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Two Chicago-Area Volunteers Named 2012 Illinois Bigs of the Year

McHenry County’s Jeremy Weith Named“Illinois Big Brother of the Year” and
Grundy County’s Sarah Peterson Named “Illinois Big Sister of the Year”

Belleville, IL (February 17, 2012) – Jeremy Werth, formerly of Woodstock, and Sarah Peterson of Morris were named the 2012 Illinois Big Brother and Big Sister of the Year by the Big Brothers Big Sisters Illinois State Association in Belleville on Monday. They now move on to national competition for Big Brother and Big Sister of the Year which is announced at the national Big Brothers Big Sisters conference in June in Washington, D.C.

Illinois Big Brother of the Year: Jeremy Weith of Woodstock (McHenry County)

Jeremy Weith, a newlywed from Woodstock who recently relocated to Milwaukee, was matched seven years ago with then 6-year old Harry of Woodstock. Even though he moved out of state, Weith consistently keeps up his bi-weekly commitment to Harry. Weith says he volunteered to be a Big Brother after graduating from college to “give back and share some of my good fortune with someone in need.”
“Jeremy is a long-term mentor whose volunteer service exemplifies how Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mentoring improves the odds for children to succeed in and out of school,” said Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County Executive Director Robyn Ostrem. “Their match has weathered adversity while Jeremy guided Harry through poor choices he was making at school and rallied the community to help Harry and his mom recover from a house fire.”
Harry was being raised by his mom, the youngest of three children with no male role model. Weith states “watching Harry grow up over the past seven years has permanently changed my outlook on life. My risk on my investment has far exceeded my expectations.”

Harry’s mother is so thankful she learned about the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. She is grateful for the good role model and unconditional friendship. “Jeremy has provided Harry positive reinforcement and stability the past 7 years. Jeremy has been Harry’s biggest fan at soccer games, been active in his educational goals and welcomed him into his family by having him stand up in Jeremy’s wedding.”

Harry explains that “Jeremy has been with me for seven fun filled years! He has impacted my life incredibly since my dad went away. I am thankful he included me and began sharing this life with me.”
Illinois Big Sister of the Year: Sarah Peterson of Morris (Grundy County)

Sarah Peterson of Morris and then 9-year old Hailey were matched in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties Lunch Buddies program at Hailey‘s school in Morris three years ago. Hailey began the school year with the loss of her grandfather, and ended it by having to move from her hometown.
When a crushed Hailey told Peterson she was moving and changing schools, and wouldn’t be able to continue with her in the Lunch Buddies program, Peterson asked if she wanted to be in continue their relationship as a Community-Based match. “Her face lit up like a light bulb,” Peterson said. “She was so thrilled that we would be staying together!”

“Peterson has been the “reliable constant” in Hailey’s life, cheering her on and giving her the encouragement she needed during these trying times, explains Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties CEO Lisa Morel Las. “Sarah and Hailey frequently say of each other, ‘She’s just like a real sister‘”

Peterson was there to help when Hailey went through some problems and home and school this past year. “She was surprised that I had gone through a similar situation,” Peterson said. “And after our discussion, Hailey tells me that her friends ask her why she has a Big Sister. She tells them, ‘Sometimes I have to have an older friend to help me out.’ At that moment, I knew how important I was to Hailey.”

“I’m an only child,” Peterson said, “and like most only children, I always wanted a sister or brother growing up.” A few years ago, she says, “a friend was telling me about her experience as a Big Sister in the Lunch Buddies program. …and I thought that now is my chance to be a Big Sister.”

Hailey’s mom says she is thankful for the huge impact Peterson has made on Hailey, who is now an A-B student. She was afraid her daughter would have a tough time getting close to someone again after her grandfather died. “But Sarah has shown Hailey how and not to be scared,” Jones said. “She has shown her she can do whatever she puts her mind to, and I love her for that. We are truly blessed to have Sarah in our lives.”

About Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Big Brothers Big Sisters operates under the belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and thrive in life. As Illinois' largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mission is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.

Partnering with parents/guardians, schools, corporations and others in local communities across, Big Brothers Big Sisters carefully pairs children (“Littles”) with screened volunteer mentors (“Bigs”) and monitors and supports them in one-to-one mentoring matches throughout their course. The organization holds itself accountable for children in the program to achieve measurable outcomes, such as higher aspirations; greater confidence and better relationships; educational success; and avoidance of delinquency and other risky behaviors. Most children served by Big Brothers Big Sisters are in single-parent and low-income families or households where a parent is incarcerated.
Eighteen local agencies serve over 9,000 Illinois children a year. Learn how you can positively impact a child’s life, donate, or volunteer at www.bbbsillinois.org.

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