40 in 40 Campaign!

Thank you for ensuring that we reach our over all Rodman Ride goal of $300,000 by raising the last $40,000 in 40 days.

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Ride-n-raise/rock-n-roll: JBBBS Development Associate, Zoa Mish, on the Rodman Ride

Zoa and her husband, Gavin, work the water stop!

Zoa and her husband, Gavin, work the water stop!

A few blogs ago you read about our fabulous volunteer, Lisa Kessel,  her friend, Meredith, and their experience volunteering at the JBBBS water stop at last year’s Rodman Ride for Kids. At JBBBS, we like to do things Bigger and Better, so I am excited to announce that – if you were inspired by Lisa and Meredith’s story – there are still opportunities for volunteers to join us September 20 at our Lake Massapoag water stop in Sharon! This year, we’ll be “Rock-n-rolling, Elvis Style!”

Help us make the Big Brothers Big Sisters water stop for the Rodman Ride for Kids a safe and fun place for those riding-n-raising on behalf of the 45 non-profits participating in the Ride. Set up, decorate and prepare snacks for the more than 1200 riders to pass through that day. Dig into your closet for something that screams rock-n-roll and wear it  for a chance to win gift certificates to popular coffee places and restaurants!

Not riding-n-raising? Spend three hours with us. Here’s what you need to know.

Location: Lake Massapoag (1 Beach St., Sharon, MA)

Date: Saturday, September 20

Time: 7:30 am to 3:00 pm (various volunteer shifts available)

Cost: Free!!

For  more information contact me, Zoa Mish, directly at zoa@jbbbs.org, and I will be more than happy to send you information about this fabulous opportunity to give back to JBBBS.

I can’t wait to hear from you.

Why I Ride: First-time rider, Karen Nahary.

For the past two years, I have been fortunate to have been matched with my Little Sister, Lexi. During our time as a match, we have grown so close, and I cannot see my life without Lexi in it. We have done so many fun activities together: bowling, prom dress shopping, exploring Boston, starting the college application process. I have watched Lexi become a mature teenager, on the verge of young adulthood. I feel fortunate to have become like Lexi’s extended family, and the JBBBS organization helped create this perfect match. Without support given by our amazing social worker, Lexi and I wouldn’t be where we are today! Indeed, the entire JBBBS staff has been fantastic!

With this in mind, we signed up to participate in this year’s Rodman Ride for Kids. We’re riding because we get to go it together. We wanted to challenge ourselves physically. (Since we have been matched, we promised that we would get fit, so this is one of the great motivators for us to start riding and becoming more active.) We also wanted to give back to JBBBS by helping fundraise! In the end, Lexi and I are so looking forward to another great adventure together.

Cheer on Karen, and other JBBBS/YoPro riders this September 20!

Why I Ride (tandem): Jessi Solomon.

I am so excited that my new friend, Julia, and I will be riding tandem in the 2014 Rodman Ride for Kids. This past June, I moved to Boston to accept a first job as a physician: a residency in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities at Boston Children’s Hospital – and Julia is among my new friends here.

We were introduced through JBBBS’ Friend 2 Friend Program three months ago, and she has already influenced my life more than I expected she might. I was drawn to Friend 2 Friend right away. I went to college and medical school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where I was active in the school’s Best Buddies chapter and where I was introduced to my Best Buddy (and now best friend), Christy. We changed a lot in those eight years and achieved a lot together.  When I moved to Boston, I knew I wanted to have another friend with whom I could try new things, inspire/be inspired, and spread the word about how wonderful it is to live in an inclusive community. To me, friendship is the most meaningful way to truly include people with disabilities in the community.

With Julia, I’ve replicated that experience. She loves William Shakespeare, musicals, good food, and hanging out with friends. I love bike-riding, music, hiking, performing arts, and hanging out with friends. We enjoy some of these activities in common, and we love discovering new things.

Julia and Jessi, tandem.

Julia and Jessi, tandem.

Recently, we picnicked and watched a Shakespeare on the Common production of “Twelfth Night.” I was in awe of Julia’s complex understanding and appreciation of the arts; she understood the language and humor better than I, and her enthusiasm enriched the experience for me. In just the past three months, I have tried Russian food for the first time, Julia has been sailing and biking for the first time, we have listened to music, played music, enjoyed art galleries, attended cultural festivals, learned about each other’s families, and talked about our days at work over the phone. I know the friendship has meant a lot to Julia, as it has for me. Recently, we spent a full day together exploring Boston, giggling, bicycling around, and meeting new friends. “Jess, you’re spoiling me,” she said. Both of us truly appreciate the time we spend together; we’re always finding more in common and lots to learn from one another.

Julia had never ridden a bike before. I have been riding bikes since early childhood. In Nashville, I taught my Buddy, Christy, to ride a tandem bike, and we loved riding all around Tennessee.  Through that program, I helped create a tandem bike “team” of pairs of friends with and without intellectual/developmental disabilities. But, Julia and her mother did not think there would be any way Julia would be able to ride a bike. She’d never tried. Because I am pretty small, they thought Julia and I would not be able to balance on a tandem together. In truth, it is not easy for anyone to bike on a tandem, especially when first learning to balance/focus together. As the name “tandem” implies, every movement must be made in tandem in order to ride without falling.

