Christmas bikes on the way for 20 local students in Big Brothers Big Sisters program

Published 7:41 am Friday, December 1, 2023

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Louisiana teamed up with industrial gas company Air Products to donate 20 local middle school and high school aged “littles” bikes just in time for the holidays.

BBBS-SWLA CEO Erin Davison said that Air Products reached out to them to provide the bikes, and posed the idea of building the bicycles in Lake Charles as a team-building exercise during their annual meeting at the Golden Nugget.

“It’s such a good way to bring holiday cheer. … For us to tell our littles that these weren’t just purchased and donated, these were brought in and built from the box is special. … It’s a story. It’s an experience.”

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The bikes will be distributed throughout the six parishes that BBBS-SWLA has a presence in: Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jeff Davis and Vernon.

The littles receiving the bikes were selected by the BBBS-SWLA Program Team based on their needs and demographics. She said that they have already been informed they are being gifted hand-built bikes and they are “so excited.” During the holiday season, many older kids feel left out or forgotten. This is why they were prioritized by BBBS-SWLA and Air Products.

“It’s human nature for us to automatically think about small kids and toys, but I’ve learned that sometimes the bigger kids feel like they aren’t important anymore.”

Additionally, the need for bikes is greater for teens, as many find themselves in need for transportation to school, work or other local resources.

As part of their new partnership, Air Products has also committed to making a financial investment in the Big Defender endowment fund, which was recently launched in October. This is a sign that Air Products is prioritizing providing for SWLA youth long-term, Davison said.

“They’re not just giving immediately to our middle and high school youth… but they’re also investing in our future programming for our youth. They’ve just doubled-down.”

Air Products commitment is setting an example for new ways that partners can contribute to BBBS-SWLA. The Big Defender Fund was created to “future-proof” the organization and allow for the creation of new programs and possibilities. It also offers a new option for those who want to donate.

“If they would prefer the legacy giving avenue of sustainable funding for the future, the endowment is a really good way to go.”

One of her plans for the Big Defender Fund is to create more opportunities and programming for older youth in Southwest Louisiana. This mission has already been a priority. Historically, the age range of youth served by BBBW-SWLA has been aged six to 12, but there is opportunity to expand aid to teenagers.

Over the past couple of years, they have found that teens generally don’t want the traditional Big Brother experience. In response, BBBS-SWLA created an innovative, hybrid mentoring program in which older littles can either be matched with a big or be considered “unmatched non-one-to-one” and still have access to BBBS-SWLA resources.

Davison said this program has “jumpstarted” participation for 13 to 19 year olds. Over the past two years, 196 littles have been labeled “unmatched non-one-to-one.” This method has helped the teen visualize and manifest their potential, and over 90 percent reported feeling more seen and connected to their community, she said.

“It’s a whole different learning curve for us in that development realm, but now we’re seeing that there is impact, because they are showing up.”

They have learned from these teens that they want programming that teaches life and financial skills, and she believes that those options could be expanded for that age group through the Big Defender fund. Davison would also like to develop a workforce training program for littles in this age range.

These opportunities allow for positive growth and development, which ultimately leads older youth to make better decisions.

“We’re not creating programs to save them from themselves. We’re creating programs for them to see the bigger picture and the options they have. When you have a youth that is consistently exposed to trauma and consistently negative life experiences, that is all they know.”

To contribute to the Big Defender Fund, visit