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April 11, 2024

NMC Prepares to Host Big Little Hero Race

By Megan Thoreson
Staff writer

On April 20 at 9:30am, the professional communications class of Northwestern Michigan College will be hosting their 9th annual “Big Little Hero Race,” which benefits Northern Michigan’s Big Brother Big Sister Program! Attendees dress up as super heroes for a 5k or 10k run at 10am, with all proceeds from registrations going to both Big Brothers Big Sisters and NMC’s College for Kids program. 


Greg Saylor, a volunteer for the event and student of NMC’s professional communication class, shared his enthusiasm for this year’s race - “Last year we had local businesses set up drink and snack stands, there was a bouncy house for the kids and even a clown on stilts! The event is open to the public, and is for a very worthy cause.”


NMC Business instructor Kristy McDonald began organizing the event in 2015 as a project for her professional communications class. “We were working out of a text book, having students write fake professional letters and proposals, and the average grade and success rate in the class was really low. Honestly, it was boring for me too. So then I got the idea, ‘what if it were real?’”


McDonald began organizing the “Big Little Hero Race” as part of the professional communication class, to give the students the hands on experience needed to both engage her students and offer real world experience in working with the professional community to organize events and fundraisers. They chose the Big Brothers Big Sisters program to support to have an additional positive impact on the community. “Last year we were able to give $5,000 to Littles in the form of scholarships to NMC’s College for Kids program!” 


Two important pieces of the race are that it offers experiential learning for students of McDonald’s class, and gives the students the opportunity to give back to the community in an important way. 


Nick Nissley, NMC president, has attended the event for years and will be showing up this year to show his support. “They’re helping make NMC’s college for kids courses accessible to kids who would probably have not been able to attend otherwise.” Nissley went on to commend McDonald for her commitment and courage to teach her class in such an innovative way. “Its exciting to see. I will be attending as Captain Hawk Owl, like I have every year since its conception.”


The idea of creating a support network for kids came about a century ago in 1904, when Ernest Coulter, a New York City court clerk, noticed an increase in juvenile delinquency within the court house that he worked. He formed Big Brothers around that time. Around the same time, “Ladies of Charity” were working with young girls coming through New York’s court system, which became Big Sisters. It wasn’t until 1977 that the two groups came together, previously separately known as Big Sisters International and Big Brothers Association, to form what we now know as “Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.” Today this system operates in all 50 states and in several other countries around the world. 


The organization has been present in North Western Michigan for almost 50 years, and has served over 16,000 children! Mentorship plays an integral role in helping adolescents become more successful, reducing their likelihood to engage in risky behaviors such as violence, drug/alcohol abuse, and skipping school. Currently, there are more children on the waiting list to be matched with a Big than there are Bigs available. Spreading awareness of the need for mentorship in our area and celebrating how it positively affects our community are the main purposes for the “Big Little Hero Race.”


“I really would have benefited from being involved in a program like this when I was a kid,” Greg added, “so I want to work hard to help support our local Big Brothers Big Sisters, and spread awareness about the importance of mentorship!”

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