Childhood can be a time of many challenges. Big Pals mentor children ages 6-16 and help them develop self-esteem, Jewish identity, and lasting relationships that can change their perspective on the world—and make a big impact in their lives.
Who are Big Pals? A Big Pal is a caring adult, age 19 and older, who has a one-on-one relationship with a child. Big Pals commit to meeting with their Little Pals twice a month for a few hours, for at least a year, to enjoy all the things they normally enjoy doing—whether it’s hanging out at the beach, going for a walk, cooking, watching movies, or playing sports.
Who are Little Pals? Little Pals are Jewish children ages 6-16 from non-traditional or single-parent families. Each Little Pal is matched with a Big Pal who is carefully screened, trained, and supervised by the professional staff at JFS.
Big and Little Pals commit to being matched for a minimum of one year, and each month they enjoy two outings together, engaging in recreational, educational, and community activities. Throughout the year, all Big and Little Pals come together at organized events like Jewish holiday celebrations and social activities. Past events have included a Summer Beach Party, a nature hike in Mission Gorge State Park, a trip to the Padres game, and much more.
Why Match Your Child With a Big Pal? Matching your child with a Jewish Big Pal can help them form a lasting, supportive relationship on the journey to adulthood. Studies show children with adult mentors are more confident, do better in school, and have better relationships with their families. Just a few hours a month with a Big Pal can have an impact that lasts forever. Enroll your child today, and see the difference tomorrow! Give us a call at (858) 637-3090.
Why Should You Become a Big Pal? There are more than 4,600 Jewish single parent families in San Diego. Many of the children from these families have been through a divorce, death, or abandonment. By spending time with your Little Pal—twice a month for a few hours—you can change his or her outlook and be a much needed friend. And you never know—your Little Pal might change your life, too.
Go for a walk. BBQ together. See a movie. Hang out at the beach. Shoot some hoops. Or just give some encouragement and advice. However you normally spend your time, chances are you’ll have even more fun with your Little Pal—and you’ll be making a big impact.
To apply, interested Big Pals must complete an application, including three references, and complete a screening process and be fingerprinted. Big Pals must also have their own car and provide a full DMV report. Call (858) 637-3371 today to make a difference in the life of child who needs you.
Thinking about becoming a Big Pal or Little Pal? Watch this video to see interviews with program participants and how it’s impacted their life. Thank you to Kristine Diekman, Austin Hill, Phil Levine, and Shayna Benavidez of Cal State University San Marcos for producing this video.
Albert and Ryan's Story
Albert smiled with pride as he watched Ryan walk down the stage at his high school graduation. He thought back to the first day they met and couldn't believe that eleven years had passed. Neither Albert, a 49-year-old social worker, nor Ryan, a shy seven-year-old who had lost his father to cancer, could have predicted that an afternoon playing marbles on the floor together would be the beginning of a life-long friendship.
As participants in Jewish BIGPals, a mentoring program through Jewish Family Service of San Diego, Big Pal Albert and Little Pal Ryan initially committed to seeing each other on a bi-monthly basis. Despite the program’s minimum one-year requirement, they have continued their participation in the program throughout Ryan’s high school years.
“I wasn’t overly excited about getting a Big Pal,” said Ryan, “but since we didn’t have a dad at home, I knew my mom wanted me to have a male role model to look up to.”
Despite Ryan’s initial ambivalence, Albert would continuously show up at Ryan’s front door. The connection didn’t come easily, but they stuck to their monthly hangouts and eventually became friends. “I myself had lost a parent when I was a child. I was too young to realize the consequences of what it had done to my trust in others. I had to earn Ryan’s confidence and respect,” said Albert.
Albert was determined to teach Ryan the value of friendship and loyalty. Now, whenever Ryan has an issue he wants to discuss, he doesn’t hesitate to call Albert for advice.
According to Karen, Ryan’s mom, this could not have been a better match. “Albert has demonstrated to my son what it means to be a friend. That friendship means to give of oneself selflessly and that friendship isn’t always fun,” she said. “Ryan knows that Albert will always be there for him.”
Days that used to be filled with baseball games, miniature golf, and Jewish BIGPals events are now consumed with cafes and college prep. Despite their busy work and school schedules, the two always make time for each other. Before Ryan heads off to college in the fall, he and Albert plan on taking their first road trip together.
We know it’s only a matter of time before Ryan will become a Big Pal.