Blog | Volunteer & Family Resources


Shawna & Kathi’s Lifelong Friendship

Shawna’s parents divorced when she was five. Her mother Kim was doing her best, caring for Shawna and her brother, going to school—working long hours while she earned her teaching certificate. Kim had many sleepless nights worrying about what she could do for her kids while she was studying and working to earn a living for the family.

Kim had heard about Big Brothers Big Sisters—a specialized program that provided a professionally supported one-to- one relationship with a caring adult mentor. One of Kim’s concerns was inviting another woman, a complete stranger, into Shawna’s life. How would she know that Shawna would be safe? In the long term, would Shawna’s natural affection for her change? Would a mentor take her place as a mother? Her kids needed to be around people who would care deeply for them— listen and help them through the difficult years ahead. After her first meeting in her home with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Kim was greatly relieved. She knew her kids would be safe because of the ways BBBS specialists screened all potential volunteers. The volunteer’s role was thoroughly explained. The mentor wasn’t there to take the place of the parent. Mentors are expected to offer emotional support, guidance and to be a positive role model.

When Kim asked Shawna if she’d like to have a Big Sister to go on outings and hang out, Shawna didn’t hesitate to say yes. Steve, the enrollment specialist at the Big Brothers Big Sisters, matched Shawna with Kathi on September 7, 1992. Big Sister Kathi had been through rough years in her life. She decided the best way to cope with her pain and loneliness was to reach out, give back and apply her energies in a positive direction.

“Shawna gives me a fresh perspective to life,” was the comment Kathi made about the match in its early stages. They enjoyed watching movies together, sang all kinds of songs, baked cookies and cakes and played outside with Kathi’s hound dog Sam. Their favorite activity was cross-stitching. The idea of making a nice warm blanket to keep out the cold happened quite naturally. Their friendship was expressed well in a simple statement by Shawna to a BBBS support specialist. She said she “felt happier and more excited!”

Kathi and Shawna’s relationship continued to thrive and blossom in the months and years to follow. In May of 1993, they were named the “Match of the Month” for Big Brothers Big Sisters and their picture appeared in the agency newsletter. Their prize was dinner for two at the Sizzler, an outing they will always remember. Not long afterward they were awarded the high honor of “Match of the Year.” After being matched for approximately three years, Kathi went through a divorce. Her children were grown and no longer living at home. That Christmas could have been the most lonesome holiday ever for Kathi. She just couldn’t conjure up any Christmas spirit and had no desire to put up her Christmas tree. Shawna wouldn’t accept that excuse. She asked Kathi where she kept her tree, immediately dug it out of the closet, laid the parts on the living room floor and showed Kathi how she could put it up all by herself. That Christmas turned out to be more memorable than many holidays before Kathi met Shawna. The following spring Kathi taught Shawna how to ride a bike, a major milestone.

Now, twenty-six years later, Shawna looks back and talks about her relationship with Kathi as something that was “meant to happen,” mainly because they still keep in touch, plan visits with each other’s family and love every minute. She proudly talks about Kathi and her Mom Kim having grown very close over the years. Kim is deeply grateful for Kathi’s devotion to her daughter and her decision to be present throughout Shawna’s life— birthdays, helping with school projects, setting goals, developing good friendships, successes, fears, and dealing with disappointments—for all the ways Kathi stood by them through the ups and downs of her family’s experience. The framed “Memories” collage Shawna spent many hours making as a birthday gift is now and will always be hanging on Kathi’s front room wall. It portrays Shawna and Kathi’s life together—moving images of how their relationship developed and still thrives. A piece of the blanket they cross-stiched together when Shawna was a little girl adds another element of warmth to the stories told in each picture.

When Shawna attended high school, she and Kathi didn’t see each for over two years. Kathi moved to Las Vegas and Kim had taken her family to Scotts Bluff, Nebraska for a teaching job. Before the end of her senior year Shawna called Kathi to invite her to her graduation. Kathi immediately booked plane tickets and traveled from Las Vegas to Scotts Bluff for the biggest event in Shawna’s life.

After Shawna graduated from high school, Kim decided to move the family from Scotts Bluff to Tooele, Utah. Shawna has thrived in Utah, working her way up to Assistant Manager of a Walmart Supercenter in Salt Lake City. A recent Big Brothers Big Sisters fundraising event called Bowl For Kids Sake gave Shawna an opportunity to give back to the cause that has made such an impact on her life. She and the other store managers decided to encourage their associates to volunteer their time on a Saturday to raise money Big Brothers Big Sisters. The Walmart foundation offers a program called “Volunteerism Always Pays” (VAP), providing funding to non-profit organizations their associates choose to support. The collective hours they donate are applied directly to help more children in the community be matched with a caring mentor.

