Charlotte resident Lazaria Williams, 16, said “I don’t swim,” as Big Day at the Lake 12 boat host Mike Dunn offered to help her aboard his 23-foot, 1995 Celebrity ski boat.
Lazaria, a Little Sister in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte, and her Big Sister Ann Eads of Huntersville were about to spend the day on Lake Norman with Cornelius residents Dunn, his co-host Rhonda Lennon, a member of the Big Day at the Lake Committee, and her son, Mason, 14, on July 23.
Lazaria and Eads paired up four years ago in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. They attended last year’s picnic, but this was Lazaria’s first time on a boat.
Nervous when they first started out, Lazaria began to relax during the boat ride around the lake, taking in the sights, including some of the celebrity homes that dot the shoreline.
One of the first things she did was to Snapchat, “I’m in Lake Norman.”
Moments later she laughed excitedly as Dunn helped her to drive the boat out in the open waters.
Big Day at the Lake provides a fun day on Lake Norman or Mountain Island Lake for the children and their mentors in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte organization, raises money for BBBS and encourages adults to become mentors through the program.
Cornelius publisher Dave Yochum founded the event as a way for children in the program to experience the fun of being on Lake Norman for a day, which over the years turned into one of the program’s biggest fundraisers.
This year, through corporate and individual donations and fundraisers, the Big Day at the Lake Committee raised $103,000 for BBBS.
When it came time for Lazaria to try her first dip, Dunn was instructing her to just plop onto the tube. Eads then said, “and then you’re probably gonna fall right off,” which she did.
Mason quickly offered the tube handles to her and pulled her into the shallow water.
“I was scared at first when my feet couldn’t touch the bottom,” Lazaria said. Eads and the others jumped in and swam with Lazaria, building her confidence.
Soon she was convinced the deeper water was safe and held another attraction.
“The deeper water was cooler,” Lazaria said. Once the fear had subsided, Lennon, who is also Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education member for District 1, convinced her to try being pulled on the tube behind the boat.
Using the hand signals she was taught by Dunn, Lazaria was soon asking for more speed and enjoying the tube ride.
After a series of hard bumps, one of her earrings came off; she caught it and not wanting to lose the earring, signaled she was ready to come in.
After watching Mason ride the tube, at a little faster speed, on the way back to the dock, Lazaria said she really enjoyed her time. Thanking Dunn, she said she wanted to come back next year and hoped to get to ride with him again.
Yochum said this was the biggest turn out in the history of the event: 116 boats, launched from homes and landings at Lake Norman and Mountain Island Lake, hosted more than 300 Bigs and Littles for boat rides, swimming and tube riding.
After a few hours of water sports, the participants joined volunteers for a picnic lunch at the Duke Energy Explorium in Huntersville; where the crowd swelled to more than an estimated 500, with games and music rounding out the event.
Citing the benefits of the mentoring organization, such as greater graduation rates, Lennon said, “We also raised over $103,000. This is the biggest fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters for this year and this will mean more money for more programs.”
Marty Price is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.