Lake Norman & Mooresville

Big Day gives kids one to remember

For about 200 kids, a day of laughter, smiles and memories are in store at the sixth annual Big Day at the Lake on July 24.

Children from the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte mentoring program, along with their big brother or big sister will enjoy a day of fun on Lake Norman. The mission of the organization is to help children reach their potential through professionally supported one-to-one relationships with measurable impact.

The annual event has three objectives. The first is to give kids a fun day on the lake. Most have never been on a boat. Volunteer boat hosts are matched with one or two children plus their mentors. The kids get to choose what they want to do. Whether it is fishing, tubing or swimming, it is an unforgettable day for the kids and the volunteers.

Rod Beard, Cornelius, has been a boat host since the event's inception and is the chairman of the Sponsorship Committee this year. He knows first-hand the memories that are made. "I watched a 5-year-old catch his first fish in his life," said Beard. Each year, he ties up his boat with a few others at one of the islands. The kids get to fish, play in the sand, swim, go tubing and just be kids.

And Beard isn't the only one inspired. All of the volunteers are touched by this special event. Denis Bilodeau of Watercraft Place in Cornelius, is always impressed by the bond created between the "big" and their "little."

"The 'little' assigned to our family had never been to a lake and could not swim. With the trust he had in his Big Brother, he overcame his initial fear and quickly picked up on the joy of tubing," recalled Bilodeau. He remembers the smile on the child's face when he gave the thumbs up signal to go faster. It is an event that his whole family participates in each year and the smiles always make a lasting impression on them.

The second objective is to recruit adults to become big brothers or big sisters. There are more than 500 at-risk kids on the waiting list from the Charlotte area. After his first year as a boat host, Beard decided to become a mentor for one of the boys on the list. Each year at the event's kickoff party, one child is chosen to speak about how he or she was affected by the mentor. Beard's little was chosen. "He said he wanted to be a big brother when he grows up," said Beard. The impact that mentors have on the kids is immeasurable. It's a moment that Beard will never forget.

The third objective is to raise money for the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. One match between a child and a mentor complete with training, support and monitoring costs $1,500 a year to administer. The goal is to raise $50,000. Several Lake Norman area businesses are sponsors.

"The Big Day at the Lake event is the perfect mix of support for a great organization using the resources of which the Lake Norman community can be proud," said Jim Engel, president of Aquesta Bank, one of the sponsors of the event.