Building bonds with a stranger

Big and Little Sisters find common ground at hockey arena

Friday, November 16, 6 p.m. – South Huron Recreation Centre, Exeter
A Wild West murder mystery fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters South Huron with three-course dinner catered by Barbara’s, silent auction, and music by Stone Angels.
Tickets: $50. Call 519-235-3307

Story and photos by Casey Lessard

Exeter residents Doris Osgood, 48, and Natalie Priebe, 14, spend Friday nights together at the South Huron Community Centre. The two are Big and Little Sisters, and enjoy spending time together, but especially at the hockey rink, where they volunteer with the Exeter Hawks. Osgood’s son is the goalie for the team, and her husband is the announcer.

Doris: My little sister is bigger than me (laughs). We’ve been together not quite a year. It was just before Christmas…
Natalie: …December 19…
Doris: …when we got together. Amy from Big Brothers Big Sisters was really excited because she knew how into hockey our family was. My son’s the goalie for the Hawks and she knew that Natalie was right into hockey, so she’d probably enjoy tagging along, and she does.
Natalie: There were some other things we had a common interest in, but the hockey is how we hooked up. We both like hockey and really enjoy doing it. That’s why we enjoy seeing each other every week.
Doris: My husband is the announcer for these games, so we’re up in the press box. He’s keeping track of the penalties and the shots on net. We’re there with a piece of paper keeping a count on that, which is verified with the person in the penalty box area.
Natalie: I like doing the shots on net. That’s my job when I come to the games. If I miss a shot, Doris is right in there telling me that I need to put it down.
Doris: We also come down in the intermission and help with the fundraiser activities – the 50-50 and the chuck-a-puck – if they need people to help there.
It’s great for Natalie now that she’s in high school because I can sign for volunteer hours for her. I know the other people here appreciate having her here as well. With most groups and activities, you’re always looking for people to come along and help.
Natalie: We moved to Exeter a year ago. My parents are separated, so it was difficult. I went to a new school, moved into a new house, got separated from my father. I was in Seaforth for my whole life so it was difficult leaving Seaforth and coming to Exeter, but in a way it’s better to start a new life and see what else is out there.
It helps to have someone there. (Without Doris,) I’d still be going through difficult times, not letting anybody know what’s going on in my life between my parents and with my family. When Doris is there, we talk about some of those things and how to resolve things. During the intermissions we’re usually down here talking about something.
Doris: My son is 18 years old so, having had a teenager, it was okay for me to have an older child as a match instead of someone younger. I think it’s probably a more relatable match. She can talk to me and I still understand where a teenager is coming from and I’m in tune with what my own son is going through at the high school.
Natalie: It makes you feel better that you’ve got one more person in your life. The first couple of days, I didn’t know what it was going to be like, but it’s pretty good.
Doris: It is great to interact with somebody else who’s not in my family. Not having a daughter or sisters, it’s cool to be able to do girl things. But we’re not really girly-girls. It’s a comfortable interaction. It’s really nice to relate to somebody who does enjoy the same things but not my own age.
This is something I always had in my heart: to be a Big Sister. We’re all busy these days, so it wasn’t that I decided all of a sudden that I had time. I realized that soon, if I didn’t say yes, I’d be looking back years later saying I wish I would have done it.
It’s not about having time or money. Most of the stuff we do doesn’t cost much. It’s not about thinking you have so much to offer someone else and being an influence on them. It’s about just being there for someone else. In today’s world, where everybody’s going so fast, some people get left behind and it’s kind of nice that there’s a program that opens things up for her.

“(Big Brothers Big Sisters) gives them the support of a mentor,” says organization secretary Laurie Mackechnie, “support they might not be getting from other avenues or at home.”
The organization has two major fundraisers each year, including the bowl-a-thon held across the country, and one local event. This year, the spring event had to be cancelled because of low ticket sales, and they’ve decided to try the Whodunnit to raise much-needed revenue.
“Combined with money from the United Way, that’s all the money we have for the year. If there’s good attendance, we hope to raise about $5000.
“Finances have been tight. We need to have enough funds to pay the staff to run the programs. If this fundraiser is not a success, we may have to re-evaluate some of the programs we offer. We would have to find ways to cut costs or increase funding.”
The murder mystery event is a new event for BBBS, but Mackechnie promises a fun night.
“We have a group of actors coming in to do the murder mystery part of the night. I’ve seen them before and they do a great job and it’s a whole lot of fun.”