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By Devese “Dee” Ursery
Madison County Sheriff’s Office and the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Illinois joined forces to help match area youths with Big Heroes.
Big Heroes is an initiative started by the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Southern Illinois.The intent is to enlist volunteers who work as first responders to mentor youths ages 6-14. Its goal, like all other BBBSIL programs, is to ensure that children and teenagers grow up with love, hope and opportunity.
Deputy Kyle Graham, is the first to rise to the occasion lending his time, energy and dedication to helping steer a little one’s life in the right direction. Graham believes that commitment is key to being a good Big Brother/Big Sister.
“I think it just takes someone who’s dedicated and believes that they can make a difference,” Graham said. “Someone who is going to be committed to that program and giving that time, whether it be the minimum amount or above that.”
By matching first responders with adolescents as one-on-one mentors, Big Heroes helps to build strong, trusting and enduring relationships between first responders and the youth, families and communities they serve.
Graham, a 13-year law enforcement veteran, was a Big Brother while serving with the Madison Police Department as well. He met Kayden for the first time on Feb.1. Kayden is a fourth grader attending Silver Creek Elementary in Troy.
Graham said that Kayden’s favorite sport is basketball with his favorite player being the new NBA All-Time leading scorer and Los Angeles Laker forward, Lebron James. Graham and Kayden both have a love for the outdoors, animals and sports, according to the sheriff’s office social media page.
Big Brothers and Big Sisters have a new program where Bigs fill out a wish sheet of his or her Little one’s interests. The wish sheet is composed to create activities for the Big and his or her Little to do together in order to build a relationship. Graham said Kayden is big into Airsoft and with him in law enforcement they have a natural common bond that fuels a fun competitiveness.
Graham also stated that Kayden has a younger brother that also has a Big Brother. Graham said he plans on coordinating a time for all of them to get together for activities. Graham also mentioned he knows a few people that work at World Wide Technology Raceway and plans to attend a few events with Kayden.
“Kayden has expressed a huge interest in going to the bean fields in Edwardsville,” Graham said. “ There are some go karts at World Wide Technology’s, we’re gonna try to do a couple of events out there.”
According to the BBBSIL’s website Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwestern Illinois, their evidence-based Big Heroes program builds social and emotional support, confidence and resilience. That helps to ensure young people have a healthy physical and mental wellbeing and are college and career ready. Little Brothers in the program are 100% confident that they can say no to bad behavior, maintain academic excellence and feel like they belong, per their website.
Sheriff Jeff Connor explained that it’s a great outreach program for the community and they partnered with the BBBSIL to create mentorship opportunities for their employees.
Connor said that he took the information he got from a meeting with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization and sent it out to all of his employees.
“Deputy Graham was the first one to tell us that he would be willing to dedicate his time towards this,” Connor said.