Big Sister, Beth Heller, on summer with Grace.

Beth Heller is a volunteer in Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Children’s Program. She is matched to Grace. About her experience, she notes:

Since being matched four months ago, we’ve had a blast playing at the park, eating ice cream, pizza-making at Bertucci’s, going to movies,  shopping and eating out at Legacy Place. We share a love of fashion, jewelry, singing to the car radio, dancing, watching movies, and playing at the park. It’s been very fulfilling to do so many great activities  with such a fun, energetic and caring girl, and I’m so excited for the rest of our summer plans, especially Grace’s double-digit birthday later this month!

From the first time I met her, I was so impressed by her good manners and family-first mentality. She is a loving daughter and sister who cares deeply about others. I really noticed this when we went to Sugar Heaven for candy and she made sure to buy her dad and sister the treats they liked the most to surprise them when she got home!

Beth

Grace and Beth.

As Grace’s Big Sister, I try to be consistent and show her that she can count on me: Another dependable and trustworthy person in her life. I am confident that she will come to me if she has any issues or needs to troubleshoot challenges she’s facing.  I strive to be a great friend, support system, and role model for her.

We are both very proud and thankful for the opportunity Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters has given us to get to know one another. We look forward to continuing our journey together as a match in the program!

Why I Ride: Jeff Ganz.

I love to ride and, whenever I can sneak away for an hour or two, I head for the single lane roads of Metro West Boston to take advantage of the time to be outside, to enjoy the fresh air, and to feel the accompanying exertion.  With that love, though, there is always the twinge of guilt that follows: Cycling can be a bit of a selfish pursuit and it always competes for time with family, work, and other obligations.

But that feeling disappears each September at the Rodman Ride for Kids.  That’s the one day each year that I know I am riding for someone other than myself.  And the people I am riding for aren’t just an abstraction.  They include Josh, the Little Brother I spent three years getting to know, and the more than 80 Little Brothers and Sisters the organization sends to camp each summer.  They also include the volunteers, Big Brothers and Sisters, who spend their free time making a real difference.

And, of course, there is no better fundraising model than the Rodman Ride’s – with the event organizers, sponsors and vendors picking up all of the costs and then matching a portion of our fundraising. It’s virtually unheard of at a time when fundraising is a challenge and there are so many organizations deserving of our support.

My distance of choice is 50 miles and it’s typically my longest ride of the season.  Regardless of how hard I have been training over the summer, though, I know the that the energy of the volunteers at each of the three water stops will carry me through.  (This was true even during the year that I was part of a group of about 20 Rodman Riders that went the wrong way and added about five miles to our trip before we were rescued by a local police officer who set us back on the right path!)

And when I am done with the Ride, exhausted and enjoying a cold refreshment and some great barbecue, I gaze out at my fellow riders and think about what we have all just accomplished. I begin  looking forward to doing it again next year.  I hope you will join us.

A Friend 2 Friend Burger Adventure!

By guest blogger, Friend 2 Friend volunteer, Elaina Rivais.

When we were matched last November, I was nervous about finding fun things to do with my new friend, Lily. I wanted to get more creative than “dinner and a movie,” so we enjoyed a number of unique outings: a women’s basketball game, bowling, shopping. She even got to see my community band perform a dinner concert and meet some of my family, which meant a lot to me. Still, it turns out that having dinner together and seeing movies are some of the most fun times we enjoy as friends. We sing along to the radio while driving to the theatre and she picks movies I wouldn’t have chosen and might never have seen if I didn’t go with her. She’s also a great restaurant-picker. 


One night, she asked me if I’d heard of the restaurant Boston Burger Co. I had! In fact, I’d been there several times before. She had seen the restaurant on the show “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” and wanted to try their Mac Attack burger. The location I’d been to is right across the street from a Red Line stop in Somerville. I asked if she had ever ridden the T before, and she hadn’t. That’s when we started planning our adventure.

Lily and Elaina.

Lily and Elaina.

It was a couple of months later that the weather was nice enough to go and our schedules aligned. We rode the T all the way from Quincy, braving T stop construction, transferring from train, to bus, and back to train, grateful for accessible entrances and exits which made it simpler to transfer between platforms. Finally, we made it to Boston Burger, where we sat outside enjoying our gigantic hamburgers. Lily got the famous Mac Attack which, she said in between delicious bites, was “even better than (she) thought it would be!” We concluded our afternoon together with ice cream at J.P. Licks and departed for home: train-bus-train-riding pros! 

