RANTOUL — Now there are more opportunities for people wishing to mentor a young child through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

BBBS is offering community-based mentoring, which works better for many people’s scheduling, said Kristian Hopkins, program manager for the Rantoul office of BBBS. Previously, only school-based mentoring was available.

“We have had so much interest in this program that we now have more community-based matches than school-based matches,” Hopkins said.

Community-based mentors meet with their mentees about twice a month. They pick up their mentee at home and take them places in the community and around the area to do fun activities such as going to the park, going out to eat, visiting museums, attending plays and the like.

A parent or approved adult must be present when the child is picked up and dropped off, which requires parents to be much more involved in the match.

As with all of the other BBBS programs, the service is free. All services are paid for through grants and donations from individuals or organizations.

Another service BBBS provides is hosting special events for matches such as archery lessons, trips to Curtis Orchard or picnics  and trainings on topics such as suicide prevention, the opioid crisis, ACES and trauma.

Mentors — or bigs — must be at least 16 years of age, have a valid driver’s license and transportation, be able to commit to at least one year and be able to pass background and reference checks. Monthly orientations are  held in Urbana for anyone interested in becoming a mentor.

Children who are served have a variety of risk factors such as low-income and/or single-parent households; incarcerated loved ones; trauma and/or abuse; and behavioral, academic or social challenges.

Children who are paired in BBBS programs form goals with their mentors to achieve higher aspirations, greater confidence and better relationships; avoidance or risky behaviors; and educational and social success.

The majority of the children on waiting lists are active boys ages 10-13 who need male mentors. Families are encouraged to enroll their children (ages 4-13) no matter their age, gender or activity level. Children are paired based on availability of a fitting mentor,  risk level and family enrollment.

BBBS fundraiser

A fundraiser for the Rantoul program — Bowl for Kids’ Sake — will be held Saturday, Feb. 29, at Country Tyme Lanes, Rantoul.

This year’s theme is “Superheroes,” which aligns with the national slogan, “Together, we are defenders of potential!”

Cost to participate is $75 per bowler or $400 per team, which includes bowling, food, drinks, games and prizes. Sponsorship opportunities are available.

People can register at give.classy.org/bowlrantoul2020. For information, contact Hopkins at 217-417-3860 or k.hopkins@bbbscil.org