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(January 24, 2002, Gazette)

Play a “big” part in a child’s life

A big sister had this little climbing the walls during a recent outing.

During the day, you’re likely to find Gary Peddle counselling one of his clients in the boardroom at his downtown law office, but during the evening and on many weekends you’re likely to find him volunteering for one of the many organizations.

In addition to being a father, a full-time lawyer, and a part-time instructor at the Faculty of Business Administration, Mr. Peddle (B.Comm ’82, MBA ’85) is also the national president of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada. The non-profit organization helps children between ages six and 16 to reach their potential by matching them with an adult role model. After an extensive four- to six-month screening process, an adult (“big”) is paired with a child (“little”) with similar interests. As part of the mentoring program, bigs are encouraged to spend a minimum of three hours per week with their littles. However, Mr. Peddle says most matches choose to spend more time together than that. Big Brothers Big Sisters serves over 18,000 kids in Canada through 186 agencies.

Gary PeddleGary Peddle

“I first got involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters in 1991 when I was asked to help organize a golf tournament for a group visiting from Toronto,” he said. “It was supposed to be a one-time thing and 10 years later I’m the organization’s national president.

“The more I learned about the organization, the more I believed in what it was doing. It’s a great program that gives young people a positive role model.”

As national president, Mr. Peddle is involved primarily with setting organizational policy and working to secure corporate sponsorships. However, he still participates at the grassroots level of the program. Every week, he meets with a young student over the lunch break, as part of an in-school mentoring program.

“It helps me see how our programs really affect kids,” he said. “For that one lunch hour a week, my little and I meet and chat and play computer games. It’s simple and pure and it keeps me connected to the reason I joined the organization - to have a positive impact on kids.”
Littles typically come from single parent families and the program gives them another adult role model.

“They’re not troubled kids,” he said. “Everyone needs a positive influence in their lives, and the more role models a child has, the more likely that child is to reach their own goals.”

According to Mr. Peddle, approximately 60 per cent of the children in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program break out of the social services circle they grew up in and 30 per cent are more likely to go on to post-secondary education than those children in the same socio-economic demographic who are not in the program. Currently in Newfoundland, there are over 200 matches but there are still more than 150 children on the waiting list.

Being involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters can be very rewarding. A couple of months ago, Mr. Peddle had the opportunity to have dinner with Wayne Gretzky as part of a sponsorship role; however, the lasting rewards come from lower profile meetings. Mr. Peddle said “littles remind you of what’s really important in life, they enjoy doing simple things like going to a hockey game or renting a movie.

“They remind you how important it is to spend time with the people you care about.”