EDITORIAL | Big Brothers Big Sisters is making a difference for Island County kids

Members of the Whidbey Island community gathered Friday in the spirit of the holidays and for a very worthwhile cause.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County held its annual Festival of Trees Auction and Gala. It was the nonprofit organization’s largest fundraiser of the year.

Every year, the auction features an assortment of beautifully decorated trees available for purchase at auction.

A great deal of planning and work goes into the event, including tree decorating. Tree decorators sometimes begin planning a year in advance to take advantage of post-holiday decoration sales.

Each tree is sponsored by donation with all proceeds from the auction going to the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

Other donated items are auctioned off each year, including jewelry and trips. Last year, even a dog went up for bid.

Nearly $100,000 was raised during last year’s Festival of Trees auction, approximately 50 percent of the Island County chapter’s annual operating budget.

The organization is one of many located across the United States and in countries across the world. Carefully screened adults are paired with children who may not have the most stable home life or, for that matter, any home life.

Compared to youths not involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters, the national organization said researchers found that after 18 months of spending time with their siblings, the Little Brothers and Little Sisters were 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs; 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol; 52 percent less likely to skip school; 37 percent less likely to skip a class and 33 percent less likely to hit someone.

The Island County Chapter was founded 15 years ago and started making matches in February 1999.

Matches are a combined effort between the community and schools. Island County’s chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters averages about 250 matches each year.

While everyone may not have been able to attend Friday’s event — a community viewing is today from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Elks Lodge — there are other ways to contribute to this worthwhile program.

Get involved or donate to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County by going to www.bbbsislandcounty.org or calling the North Whidbey office in Oak Harbor at 360-279-0644 or the South Whidbey office in Langley at 360-221-6808, ext. 5417.

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