Brotherly love hits 50 years

A program doesn’t last 50 years if it isn’t making a positive impact.

The fact that Big Brothers Big Sisters of Blair County has reached that milestone – and, having done so, is looking forward to its second half-century of service – counts not only as an achievement for the non-profit organization but also for the county as a whole.

The word “county” encompasses not only the “Bigs” who have devoted countless hours serving as excellent examples for the young people whom they have mentored.

That word also includes the many businesses, corporations and other individuals whose contributions to the program have been key elements to the program’s ongoing success.

It’s appropriate that Big Brothers Big Sisters has chosen to mark the program’s 50th anniversary with a number of events throughout this year, beginning with a light reception for past and current board members and community partners from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Baker Mansion.

Later this year will be events for program alumni and individuals considering becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister and for current participants and their families. Meanwhile, the organization is planning a gala dinner for Oct. 14 at the Jaffa Shrine.

As many Blair residents know, the organization, when it began in 1964, started as Big Brothers of Blair County. Eighteen years later, it expanded to become Big Brothers Big Sisters, then later expanded into Huntingdon County.

Since that beginning in the mid-60s, 2,100 children have been beneficiaries of the splendid guidance that the “Bigs” have generously put forth. How many of those children’s lives might have taken a negative turn if it hadn’t been for a Big Brother or Big Sister’s positive example and guidance, will never be known, but suffice to say that even one would have been too many.

Big Brothers and Big Sisters don’t expect thanks and honors for their service, but they deserve the gratitude of all who have watched or heard of their work and dedication. All of the communities that they have touched are beneficiaries of what they have accomplished.

Meanwhile, it should not be overlooked that the good and positive careers in which former participants now are engaged, not only here but in numerous other locales across the United States, are an outgrowth of what began here through a small token of commitment by some adult.

As an article in Sunday’s Mirror related, Big Brothers Big Sisters matches adults 18 to 80 with children ages 6 to 17. Those growing-up years pour the foundation that most times paves the path that a young person will take throughout the rest of his or her life.

Among those mentioned in Sunday’s article was Jaime Shuler, whose experience with Big Brothers Big Sisters under the guidance of Grace DeBolt of Altoona, helped give Shuler a greater incentive for bigger successes than she might otherwise have had. Shuler, who joined the Air Force at age 18, currently is an air traffic controller with the Federal Aviation Administration – at the same time serving as a great example for her own three children.

“50 years and counting” was the headline over Sunday’s article.

May the program’s successes continue uninterrupted, and may its “Bigs” and benefactors always be many.