For many football players, mentorship is an important part of the game: young players rely on the mentorship of veteran players to help them make their way in the NFL, and coaches must be positive mentors to help build trust within their team and set the tone for each season.
When the Packers faced the Houston Texans during their first preseason game on Aug. 14, mentorship was highlighted in a new way, with some very special guests present to enjoy the first full-capacity event at Lambeau Field since the 2019 season.
The game, which served as the first-ever Packers Give Back Game, recognized Big Brothers Big Sisters as the event's inaugural nonprofit honoree. Each year moving forward, the game will support a benefiting charity from Wisconsin by providing opportunities to attend the game and sharing the nonprofit's message with Packers fans.
Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy has a special place in his heart for Big Brothers Big Sisters.
"As a former 'big' myself, I know firsthand how important youth mentorship is and how being involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters makes an extraordinary difference in the lives of both the mentor and the child," Murphy said. "We're proud to support Big Brothers Big Sisters through the Packers Give Back Game and we encourage those looking for a way to contribute to their community to learn more about the program."
As the nation's largest donor- and volunteer-supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers ("Bigs") and children ("Littles"), ages 5 through young adulthood in communities across the country. The program creates and supports these one-to-one mentoring relationships to ignite the power and promise of youth, and to have a direct and lasting effect on the lives of young people.
This year's game welcomed 1,000 Bigs and Littles from all 15 Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies throughout Wisconsin to enjoy the Lambeau Field experience, with a pregame tailgate party and a designated section in the stadium for the group to enjoy the game together.
Packers Give Back recognized Big Brothers Big Sisters as the inaugural nonprofit honoree on Aug. 14 against the Houston Texans.
"We were honored to host matches from Big Brothers Big Sisters throughout Wisconsin for the inaugural Give Back Game," said Packers community outreach senior coordinator Amanda Wery. "The excitement and energy of the group as they came off the buses and entered the tailgate was contagious, and I loved witnessing the relationship-building through conversation or tossing the football. Seeing Bigs and Littles attend their first Packers game was special."
The Packers Give Back Game wasn't the first time the Packers have been involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters. The team has supported the organization in a variety of ways, from awarding grants and donations to agencies around Wisconsin to facilitating visits from Packers players, alumni and staff at Big Brothers Big Sisters events. The Packers Give Back Game helped build upon this support to give Bigs and Littles a special evening, while also using the game's platform to help raise awareness for the constant need for volunteers and mentors to be a part of the program.
The news that the Packers Give Back Game would honor Big Brothers Big Sisters this year also prompted several Packers staff members to share their involvement with the program over the years, with many employees serving as Bigs, Littles and even members of the board. One employee, Lexi Potts, has been involved as a Big.
"My time being a Big taught me the importance of teaching youth how to see the world with a wider perspective," Lexi said. "I'm happy that I got matched with my Little and was able to teach her to have confidence and do things that she thought she never could do before. I know Big Brothers Big Sisters' mission is to inspire children's passions, but I was the one who was getting inspired from my Little each time we were able to hang out."
Another Packers employee, Donovan Jackson, became a Little himself when he was 9 years old, and being matched influenced him at a critical time during his childhood. He maintains a close connection with his Big even today and said that being involved as a child taught him the value of making a difference, no matter how old you are.
"It gave me exposure to things that I wouldn't have been exposed to under normal circumstances. He definitely diversified my experiences and provided a male constant that I so desperately needed," said Donovan. "It also showed me the importance of giving back and volunteering your time to help someone less fortunate. I'm forever grateful for BBBS."
Big Brothers Big Sisters is actively recruiting new Bigs and Littles to be a part of the program and discover firsthand how strong, consistent mentorship can change lives. Volunteer opportunities are also available for those who want to help the program in other ways. To learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters and find an agency near you, please visit https://www.bbbs.org/.