By Lucas Marlow
Paint, it is a liquid substance that comes in many colors. Paint can be light and vibrant or dark and mysterious; however, dip an instrument such as a brush into paint and place it elegantly on a canvas and you can begin to see the inner thoughts of the one who manipulates the paint. An image begins to appear as the varying colors dance and create firm boundaries in their particular placement. Thus this canvas full of paint becomes something of value to us and allows us to feel emotion. It is more than just paint. It carries significance.
Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) is the nation’s oldest one-to-one youth mentoring non-profit service organization that provides ongoing supportive services to children. BBBS helps shape, model and create better lives for children through their mentoring program which is not much different from painting. The mentors are the brush and the children are the canvas. The paint is the influence, the teaching and instruction that the mentors (the brush) provide and apply to the canvas. Mentors have the ability to paint or re-paint the lives of their mentees. Big Brother Big Sisters provides this relationship because their cause is significant to the children they serve.
Look Who’s Painting is an event that has been held by Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Central Illinois (BBBSWCI) every year for the past five years. For the event, BBBSWCI brings together Morgan County celebrities to produce exciting pieces of art with the hope of raising money to support their programs and the children they serve. This year’s local celebrities include Illinois College’s President Dr. Barbara Farley, Candidate for Morgan County State’s Attorney, Tyson Manker, Illinois State Rep, C.D. Davidsmeyer, Judy Tighe of Jacksonville Main Street, Director of Career Services at MacMurray, Anne Godman, and SafeCo Bakery & Donut’s very own, Saif Mouilish. These are just six of 24 local celebrities painting this year. This event is a great opportunity for networking with very successful local personalities and also gives you a chance to purchase unique artwork created by them.
Brittany Henry, executive director of the Jacksonville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, who painted last year, stated, “I remember when I was first asked to be part of this event. I am nowhere near artistic and I completely shot it down. And then I thought, it’s a fundraiser for children. So then I came back and said ‘I’m not very artistic, but I will do this because the money is going to a good cause.’”
BBBSWCI’s fundraising & social media specialist, Ryan Flynn, elaborates on the importance of the event, “Look Who’s Painting is one of the unique events where we really get to interact with leaders in our community, who, in turn, get to learn more about our programs and the kids we serve. The best part is the money raised from this event will be used to further the school programs and help fund more matches in the communities we serve.”
It is fundraising events like Look Who’s Painting that help support BBBSWCI. It not only allows them to continue to conduct their work but also create awareness within the community, showing the people of Morgan County the bigger picture. Thanks to the support from the community so far, Big Brothers Big Sisters has seen many children benefiting from the mentoring program. Results from the latest Youth Outcome Survey revealed that 94 percent of children improved in their attitudes towards risky behaviors, 88 percent improved in parental trust, 85 percent improved in their educational expectations, 83 percent improved in scholastic competence, and 83 percent improved in social acceptance.
“Look Who's Painting benefits our over 500 matches and 10 school programs! We are changing the lives of children giving them the chance at success in life,” said Cindy Denby, executive director of BBBSWCI. This event raises about $10,000 a year for this organization. At a previous Look Who’s Painting event, a painting was auctioned off at $750.
Through her participation in the event so far, Dr. Farley realizes the significance of BBBSWCI’s mission, "I really believe strongly that organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters and others like it that are focused on young people, the impact is real and I think it is an incredibly important mission for the organization." She continues to commit Illinois College to this organization in the future stating, “We are tied to the strength of Jacksonville and the youth of Jacksonville and we need to be part of bringing even more hope to their lives. I think that Illinois College has more to offer. I would love to see our participation in this event be as a first step in building our relationship with Big Brothers and Big Sisters."
The event is Friday, Nov. 18 at Bogart's Banquet Hall, 2142 Old State Road in Jacksonville, Illinois. It will begin at 6:30 p.m. and the Live Auction begins at 7:00 p.m. Attendees at the live auction will be able to purchase the artwork of any of the artists participating in the Look Who’s Painting Event. Appetizers and refreshments will be provided to those attending the event. Tickets to attend the event are $20.00 and can be purchased by calling Ryan Flynn at 217-243-3821 or visiting www.bigbrothersbigsisterswci.org. This event is open to the public. The money acquired through ticket sales and the auction will support BBBSWCI and their mentoring program.
A canvas that has no positive influence, and receives no attention remains blank and unadorned. But a canvas can become beautiful, influential, and significant when a brush creatively, gently, and carefully directs a tapestry of paint on it.
Remember, the children are the canvas, the mentors are the brush, but it is up to you to provide the paint.
* Originally published in the Jacksonville Journal Courier on Oct. 27, 2016.