Big Brothers and Big Sisters leave a lasting impression

Police Chief, Bill Blair and BBBST President, Cathy Denyer share a photo opportunity as they await their turn at the 36th annual Bowl For Kids Sake fundraiser at Thorncliffe Bowlarama.

The day after one of the season’s biggest snowstorms, when most Torontonians chose to stay indoors, Big Brother David Wichman had other plans.

He found himself at an East York bowling alley, helping 12-year-old Alfredo with his homework, so they could join in the fun at the bowling lanes raising money for a worthy cause.

The Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Toronto (BBBST) held their 36th annual Bowl For Kids Sake at Thorncliffe Bowl-a-rama on Feb. 2. The teams consisted of local media and corporate volunteers, who joined Bigs and Littles in one of the organization’s largest fundraisers.

Big Brother Wichman, a children’s book publisher, and Little Brother Alfredo have worked as a team for the past four years.

“I give a lot of credit to the program,” Wichman said. “They told me it would take up to a year to find a match; yet within a couple of months I was matched with Alfredo.”

The program has an intense screening and interview process, which ensures the compatibility of every match. Alfredo acknowledged the significant role that Wichman plays in his life.

“I come from a family that’s full of girls,” Alfredo said. “I am the oldest and the only guy, so it helps to have David around.”

Many young children find themselves in a position similar to Alfredo’s. President, Cathy Denyer stressed the importance of organizations such as the BBBST.

“Mentorship and healthy, active living is crucial,” Denyer said. “Our organization centres around youth and the money raised, helps us develop new projects to ensure that this is possible.”

Similar to Wichman, Karen Garret-Walker joined BBBST five years ago. Within a few months, the program paired her up with then eight-year-old Little Sister Danique.

“I was at a point in my life where I felt the need to commit to something,” Garret-Walker said. “I work for the United Way and saw a video about the program and figured I would check it out.”

Danique says she has a lot in common with her Big Sister.“We have a lot of the same interests,” she said. “We watched ‘Dirty Dancing’ last week and had such a good time. We are always laughing.”

Garret-Walker stressed the importance of having a BBBST program that helps generate positive changes among local youth.

“I remember when I met Danique,” she said. “She was so quiet and shy, but now I’ve seen her grow into such a beautiful, vibrant young girl, not to mention the fact that she is now taller than me.”

The BBBST currently has two new pilot projects in the works – Go Girls! and Big Bunch. Denyer emphasized the fact that the organization consistently seeks volunteers – especially men over the age of 18.

According to Denyer, volunteers must fulfil certain requirements in order to work for the BBBST.

“They just need to enjoy working with youth and should have the desire to want to make a difference in the lives of others,” she said.

For more information on the BBBST and their various projects please go to their website at