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Cornelius News

July 18 really was a BIG day at the lake


By Dru Willis. More than 200 at-risk children dove into all things Lake Norman for Big Day at the Lake July 18, some of them experiencing tubing, swimming, and boating for the first time. A volunteer armada of Boat Hosts—more than 100 strong—and six dozen volunteers, as well as police and firefighters, made it all happen.

Mama’s Pizza on South Main Street in Cornelius provided pizzas at no charge. Pictured are long-time supporters Erin Manis-Maniscalco, Laura Copeland Doody, Lynn Seifert Manis and Frank Manis.

Not to mention food donations from the likes of Mama’s Pizza—100 hot fresh pies; Big Bite’z—buckets of fresh-made cole slaw; Port City Club—600 hot dogs; Dole Foods—literally thousands of fruit cups; and Bruster’s Ice Cream—from vanilla to cotton candy swirl.

Call it controlled chaos. Organized mayhem. First, fun on the lake, with all those Boat Hosts. Then a picnic for everyone at Duke’s Energy Explorium.

But it’s all about kids in Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte. There are 250 served by the agency in North Mecklenburg, but many of them come from Charlotte itself for the event which is designed to provide a day of fun for Bigs, or mentors, and Littles, the at-risk children.

Both the Town of Cornelius and Mecklenburg County declared July 18 Big Day at the Lake Day.

It went off without a hitch, if you didn’t mind a stationary monsoon at the start of the picnic. At least it seemed stationary.

All that rain could not wipe the joy from the faces of the Littles, even as Thor did his thing in the clouds.

Little Sister Kaliyah had plenty of fun “because we get to go on the waves and then we get to jump up in the air and then come back down.” She attended with her Big, Lisa Bzowski.

The two meet weekly and they try to do a mix of fun things and “responsible” things like grocery shopping. Kaliyah found, in spite of her original hesitations, that she really enjoys ice skating. She now has taken her first two basic level classes for figure skating and got a pair of skates for her birthday.

“I want to compete,” she said.

The two were giggling as they happily recounted their big day at the lake.

“We both leaned forward on the tubes at the same time and went right under,” Bzowski recalled with a giant laugh, adding Kaliyah forgot to let go of the tube and just rode it under water. “I was like way back, choking and coughing, and she’s just right there laughing. And they just left me hanging back there.”

IMG_0065For the bigs, the reasons to get involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters lies in a desire to give back to the community and be a positive influence.

Charlene Dangler grew up in Virginia Beach and went to the University of Toledo in Ohio, where her sorority volunteered with children. Now she spends time once a week with her little, Nehjana.

“And then when I graduated I didn’t have an opportunity to volunteer anymore so when I moved down to Charlotte this was the easiest way that I could get involved with something,” Dangler said.

Placide Muhizi’s Little’s name is Bryce. Muhizi wants to be a good influence.

“I think it’s important that young boys get mentors, somebody that can be a positive role model,” he stated.

Bryce’s mother told him about Big Brothers Big Sisters. “And so I said, ‘That sounds cool’ and now I’m in it,” Bryce said.

Jeff Groose and Andre have been matched up for about a year and a half now. Andre calls Groose “my bro” and the two have done a lot together.

“I was fortunate enough to get Andre, and his mom is great,” Groose happily said.

There are more than just bigs and littles running around at Big Day at the Lake, as volunteers like coworkers Callie Luckadoo and Brittany Nance could be found helping dish out warm pasta for lunch and keeping condiments handy and abundant.

IMG_9027“It’s great to have an opportunity to get connected with other people in Charlotte, and I think that the Big Brothers Big Sisters program is really important and impactful,” Luckadoo said. “And so it’s fun to see the Big Brothers and Big Sisters hang out with their littles and enjoy the lake.”

In all, there were roughly 6 dozen volunteers at the picnic alone, ranging from directing traffic to filling up water balloons, from set-up to clean-up; from the hot dog grill to scooping ice cream.

Presenting Sponsor, PayPal, ran a fun booth to make colorful hands out of warm wax. There was still a line of kids when the picnic was ending at 3:30 p.m.

“There are a lot of folks that take a lot of time and energy to make this happen. There are so many moving parts, but when you get there and see the faces on the kids, it makes everything worthwhile,” says Angela Swett, a long-time member of the Big Day at the Lake committee. who is in charge of overall picnic logistics.

At the end of the day, the event is all about children experiencing something they likely would not have an opportunity to experience. They get to do this with Boat Hosts and their families, as well as volunteers who otherwise would not come together.

Boat Hosts Carmen and Jon Canady said this: “We feel that we need to thank YOU for this wonderful experience!  Our family could not have been matched with better people, and the memories that were created will last forever.”

Here is the note she got from her Big.

I can’t thank you and Jonathan enough for giving your time, sharing your amazing kids, taking us out on your boat, and being so unbelievably generous and kind.  The kids had a great time and really opened up more than I’ve ever seen them do…Willie actually danced. I’m still shocked a day later.  Emani, the most water cautious kid, went tubing twice—yes, we have the video and pics to prove it!  I think those two things alone speak to what an incredibly safe environment your family created for Willie and Emani in which they felt comfortable to be silly, let go, and brave their fears and ignore their self consciousness.  I truly believe that Willie and Emani will always have special memories from yesterday that they’ll retain for the rest of their lives.  Thanks so much for everything!!”


Notes from this year’s boat hosts:

It was awesome and both my friends and I planning on it for next year.

