DECATUR — The positives from a partnership between the Millikin men’s basketball team and Big Brothers Big Sisters already has some excited for an expansion.
“Just being in a position of leadership and seeing how spending time with others can impact their lives is amazing,” said Matt Nadelhoffer, head coach of the basketball team.
This year, four of the upperclassmen, as well as the coaching staff are big brothers in the program and Nadelhoffer said all the younger players on the roster could be eligible to receive little brothers after the season.
The Millikin basketball team has taken advantage of that opportunity by partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Macon County and matching coaches and players with at-risk boys enrolled at Dennis School.
Mentors meet with their little brothers every other week during basketball season and weekly in the off-season. The players have frequented the Dennis School cafeteria to meet with their little brothers and Matt Andrews, principal at Dennis School, has already seen the impact on the kids.
“They love it,” he said. “They look up to them and they’re able to have special time to talk to these guys about the things going on in their lives. It’s really important to them.”
Organizers are hopeful the partnership may evolve into community matches where “bigs” and “littles” regularly get together outside of school. A mini basketball camp is also in the plans.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of McLean County already has a similar program with Illinois Wesleyan University, which played at Millikin on Saturday.
Zach Shields, community partnership coordinator for the agency, said it can be difficult for young adults to be involved in the program, but the basketball team has provided a wonderful opportunity for the nearly 10 little brothers.
“Anytime we can put these kids in an opportunity with people they can identify with, like basketball players who are in school and pursuing careers beyond the court is a great thing,” he said.
Shields hopes aside from the team and the rest of Millikin, where 43 people ranging from students to professors volunteer with the program, other community groups will reach out to help other little brothers.
“It’s hard for us to find organizations where we can share that volunteer pool,” he said. “Hopefully, this will bring some attention to what we’re doing.”
As long as the program can make an impact on one person, Nadelhoffer wants to continue doing it.
“To see the smile on my little brother’s face is worth it,” he said.