For Immediate Release

Distributed June 2000

Big Brothers/Big Sisters Awareness Month at the Zoo

When you think about kids who need Big Brothers and Big Sisters, you don't often think about Southwest Florida. Indeed, the needs within our affluent community are not always obvious. But it's not dollars that our local children are necessarily missing; it's specific relational needs that can be missing no matter where you live in the socioeconomic spectrum. From a child who lost a mom or dad to single parent children, many children greatly benefit from spending time with a Big Brother or Big Sister. All the month of June, Caribbean Gardens: The ZOO in Naples is promoting awareness for the local need for Big Brothers inside the zoo by highlighting the program and providing information on the BB/BS. And from June 19th through June 25th, when a Big Brother or Big Sister buys a ticket to the zoo, their Little Brother or Little Sister is welcomed in free. The zoo will also be donating the zoo's facilities for an upcoming activity with unmatched "Bigs" and "Littles."

Currently, the need is for more Big Brothers. BB/BS has a waiting list of over thirty Little Brothers in need of a match. Case Manager Amanda Atkinson explains, "Throughout the process of entering our program, we get as much information as possible from the prospective Big, Little, and parent. This is done so we can make the best match possible. We do have a waiting list of kids, mostly from a lack of volunteers, specifically male volunteers, but also we're just waiting for the right match. We hope to build a lifelong friendship."

Of course, the benefits to parents and "littles" being so well matched are easily seen. One mother wrote, "I have two children in the Big Brother/Big Sisters program . . . It is such a joy to see how much they enjoy their time spent together. My son gets such a big smile on his face every time his Big Brother calls. My daughter has a very special bond with her Big Sister also. It has done wonders for my children especially since they lost their father several years ago." An eleven-year-old girl named Nikki tells her story, "I was 11 years old when I first met my Big sister. Before I met Sonya, I was always shy and nervous. I thought school had no value. When I met Sonya, it's as if a whole new world opened up to me. I started to have more confidence in myself and started to do things I had always wanted to do. I joined the Junior R.O.T.C. and my high school band. I also started volunteering at our local hospital and have accumulated more than 150 hours this year! This volunteer work, along with my improved grades, makes me eligible for a two-year scholarship! Besides my family, Sonya is the most important person in my life."

If you want to make a difference in a child's life with just a few hours a week, the BB/BS program has already proven to be tremendously successful. In fact, recent studies indicate that the children of BB/BS were 52% more likely to attend school, 54% more likely to stay away from drugs, and 27% more likely not to use alcohol. Big Brothers/Big Sisters provides the services necessary for children to successfully reach adulthood. The program gives children the opportunity to grow into successful adults by spending time with already successful adults. Through the child's relationship with their "Big", "Littles" develop the insight, understanding, and maturity it takes to become a productive, self-sufficient member of our community.

Of course, like you might expect, the "Bigs" often get as much out of the experience as their "Littles." One Big Brother said, "I must say it has been twice as rewarding as I had anticipated. From my standpoint of being a Big Brother to him, it is so much fun to just watch him learn new things. Because of his young age of 7, he tends to simplify things, and that is exactly what I need from time to time! I guess to sum it all up, my life is better because he is a part of it!"

Big Brothers and Big Sisters must be at least 18 years of age and spend 10 hours per month for at least one year to be eligible for our program. Prospective "Bigs" and parents of "Littles" attend an orientation during which the rules, responsibilities, expectations, and details of the match process are explained. A screening process is then completed to determine the "Bigs" that are accepted into the program. Any child age 6-14 is eligible for the program. A screening process with the child and parent(s) is performed to determine the needs of the child and if BB/BS is the program to best serve that child. If you'd like to help but becoming a "Big" isn't possible for you, BB/BS offers many other volunteer opportunities as well. Volunteers are needed for casework assistance, fund raising, word processing, office assistance, community outreach, and activities planning. If you'd like to learn more about Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Collier County call 941-262-1788 or visit them on the internet at www.bbbs-collier.org. Who knows, you might be the next person to forever improve the future of a child.

Caribbean Gardens is proud to be able to bring awareness of this group and the needs of the children to the community. The zoo is a 52-acre botanical and zoological garden located in the heart of Naples at 1590 Goodlette-Frank Road. The zoo ticket box is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and the zoo grounds close at 5:30. Admission includes all presentations including the Primate Expedition Cruise, Meet the Keeper Series, Scales & Tails Show, and Alligator Bay Feeding. Inexpensive Zoo Memberships are also available to visit the zoo free all year long. For full details on the zoo, call the Caribbean Gardens ZooLine at (941) 262-5409 or click on the zoo's web site at www.caribbeangardens.com.

Caribbean Gardens 1590 Goodlette-Frank Road Naples Florida 34102 ZooLine: 941.262.5409 www.caribbeangardens.com

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If you are a member of the media and would like to receive future releases, please e-mail Tim Tetzlaff at tim@caribbeangardens.com.

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Caribbean Gardens: The ZOO in Naples     1590 Goodlette-Frank Road     Naples Florida 34102
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