Kathi and Shawna’s mutual admiration has spread to nearly every member of their respective famil Shawna met her husband Sean at work over eight years ago. For Shawna and Sean’s wedding, Kathi hosted a brunch for the entire wedding party at her home and helped with many of the advance arrangements. The wedding was a grand celebration. Kathi’s son and daughter came from Logan, Utah and Denver, Colorado, and with all the extended family, honored Shawna’s and Sean’s marriage. This is the way both families continue see their relationships- natural and familiar.

Shawna and Kim came to Las Vegas when Kathi married Gene eighteen years ago and Gene is now a loving grandfather figure to Evan, Shawna and Sean’s precocious boy everyone loves to spoil. Shawna smiles as she talks about their family trip to Las Vegas to see Kathi and Gene. She pulls out her cell phone and clicks on a video clip of Gene pulling Evan in his stroller behind his motorized wheelchair, his cane the connecting link― a simple but perfect picture of caring relationships growing across generations. Shawna and Kathi’s match over 26 years ago was just the beginning of a beautiful story.

BBBSU is celebrating 40 years of mentoring!


Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah is celebrating 40 years of changing lives through mentoring in 2018! BBBSU has worked to help Utah children who face adversity by bringing caring role models into their life that give them the opportunity to reach their full potential. So much has happened in the last 40 years! Numerous children helped. Many awards won. So many exciting events and fundraisers!

One of the first fundraising events that was organized was Bowl for Kids’ Sake in 1984. This event is now, usually held in March & April and this year, it’s beginning March 3rd! Proceeds will go towards funding programs for one-to-one mentoring. Participants help raise money and then enjoy free bowling, pizza, and can win fun prizes! After 34 years, the event is still going strong and has been quite successful!

Among the many awards won for achievement and excellence, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah was first recognized for outstanding public service in 1988, receiving the highest honor through the Governor’s Award for Excellence. The Governor’s Award for Excellence rewards accomplishments that reflect positively on the state of Utah.

In 1994, a partnership with Savers Thrift Stores began which assisted in the opening of donation centers throughout the state over the last 24 years. The purpose of these donations centers are to collect gently-used clothing and household goods that can be sold to Savers Thrift, and in turn, fund about 25% of mentoring program expenses. 

Before 1999, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah only provided community-based programs that allowed Bigs and Littles to explore their communities together and create their own schedules. Then, Salt Lake City introduced site-based mentoring which allows Bigs to visit their Littles same time, same day at school or an after-school program. This program allows the Bigs schedule to be more consistent and to to be better involved in their Little’s schoolwork.

10 years ago, BBBSU began a partnership with the Beehive Chefs Association and introduced the Chef & Child Gala. This is probably one of the most exciting and delicious events that is held all year! Renowned chefs offer their time and culinary skills at this yearly fundraiser and provide many unique culinary treats for donors and supporters. There is always a lively atmosphere with live music, great conversation, and a silent and live auction that really gets people excited! 

Here are a few other grand achievements! For the past few years, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah has been recognized by Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America as a pinnacle agency. To qualify, agencies must increase their revenue by at least 5 percent, grow their overall number of matches for two or more consecutive years, and meet or exceed several important quality metrics. In 2011, BBBSU received the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in the Workplace Flexibility. In 2015, the United Way of Salt Lake Promise Partner of the Year award was given to BBBSU and in 2017, the Ethical Leadership Award for Nonprofits from the Daniels Fund was awarded.

Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Utah has accomplished so much over the last 40 years and is proud of the growth that has been made. It will be exciting to see what the future has in store for this amazing organization. 


Match Story: Big Mamadou & Little Martin

Mamadou knows what it is like to have a Big Brother because he was a Little Brother from 2007-2012! Because of the impact his Big Brother had on his life, Mamadou decided to pay it forward and become a mentor himself.

Little Brother Martin said he is really lucky to have such a wonderful big brother because his Big Brother is a “positive, generous and nice person”. He said that having a Big Brother in his life is most important when he just needs someone to call for advice. Mamadou knows that he is having a positive impact on Martin.

They say they know their friendship will last a lifetime.

Match Story: Big Kaitlin & Little Daisy

Big Sister, Kaitlin has been matched with Little Sister, Daisy for nearly six years. In this time, they have done a lot together! Walking the dog, swimming, riding bikes, playing games and rock climbing are just a few of the activities on Daisy’s list of favorites.

