Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

A Big Day at the Lake

Perhaps no other single event at Lake Norman impacts children as much as Big Day at the Lake.  “Big Day,” which takes place on a Saturday in July, was created by Business Today publisher Dave Yochum.  On July 21st, the Lake Norman business community, along with quite a few retired and active community citizens, opened their checkbooks and shared their time and resources with 144 at-risk children from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte.

Close to 80 boat hosts took out the Big Brother or Sister (Bigs) along with their “littles” who enjoyed a morning on the lake – many for the first time.  Then it was off for lunch at the Energy Explorium where 600 hot dogs, 75 pizzas, and 20 pounds of Cole slaw was dished out by the volunteers from many of the lake’s active civic clubs.

Big Day organizers set a goal of $50,000 in cash, and while businesses are just beginning to see the clouds of economic recession fade, the group exceeded their goal with slightly more than $60,000 collected.  It is estimated that 83% of every dollar collected goes right back into the charity itself.  Those contributions will help assist the organization long after the summer has passed.

I have been fortunate the last few years to be the guest of the Brian Sisson family as Brian, Tricia, Kaitlyn, and Sam typically hosts a “Big and Little.”  This year the Sisson’s took Willie and his Big Brother Aaron Grissom out on the lake.  Willie is a fifth grader and you could see the excitement in his eyes as he stepped aboard the Sisson boat.

Willie with his big brother Aaron and Aaron’s girlfriend at Big day

Aaron and Willie have been teamed up for a couple of years.  They have battled the rapids at the WhitewaterCenter in Charlotte and taken in Carowinds but I don’t think any of that compared to piloting the boat back to the Peninsula Yacht Club or making the flip off the back of the boat into the cool water with all the other children watching.

Hearing the splashing and laughter last Saturday at Big Day at the Lake brings back so many fond memories I have as a child with the wonderful trips our family took to the beach and our days out on Lake Wylie (SC) that we just affectionately referred to as “the river.”

Kids like Willie will never forget their Big Day at the Lake.  A day when strangers became friends.  When the families of Lake Norman opened their hearts to impressionable young people letting them know we care.

It was a day when Charlotte’s kids were our kids. A day filled with a compassion as wide as the shoreline and deeper than Lake Norman’s deepest point. It was a day like no other.  It was our Big Day at the Lake.

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July 30, 2012 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Social Causes, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Big Day on Lake Norman

My sister Tanya, Brother Todd, and neighbor Karlie on a family Beach outing

From my earliest recollections, I cannot remember a time not filled with trips to the beach or lake. My summers were spent at Myrtle, Cherry Grove, and Ocean Drive with outings to Ebenezer Landing and many of Rock Hill’s (SC) lakeside parks.  As a child I spent many a morning and afternoon building castles in the sand, diving through the ocean’s waves, or collecting seashells from the shore.  Later into my teens and adulthood, I would trade in my pail and shovel for cold draft beer, visions of Carolina girls stretched out on the beach, and trips to Crazy Zacks, Mother Fletchers, the Afterdeck and Bowery.

When I was fifteen, I began taking trips out to Lake Wyle with my boyhood friends, Bryan, Bynum, Charlie and Eddie.  We would board Bynum’s small outboard motor boat which we used to pull each other on skis.  Thank goodness none of us were bigger than a minute as the small engine often strained to tug us out of the water.  I was perhaps the last of the bunch to actually learn to ski.

On one of our excursions out on Lake Wylie we were joined on the lake by a neighbor of Bynum’s, whose father owned a fairly large vessel but more importantly to us, had a young daughter that was the vision of absolute loveliness.  While only thirteen, she had all of us teenage boys transfixed as she stood before us in her little yellow two piece bikini.  If my blood had not stirred before, this young goddess would forever be etched in my mind as a true joy of life.

When I admitted sheepishly that I had no experience on skis, she offered to show me how behind her father’s boat.  My friends looked on with envy as I stepped aboard their vessel, donning a life jacket, and slipping into the water with this object of our fascination.  She wrapped her small bronze arms around my chest, showing me how to hold the rope, and encouraging me to bend my knees until the boat began its strong pull lifting me out of the water.  I wasn’t sure whether to fail at my attempt to gain another lesson or to succeed and feel her pride in our success.  That afternoon 35 years ago and the memories we all shared from our summers together are as fresh as yesterday.  The experiences with my family and friends aged with each passing summer are the well worn pages of my life.

Brian Sisson and Honesty

This past weekend Lake Norman played host to Big Brother Big Sisters of Charlotte as 138 kids and their Big Brother – Big Sister were hosted by 85 boat hosts.  I was fortunate again this year to be invited by former Huntersville Mayor Pro Tem Brian Sisson, his wife Tricia and daughter Kaitlyn.  The Sisson family hosted Big Sister Monica Croskey and her “little” sister Honesty along with Mecklenburg County Commissioner Karen Bentley.  Honesty, who attends elementary school in Charlotte, has been partnered with Monica for about a year.  Monica is a financial analyst with the City of Rock Hill and we spent some time talking about her employer and my home town.  By the end of our conversation, it was evident that Monica loves Rock Hill as much as I do and that the city has one outstanding Ambassador in Monica!

Brian tied up with several other boats hosting kids as they jet skid, rafted, fished, and swam.  We were all amazed as one young child who could be no more than ten caught a catfish among all the splashing, laughter, and noise.  Honesty spent most of her time lying on a float as she basked in the hot sun. The kids feasted on hot dogs and sodas before they headed out to McGuire’s Energy Explorium for a cookout. The afternoon on the lake will never be forgotten by the kids who enjoyed their “Big Day on the Lake.”

A few weeks ago, I had a chance to get together with my buddies Bynum, Charlie, Eddie and their wives as we swapped stories and reminisced about our youth.  Years from now, the kids of Big Brothers – Big Sisters will do the same.  They’ll talk about the afternoon that stranger’s opened their arms and their hearts and welcomed them in.  They did so with hearts as deep as Lake Norman itself and arms as wide as the shoreline it covers.

Honesty with Big Sister Monica Croskey

This past weekend the families of Lake Norman gave some wonderful children a very special gift and the families of Lake Norman received a special gift of their own from God.  Gifts that everyone will remember – “Our Big Day on the Lake”.

July 26, 2010 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , | Leave a comment