Zombie Bowl set to scare up funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters

Zombies are gearing up to take over the Suncoast Bowling Center June 14, and the community is invited to join the fun.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Nevada plans to host its second annual Zombie Bowl, the organization’s Bowl for Kids’ Sake fundraiser, at noon June 14 at the Suncoast, 9090 Alta Drive. The theme is zombies, and face painters are scheduled to be on site.

Organizers hope the event will help raise awareness, funds and increase mentorship rates for the nonprofit, which is supported by volunteers. It seeks funding through events such as this to maintain and grow its mentorship program and outreach initiatives for children throughout Southern Nevada.

The group holds two major fundraisers a year: the Bike & Board Bonanza in December and the Bowl for Kids’ Sake in the summer, with the latter the larger event. Last year’s bowling event raised about $35,000. Big Brothers Big Sisters hopes to repeat that success this year.

But it’s more than money that makes the program a success — it’s adults giving of their time.

Mountain’s Edge resident Nick Kaptain became a Big Brother mentor about four years ago. He was matched with Shawn, 11, who was adopted by his grandparents. The blonde, blue-eyed child was talkative, energetic and outgoing. Kaptain said he could see firsthand how Shawn benefited from the program.

“I like it better than merely making a financial dedication because you’re actually impacting someone’s life,” Kaptain said.

They originally met after school Thursdays to do homework together, then hit the playground for tetherball, kickball or basketball. Now that Shawn’s older, he and Kaptain meet every other week. Excursions into the community have them playing miniature golf, bowling or taking in a movie. One time, Kaptain brought Shawn to his house and they made dinner.

“There’s definitely a time commitment, but it’s worth it,” Kaptain said. “I was starting a business when I (signed up), basically working day and night, but I made the time.”

Bowl for Kids’ Sake is filled with fun, but that masks the real reason behind the fundraiser.

“Our primary focus year-round is to recruit more volunteer members,” said Kyle Dunlap, community relations manager for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Nevada. “We look for someone who is, obviously, outgoing and compassionate about the kids, someone who wants to make a difference in their community.”

The group provides mentors to more than 400 youths annually. More than 70 percent of the children in Southern Nevada seeking mentors are male, but only three out of every 10 volunteers are men. Research shows that having the positive influence of a mentor makes a real difference in a child’s life. Mentoring helps youths avoid risky behaviors and is a key strategy toward educational success.

The referral list for boys grows daily. As of today, there are approximately 280 on the list. The average wait time for boys to be assigned a mentor is about two years. The wait time for girls is six to eight months.

Children are referred by parents, teachers, school counselors, probation officers and case workers.

Big Brothers Big Sisters asks for a minimum of 18 months commitment to foster a long-term relationship with a child, seeing them at least four to six hours a month. Mentors are called “Bigs,” while the child with whom they are paired is a “Little.” As many as 90 percent of the youths in the program come from single-parent homes. Some, such as Shawn, are being raised by grandparents.

“They really struggle with social development at home,” Dunlap said. “They don’t have anything consistent at home; it’s very transient homes. It’s a very at-risk community in which they’re raised. The one-on-one setting allows for the focus on social development and the role model that the Little can look up to.”

Children age out of the program at 18. Some Littles stay in contact with their Bigs, who attend their graduation or keep in touch past high school.

Check-in for the Zombie Bowl is scheduled from noon to 1 p.m. and bowling from 1 to 3 p.m. To register a team or sign up for a team, visit bbbsn.org/bfks2014.

Contact Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 702-387-2949.