— Babs Bryant

Always a great day. Such a small thing to do, and I wonder who it benefits more: the kids or us, the boat hosts? We take so much for granted.

— Jeff Arbaugh

Our “Littles” really liked tubing…told them I would do it all morning if they wanted us to, and they did and we did.  The “Bigs” had an equally good time.

— Paul and Marty Mack

Both of the pairs assigned to my boat were polite, appreciative and a pleasure to host. I hope all other Boat Hosts had as an enjoyable time as my wife and I did. The littles were quality youths and if all in your program are similar, you are doing a great service to them and the community.

— Jose Suarez

I’m so glad I could participate!  Please keep me on the list for future events….we couldn’t make it to the cookout, we were having so much fun on the lake that we lost track of time. I had a Big Brother when I was a kid, and he had such a huge impact on my life.  Thanks for giving me the opportunity to give back, if only in a small way.

— Pat Oram


Many people made it happen!

Boat Hosts

Jeff Arbaugh

Jared Barrow

Kirk Beatty

April & Jack Beckman

Denis Bilodeau

Herb Boyd

Steve Branum

Tracy Brown

Ron Bruce

Bob & Kris Bruton

Babs Bryant

Brian Buckley

April Buttner

Richard Bywater

John Callaway

Charles Callis

Carmen Canady

Michael Carlet

Guy Cline

Rick Cushing

Eric Dana

Brad Daubenmire

Kristin DeGifford

Curtis DeSena

Josh Dobi

Tom and Ann Dutton

Jim and Laura Engel

Gary Fagan

Jim fletemier

Sid Foushee

Marty Fox

Colin Furcht

Kate Gaither

Jace Gates

Mike Griffin

Josh Habeeb

Bob Hallman

Jason R Happe

Dent Hardin

Mike Harms

Brett Hart

Mike Hartnett

Eric Hartwick

Paul W Hassler

Fred Heck

Kit Henry

Diana Highter

Shannon Hilton

Robert Holman

Eric & Amy Hoyle

William Huertas

Marc Jacobsen

David Jazbec

Walter Jones

Susan Joosten

Mike Joseph

Dennis Kazmierczak

Michelle Kibel

Lisa Krass

Jerry Kurtz

Dale Lang

Steve Lastella

Mike Layel

Paul Mack

Frank & Lynn Manis

John McClelland

Mike McClelland

William McGuire

James Meagher

Mark Miescher-Clemens

Kevin Mikeworth

Michael Miltich

Monica Murdock

Paul Newton

Patrick Oram

Joe and Lori Owens

Don & Vickie Payne

Steve Paynter

Randy Plante

Steven Riggan

Larry W. Riggs

Blake Schell

Denis Schmider

Kevin Shea

Tom Simonson

Greg Sobiech

Wendy Speckman

Dan Stehle

J.C. Stephens

Jose Suarez

Kyle & Linda Taylor

Choquette Uglehus

Debbie Vandeventer

Tom Varian

Charles Ventimiglia

Ken Walker

Vincent Watkins

Jeff Weir

Perry and Nancy Weir

Todd Wiebusch

David Yochum

Heather Washik

Keith Summitt

Tim Peticca

James Martino

Marty C Edwards

Ken Ziegler

Joan E Gardner

John Bradford

Sean Higbea


Evan Moore

Clay Heath

Frank Powell

Micheal Brennan

Ethan Parham

Alex Hafner

Nick Fucini

Colin Abercrombie

Hobie Helbich

Connor Ryan

Ben Coy

Trevor Lindscheid

James Duke

Demille Jennings

Sandee Balise

Jennifer Dwiggins

Debbie Monroe

Kristin Couch

Kent Couch

Bob Van Buskirk

Nancy Van Buskirk

Jim Ranieri

Laura De Falco

Charlie Curtis

Maria Wilson

Karla Combs

Skye Jaundoo

John Aneralla

Amanda  Aneralla

Pat Jackson

Megan Jackson

Jim Mooney

Jeff Hammett

Kevin Poole

Arlene Arciero

Tim Stein

Jim Chrystal

Kathi Callaway

Ruby Trap

Jessica Trap

Andrew Gluckman

Melinda Bell

John Donnelly

Cathy Bentz

David McCollum

Amy Whealdon

Heidi Hansen

Dirk Hansen

Hana Hansen

Laurel Shea

Melanie Shea

Taknicia Taylor

Skye Jaundoo

Brad Daubenmire

Jessie Daubenmire

Jacob Daubenmire

Ellan Shaw

Emily Shaw

Brittany Nance

Tracy Walters

Aimee Peer

McKenna Peer

Devin Peer

Liz Coy

Kathy Dole

Patrick Anderson

Callie Luckadoo

Kwame Boatwright

Annie Baugh

Hillary Walker

Hadley Walker

Tristan Walker

Taylor Estrada

Randy Lawrence

Rich Heareth

Mrs Heareth

Melanie Balousek

Kevin Lee

Amber Eastwood

Garrett McNellaga

Tiffany McNellaga


Auctions: Liz Marlow

Boat Hosts: Robert Reed

Fundraising: Heidi Hansen

Fundraising: Tracey Stehle

Food: Tracy Yochum

Logistics: Brad Daubenmire

Picnic: Angela Swett

Secretary: Gail Williams

Social media: Sergio Tovar

Volunteers: Chris Epps

Graphic Design: Stephen Nance

PR: Dave Vieser

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