OCALA, FL – Big Brothers Big Sisters of Marion County (BBBS) and the Ocala Police Department have partnered to bring the Bigs in Blue/Bigs with Badges mentoring program to children in Marion County.
The BBBS Bigs in Blue/Bigs with Badges program is a national initiative designed to improve communication and understanding between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. Police officers and civilian staff, called Bigs, are matched with local area children, called Littles, for one-to-one relationships that provide friendship, support and eventually academic improvements. Bigs visit their Littles twice a month and spend time together participating in activities they both enjoy like playing sports, going to the library or museum, or working on homework together.
To kick off the partnership, Chief of Police Mike Balken was the first member of the Ocala Police Department to be matched with a Little Brother, named Michael.
“Meeting my little brother, Michael, for the first time was great. I’m looking forward to building a relationship with him, being a mentor to him, and having fun together,” says Chief Balken. “Here at Ocala Police Department, we have a lot of remarkable role models who can share life experiences and practical skills with some of our youth. I hope more men and women in our agency and throughout the community get involved because, through this program, they can truly make a positive difference in a child’s life.”
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“Chief Balken actually contacted us to get this program launched in Ocala, which encouraged and motivated us greatly. Thanks to statewide funding provided by the Florida Attorney’s General Office in support of this initiative last summer, we were able to hire our first program staff person in Ocala last fall and make our first two Big/Little matches in December” said Stephen Koch, CEO of BBBS.
For more information about the Bigs in Blue/Bigs with Badges program, please contact Jennifer Libby at 813-997-3510.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Marion County
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Marion County is part of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, Inc., an affiliate of the nation’s largest donor and volunteer-supported mentoring network and holds itself accountable for children in its program to achieve measurable outcomes, such as educational success, avoidance of risky behaviors, higher aspirations, greater confidence, and better relationships. Partnering with caregivers, schools, corporations, and others in the community, Big Brothers Big Sisters carefully pairs youth with screened volunteer mentors and monitors these matches throughout their time in the program. Big Brothers Big Sisters provides children – often of single or low-income households or families where a parent is incarcerated or serving in the military – with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one mentoring relationships that empower them to reach their fullest potential. In 2021, more than 2,100 children were paired with mentors in Hillsborough, Citrus, Pinellas, Pasco, Polk, Hernando, Sumter, Marion, and Alachua counties. Please visit bbbstampabay.org for more information on how to volunteer, enroll your child or donate.