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MOVE For kids’ sake

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact education by keeping schools closed and having many students learn from a distance, there is growing concern that students are becoming less engaged from learning and participating, stemming from a lack of accountability.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, a non-profit group that has created one-on-one youth mentorships for over a century, is aware of the unique challenges faced by students at this time. To that end, they want to recruit more mentors to help more students around Gallup.

Sarah Piano, regional director for Big Brothers Big Sisters Mountain Region, said their main focus right now is recruitment.

“Due to the virtual mentoring component we’re implementing, more kids can be involved in the program,” Piano said Nov. 11. “We are seeing a lot more youth referrals to our program because kids are more isolated now than ever because of COVID and kids being out of school.”

Since young people are isolated, they need guidance and support more than ever, Piano continued.

“Things are uncertain right now and kids are feeling anxious. But we know that having one mentor in your life makes such a big difference,” she said.

The goal of Big Brothers Big Sisters is reflected in a hashtag they are using on social media — #KeepKidsConnected. The hashtag is also the center of a fundraiser that began in mid-October.

MOVE FOR KIDS’ SAKE

The event began Oct. 15 and runs through Nov. 14. Piano said the virtual fundraiser was created in place of the Bowl for Kids’ Sake benefit the group holds each year.

According to their website, Move for Kids’ Sake is the signature fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Each year, about half a million people across America come together to have fun and raise money to support the group in efforts to help and guide youth as they grow up.

The virtual event is the first of its kind held for the Mountain Region.

“We didn’t want people to feel tied down, so we wanted them to move any way they wanted,” Piano said.

Participants formed a “QuaranTeam,”  which, according to the online urban dictionary, is the individuals, family members  and friends that you are secluded with during a pandemic, signed up on Big Brothers Big Sisters’ website, and then got out and moved around however they wished. Walking, running, hiking, jumping rope, or even doing household chores were all fair game.

“We had people cleaning their houses during the event. There was one group from Grants that went out to a nearby mountainside and picked up trash there,” Piano said. “People found great ways to move around and do good for their community.”

Other activities Piano witnessed included dancing and chopping wood.

“This all proved you can move around in lots of different ways,” she said.

Then as participants moved around throughout the day, they were told to post their activities on social media or send photos to Big Brothers Big Sisters to post themselves while using the hashtag #KeepKidsConnected.

As of Nov. 11, Mountain Region has raised about $175,222 of its $217,279 goal. Piano said the original deadline was Oct. 31, but was moved back because their fundraising goal had not been met, but she feels confident they will meet the goal with some extra time.

Piano also said a lot of people ask about the annual bowling event and wonder if they will bring it back next year if the pandemic circumstances change.

If the changes don’t come, another virtual event could be the organization’s future direction. But Piano said that decision has yet to be made.

“We’re looking at this year as a trial run, because we’ve never had a run like this,” she said. “So this is a good learning opportunity for us.”

VALUE OF THE PROGRAM

More than anything, Piano hopes the virtual fundraiser will help the community to recognize how important Big Brothers Big Sisters is for many kids and their families, because of the support it provides for them.

“I am so grateful to the families, mentors, businesses, and donors,” Piano said. “This program would not be possible without them.”

Piano also wants to stress the program is still taking applications for mentors, which are needed in order for the program to continue. With the pandemic restricting in-person meetings, she said many interviews and check-ins are done over Zoom or Skype now, and other means of virtual correspondence are being used.

For more information on Move for Kids’ Sake and Big Brothers Big Sisters, including to donate or how you can help out, visit https://www.bbbsmountainregion.org/mfks/

By Cody Begaye
Sun Correspondent

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