Mentorship in the community was celebrated in a big way Monday as Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Lacombe and District held its annual Great Big Christmas Dinner and Awards Night.
The local non-profit, which informally marked its 30th anniversary with the event, calls it their favourite night of the year, and with a great big Christmas feast with all the fixings, and a display of great big hearts in the community during the awards portion, it was easy to see why.
The big winner on the night was Lucas Cameron, the first ever recipient of the Colby Sackett Memorial Scholarship. The award, given to a graduating mentor, was created in honour of Colby Sackett, a former teen mentor and Parkview Adventist Academy student who was killed in a crash on near Beiseker in February. His father, Scott Sackett, and his girlfriend, Julia, were on hand to present the award.
“I’m truly humbled and extremely honoured to be given this award. I understand this award is very significant and it represents important values such as kindness, generosity, and humility,” said Cameron. “I want to thank Scott and Julia and the entire Sackett family for their extreme generosity and kindness towards me – it means so much to me that they believe in me and that they have faith in the person I can become.
“As the inaugural recipient of this award, my only goal is to set an example and show you can accomplish anything when you have good people supporting you. When I’ve got people like this behind me, I don’t see why I can’t.”
Cameron first became involved in BBBS as the little of Gord Littel four years ago, and the pair were recognized a three years ago at the awards night as the Match of the Year. Out of all the things the organization has done for him, he said matching him with Littel was the best thing they had done, describing his mentor as patient, kind, easygoing and someone he can “truly look up to.”
Last year, reflecting on what BBBS had done for him, he said it only felt right to give back, and the once little brother, became a big brother in the In School Mentorship program.
“I was introduced to a little boy named Jon. Jon was an awesome kid – he was this bundle of energy I could hardly keep up with,” he said. “Becoming an in school mentor was truly one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I think it helped me learn a lot about patience, commitment and kindness and I truly think I became a better person because of it.”
BBBS Executive Director Crystal Zens said it’s been a privilege to watch Cameron grow up over the years, even attending his graduation, and said his acceptance speech put more than just one BBBS member in tears, herself included.
“It comes full circle – it’s one of our most special moments, seeing them graduate and go on and be accepted into college and do great things with their life,”
“Lucas, in particular, is going into the psychology program which is awesome – he wants to help people and really appreciates the community, and the BBBS family that has helped him. That makes the recipient for the first year of the Colby Sackett Scholarship very special to us.”
Others recognized included the Big Sister of the Year Kathleen Buckman and Big Brother of the Year Daryld Bachelder, as well as In School Big Sister of the Year Christina Rue, and In School Big Brother of the Year James Clark. Teen Mentor of the Year was Brooklyn Thompson.
Joann Swarbrick was awarded the Long Time Service Award for her contribution from 2008-2020, and Heather Nixon and Jessica Vander Woerd were recognized with service awards.
On the organizational end, Ing and McKee Insurance was recognized as the Blackfalds Business of the Year, while DB Bobcat was the Lacombe Large Business of the Year. Tangerine Curls, or “the Dream Team” as Zens called them, was the Lacombe Small Business of the Year. Lacombe Rotary was the Community Organization of the Year.
Overall this year, Zens said they found over 30 new volunteers during their 40 Mentors in 40 Days campaign, but are always welcoming more mentors – especially those of the male variety.
This year saw BBBS rebrand at the national level, adopting a new logo and colour, switching from purple to more of a cyan colour in effort to recruit more men as mentors.
“They tried to reinvent us to be more gender friendly, and have a gender neutral logo, with the three tiers meaning family, agency and volunteers,” she said. “The biggest need across Canada is male mentors – boys are on the waitlist, probably four times higher than girls, so the rebrand was focused on recruiting more male mentors for those boys.”
BBBS will wrap the year with their Festival of Wreaths, which they have 48 of this year. After that, they’ll take a break over Christmas, and then get started on the Bowl for Kids campaign in the new year. The in school bowling will take place as per norm, but the adult bowl is being moved to September to align with BBBS month. In its place, BBBS is one of the recipients of the new Night Among the Stars event put on by the Dancer’s Edge Parent Association on Feb. 8, 2020.