A long journey. An enjoyable day.

Now that we’ve ridden the T together, there’s no telling where we’ll go next! One thing’s for sure, we’ll be back to Somerville for some burgers and ice cream the next chance we get!

Why I Ride: Beth Cohen.

This is the fifth year I’ll be riding in the Rodman Ride for Kids, and I’m (still) excited about the challenge that’s once again upon me. 

Beth Cohen at the water stop, Rodman Ride 2013.

Beth Cohen at the water stop, Rodman Ride 2013.

I’ve been matched with my Little Sister for over 13 years. We officially “aged out” of the program a year or two ago, but we’re closer and better friends than ever. She’s a wonderful, intelligent person, pretty, mature and full of energy, friendly and, in general, someone I’m just so glad is in my life! These days, she’s in college studying to be an engineer, and I’m very proud of her.

Beth Cohen with her "Little" Sister.

Beth Cohen with her “Little” Sister.

 

I ride because it’s a great challenge for me, physically (I tackle the 100 miles!) and mentally. I ride because I’ve experienced firsthand the time and diligence the JBBBS organization takes to make strong, sustainable matches. I ride because I know what an incredible impact Big and Little Brothers and Sisters have on one another. Mostly, though, I ride so other children can experience the joy of Big/Little friendship for themselves.  

 

Beth Cohen is a member of JBBBS’ YoPro (Young Professionals) Leadership Board. Meet Beth and other JBBBS YoPros at this year’s Ride!

In Our Community: The Parent Perspective.

At JBBBS, we understand that meeting the needs of the participants we serve often extends to supporting the whole family, understanding the nuances of relationships with parents, grandparents, siblings and friends who have been impacted, in their own right, by their loved one’s participation in our programs. In this special, two-part, “In Our Community,” we caught up with Adele (whose daughters, Miri and Elana, were enrolled in the Children’s Community Program) and Ann and Isael, (whose daughter, Gabi, age 24, is a participant in Friend 2 Friend’s Community and MAGIC Programs). Here’s what they had to say about the JBBBS difference!

The Children’s Program

I looked to JBBBS for what seemed like obvious reasons: a newly-single, working mother with a 10-year-old and a toddler that required extensive support services at that time. My oldest daughter’s life was turned on its head, and she needed support I was unable to provide. I was unaware of just how much this would positively affect our lives.

I was immediately impressed by the level of care and professionalism staff took in getting to know my older daughter and the challenges that shaped her life at that time. The agency made a perfect match for her; they remain close to this day. My second daughter, a very different child, was matched about seven years ago. The same process on the part of the JBBBS clinical team was equally on target. My second daughter was matched with someone wonderful, and their match remains in place today. My daughters’ matches are special people, uniquely their own, who provided friendship, support, and wonderful role modeling. Their routine outings gave me a much-needed break, too.

The agency provided opportunities my children would not have had otherwise: Chocolate seders, Chanukah celebrations, baseball games, Blue Man Group. I am very confident in the JBBBS staff. I was glad for “check ins” with the matches, and I loved my independence from this process. I did find both of our social workers very supportive when I needed guidance about circumstances that affected our lives.

I learned JBBBS had scholarship programs to assist with the expenses of camp and, in later years, college. This had a profound effect on the development of who my children grew to be as young ladies. They enjoyed time free of worry and stress and a whole new support system of friends through camp. Currently, one daughter is enjoying camp and one daughter – my oldest, now a senior in college pursuing pediatric nursing – is staffing a leadership tour in Israel for counselors-in-training for the same camp. It has provided them with the beginning of a legacy of their own as they both discuss sending their own children to camp together! Not possible without JBBBS.

The impact of JBBBS and our Bigs clearly has had a major impact on our lives. I am personally indebted for the silent partnership, if you will, of helping me raise my daughters, to help them grow and reach their fullest potential.

Friend 2 Friend

We feel very lucky that Gabi connected with two different volunteer friends: one in each Friend 2 Friend’s Community and MAGIC Program. They’re doing wonderful things for Gabi!

