Donna Cartwright of Midland was looking for a way to volunteer in the community. Then she met Savanna Peacock and the two have been working together for more than a year.
Cartwright, like many other members of Big Brothers Big Sisters, brought Peacock to the “Spring Field Day” on Saturday at the West Midland Family Center in Shepherd. Hosted by the Central Michigan University Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter, the event was open to families. Members of the organization paired with local at-risk “little siblings.”
“I had worked at Dow Corning for over 33 years, and my parents were gone after I took care of them,” Cartwright said. “So I ended up having some time to volunteer. I was looking at avenues that I would enjoy and make a difference in somebody’s life and Savanna and I were matched.”
Visitors to the field day enjoyed a craft station, free pizza and other refreshments, cookie decorating, and outside games including bowling, hula hoop competitions and an egg hunt. Volunteers from Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Mount Pleasant Independent Bank interacted with the children from noon to 3 p.m.
Tyler Allen, a Grand Rapids senior and president of CMU Big Brothers Big Sisters, has been hooked since the first event he attended as a freshman. Allen’s participation varied during the field day, from the volleyball court in a heated game, to directing kids in the egg race.
“The first event I came to was in this building,” Allen said. “I met this little kid named Jack and throughout the day as he received all these little things; I just saw his smile grow bigger and bigger. To see how a little kid can have so much fun when you don’t have a home, that changed my major from biomedical sciences to child development.”
Allen later learned Jack came from a homeless family, and the birthday present to him and his other siblings each year was to attend the free event put on by the RSO. It is Allen’s dream to one day run a Big Brothers Big Sisters location.
Along with his fellow volunteers, Allen receives help and guidance from April Douglass, events manager of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Great Lakes Bay Region. Douglass serves as the liaison between students and the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Midland when it comes to organizing events and fundraisers.
Douglass was invited to be the adviser for the CMU group, but said the students are so responsible, there’s not much she finds she needs to do for them.
“As an adviser, it’s more of just a title,” she said. “They kind of run with everything on their own, but they keep me in the loop just to keep an eye on things. They all work so closely together that, as new e-board members are elected, they’ve been mentored by the ones before them.”
Douglass said the profits that come from the five to six fundraisers held by the students each year go directly back into the organization to fund activities like after-school mentoring programs, special events like the field day, and the iconic matching program Big Brothers Big Sisters is known for.
CMU Big Brothers Big Sisters puts on two special events every year. Allen said they try to mix up the events, including new ideas and striving to make sure things are not repeated for the kids.