A 17-minute car ride separates the Salt Lake City offices of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah and Raise the Future. But don’t let the short ride up the street fool you. The two organizations have been making an impact far beyond the nine-mile distance between them.
In just under one week, the NBA will lend a hand and assist with their efforts, as Team LeBron plays to support BBBSU and Team Giannis backs Raise the Future in the 2023 NBA All-Star Game.
Per the NBA Cares release on Feb. 9: “The league’s community initiatives will culminate during the NBA All-Star Game where Team LeBron and Team Giannis will collectively donate nearly a million dollars for local youth and family-serving organizations.
“Youth from the two groups will be integrated into programming throughout All-Star, including practice, the pregame draft, and attending the game to cheer on their respective teams.”
Here’s how the BBBSU and Raise and Future both accomplish goals and impact lives in the Salt Lake City community.
Raise the Future
“At Raise the Future, our mission is to really make sure that no youth goes through life without at least one caring adult by their side,” said Lindsay Kaeding, acting vice president of development and communications at Raise the Future.
Raise the Future — which Keading shared has primarily served the Salt Lake community for the past 37 years — works to give a loving home to children in foster care and provide resources to adoptive families.
Laura Palmer is a mother of five who, along with her husband, adopted four boys ranging in age from six to 15. She said Raise the Future has become an integral part of their lives.
“Most of these children that are adopted through foster care have experienced things that you and I can’t even comprehend,” Palmer said. “And so it makes parenting a challenge because each child has their own set of circumstances, their own trauma that they’re faced with. Without the support [of] organizations like Raise the Future, I honestly truly don’t know how I’d get through it.”
Palmer emphasized that the post-adoption resources that Raise the Future provides have helped her family learn to grow, connect and communicate with each other to express their needs. Through their time with Raise the Future, her children were able to find their voice.
“Raise the Future has impacted us because they’ve helped my children find words that might be too hard for kids to find. And what I mean by that is, children — especially adopted children — have individual specialized needs, but they don’t have the vocabulary, they don’t have the ability to express what those needs are,” Palmer shared.
“For me and my husband, it’s given us hope that we can help heal these children, that we can make a difference, that we can learn how to parent them the way that they need to be parented.”
According to Raise the Future, care like Palmer’s correlates to several positive outcomes for young people — 110% are more likely to go to college, the organization said, and 75% have higher incomes.
But that boost is not available to all the young people who could use it. There were 979 children awaiting homes as of Feb. 9.
Ann Ayers, chief executive officer of Raise the Future, said the NBA’s support offered a chance for reflection and growth for the children involved in the program, reinforcing that they have great value in our world.
“I think that part of the magic of what the NBA is doing here is that you’re saying to hundreds of kids just in the Salt Lake area and thousands of kids throughout the state and hundreds of thousands throughout the country — you’re saying ‘You’re worthy of being seen by superstars,’” Ayers said. “And I think that makes them feel like they’re worthy of being on a team, they’re worthy of being seen by their teachers in school, and they’re worthy of family, and that’s just huge.
“This will be a memory and a moment in time that they can look back at and say ‘somebody said that I was worth investing in’.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah
KayC Jolley joined Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah at just 12 years old. At that time, he was introduced to his Big Brother, Scott.
Three decades later, Jolley still sees Scott and his family at least once every year.
Jolley shared that he grew up with his two siblings, all raised by a single mother, in a home self-described as “always kind of chaotic and crazy.”
Watching Scott go to college and eventually start a company of his own, Jolley said, provided him with “a window of opportunity” of what life could be like in the future.
“I think one of the main things that he taught me is that life isn’t always just about what’s in front of you, it’s about where you can go.” he said.
Now, serving on the BBBSU Board of Directors, Jolley said his relationship with Scott helped him realize his own potential.
“Maybe one of the biggest things the mentorship pairing] does is give you a window into opportunity that you would normally not even know existed,” Jolley said.
KayC and Scott are just one of the many big and little pairings established at BBBSU. Per their web site, “staff have made more than 21,000 support contacts with Bigs, Littles, and their families” in the past two-plus years.
According to the organization’s Impact Report, 95% of littles graduate from high school, 98% of littles avoid substance abuse issues and 92% report consistent or improved Emotional Regulation abilities.
“Our goal is to be able to defend the potential of every kid who needs and wants a mentor in our area” said Nancy Basinger, President and CEO of BBBSU.
“The reason we exist is to help inspire and ignite potential in the kids that we serve.”
With the collaboration with the NBA during All-Star weekend, Basinger hopes to raise awareness for the overwhelming need for and importance of mentors. There are 81 young people in the Salt Lake City area waiting for a mentor, and more than 33,000 across the country, Basinger shared.
“This partnership helps us in so many ways. Obviously, there are financial benefits, and that will help us just serve more kids by being able to provide more services, but ultimately what this really does for us in our local community is help raise the profile of mentoring and the fact that we really need mentors to volunteer to serve these kids,” she said.
“So we are hopeful that so many people will hear about our message who maybe wouldn’t have otherwise and be able to volunteer as mentors for the kids that we’re serving here in Utah and nationwide.”
Find the full schedule of All-Star events here, which begin on Feb. 17.