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BBBS of Helena and Great Falls needs more “bigs”

Gegg Smith and 6-year-old Zaegan Patacsil
Posted at 5:18 PM, Sep 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-28 11:43:05-04

GREAT FALLS — Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Helena & Great Falls is in the midst of a recruiting campaign called “30 in 3.” The organization is looking for 30 potential “Bigs” to attend its orientation within a three-month period.

Great Falls attorney Gregg Smith and six-year old Zeagan Patacsil are getting a kick out of Big Brothers-Big Sisters. They’ve been paired up for about six months.

“We’ve gone on a bike ride. He came over and went tubing,” said Smith. “I tried to get him up on a pair of waterskis.”

“A lot of the kids in our program they come from single parent households,” said Kelly McDermott, Development Director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Helena & Great Falls. “Some of them might have a parent that’s incarcerated. Or they are being raised by grandparents, aunts, uncles even in the foster system. So having a stable adult in their life can be life-changing.”

Smith says he has always wanted to be a part of the program, but waited until his own kids were grown. With a co-worker who is on the board, he felt now was the time to be Zeagan’s big.

“He lives with his grandma, she’s great. Just to be able to give her kind of a break has helped,” said Smith. “Hopefully this is a long-term deal.”

Gegg Smith and six-year old Zeagan Patacsil
Gregg Smith and six-year old Zeagan Patacsil

“A lot of these matches even after the graduate out of our program, you they get to high school age or 18, they continue their relationship outside of Big Brothers Big Sisters program because it is such a great relationship or bond that they have formed,” said McDermott.

According to a press release from Big Brothers-Big Sisters, studies show that investing in young people's futures pays off, with a social return on investment of $18-to-1 through improved economic, health, and social outcomes for young people with mentors. After being matched for at least one year, 89% of our Littles report improved relationships with their family, and 95% reported increased self-confidence.

McDermott estimates the program currently has about 60 matches, but can always use more.

“We do have 25 'littles' right now that are waiting for a 'big,' and 17 of those are boys,” said McDermott. “So while we encourage everyone to apply, we need bigs of all backgrounds we really do need more men in our program.”

Kelly McDermott, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Helena & Great Falls
Kelly McDermott, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Helena & Great Falls

Gregg and Zaegen have also gone to the dog park and out to dinner. Gregg has big plans for this fall: “I have Griz season tickets. I want to take him to a Griz game, but his grandma’s a Cat fan, so that’s still being negotiated.”

McDermott says typically the time commitment is about one to two hours a week, but that varies for each pair.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Helena & Great Falls holds two one-hour orientation sessions each month. The upcoming sessions will be conducted via Microsoft Teams. The first is Tuesday, October 5 at 6:00 p.m. The next will be Thursday, October 21 at noon. They can also schedule an orientation if the times conflict by calling 406-442-7472.

McDermott says even if someone is unavailable to become a Big Brother or Big Sister, there are still ways to help the organization. “There are three ways to help,” said McDermott. “Volunteer, donate, or advocate. Anyone can find a way to help Big Brothers Big Sisters.”

For more information, click here to visit the website; call 406-442-7479; or email mike@bbbs-helena.org.