Growing up, Ben Ries’ parents shared the importance of giving back to the community. Ries continues to live his family’s values through Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands.

Ries, a current board member at Big Brothers Big Sisters, started volunteering through the program in 2010 after completing his graduate degree.

“I just realized that I just had a lot of free time, and I didn’t feel like I was using it the best I could,” Ries said. “I knew that a friend in high school was involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters. I tagged along one time.”

Ries enjoyed volunteering with his friend and decided to reach out to Big Brothers Big Sisters to become a mentor. He was matched with John Everhart, who was a preteen at the time.

Ries originally found being a Big Brother intimidating but said the program does a great job of matching bigs and littles based on their shared interests. He and Everhart were both videogame enthusiasts and movie fans.

“One of the first times we hung out, we got tacos and went and played laser tag or something like that,” Ries said. “He was pretty shy.”

As Ries and Everhart’s relationship developed, it became easier to talk about life. Their relationship has changed over time, but they continue to get together, even though Everhart has since aged out of the program.

“The most recent time John and I hung out, we met for lunch, and I helped him do his taxes,” Ries said. “The important things to discuss have become more serious.”

Everhart said he thinks his relationship with Ries is even stronger now that he’s older and they have more in common.

“It’s more of a bond,” Everhart said.

Ries plans to volunteer with a new little brother in the future. For now, he’s content to be apart of the program’s bigger picture while serving on the board. He encourages others to consider becoming a Big Brother, Big Sister or Big Couple.

“People kind of have this false sense I think that it’s an enormous time commitment or that maybe they’re not special enough to do it,” Ries said. “Don’t let that false fear or intimidation stop you from getting more information about being a big or taking that next step.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands recently received a grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE). To learn more about BCBSNE’s community engagement initiatives, visit the community engagement tab.