ESCANABA - How many times have we seen this scenario on the news?
A child is performing at his or her school Christmas program. The audio is from the newscaster explaining the youngster's only wish for a present is to see their father or mother come home from military service.
The camera pans the students when out from nowhere springs the parent, in uniform, and the two unite in a long and silent hug.
Kind of brings a tear to your eyes, doesn't it?
Now let's bring that scenario a little closer to common reality.
A lot of those kids and others like them won't get that special present this year, or any year for that matter. Maybe mom or dad won't be coming home because they're not around in the first place. Maybe they are gone for special holidays but are committed to serve away from home and/or working hard to keep a roof over their family and there isn't time for other extra curricula's like they'd hope.
Where does a little one turn to for that special influence only an adult can provide?
Fortunately there is a group of people, most of whom are volunteers, who devote their extra time in joining a youngster as a Big Brother or Big Sister. We have that very organization here in the Central UP.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bay Area serve the citizens in the south central area of the UP all the way into Wisconsin. They have a list of over 400 boys and girls, ages 6-16, who are looking for an adult to participate in their lives.
While the girls have strong participation, the boys are especially in need of additional male involvement.
It doesn't require anyone with special training to be a Big Brother or Big Sister, it just needs your time and ability to share life's experiences.
The impression left on a Little One is positive even when the activity you choose is as simple as shooting a basketball at the local gym, playing a board game, sharing a pizza, taking a walk in the park or just hanging out and talking.
Your time together gives them a chance to open up. They can ask questions about things of which they are unsure. It all makes a huge difference in the end.
According to a report from BBBS, researchers found that after 18 months of spending time with their "Bigs", the Little Brothers and Little Sisters, compared to those children not in their program were: 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs; 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol; 52 percent less likely to skip school; 37 percent less likely to skip a class; 33 percent less likely to hit someone.
They also found the Littles were more confident of their performance in schoolwork and getting along better with their families.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bay Area is a United Way Member Agency. The additional monies needed to operate the agency come from a variety of sources. Several special-event fundraiser's bring in the largest part of the $250,000 needed to operate the program.
In their style of fund-raising, UP Whitetails has partnered up with Big Brothers and Big Sisters in providing a contest that truly gives back to those who participate, much like they do with their famous banquets, with a "52 Gun Raffle".
UP Whitetails Association, Inc., is a long standing partner in conservation efforts throughout the UP. Each of the eight organizations commit 100 percent of their resources to projects and programs in or that reflect on the Upper Peninsula.
UP Whitetails believes our youth are the future of conservation and want to assure them every opportunity to enjoy the outdoors heritage we all hold near and dear to our hearts.
Each week for 52 weeks beginning Jan. 4, numbers drawn from the Michigan Lottery Daily Three will be used to pick a winner of a long gun as a prize. There are a mix of firearms appropriated each week including rifles, shotguns and muzzleloaders.
If no numbers are matched from the state lottery drawing, then random numbers will be picked locally until a winner is found. Those who may not wish to accept the gun of the week will have the option of taking a $300 cash prize as an alternative.
The best part of the whole idea is the winner's number is then re-entered and remains eligible throughout the entire year.
Only 1,000 tickets will be sold for a $50 each. Proceeds go to fund outdoor and educational programs for youth through Big Brother Big Sisters.
If you have the time to give of yourself as a Big Brother or Big Sister, do it and make a difference in a youngster's life.
If you don't have the opportunity and want to help, you can buy a ticket and/or give it to someone else as a Christmas present. Either way the return on investment is better than any chance game out there and certainly goes for a good cause.
You can purchase a ticket on line at www.bbbsbayarea.org to pay with credit card.
Otherwise tickets may be purchased at all Riverside Auto Group locations in Escanaba, Marinette or Iron Mountain, the Rapid River Mini Mart, Rapid River Knife Works, Gibby's Bar in Gladstone or the Peninsula Federal Credit Union in Menominee. You can call BBBS for more information at (906-789-0060).
Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.