HOUGHTON - Before she became program director of the U.P. Kids Big Brothers Big Sisters program, Maggie Munch was a volunteer Big Sister herself. Today, she hopes she was able to make a difference in her Little Sister's life. She knows the relationship made a difference in hers.
"You enter into it thinking you're going to give some time and help a kid," she said. "But now I'm thankful that I've had that caring person in my life. It gave me a chance to be a kid again."
Munch made those comments Saturday at the U.P. Kids BBBS Bowl for Kids event at the Mine Shaft bowling alley in Houghton, a fundraiser that helps support the local BBBS program, which pairs adult mentors in one-on-one relationships with children in need of a caring adult influence and also runs the High Five mentoring program to match high schoolers with elementary students in need of a role model.
According to Munch, more than 175 bowlers from 35 teams participated in the event, which raised just less than $30,000 - almost 10 percent more than last year - with money still trickling in. More than 50 volunteers also showed up, to keep the event running smoothly.
"Most of the people in the room aren't really here for the bowling," Munch said, noting that it was the kids in need of support, not the competition, that brought them to the lanes.
Thirty-five business and individual sponsors, and more than 100 donors who donated door prizes and silent auction items also contributed to the cause, she said.
This year's top fund-raising team - led by Nancy Byers Sprague and outfitted in Hawaiian shirts so bright they almost hurt the eye - brought in more than $6,000. Byers Sprague said the core of that team has raised funds and hit the lanes all 22 years Bowl for Kids has existed locally. This year, she said, donations ranged from $3 to $500, "and it all makes a big difference."
Why the two-decade commitment?
"The kids are the future ... I want them to take care of me when I get old," joked Nancy's partner Diane Sprague.
"I've seen kids in need," Nancy added more seriously. "A good friend's husband just died in an accident, and now her son needs a Big Brother."
Event volunteer Shelby Merrick's Bowling for Kids experience is less extensive, though she notes her Michigan Technological University sorority has been involved for more than a decade and sponsors a prize for the Tech team that raises the most money.
"We love giving back to the community, and it's great to be able to talk to the kids and see the money going back to the kids," Merrick said.
Munch, herself an ADA alum, noted that Tech students made up 35 to 40 percent of total bowlers, and have long played a crucial role in fund-raising.
Munch characterized the event as a "Big" success, but said there is currently a shortage of volunteers to work with children directly.
"We're always looking for adults, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, especially Big Brothers," she said.
To learn more about becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister, go to upkids.com or call 487-9855.