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Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washington County holds annual picnic

Family members praise organization for helping children

Family members praise organization for helping children

June 19, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HALFWAY -- Diane Jones beamed as she recalled the moment she knew the Big Brothers Big Sisters program was making a difference in her daughter Ja'Nay's life.

"She came in and said, 'My big sister says I can be anything I want to be,'" said Jones, 42, who recently moved to Hagerstown from Baltimore to enroll in a drug treatment program at CAMEO House.

Her daughter, Ja'Nay Parker, 10, was one of two local children awarded an Avery Snyder "Campership" Wednesday to attend Antietam Recreation Day Camp for two weeks this summer. The other went to Djuan Socks, 11, of Hagerstown.

The awards were presented by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washington County at the mentoring organization's summer picnic for "bigs," "littles" and their families at Martin L. "Marty" Snook Memorial Park.

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Many parents of children participating in the program took the opportunity to share with their children's mentors what a difference they have made.

Michelle Roth, 37, of Hagerstown, said that not long ago, her 7-year-old son, Matthew Lookabaugh, was struggling with school and diagnosed with ADD. But since he's participated in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program through his school, he's gotten almost all As on his report cards, she said.

"It's just having someone to hang out with, spend time with," Roth said. Matthew's father is a truck driver and is out of town a lot, she said.

Blake Shrader, 10, of Hagerstown, said he and his big brother, Rod Kerbs, 28, of Hagerstown, go golfing and visit places such as the aquarium and batting cages.

Kerbs also helps Blake out with school.

"He's helping me read and all that stuff," Blake said.

The match has been such a positive experience for Blake that his grandmother, Debbie Shrader of Hagerstown, is on a waiting list for a big brother for her other grandson, 7-year-old Malik.

"He has a more positive outlook on life," Shrader said of Blake. "He looks forward to it every week."

Ja'Nay said she also looks forward to visits with her big sister, who takes her to "lots of places," including the Disney Store and yard sales.

"She's funny and fun," Ja'Nay said.

Jones said if she had had someone like that in her life growing up, she never would have gotten into drugs or dropped out of school.

"When you're in a dysfunctional family, that's all you see day in and day out," Jones said. "I lost my mother, my father. I'm trying to break that cycle."

Now, Jones is proud to hear Ja'Nay announce she wants to be a doctor -- or a teacher -- or both.

"I'm just so thankful as a mother that there's a program like this," she said.

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