DECATUR – It was a pool party seemingly like any other: Children played loud games of marco polo and grown men did belly flops off the diving board.
But underneath all the fun Wednesday night at Fairview Park Pool was a deeper purpose.
For years, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Macon County has bid summer farewell at its back-to-school pool party. Some schools are already back in session and the Decatur School District opens its doors next week.
Big Brother Pat Corrigan and his “little” Gabe Wright, 10, played a game in which one would toss the other a tennis ball from the sidelines while the other tried to catch it after jumping off the diving board.
“It’s definitely the funnest event they do all year,” Corrigan said.
Between those yet to be matched with a bigger brother or sister, the littles, their friends, family and their bigs, nearly 200 people attended the pool party.
The agency hosts free events for bigs and their littles, what they call a pair, to build their relationships at least every month, but it’s rare that it’s also open to others.
“It kind of gives the kids a chance to have fun and get together and be around other people,” said Heather Williams, a case manager with the agency.
Christin Sebek watched from the sidelines as her little, 17-year-old Kerrisa Howell, played in the pool with her friends. The two have been teamed up for more than four years, so while they hung out more at last year’s pool party, Sebek knew to hang back this time.
“She’s hanging out with her friends, and she needs that right now,” she said.
When they meet up, they’ll get something to eat, bake or just talk about what’s going on in the teenager’s life.
“Sometimes, I just sit there and listen,” she said.
Big Brothers Big Sisters matches at-risk children with adult mentors to do fun activities together and provide a role model. Many of the children in Big Brothers Big Sisters come from single-parent homes or live in poverty. The agency serves almost 800 at-risk children in Central Illinois but about 70 are still waiting for a match.
“We’re always looking for new volunteers,” Williams said.