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Big Brothers Big Sister seeks a few good men

Brothers Caynon, left, Caydon and Cayman have been waiting more than six months for a mentor through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County. (Lawerence Synett/Tribune)

Brothers Caynon, left, Caydon and Cayman have been waiting more than six months for a mentor through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County. (Lawerence Synett/Tribune)

Jen Vojcik is a single mother with three young boys who also works full-time as a firefighter with the McHenry Township Fire Protection District.

The McHenry resident does as much as she can with her children — ages 11, 10 and 8 —but while fighting fires and saving lives, her sons are left in the care of their older sister.

Knowing that she can’t provide everything her boys need, she has put them on the waiting list for a big brother with Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County.

“I can only do such much being a mom and a firefighter,” said Vojcik, 33. “We’re girls and we may be tomboys, but there are some things only a male role model can provide. They need a stronger male presence in their lives.”

Her sons are part of a growing group of boys — also known as “Littles” — waiting for mentors through the organization. Some have been waiting on the list for more than a year to be matched up with a “Big.”

Because of a lack of male volunteers, the local branch of the national nonprofit has launched the 30 Men in 30 Days campaign in an effort to recruit more mentors throughout McHenry County.

“I never had a male role model, and if it wasn’t for those men who weren’t related to me stepping up to help me, I don’t know where I would be,” said Crystal Lake Deputy Police Chief Eugene Lowery, spokesman for the campaign. “Those moments in time have such a significant impact on these kids. Sometimes that’s all it takes.”

Last year the organization matched 566 local children with mentors. The majority of those children, about 70 percent, are boys, while only around 30 percent of the mentors are men.

Big Brothers Big Sisters offers four mentoring opportunities for children 6 to 14 years old. That includes community-based programs where matches have unsupervised visits; after-school mentoring where high school students visit with younger children in a supervised setting; lunchtime mentoring with supervision; and a program for children with parents who are incarcerated.

Most children served are in single-parent and low-income families, or households where a parent is incarcerated, according to Robyn Ostrem, executive director of the organization.

“We want these kids to be introduced to things they might not have been otherwise and spend time with someone who keeps them on the right path,” she said. “We can’t do what we do without volunteers.”

Big brothers and big sisters undergo a background check before being paired with a child of similar background and interests. Residents have to be at least 18 years old and willing to make a yearlong commitment that includes 10 to 12 hours per month with a child.

For information or to volunteer, visit www.bbbsmchenry.org or call 815-385-3855.

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