Big Brothers Big Sisters looks to put men back in mentoring

Big Brother, Jim Okorn, spends some quality time with little brother, Michael Marchenko. The brothers are members of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program of Northwestern Michigan.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan is desperately searching for big brothers who can fill big roles in small lives.

Organizers tell 7&4 News that they have nearly 100 kids on a waiting list to receive a big brother or big sister, and that 70-percent of them are boys.

"The divorce rate is 50 percent," Executive Director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan. "50 percent of the kids born in the state of Michigan are on Medicaid. A lot of these kids, 99.9 percent of them, come from single parent families. So it's usually the mom carrying the weight. It's the boys that are lacking, that need guidance. That role model in their life."

Research through big brothers big sisters has shown that over 2-thousand kids in the Northwestern region would qualify for a big brother or sister. But without enough "Bigs" to match with "Littles," the list will just keep growing.

Jim Okorn has been a big brother for almost two years. He understands just how huge of an impact he has on his little brother Michael's life.

"It's extremely important having male role models," said Okorn. "It's just , one of those things throughout your life you'll always look back on and remember what you were taught by these mentors and it will just pay it's way forward all throughout your life and into the younger generation."

Okorn's little brother, Michael Marchenko, came to the area from the Ukraine with his mother seven years ago. His request for a big brother was simple.

"I don't have very many kids in my neighborhood," said 10-year-old Marchenko. "I only had three friends at that time. One moved away and one I don't get to see very much."

And Michael knows first hand what it would mean to another boy, like him, to have a big brother.

Big Brother Big Sisters has been operating for more than 100 years and believes that every child has the ability to succeed in life. They are the nation's largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network. Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers ("Bigs") and children ("Littles"), ages 6 through 18, in communities across the county.

Here are some positive influences that relationships between "Littles" and "Bigs" have on children's lives according to Big Brothers Big Sisters:

Kids are more confident in their schoolwork performance.

They are able to get get along better with their families.

They are 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs.

They are 27% less likely to begin using alcohol.

They are 52% less likely to skip school.

For more information on how to get involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters, click here.