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Little moments, big magic

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By Katy Korkos

Local leaders were invited to become charter members of the Little Moments, Big Magic Society, to support the Northern New Mexico Big Brothers Big Sisters organization at a luncheon Wednesday at the Hilltop House Hotel. As people filed in, they were taken to their tables by the Littles: kids who have been matched with adults through the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program.As people dined, they were both entertained and moved by stories from adults and kids who have participated in the program. Their heartfelt stories made the point that, although the focus of the group is on the kids, it’s hard to tell who benefits more from the relationships facilitated by the nonprofit organization, which has 800 matches this year.The northern New Mexico group’s Chief Executive Officer Andrea Maril told the story of the original mentoring experience she had, working with a young woman named Belinda, whom she met in 1978.“The person who taught me the power of mentoring was Belinda,” Maril said. “Who would have thought that those few hours I spent listening and cheerleading would have led to life-long, life-changing friendship for both of us?”Big Brothers Big Sisters organization is well established in northern New Mexico, having served Santa Fe, Rio Arriba, Los Alamos and Taos counties for several years. This year, it is expanding its programs to San Miguel, Union, Harding, Mora, Colfax and Guadalupe counties.A recent study conducted by the national research firm Public/Private Ventures examined the impact of the program on youth and found that when compared to their peers, Little Brothers and Little Sisters who met with the Big Brothers or Sisters for at least one year were 46 percent less likely to start using drugs, 27 percent less likely to start drinking, 33 percent less likely to act violently, 52 percent less likely to skip a day of school and, in general,  earned higher grades.“Our focus is one-to-one mentoring,” Maril said.  “We have 800 stories like Belinda’s unfolding at our agency this year.”Community-based programs pair a child with an adult to spend several hours together two to four times a month. School-based programs pair adult “Bigs” with a child, or “Little,” for an hour a week during the school year. Children age 6-18 are matched through the program. It costs the organization $1,000 to match a child with a volunteer.Maril singled out prominent Los Alamos resident George Cowan to thank, for helping her “to think strategically about how to build the framework to take us from serving 150 kids, mostly in Santa Fe County, in 1999, to planning to change kids’ lives throughout 11 counties in northern New Mexico in the coming year. Our dream is to match 10 percent of all children at risk in the counties we serve, more than 2,000 for whom having a Big Brother or Big Sister could make a big difference,” Maril said.Bowling for Kids Sake has been the Big Brothers Big Sisters’ largest annual fundraiser since the early 1980s, she said. This year’s bowling event will take place in April at bowling alleys in Santa Fe, Española, Gallup and Pojoaque. A kick-off party for team captains will be held at noon on March 1 at the Central Avenue Grill, 1789 Central Ave.Contact the organization at 866-983-8360, or the Santa Fe office at 983-1280. The website is found at www.bbbsnorthernnm.org.