Raising money for an already prevalent cause, like autism or breast cancer, is difficult enough. Raising money to prevent problems before they arise is a whole other challenge. “It’s like investing in your 401k,” said Mark Cox, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Long Island. “You preach to somebody when they’re young, ‘Put money in and you’ll be better off in the long run’…Our biggest challenge is convincing people that investing now in the youth is going to save us money in the long run—less kids going into crime and jail.”
It doesn’t pull on the heart strings but non-profits are businesses, with bills and payrolls and bottom lines that need to be addressed. “You can’t continue to serve more kids unless you’re raising money because in order to provide the proper professional support that these matches need, you need more staff.” Fortunately, when BBBS hired Cox as CEO in 2013, they found exactly the business-minded leader needed.
Cox grew up in Massachusetts and played football and lacrosse at Hofstra. He landed a job with alumni relations before progressing to become the associate director of external affairs in the athletics department, overseeing development, marketing and corporate partnerships. In this role, Cox interacted with many of the school’s donors, one of whom was a board member of BBBS and mentioned an opening with the organization. Content where he was, Cox was reluctant. “I loved what I did at Hofstra and right away I said, ‘no.’ Then I went home, I thought about it, did some research on the organization and said ‘You know what? I’m going to go put an application in.’”
Cox joined as chief development officer and seven years later, in 2013, took the role of CEO. During his time, membership has grown to include more than 500 of Long Island’s youth, thanks in part to Cox’s business acumen. His predecessor began a clothing collection center to help raise money for BBBS. Cox implemented new strategies to claim a 300 percent increase in the center’s net profits. “I was able to use basic business skills to take a look at the expenses and the efficiencies. The biggest thing for us has been utilizing technology to take it to the next level.”
All the money goes back into BBBS, helping increase the number of youths the organization can mentor, a population that, contrary to common thinking, spans the spectrum of backgrounds. “The general public would probably like to think it’s a child coming from a low-income, broken home. It’s not that all the time. We have kids from great family structures, but may have a sibling who has a developmental disability like autism. That child takes up 100 percent of the focus in the home and the family has come to Big Brothers to enroll their other child…to get some guidance and have an adult to spend time with.” No matter their background, participants in the Long Island chapter are plagued by similar issues. “In this day and age there’s a lot of bullying going on and a lot of the areas we serve there’s gang and drug exposure.”
With those issues in mind, and roughly 500 children on BBBS Long Island’s wait list, there is no let down for Cox, who has his foot firmly on the pedal. “My goal in the future is really to continue the growth we’ve been experiencing the past four years that I’ve been here. I think we will continue to make a difference.”
On January 20th, in celebration of National Mentoring Month, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island (BBBSLI) hosted its annual Winter Blast match event presented by Geico at Dave & Busters in Islandia. Bigs and Littles all enjoyed a fun filled day of games, food and raffles. The event also included a book fair, sponsored by The Book Fairies, which allowed for every Little to leave the event with brand new books.
Each match received a Dave & Busters unlimited power play card and 25 raffle tickets to use for the Chinese auction. A variety of free giveaways were also distributed including, designer children’s shoes donated by BCNY Synclaire Brands, handmade hats & scarves donated by Care to Knit and winter coats donated by various Long Island schools.
“Winter Blast is always one of our favorite match events of the year. It is an incredible opportunity for our matches and the BBBSLI team to come together, socialize and have fun! We’re grateful for the donors and volunteers who help to make this possible,” said Nancy Farrell Travers, Director of Services for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island.
BBBSLI coordinates match events and activities throughout the year as part of its on-going professional support of our program’s mentoring relationships. The Winter Blast has become a highly anticipated event for both our Bigs and Littles. In addition to each match getting to enjoy a fun time together, events such as Winter Blast allow Bigs and Littles to socialize and interact with other matches and the BBBSLI staff which promotes unity and comradery with the agency.
Thank you to our presenting sponsor Geico for making this event possible. We also want to extend special thanks to the Estee Lauder Good Works volunteers who gave their time to help throughout the event.
Feeling the excitement in the room and seeing the enjoyment on the faces of our matches truly made this event a “blast” for everyone in attendance.
To view more photos from the event click here
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island (BBBSLI) has been awarded a $7,500 grant from The Long Island Insurance Community (LIIC), an organization dedicated to bringing the insurance community together to change the lives of Long Islanders in need. The grant will be used to support BBBSLI’s Healthy Littles Series and will also help the mentoring agency serve more children across Long Island.
“BBBSLI is honored to receive this grant from The Long Island Insurance Community,” said Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island CEO, Mark Cox. “I’d like to express our appreciation to LIIC members Scott Horowitz and Susan Torrey, for sponsoring our nomination for this grant. We are thrilled to extend our ability to support the children we serve by providing the health and wellness events included in our Healthy Littles Series.”
The Long Island Insurance Community began in 1995, when a dozen LI insurance industry leaders got together to create a vehicle to give back to the community and to those less fortunate. Today, the LIIC has more than 500 insurance industry executives and business leaders who have helped to raise over $5 million for Long Island charities. The LIIC raises funds at their annual gala, which honors industry and business leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to the community and improving the quality of life for their neighbors.
Designed to promote health and wellness, BBBSLI’s Healthy Littles Series includes a full calendar of no-cost events that teach Littles basic skills for healthy living, including exercise and nutrition. BBBSLI partners with professionals throughout the community to offer a variety of events including nutrition and cooking classes, yoga, dance instruction, sports clinics, bike riding, fitness boot camp and swimming lessons.
The magic of the holidays came early for 22 Littles, enrolled in Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island’s (BBBSLI) Hofstra University Site Based mentoring program, when they were surprised with brand-new bikes!
The big surprise took place at a Hofstra Men’s Basketball game during a special presentation recognizing the 10-year partnership between BBBSLI and Hofstra. The Littles received a huge surprise as they saw Hofstra Athletes riding on to the court with the bikes, donated by Bikes for Kids in America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children feel the joy and freedom of riding his or her own bike.
On Tuesday, November 14th, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island (BBBSLI) presented its annual “All-In” Poker Tournament as part of its Poker & Networking event series. Over 100 players registered for the event, presented by Steve Madden, held at The Main Event Restaurant & Sports Bar in Farmingdale. The event raised nearly $30,000 in support of mentoring on Long Island.
Barry Levine revealed the championship hand at the coveted final table. Bill Nafpliotis and Mike Byrne finished in 2nd and 3rd place, respectively. The top prize was a $2,500 Traveler’s Choice Voucher. Second prize was two tickets to see Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden and the third-place winner received a 43” LG 4K Smart TV.
“As we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday next week, it was great to see so many players generously give to help those who are less fortunate,” said BBBSLI CEO, Mark Cox. “The money raised tonight will help our agency serve more at-risk children across Long Island.”
BBBSLI would like to express its appreciation to the event’s presenting sponsor Steve Madden. Special thanks to the night’s table sponsors: CHIPS Technology Group, International Integrated Solutions, Ltd, Merrick Madmen, Red Hat, Inc., Rosemont Press Inc., Statewide Roofing and Tim Foley.
Additional thanks to those companies who donated prizes for the tournament including: All-Shows, Hotel Indigo, Oheka Castle, PC Richards, Red Hat, Inc. and Steve Madden.
To view more photos from the event click here