I reassured Julia and her mom that I knew Julia had it in her to ride. She is motivated to try new things, and I could sense that she would succeed. She did: We balanced on our first try and rode all the way around Jamaica Pond. Julia surprised herself and takes enormous pride in proving she can indeed achieve a goal her mother thought impossible. Her pride helps keep me going on the bike. Now Julia and I ride tandem at least once a week, and Julia trains on a stationary bike at the JCC. Together, we are training to support the Rodman Ride on September 20, to challenge ourselves to ride, to bond in the process through 25 miles of tandem pedaling. We hope to inspire other Friend 2 Friend pairs to challenge each other to pursue activities they may not have thought possible.

William Shakespeare said, “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” Through the Friend 2 Friend Program, Julia and I have begun to grow together. I know our friendship will blossom and that we will have many more meaningful interactions and experiences together.

Why I Ride: Justin Gilson.

Shortly, I will be riding in my third Rodman Ride for Kids with Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters’ “YoPro” (Young Professionals) Team – and I fully expect this year to be better than the last. With each year, the support and turnout feels bigger and better, which in turn makes me even more excited to ride.

I am fortunate that the Ride takes us through several towns which include my hometown! As I bike through the familiar streets, the highlight of the day is certainly riding past my family’s home and seeing them cheer me and the rest of the cyclists on.  It is amazing to see so many people participate and volunteer from the community where I grew up.

Given the hundreds of people on the course representing numerous organizations, I always like how our YoPro and JBBBS teams are given custom biking shirts, which make us easy to pick out of the crowd. It’s a shirt – but I think it adds to a sense of camaraderie and team spirit. Our team also sets up practice rides leading up to race day that allow us to hang out a bit more (not to mention give us all a little extra exercise for those 10-mile weekend rides).

Besides the ridiculous amounts of food  donated last year (donuts, bagels, and BBQ lunch!) I thoroughly enjoyed recruiting my younger brother to ride along with our YoPro team. It was a fun day all-around, made even better by having family ride with me. (Of course in typical younger brother fashion, we were neck-and-neck for 24.9 miles…until he decided to kick it into another gear at the finish line.)

Bros at the water stop.

Bros at the water stop.

Although the Rodman Ride will, no doubt, be awesome in 2014, I will make sure it’s made more so by beating my brother to the finish.

My Little Sister is just like me!


“How did they know?” my Little Sister and I asked  in unison on a recent trip to a bakery here in Boston. We were in search of the perfect macaroon.

It went under the radar for a few months and, bit by bit, my Little Sister, Iris, and I realized just how similar we were: from our life’s path down to (literally!) the way we look. Now nine months into our match, we wondered: How did they know?  Our JBBBS social worker made the perfect match, and she knew it before we did. I don’t know why we didn’t notice it right away; it just snuck up on us.

Iris and I took it really slowly at first. After years apart from the high school experience, it took me a while to really understand the challenges that a young adult in the high school environment faces. Between the pressures of getting into college, hanging out with the right crowd, and discovering those things about life that really make you tick…it’s a tough job being a high schooler.  But through visits to coffee shops, walks in the Common, an attempt at art, chick flicks and those countless other times we spent getting to know one another, her experience didn’t feel so far apart from mine. Slowly but surely, we realized we are both closeted nerds (humble brag: the evidence is in her A++ report card!), we love fashion, analyzing relationships, politics, and the world around us. We both have a serious travel bug. And, although she says she doesn’t like sports, I will one day win her over as a Celtics fan!

The gift in these moments has been our friendship, observing our growth and becoming bigger motivators to one other. How did they know? My Little Sister is just like me. I don’t know why the match happened the way it did, but I do know that our lives were meant to change and never be the same.

Hadas Peles is a volunteer in Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Children’s Program. Ready to meet your match? E-mail: volunteers@jbbbs.org to learn more about opportunities here.

Repetition, the soul of wit.

My outings with my Little Sister range from simple activities like frequenting the nearby school playground (one she’d never been to) to a drive to see a well-known musical performed at a faraway community theatre.

Recently, we tried renting a two-person kayak at a local state park. She was excited to give it a try but, at age six, after 20 minutes she asked, “Can we go back now?” A few weeks later I commented to my husband that I was fresh out of good ideas for things to do with my Little Sister, when he offered, “Take her boating again! At that age, repetition is the soul of wit. She will enjoy doing the same thing.” So I suggested it and, to her and her mom, the idea of doing the very same thing seemed the most natural in the world!

We went boating again. This time she was braver. She wanted to paddle out a little further, even get out and explore an island. She still wanted to stop after about 45 minutes, but I was so proud she seemed more comfortable.

We also both enjoy singing and, en route to activities together, I sometimes sing for her in the car. Inevitably, she remembers and, when we’re together again, she’ll say, “Can you sing that song for me?” Hopefully, we’ll keep creating our “Big/Little” song for a long time to come!

-S.G., Central Massachusetts: Children’s Program volunteer.

Why I Ride: Karen Sisselman.