We’ve watched Gabi take initiative to make monthly plans with her Community Friend, Arielle. Gabi and Arielle have gone bowling, shopping, swimming, Swan boating. Gabi so anticipates and enjoys these get-togethers.

In MAGIC, Gabi is matched to Zahava. Similarly, she has so much anticipation around MAGIG group.

Having two new friends in her life make Gabi happy; she knows that they care about her as she cares about them. Gabi has told us she feels a little more like other adults her age when she has the opportunity to make and keep plans with friends.

We know, though, that these relationships have done more than simply enriched Gabi’s social life. In addition to having fun and feeling more positively about herself, Gabi has learned important social and life skills from Arielle and Zahava. As her parents, we’re so grateful.

I may not ride, but… (with JBBBS/Rodman Ride volunteer, Lisa Kessel).

I’m a supporter both of the event and one of the agencies it benefits, JBBBS. Here’s why…

It was a beautiful day last September. The sun was shining brightly and you could feel the energy in the air as my friend, Meredith, and I approached the registration desk, ready to volunteer.  We slipped into our bright yellow Ride shirts and walked together with our noisemakers to the spot where we were assigned to cheer on hundreds of bikers as they sped past.

Meredith and I are matched in JBBBS’ Friend 2 Friend MAGIC Program, which serves adults with disabilities. We see each other once a month for a group activity with other matches. And while we enjoy that time with friends, we occasionally like to step outside the box and do something special together apart from the group.

Lisa Kessel (right) and Meredith at the Rodman Ride for Kids, 2013.

Lisa Kessel (right) and Meredith at the Rodman Ride for Kids, 2013.

As a non-rider, when I was approached about volunteering I was admittedly skeptical about whether I’d have fun. But, a supporter of JBBBS, I decided to give a few hours to the cause. And it was inspiring to be in the presence of others who support the agency with their time and money.

I was pleased to be able to spend that beautiful  afternoon with Meredith. Her eagerness to be involved, to help, was contagious. As we prepared PB&J’s for the riders and met others volunteers, I felt truly lucky to be part of such a great program. MAGIC  brought us together, and we’ve really bonded.

As we approach our two-year match anniversary, I  think back to all of the special events we have experienced. While I have fond recollections of big group activities and social events, I can honestly say that last year’s Rodman Ride was one of the more significant events that not only strengthened our relationship but also gave both of us a chance to celebrate a program we love.

Fact: Volunteering is good for you!

By: Hannah Fried-Tanzer, Intern: Emerging Jewish Leaders Program

JBBBS volunteers tout the way mentoring-friendships make them feel good. But it’s more than a feeling. It turns out that eating your fruits and vegetables is not the only path to a healthier you. Volunteering is proven to improve physical and mental health and professional lives, too.

Physical Benefits:

Feeling physically healthier: 76% of American adult volunteers report that volunteering has made them feel physically healthier. And it’s more than a feeling.

Less Stress: 78% say that volunteering reduces their level of stress. And acts of “do-gooding” help reduce blood pressure.

Mental Benefits:

Happier lives: An Americans’ Changing Lives survey found that those who volunteer report higher levels of happiness, life-satisfaction and self-esteem.

 Professional Benefits:

27% more likely to be employed: In July 2013, the Corporation for National and Community Service conducted a study and found that volunteers are 27% more likely to find a job after being out of work than non-volunteers. Volunteering keeps a job-seeker’s skills current while filling gaps in one’s résumé.

Do good by someone else. Do good by you. E-mail volunteers@jbbbs.org to learn more about how you can make a difference here.

Why I Ride: Lester Blumberg.

What is it that gets me out of bed before dawn to drive down to Foxborough and cycle 100 miles?  It isn’t just the party at the end of the ride!

My passion for the Rodman Ride for Kids is driven by the vital mission of Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters, by the real difference JBBBS makes in the lives of children in need and adults with disabilities, and by the way my own life has been enriched by my friendship with a terrific kid who just needed an adult to hang out, have fun and eat ice cream (lot’s of ice cream!) with him. It is easy for me to appreciate the value in what we do, since I see it firsthand.  What is so touching is that my community of friends and family also see the value, and donate to support my participation in the Ride.  The money we raise goes directly to supporting this important work. The ride is really just the icing on the cake.

