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Courtesy: WMU

Bronco Baseball Enters Fourth Year With Big Brothers Big Sisters

Courtesy: WMU
Release: 09/11/2013
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KALAMAZOO, Mich.- The Western Michigan baseball team is entering its fourth year volunteering with United Way and the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. WMU head coach Billy Gernon formed the partnership between the two groups upon his hiring in the fall of 2010.

The Bronco baseball team is heavily involved in the “Lunch Buddies” program at Hillside Middle School where student-athletes spend time weekly with younger boys in need of positive role models.

The Lunch Buddies program matches students with people from the community to talk with and expose kids to new experiences that might not otherwise encounter. Mentors visit Hillside once a week during the students’ lunch break for about 40 minutes. This is time for the student and the mentor to play games, talk about current events and explore new ideas, while discovering the value of an education. A child matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister in school is more prone to make better decisions and think about the future.

“We have been given a tremendous opportunity and statistics show we can impact the lives of young boys by simply giving them a few minutes of our time,” Gernon said. “It is a true passion of mine and I am very proud of the many guys from our team that selflessly offer their time in attempt to better the lives of others.”

Billy Gernon has been the driving force behind the relationship with Big Brothers Big Sisters,” said Carmen James of the Big Brothers Big Sisters. “With his encouragement we’ve had 50 percent or more of his players actively matched to a middle school boy over the past three school years. We are now entering our fourth school year.

“The baseball players have been a great representation of the type of example and guidance they are receiving under Coach G. If we did not have the baseball players involvement over the past three years, there would not be a program at Hillside. It has been a pleasure working with this team and I look forward to this next school year.”

Coach Gernon has been involved with United Way and Big Brothers Big Sisters dating back to 1992. He was a spokesperson for the Southern Indiana/Louisville chapter and was nominated by the Southern Indiana Rotary Club for Volunteer of the Year in 1995.

“I became a mentor and it changed my life, so when I got into coaching, I conveyed the message of what we could do for young people in our community with simply minutes of our time,” Gernon said.

Gernon was also involved with United Way Big Brothers and Big Sisters Lunch Buddy Program during his nine-year tenure as head coach at IPFW and would publicly speak on behalf of the program. His teams were often at 75 percent participation rate or higher. Since at Western Michigan, Gernon has spoken on several occasions to local schools and programs, as well as the 2012 United Way Benefit Dinner in downtown Kalamazoo that had nearly 3,000 people in attendance.