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A Stafford resident remembers what it was like to grow up without a dad, and volunteers with Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Dale Shumaker was working out at a local gym when he saw a public service announcement on television for Big Brothers Big Sisters. "I lost my dad when I was 15, and it was tough growing up without a parent," he said. He knew then that he wanted to give back to the community by volunteering as a Big.

Shumaker has always been active in sports, and that passion has turned into opportunities with Little Brother Daniel. "The pair has been matched since last fall, and already they have developed a close bond centered around their shared interests," said Michelle Hedrich, executive director of Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters (RBBBS). "Whether it is shooting hoops at the YMCA, working on baseball skills or hiking in Occoquan Park, their time together usually involves staying in motion."

After taking Daniel to a high school basketball game and noticing his enthusiasm for the sport, Shumaker begun taking Daniel on trips to the YMCA to work on Daniel's game. To prepare for the Big Brother Big Sister annual Bowl for Kid's Sake fundraiser, the two practiced at a local bowling alley, Shumaker giving pointers in a fun and encouraging environment.

Getting to Know Each Other

When matches first begin, it often takes time for Big and Little to get comfortable knowing each other, Hedrich said. "But Shumaker took a proactive approach right away to plan activities that would be both interesting and physically engaging."

Shumaker said some of his friends have questioned his service as a Big. "Some people think I'm crazy," he said. "They don't understand how I could take a stranger, a person I don't even know, and spend time with him. I told them it's no different than making a friend or helping a neighbor's child."

"I Could See His Confidence Rising"

Lately Shumaker and Daniel have been working on baseball. Shumaker says that though Daniel owned a glove, he had never really used it. Shumaker taught him how to wear the glove and demonstrated proper throwing form. Daniel was excited to learn more, so next up was a trip to the batting cages in Fredericksburg's Central Park.

Daniel was a little nervous, so Shumaker offered to go first and show Daniel how it was done. Then Daniel was willing to give it a shot. "After he got in there and tried it out a little, he was really excited and wanted to try it again," Shumaker said. "I could see his confidence rising."

It's a Win-Win

"To me it's easy to spend time once a week teaching Daniel something," Shumaker said. Just to see Daniel do things he's never done before and be happy makes my week. It's a win-win for both of us, really."
For more information about Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters, visit their website at http://www.rbbbs.org or call 540-371-7444.

Susan Larson is the publisher of Fredericksburg Today online news and contributing writer for Fredericksburg Parent and Family. http://fredericksburg.today/ 

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