Big Brothers Big Sisters celebrates 40th anniversary

Paul Washington believes his mother took the right step when she signed him up for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Wichita program in 1996.

"Without my Big Brother, I wouldn't have gotten the qualities I have gained," Washington told the Big Brothers Big Sisters board of directors on Tuesday.

Now, at age 23, Washington said he credits a lot of his success to his Big Brother.

"I got a lot of my skills from him," he said. "I became a better person, son, and a student."

Washington, along with other involved in the nonprofit organization, celebrated Sedgwick County's Big Brothers Big Sisters' 40th anniversary on Tuesday.

Events included inflatables, a birthday cake and free barbecue with special guest Mayor Carl Brewer as the chef.

"It's really a milestone that a nonprofit has grown this large in 40 years," said Dawn DeArmond, president and CEO. "Being a Big is easier than you think. It's not an instant gratification process. You may grow up to be 23 like Paul and then realize it was gratifying."

Erickah Furr, a junior in high school, has been matched with her Big, Jane Knight, for almost six years.

"Having her helps me deal with life and certain situations," Furr said.

Knight said Furr isn't the only one benefiting from the relationship.

"I learn a lot from Erickah as well," Knight said. "In this generation, some might think it's hopeless, but when I look at someone like Erickah I am amazed at what she can do."

Big Brothers Big Sisters is searching for more volunteers, as many Littles are still on the waiting list.

"If you are willing to give more of yourself, the Littles are there, ready and waiting," Knight said.

For more information on the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program, visit www.kansasbigs.org.