Recently, Daisy has been teaching Kaitlin to play video games, though, according to Daisy, “It might be a while before Kaitlin is any good at it.” Kaitlin says that one thing she has learned from Daisy is that “you don’t have to be biological sisters to be sisters.

There are so many other sister matches through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah programs that are just as close. By matching Bigs and Littles through similar interests, backgrounds, abilities, etc. our matches almost always end up as life long friends!

Match Story: Big Amanda & Little Melissa

Melissa and Amanda have been match for more than five years. They have had so many different experiences together. Their favorite is taking cooking classes. Both of them love to cook. They also like taking walks in the park and going to see movies. Melissa and Amanda have said they have gotten along great from the beginning and became great friends in the last five years.

Melissa said “Amanda was a big inspiration for me. Amanda helped me set goals and accomplish them over the years.” Melissa worked very hard to do well in high school and is now off to attend college. Both Melissa and Amanda continue to meet and communicate often.  

Match Story: Big Stacia and Little Jenna


Big Sister, Stacia and Little Sister, Jenna have been matched in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah program since September 2013. They love doing all kinds of activities together and love to have new experiences! They usually can be seen going to plays, musicals, and their favorite restaurants.

Over the last four years they have developed a strong and loyal friendship. Stacia has said that she loves her Little Sister and is thankful she has had this opportunity to be a mentor. Jenna is growing up and likes to spend a lot of time with friends but she continues to meet with Stacia about twice a month. Jenna feels like she can talk to Stacia about anything and do all types of fun activities she would normally not have the opportunity to do. Jenna feels so grateful to have such an amazing Big Sister! 

Conversations with Your Little

Written by Heidi Kulicke

Let’s face it, it’s not always easy to know what to talk to your Little about – especially if your Little doesn’t talk much. As a Big, you have the opportunity to make a lasting impact in the life of a child. As you and your Little grow more comfortable with each other, you can start to ask your Little deeper questions that go beyond “How is school going?” and avoid the generic responses you’re likely to receive. Below are some ideas to get the conversation moving.

  • Friendship, Cooperation, and Teamwork

It’s important for kids to develop people skills while they’re young. As a big, you can help move the conversation in this direction by asking questions like, “How can you be a good friend” or “What do you do if you and your friend don’t agree?” This is an opportunity to teach your Little about what a compromise is and why it’s important. Other questions could be, “How do you help a friend who is sad?” You can let your Little know that when a friend is sad they should listen, acknowledge their feelings, and ask how they can help. Or you could ask “Are your classmates nice to each other and are you nice to them?” Being aware of others who are kind or mean will help your Little to choose good friends and better navigate friendships.

  • Feelings and Emotions

It can be difficult for children to understand their emotions and put a label on what they are feeling exactly. By learning how to do this, however, children are better equipped to handle the ups and downs of life. To help your Little understand what he or she is feeling, you can ask questions like, “What do you do when you are mad or sad, and are you ever mean when you’re unhappy?” This gives you the opportunity to suggest positive ways to deal with sadness or anger (reading, music, talking to friends, working out, etc.) Another question you could ask is, “How do you calm down if you are nervous, and what do you get nervous about?” Talk to your Little about different ways to relax and calm down, and what you do when you’re feeling stressed or nervous about something. Anger is a big issue for many children, especially if their home life is less than ideal. You could ask your Little, “What makes you angry and what do you do when you are angry?” Explain to your Little that when they are mad the first thing they should do is stop and think before acting on an impulse. This way they are less likely to regret something later.

  • Building Confidence and Self-Esteem

Learning to adapt to their growing and changing bodies is a challenge for many children. Those who are competitive or compare themselves to their peers often have an especially difficult time. As a Big, you have the opportunity to help your Little feel good about him or herself by recognizing their own strengths. You can ask questions like, “What are you most confident about?” Discuss with your Little the importance of confidence, and build up their confidence by giving them a few compliments. Or you could ask, “What do your friends like about you?” Help your Little understand how others might perceive them, and tell each other what you like about each other. You could also ask, “How would you describe yourself in 5 words?” The way your Little responds to this question is telling. If they don’t say anything positive, help them to recognize their strengths and talents. Tell them they are special and unique and add great value to the world simply by being alive.

It’s important for your Little to know you care about them and wish for their happiness and success, and by asking your Little deeper questions, you have the opportunity to grow closer together. Never underestimate the positive impact you can have on your Little simply by asking meaningful questions and showing you care.

