Remember how long summer vacation felt as a kid? When it was finally time to go back to school, everything seemed brand new and you had to get used to it all over again.

The elementary school children (Littles) matched with high school students (Bigs) in Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine’s School-Based Mentoring program faced the same challenge — how to keep their relationship strong during the summer months when school was not in session.

So three years ago, BBBSMM started its Summer Pen Pal Program to provide an opportunity for Bigs and Littles to continue building their friendship during the summer months and to help prepare the match for their return in the fall.

Research shows that the longer a Big and Little stay matched, the greater the positive impact. Summer contact between Bigs and Littles means they can stay connected and won’t have to start over when school starts. Big Brothers Big Sisters asks the Bigs to contact their Littles at least three times over the summer, once a month, each month. Receiving these letters lets the Little know their Big has not forgotten their friendship simply because school is out. The Littles receive a Summer Pen Pal package, which provides an outline for letter writing, writing ideas, and pre-addressed, stamped envelopes to assist in the process of writing back to their Big.

“Nothing says you care quite like a handwritten note, especially in today's media age,” said Alex Gaeth, CEO of BBBSMM, in a news release. “This provides an easy way for Bigs and Littles to keep in touch during the summer months.”

Once school starts in the fall, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine will be at local high schools recruiting new Big Brothers and Big Sisters to be matched with new Littles in the coming school year. “

This is a great volunteer opportunity for high school students. By being a Big, they learn valuable life skills, such as patience, empathy, compassion, humor, love, acceptance, persistence, commitment and leadership,” Gaeth said. “Most importantly, they are serving as positive role models to young children and giving them the one-to-one attention and friendship they crave. It’s truly a win-win scenario.”

To learn how to volunteer or donate, visit: bbbsmidmaine.org.