By Melanie Rossi
GREEN BAY – On Saturday, Aug. 5, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Wisconsin (BBBSNEW) will host Miles for Matches, an annual community bike ride along the Fox River Trail, but this year it will have a new look.
Starting at the Green Bay City Deck near Broken Spoke Bike Studio, riders can choose to follow one of three separate routes along the Fox River Trail, each with a varying degree of difficulty.
Before the bike rides begin, the City Deck will be hosting various booths featuring local businesses and other activities, such as a massage therapist, music and a bike raffle.
As a non-profit organization that forms one-on-one mentoring relationships for children in Brown, Shawano and Door Counties, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Wisconsin hopes the event can encourage families in the community to enjoy the outdoors, while also raising awareness and funds for the organization.
Their work focuses on matching volunteer mentors, called Bigs, with Littles, “children in the community who need someone in their life to have a positive relationship with,” Ashley Stewart, BBBSNEW’s community engagement manager, said.
“The purpose is to develop these positive relationships that have a direct and lasting impact on the youth in our community, so we create and we support these one-on-one mentoring relationships.”
With around 340 current matches, the organization hopes to use connection as a means of inspiration for their Littles.
“The purpose is to inspire kids to reach their full potential, to ignite the promise and power of youth in our community,” Stewart said. “We hope that these mentorships help them have higher aspirations, greater confidence, better relationships outside of their mentor relationship. It often helps them avoid risky behaviors, and it often helps with educational success, too.”
As a current Big Sister herself, Stewart has been able to note not only the effect of the organization’s work on her Little Sister, but also on herself as a Big.
“I see the direct impact that being a Big has on my Little Sister,” she said. “I can see that she has someone she can talk to that isn’t a parent, that isn’t a sibling… And I benefit, too. It’s not just the kids that benefit, but also the mentors in our program — the Bigs, we benefit too. I get to hang out with someone and learn what’s going on with kids younger than me, what’s the trends. But also see things through the lens of a kid too and explore the community too — I love that.”
BBBSNEW has been hosting a cycling event for years in order to raise funds for their work; this year, however, the event has been expanded to look quite different.
In previous years, the organization hosted a week-long competition with their sponsors and local businesses using stationary bikes.
Each sponsor would have the bike for a day and try to pedal the most miles, with the purpose being to encourage fitness for the employees and raise money for BBBSNEW.
Now, instead of the week-long event, the stationary bikes will be placed in Broken Spoke Bike Studio, and four of BBBSNEW’s company sponsors will be able to compete from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 4, to see who can bike the most miles.
In addition to the company ride, this year the event has expanded to include community participation.
Stewart said, “We want to encourage the families in our program, the kids in our program, but also our community to go out and enjoy a bike ride on a nice summer day… At the end of our company bike ride last year, we decided we wanted to do something that included our matches and the families in our program and kind of utilize the Fox River Trail; it’s a great trail, you don’t have to cross over hardly any roads. It’s a very safe place, and it’s very beautiful, too.”
With this expanded event, the organization hopes to not only raise funds, but also inspire more people to volunteer as mentors.
“We have a little over 90 kids on our waitlist right now, so we are always looking for mentors to be a part of our program,” Stewart said. “We’re looking for Bigs to sign up to help end our waitlist; some kids have been waiting for over a year to find the Big that’s matched right with them.”
The first 100 riders who register for the event will receive a free complimentary t-shirt, and all participants need to bring their own bikes.
To register for the event, apply to become a Big or enroll your child as a Little, visit www.bbbsnew.org.