For about six months, I’ve been a big sister to an 11-year-old girl named La’Star. We’ve pet goats, watched movies, ice skated, drank slushies, painted pictures — the list goes on and on — and it all was made possible by Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star. Being a big sister in in Houston is an incredible opportunity to share your love of your city with an at-risk kiddo! Here are some reasons why you should look into the program — plus some ideas for what to do with your little (all tried out by me and La’Star!)
How it works
Currently in Houston, there are 875 littles waiting for a big in their lives, but great news: There were 150 matches made so far this year and almost 1,500 active matches in Houston! It’s so easy to be a part of this. Lemme tell you how it goes…
You apply. Boom. Done.
Just kidding, of course, but that’s the first step! Next, your references will be contacted and, if everything checks out, you’ll get called to set up an interview. The interview is very personal, but all info stays between you and your interviewer for the most part. Some biographical deets will be shared with your little’s family when matched, and vice versa — you get info about your little’s family. Before your interview, you must submit to a background check.
After the interview, you get word if you’re approved for the program or not. Around this time, you go through some simple training online — watching videos and taking quizzes. Then, BBBS takes the reigns and finds you a match — they look for a kid in the program who lives near to you and checks off any boxes of your preferences. Once you’re matched, you’re called and a match specialist tells you about the little and then you have a few days to decide, but of course you pretty immediately say yes, right?!?! After all this!?
The last step of the process is of course meeting your little. BBBS sets this up with a couple other pairs at a time. You all get the rundown from the match specialist then break off into groups to get to know your new little. It’s also here that you meet the parents and exchange numbers.
Once matched, you can start setting up playdates! BBBS asks for 2-4 meetings a month plus phone or email communication. I see La’Star twice a month for sure and we do all sorts of fun stuff. Once 3 months in, your little can come to your home and just hang out… but in the meantime, you gotta get creative on activities!!
A few things I wished I’d known about the process:
- You don’t really interact with other bigs. I know there are Big/Little events around town, but I haven’t made it to one yet and I get the feeling not a lot of people do.
- Logistics are such a headache. It can be pretty hard to work with your little’s parent(s) to get them for a certain time/day.
- You drive a lot. Drive to their house to get them, drive to activity, drive them home, drive yourself home. It’s a solid hour of driving usually for me for each 2-3 hour visit.
- Your match specialist calls every month. It’s usually about a 10-15 minute convo where you talk about your visits, how long they were, what you did.
- Non face-to-face communication is kind of expected. Texting or calls — BBBS asks if this is part of the big/little relationship, but it’s fine if it’s not.
Fun things to do with your little
Besides changing a child’s life, the BEST part of being a big is getting an excuse to do all the fun kid stuff around town! Of course, some of these things cost money, and it’s important to draw a line in the budget. I try to keep it to around $20-$30 max on our outings. The big isn’t responsible for feeding the little — I’ll occasionally treat us to something small, but if I pick up my little and she’s hungry, her mom usually sends with some cash. The more fun… the more likely it’ll cost you something. Focus on the activity not the cost and mix in the free with the splurges.
1. Children’s Museum
This was playdate number one for me and La’Star. It’s THE thing to do once you gotta kid in your life! We spent the most time at the Kidtropolis! She loved playing waitress and vet and grocery store worker — and she especially loved earning money!
2. MFAH Bayou Bend Family Days
Just learned that the Museum of Fine Arts Houston has FREE kid events on the regular. We went for a bigger event, but these family days apparently happen quite frequently. Check out the schedule here. The property is gorgeous and kids can make tons of art and music!
3. Ice skating or picnicking in Discovery Green
We LOVE Discovery Green — we’ve been three times in the six months we’ve been together. There’s always fun activities going on and most are free! We did splurge one time to go ice skating and I think our next splurge will be kayaking because that always looks fun. Parking can be a pain here.
4. Trampoline World
This was La’Star’s request and I was hesitant — but it was pretty darn fun! We did have to drive quite a while (35 mins) to get there so we only spent an hour or so jumping, which was plenty of time for jumping, dodgeball, the foam pit and some basketball – and even an ice cream break. Bring your socks, because you’re gonna wanna bounce too.
5. Sportsball games
Haven’t done this yet with La’Star, but I’d love to be able to take her to a baseball or soccer game one day! BBBS get discounted tickets on big group days, and you get emailed a weekly and monthly newsletter with tons of opportunities for free and special events!
Bonus: Movie and popcorn
Sometimes, a big ole to-do is ruined by some rain or, sometimes in my case, pure exhaustion from a long week/weekend. I’ve phoned in a fun day out with my little with a classic: Movie and some popcorn. Who doesn’t love a day at the movies!?