The Spring of 1971 is exactly 52 years ago, quite a substantial stretch, right?

 Yet for Dawna, it marks how long she’s been a dedicated volunteer with our agency.

Dawna first came across our agency after seeing an article in the Welland Tribune. “I saw that children and youth needed a mentor and that’s something I wish I had growing up,” says Dawna, Big Sister. At the age of 9, she lost her mother and by the age of 16, her father no longer supported them. Despite being a young married mother when she stumbled upon that article, she knew it was something she could undertake.

Over the course of Dawna’s involvement with BBBSN, she has been a 1:1 Community-Based Mentor, on the Board of Directors, an Event Volunteer, and Big For a Day. In total, she has had 9 Little Sisters but yet her influence has reached and inspired countless lives. Dawna shared that she was 24 years old when she started with the agency and is now 76.

To this day she is still in touch with her little sister who is now 60!

Each one of her relationships with her Little Sisters were very different.  Some, but not all of her mentees, came from a stable home with supportive caregivers “Each one of these relationships had its own measure of success. I’ve helped some of my littles get out of tough situations and upbringings, and completely turn their lives around. Most of them were the first in their families to graduate from college or university, they all made consistently good decisions which led to a brighter future.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Niagara provides training and support for volunteers as many children and youth in our programs face several adversities. From Dawna’s point of view, “Sometimes it could be a challenge in the beginning to establish the relationship and trust (but not always). I always had a smile on my face and after each meeting, and set our next meeting to prove I was there for them. With time, they knew they had a safe space to talk and would eventually open up.”

The Holiday season is finally here! Dawna shared with us one of her favorite Holiday memories with BBBSN. “It was part of Big for A Day where I got to take one of the waitlisted Littles and her sister who was 4 years old to a BBBSN Holiday Party. This particular 4-year-old had never seen Santa, who happened to be at the party, nor did she know what Christmas was. I had the pleasure of telling her what the Holiday was all about and I will never forget how her eyes lit up. She got to enjoy the festivities and held on tight to the present she received.”

Though the Holidays can be a very magical time of year, it can be very tough for a lot of families involved in our programs. Every $1 invested in BBBS returns $23 to the community.  Dawna emphasizes “It’s a good practice to donate and support your community. It’s simple, and you can provide needed support to the children and youth in Niagara.”

Help support children and youth be matched with a life-changing mentor like Dawna.

This Holiday Season, consider becoming a donor and understand that your contribution can truly make a BIG difference in the lives of children and youth in Niagara.