Seven years ago, my friend, Elyse Marsh, asked if I wanted to participate in the Rodman Ride for Kids.  Elyse and I are both actively involved in JBBBS: both board members and both volunteers. (Elyse is a Friend 2 Friend volunteer. I’m a  Big Sister.)  So, I quickly agreed.  The Rodman Ride was more fun and moving that we had anticipated. Hence, began a 7-year tradition of riding “The Ride.”

Karen and Elyse, Rodman Ride 2013.

Karen and Elyse, Rodman Ride 2013.

Each year, the day has begun the same.  Getting up early and making sure we have all our gear, checking the air in our tires and then heading out to Foxboro.  My excitement builds as we pull into the parking lot and join the mass of bikers – each representing a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help improve the lives of at-risk kids.  At this point, I always feel proud to be a part of this community and am honored to wear my JBBBS bike shirt (which is always pretty cool).  My energy level peaks when I join my fellow JBBBS riders, all of whom are either fellow board members, volunteers in our programs or just “good friends” of the agency.

Although I have always done the 25 mile ride, each year the actual ride has been a little different.  Some years the sun has been shining and other years it has been cool and drizzly.  But certain things are always the same: The crowd on the streets cheering us on and the extraordinary support and encouragement from the numerous volunteers along the route.  And of course, there is the incredible sense of accomplishment when I cross the finish line. It may only be 25 miles, but I am helping raise money to support our Little Brothers and Sisters and adults who have disabilities.

The day ends with a BBQ that consists of not only great food but also exudes the spirit of the day.  I so look forward to this year’s Ride!

The spirituality of volunteerism.

By Hannah Fried-Tanzer, CJP/JVS Emerging Jewish Leader and JBBBS Intern

I grew up in a Jewish family and attended Hebrew School classes where we discussed the importance of helping others. I came to understand giving back, volunteerism, as a “Jewish value.” But in my work with Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters, I’ve learned it’s more than that. Here, we encounter volunteers of various religious persuasions (and some none at all) who indicate that giving back is a deeply-held value. Sometimes, even a spiritual one.

Judaism: Responsibility for others

The Talmud, a central text of rabbinic Judaism, teaches us that “all men are responsible for one another” (Sanhedrin, 27b).

Christianity: Helping those in need

Matthew 25:35 reads, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

Islam: Your “brother,” yourself

Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself,” (Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi, 13).

Hinduism: Loving others brings joy

The Yajur Veda, one of the four official texts of Hinduism, says “The one who loves all intensely begins perceiving in all living beings a part of himself. He becomes a lover of all, a part and parcel of the Universal Joy. He flows with the stream of happiness, and is enriched by each soul.”

Buddhism: Watching after yourself and those around you

The Samyutta Nikaya, a Buddhist scripture, teaches that “When watching after yourself, you watch after others. When watching after others, you watch after yourself.”

Sikhism: The three Golden Rules

The three tenets of Sikh faith are naam japna (remembering God through mediation), kirat karo (earning an honest living), and vand chakko (selflessly serving others, and sharing income and resources.

Confucianism-The karma of doing good

A famous quote from Confucius: “He who wished to secure the good of others, has already secured his own.”

Taoism-The three greatest treasures

Lao Tzu wrote in the Chinese classic text, Tao Te Ching, “Simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures. Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being. Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are. Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.”

Shinto: The purity of doing good

A famous Shinto saying: “To do good is to be pure. To commit evil is to be impure.”

And for those with no affiliation, a lesson we learned as children…

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.”  -Dr. Seuss

Why I Ride: Captain Cheatham!

I have had a love affair with the Ride ever since I first rode 100 miles with Harvey Lowell, JBBBS President/CEO, and the rest of the JBBBS crew back in 2008.  I have personally been an avid cyclist since 2002 and find that the combination of the mission and my passion for cycling is an unbeatable combination.

The Ride has many dimensions for me.  First and foremost is the opportunity it gives me to reach out and solicit.  I get to leverage my being a committed rider with being a Big Brother. It provides an opportunity for me to connect with my friends and engage them in the agency’s mission and the work that we do.  Asking for money is easy in this context and by so doing I am able to expand the supporter base for the agency.

Secondly, I find the energy around the Ride infectious. It creates a whole new social group which I value apart from the Ride.  Friendships have been made that persist and spill over into other areas in support of the agency.   As team captain over the past few years, it has been fun to put together training rides and to show people who have not ridden in many years that the 25-mile loop is not out of their reach. Together, we can complete the Ride.  The practice rides created confidence and a sense of comradery for all.

Finally, the day of the Ride is a real high.  The sendoff crowd is energizing, the water stops are colorful (and theme-based) and help introduce the riders to the other agencies that are involved and share the mission of serving children at risk.  My wife, Suzie, has gotten involved at our water stop and I enjoy seeing her there and then meeting up with everyone at the finish line.   I have also very much enjoyed accompanying other riders and encouraging them along the way.  All in all, an event not to be missed and keeping up the tradition year in and year out is an honor to be part of.

So come out and join our training sessions and ride even if the last time you rode was 20 years ago! You will find how very worthwhile it is. See you September 20.