Miles for Mentoring bike ride supports Big Brothers Big Sisters program, changing lives for adults and kids in North Lake Tahoe | SierraSun.com

Miles for Mentoring bike ride supports Big Brothers Big Sisters program, changing lives for adults and kids in North Lake Tahoe

The most impactful thing a person can give someone is their time and energy. Nothing of monetary value compares to guiding youth and contributing to who they become as adults.

"It is so important to raise awareness about mentoring in our community. It is our responsibility to raise up the next generation and guide them to be successful members of society," said Peggy Martin, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Nevada County and North Lake Tahoe.

"I think anyone could benefit from having a positive adult role model in their life to spend time with, talk to, have someone to listen and who takes them out of their familiar surroundings to expose them to other ways of life…someone who believes in them and gives them the confidence that they can succeed," she explained.

Big Brothers Big Sisters matches youth in the community that need extra support, with volunteers that have time and passion to give back.

"It has been an amazing honor for me to be able to be a part of all these people's lives that are in our program. Amazing volunteers that want to make a difference in a child's life, and that have passion to invest in our community. Also all the wonderful families, many are struggling and so thankful that someone is there for their children," she explained.

Martin said it is gratifying to match people together, watch them form a friendship and see where it goes, saying she's kept in touch with several of the matches through the life of their relationship and it is wonderful to see these friendships that change lives.

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One such life was that of Jim Merrymee, who was matched up with his little brother in the program nine years ago.

Merrymee spent a lot of time with nieces, nephews, cousins and other kids in his own family, and said it was his love for the outdoors and go-for-it mentality paired with his love for spending time with children that led him to Big Brothers Big Sisters.

"Well, there's a need for helping kids that are more at-risk and I love kids, they're fantastic," he said of his motivation behind becoming a big brother.

When Merrymee and his little brother spend time together he said he likes to mix up activities both indoor and outside and is always looking for new ideas and input from the little brother to see what their next activity should be.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters program is designed to match bigs and littles until the littles turn 18 years old.

"I told him way back, I said, 'Hey, we're brothers for life, you know, forever. I plan to make time to do things with you and always be there for you.' I don't know what the future holds for him or for myself, but I plan to stay in touch and hangout whenever we can, forever," Merrymee said.

He said the program warns big brothers and sisters when they sign up, they will likely get more out of it than the children do and it's one of the most meaningful relationships they'll create.

"I get a lot out of it, probably more than he does. The program basically says you'll experience a lot of magic moments and we have had a whole host of magic moments. When you apply it's a sense of, 'Take my hand, take my heart,'" Merrymee said.

The relationship is beneficial for both the big and little brothers and sisters. Merrymee said he has been able to experience a lot of important moments in his little brother's life, and that his little brother has been there for him during milestones of his own.

"Our relationship goes both ways and little bro Danny has been there for me many times also, helping around the house, helping during a difficult death in my family, checking in and offering to help when I'm sick or hurt; and even rescheduling his vacation so he could attend my big birthday party," Merrymee said.

In order to support the program, Big Brothers Big Sisters will host the Miles for Mentoring event on Saturday, Sept. 9.

Hardy Bullock, the founder of the Miles for Mentoring event will ride alongside several other cyclists to build awareness for the program, raise funds to support its endeavors, and welcome the community to join the fun.

"We want the community to be able to join us in this amazing experience in riding bicycles for a purpose. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Nevada County and North Lake Tahoe works so hard to support the youth in this community, why not get more people to participate and change lives," Bullock said.

The bike ride will start and end at the Tahoe Truckee Airport with a barbecue party to follow. Community members looking to get involved can join in on 10- or 30-mile loop options.

New this year, the community is invited to choose a ride option that best suits them and join in on the effort to raise money and awareness for the program.

"I want to thank Hardy for his dedication and passion to BBBS," Martin said.

"He has worked so hard for nine years to put together amazing rides to raise money and awareness for our organization. He and his team have always come together and worked so hard for such a great cause. It is so wonderful that he has opened the ride up to everyone this year and moving forward so many others can be part of the mission and passion. I also want to thank this year's sponsors: One Toyota of Oakland, Truckee Tahoe Airport, Kelly Brother's Painting, Tahoe Staff and Switchback Studios for their support," she added.

Everyone is welcome to celebrate with the organizers and athletes of Miles for Mentoring, and any responsible adult can always contribute to the program and make a difference in a child's life.

"We're always looking for bigs and particularly male bigs, there's a continuous backlog of littles who can be waiting up to a couple years for a bit," Merrymee said.

If you or someone you know is the type of person who values investing in our community's future generation, visit http://www.bigsofnc.org to learn more about the application process and to contribute time and guidance to someone who could use a helping hand, a listening ear, and a positive role model to learn from.

Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at cwalker@sierrasun.com, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.