Since March of 2016 in Pinellas County, a total of six teens have died fleeing from law enforcement in stolen vehicles. The president of the Tampa branch of Big Brothers Big Sisters says everyone has to do more to help these teens make better choices.
“They are being failed by all of us,” Stephen Koch President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Tampa Bay said. The non-profit has been serving the Bay Area for 55 years. Koch at the helm for the past 15 of them.
“We are all responsible for our neighbors and people in our community,” Kock said. “We need to be willing to reach out…and say I'm willing to take a gamble here and a risk of engaging with these youth and trying to help them. If you stay by the sidelines it's not going to get the results .”
Currently, there are 3,000 volunteers matched with a “little” brother or sister as they are called. But, the demand is growing.
“We have 700 to 800 kids on a waiting list this year,” Koch said. Koch is the big bother to identical twin brothers. He said the brothers have been through a lot. But, they stay out of trouble and he credits a lot of that to the non-profit.
“Less than 1% ever commit crimes,” Koch said.
ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska met up with Chris Butler and his “little” Elgin. Butler matched with Elgin more than 5 years ago and have kept in touch ever since.
“I see him as a real big brother,” Elgin said.
“We've gotten comfortable with being around each other and hanging out in a very normal way,” Butler said.
Their relationship first started when Butler would eat lunch with Elgin at school once a week. Butler has stayed by Elgin’s side during some of the most difficult moments of Elgin’s life. When his grandparents died, and when Elgin’s mom was arrested, Butler was there to answer the phone or meet Elgin for dinner.
“We go out to dinner a lot! That is our favorite thing to do together,” Butler said.
Elgin is now a Senior at Boca Ciega High School and a standout football star. The six foot five 17-year-old now towers above Butler. But, he’ll always be Butler’s “little.”
“That’s the joke now,” Butler said.
Elgin said while other people in his high school are doing drugs and committing crimes, he’s remained focused. In part, because of Butler’s positive influence, sports, God, and Elgin saying just wanting to succeed in life.
“I know peer pressure is out there but I just know how to say no,” Elgin said.
For more information on how you can make a difference in a child’s life and become a volunteer click here.