordan, along with 87 other children from the Tampa Bay area, participated in MacDill's “Big for a Day” program April 29.

photo by Senior Airman Carlye LaPointe

Curtis Cooper (left) and his "Big Brother" Airman James Kulik from the 6th Aeromedical Squadron test out the back seat of a Security Forces Police car.

Senior Airman Robin Drake

Willie Jackson tries on a parachute harness with the help of Maj. Todd J. Stovall, Joint Communications Support Element chief of logistics.

Senior Airman Robin Drake

Staff Sgt. Robert Lewis, 6th Security Forces Squadron, military working dog handler, gets tackled by Brit the German Shepard during a K-9 demonstration.

Members of team MacDill volunteered for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay during "Big for a Day" here April 29.

Personnel acted as mentors during the event for 87 children from the Bay area who are on the waiting list for BBBS.

The day's events were comprised of a variety of activities. Demonstrations included the 6th Security Forces Squadron military working dogs and an explosive ordnance disposal robot. Static displays consisted of a security forces patrol boat and a 6th Civil Engineer Squadron fire truck. Police car and humvee rides were also provided. Participants enjoyed various activities at the Youth Center, free bowling at MacDill Lanes, and free pizza, snacks, and arts and crafts at Coon's Creek.

"I loved the mud bogging we did in the humvee," said Josh Holley, a 13-year-old "Little" in the program. "It was bumpy and the mud came splashing in on us; it was great."

Josh participated in the event last year and was matched up with Tech. Sgt. James Salgado, a member of the Joint Communications Service Element, who eventually became his "Big Brother.”

"We estimate that about 50 percent of our current volunteers are from MacDill," said Lorie Briggs, BBBS of Tampa Bay, recruiter. "Twenty-one new volunteers from base were recruited at the end of the event this year.

"Almost anyone can volunteer as a 'Big', this is not a program simply for 'saints in training', said Ms. Briggs. "We are looking for folks who like kids and who understand that the little moments are the ones that make the big magic."

BBBS of Tampa Bay was founded in 1964 and serves more than 1,500 children annually, said Ms. Briggs. The BBBS mission is to help children reach their potential through professionally supported one-to-one relationships and to strengthen a community through high quality, life enriching mentoring programs.

Individuals who are interested in becoming volunteers may fill out an application online at www.bbbsfl.org or can call 287-2210, ext. 2210. The application process includes personal reference checks, participation in a one-on-one interview with a BBBS staff member and granting a criminal background check.

"In this program we try to match the volunteer with a child who can benefit from the skill, knowledge and background that the volunteer possesses," said Ms. Briggs.

Volunteers are given an opportunity to submit personal preferences prior to being matched up with a child. Gender, age, residence location, ethnicity, religion and anything else important to the volunteer are some preferences for consideration.

In addition to the traditional program, individuals may also volunteer for the "Bigs in Schools" program.

Tech. Sgt. Robbie B. Perkins, 6th Air Mobility Wing, Command Post controller, spends time once a week during her lunch break with her "Little" at Westshore Elementary.

"I volunteer as a way to give back to the community because our kids need us," said Sergeant Perkins.

A training session for volunteers and those people interested in becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister is scheduled for today at 11:30 a.m. at the Base Library. To sign up for the training, individuals should call BBBS of Tampa Bay.

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