JBBBS gives Lester a good reason to Rodman Ride.

JBBBS gives Lester a good reason to Rodman Ride.

Did I mention the great party?  Riders support more than 45 agencies and share a common dedication to serving kids and supporting the devoted staff and volunteers who have dedicated their careers (and free time) to making better the lives of children and families in our communities who are in need.  We finish the ride tired and hungry, uplifted by music and the cheers of friends, old and new.

This will be my sixth Rodman Ride.  In the years since my first Ride on a clunker of a mountain bike, I have become something of a cycling enthusiast.  I upgraded my bike, and cycling keeps me in pretty good shape.  But I always come back to the Rodman Ride.  It’s why I ride today. It’s the cause that gives my enthusiasm for riding a deeper meaning.

Join us this year!  You won’t regret it!

Why I Ride: Caryn Love.

In fall 2013, I participated in the Rodman Ride for Kids for the first time.  A former Big Sister, I joined the agency’s clinical team that August.

I was excited for the Ride, but I was also pretty nervous. I hadn’t ridden a bike in years. I didn’t even own one!  I was reassured however that 25 miles isn’t so bad, “most of it is downhill anyway,” and, indeed, I could do it. I had only five weeks to train. First things first: I hopped on a bike at the gym and commenced my search for a bike for Ride day.

Here in the office, my colleagues lent their support. One’s wife had a bike I could borrow, another offered me hers because she wasn’t riding… In the end, I took Lisa Cohen, our Vice President of Programs, up on her offer.  Her husband even lent me a bike rack! With bike in hand, I went on my first training ride through Brighton and Newton. I was nervous to drive through traffic but, after about five miles, felt surer of myself and continued on. I managed to ride 15 miles for the first time in my life that day. Ten more? A piece of cake, I thought.

On the day of the Ride, Harvey Lowell [JBBBS President/CEO] and his son, Shalom, rode on their tandem bike, and I started the race with them.  We rode together much of the time with Harvey and Shalom helping to lead the way.  It really was a lot of fun.  We made it to the first water stop where we had some snacks, saw all our JBBBS friends, and it was off for the rest of the ride.  It was a beautiful day and quite exhilarating to ride those 25 miles through Sharon and surrounding towns.

Caryn and Shalom

Caryn and Shalom at the water stop.

At the end, going through the finish line, I was tired and definitely ready to get off the bike. I was also  touched by the support both from JBBBS colleagues and volunteers who were ringing bells and cheering.  I was so happy that I was encouraged to ride and can’t wait to do it all over again!

 

Why I Ride: Harvey Lowell.

In 1990, I had the dubious distinction of being the very last person to finish the very first Rodman Ride for Kids.

Sure, it was pouring cold rain all day and I had no raingear, only layers of soggy t-shirts. Sure, I was riding a rickety, borrowed bicycle 100 miles (the only route we did then). And yes, I made a wrong turn and went five miles out of the way with the chase van right behind me until they finally realized it. But am I bitter? Do I have any excuses? No and no.

And more importantly, have I ridden and/or donated to virtually every Ride since then? The answer to that is an emphatic ‘yes.’ I got myself a brand new bike right after that first ride so that I’d never finish last again. I’ve ridden the beautiful 100 miles many times, the 50 miles a couple; and the 25 frequently, always accompanied by my son on the back of our tandem bike. I’ve only been out in the rain one other time, and that was more like a drizzle. Don Rodman, President of the Ride for Kids, has some sort of divine weather connection, is my guess.

One reason why I’m so committed to the Ride is that it is an incredibly unique, fun and truly communal experience. In the past 23 years, the Ride has grown from about 50 riders to more than 1300, from about $50,000 raised to about $11.3 million. Another is that the collaboration among the now nearly 50 agencies represented at the Ride is completely unprecedented. But most important, the fact that Don Rodman can bring together a community of riders, volunteers and donors to make such a big difference in the lives of kids who have so few other constituencies and supporters. It makes this experience one of the highlights of my year. The feeling of the day gives you energy for months. If you’ve never done it, don’t keep missing out, just join in. You definitely won’t regret it.