Top 5 Reasons You Should Give A Sh!rt


If you’re anything like us, you’ve got a pile of clothing and household items clogging your closets or garage. What if we told you all your clutter could actually make a world of difference for your community?

It absolutely can.

When you donate your unwanted clothing and household items in Utah, you do more good for your community than you may even realize. Let’s count down the reasons.

  1. You help us! – Your clothing donations help our cause through the partnership we have with Savers® thrift stores. By donating your unwanted items to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah, you help us with much-needed support in serving our shared community.
  2. You help save valuable natural resources – For example, it takes up to 700 gallons of water to make a single new cotton T-shirt. By donating your clothing in Utah, you help offset the billions of gallons of water and other natural resources used in the production of clothing worldwide.
  3. You help keep items from landfills – The clothing industry is one of the world’s largest polluters, with the average North American throwing 81 pounds of clothing into landfills each year, 95 percent of which could be reused or recycled.
  4. You help reduce stress – Decluttering has been proven to have an immediate benefit to your disposition. Lightening up your closets will help lighten your mood.
  5. You help make somebody’s day – Whether it’s someone hunting for a forgotten thrifting treasure, materials for a DIY project, or an affordable wardrobe, your neighbors will benefit from your donations.

This is only the start. Your donations help your community—all you need to do is unload your stash. You’ll feel better that you did. Donate your clothes to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah today by finding one of our donations centers, dropping your items off at a bin, or scheduling a FREE pick-up!

Click Here to Donate

Make your own Solar Eclipse Viewers!

On August 21, North America will be able to view the full solar eclipse in its totality. This eclipse will be occurring from coast to coast, across the continental U.S. It is the first eclipse to do this since 1918 – almost 100 years! This is the perfect opportunity to get out with your family, friends, and Littles to view this natural phenomenon – and learn how to do it safely.

“A total solar eclipse occurs when the disk of the moon appears to completely cover the disk of the sun in the sky. The fact that total solar eclipses occur at all is a quirk of cosmic geometry. The moon orbits an average of 239,000 miles (385,000 kilometers) from Earth — just the right distance to seem the same size in the sky as the much-larger sun. However, these heavenly bodies line up only about once every 18 months… During a total solar eclipse, the disk of the moon blocks out the last sliver of light from the sun, and the sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, becomes visible. The corona is far from an indistinct haze; skywatchers report seeing great jets and ribbons of light, twisting and curling out into the sky… During totality, the area inside the moon’s shadow is cloaked in twilight — a very strange feeling to experience in the middle of the day. Just before and just after totality, observers can see this cloak of darkness moving toward them across the landscape, and then moving away.” (Total Solar Eclipse 2017: When, Where and How to See It (Safely))

It is important to never look directly at the sun without the right viewing protection, except during totality. There are many ways to safely view an eclipse of the sun including direct viewing – which requires some type of filtering device and indirect viewing where you project an image of the sun onto a screen.


Click here for some easy, DIY ways you can safely view the eclipse!



Qualities of a Good Mentor


Do you know if you’d be a good mentor? Do you know what a mentor is? Do you know how a mentor can make a difference?


Being a good mentor is hard work, whether you are mentoring a new hire at your company, a nephew, or you’re volunteering as a Big Brother. There are many men in our communities that want to make a difference and be a part of something great, but they may not know where to start or think they don’t have the time or the qualities of a good mentor. Being a good mentor actually takes less time than you would think. For example, volunteering as a “Big” for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah is a commitment of only 6 – 12 hours a month! A bike ride around their neighborhood, a one-on-one game of basketball, helping them with their homework is all it takes to change a “Little’s” life for the better.

Research has shown that young boys and men that have the support and attention of a mentor for at least 12 months, show improvement in their belief of educational success, avoid engaging risky behaviors, and have better relationships overall with their parents, families, and friends (BBBSU National Survey, MENTOR 2014 Report).

Volunteers come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. Ask yourself – are you doing as much as you can to improve the future of your communities? Do you have what it takes to change someone’s life for the better? Step up, and be the light in a child’s world.

Big Brothers Big sisters of Utah has kicked off the summer of ’17 with a 2-month recruiting campaign, Real Men Mentor – 60 Men 60 Days, June 1 – Aug. 1. BBBSU is calling on caring and dependable men in Utah to step up and volunteer to mentor a Little Brother. On average, BBBSU has 250 boys waiting for a Big Brother of their own. The goal is to work towards filling that gap so no child has to wait more than a year to be matched with a “Big”. Volunteer today!