It starts with a LITTLE.

Then it gets BIG.

 History of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Black Hills 

With more than 360 affiliates throughout the nation, Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mission is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring professionally supported one-to-one mentoring relationships that change the lives of the youth for the better, forever.  Our vision is that all children achieve success in life.  In addition to carefully screening and matching its mentors and mentees, Big Brothers Big Sisters provides ongoing professional staff support to the volunteers, youth and parents/guardians throughout the course of their matches to keep the mentoring going strong.  The organization is backed by independent research that finds children enrolled in the program are more likely to achieve in school; avoid risky/delinquent behaviors and have higher self-esteem and aspirations.  The organization holds itself accountable for these youth outcomes.

Here is a look at our history, from the start:



For more than a century, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been helping change kids’ perspectives and giving them the opportunity to reach their potential. And we have more than a century of volunteers, donors, and advocates just like you to thank.

It all started in 1902, when a young New York City court clerk named Ernest Coulter was seeing more and more boys come through his courtroom. He recognized that caring adults could help many of these kids stay out of trouble, and he set out to find volunteers. That marked the beginning of the Big Brothers movement in 1904.

At around the same time, the members of a group called Ladies of Charity were befriending girls who had come through the New York Children’s Court. That group would later become Catholic Big Sisters.

More than 115 years later, Big Brothers Big Sisters remains true to our founders’ vision of bringing caring role models into the lives of children. And, today, Big Brothers Big Sisters currently operates in all 50 states—and in 12 countries around the world.

Here is a look at our history, from the start:



Ernest Coulter, court clerk, helps organize the first New York Children's Court; Ladies of Charity, later Catholic Big Sisters of New York, starts to befriend girls who come before the New York Children's Court.


Businessman Irvin F. Westheimer befriends a young boy in Cincinnati, OH; seeds are formed for the start of Big Brothers in Cincinnati.


Ernest Coulter founds the organized Big Brothers movement by obtaining 39 volunteers, who each agree to befriend one boy.


The New York Times reports Big Brothers activity in 26 cities.


Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., becomes treasurer of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation;
First motion picture based on a Big and Little Brother relationship is released by Paramount Pictures.


President Calvin Coolidge becomes patron of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation.


President and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt become patrons of Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation.


Norman Rockwell produces the sketch that becomes a symbol for the Big Brothers Association.


Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Black Hills was taking shape. During this time, the mentoring agency was named Buddies Unlimited.


Buddies Unlimited becomes a Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliate. Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Black Hills has been the number one provider of mentoring relationships in Western South Dakota for 56 years!


Big Sisters International and Big Brothers Association merge, forming Big Brothers Big Sisters of America with 357 agencies.


Public/Private Ventures Study on Big Brothers Big Sisters Community-Based Mentoring shows measurable, positive results on youth who have a Big Brother or Sister, seminal research in the field of youth mentoring.


President William J. Clinton holds Volunteer Summit in Philadelphia with focus on one-to-one youth mentoring; Big Brothers Big Sisters plays key role. Presidents George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, with First Lady Nancy Reagan representing her husband were participants of the summit.


Big Brothers Big Sisters International is founded.


President George W. Bush signed a bill that resulted from Big Brothers Big Sisters advocacy that included authorization for mentoring children of prisoners.


Big Brothers Big Sisters celebrates 100 years of serving America’s youth.


First Lady Laura Bush stars in a public service announcement to recruit volunteers across the nation.


Public/Private Ventures conducts a study on Big Brothers Big Sisters School-Based Mentoring program, reinforcing the value of strong, long-lasting relationships and leading to program enhancements.

In a Super Bowl first, CBS, the NFL and Big Brothers Big Sisters joined forces to create a public service announcement that features the two coaches whose teams are competing in the game. Roughly 90 million viewers tuned in to watch the game and see Indianapolis Colts' Coach Tony Dungy and Coach Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears underscore the importance of mentoring by referencing their real-life mentoring relationship.


President Obama holds a White House National Mentoring Month Ceremony; Big Brothers Big Sisters attends and plays a key role.


Big Brothers Big Sisters launches national mentoring initiative, Start Something.


Big Brothers Big Sisters takes on a new stance to address adversity our children endure. With a new look and a force for change, BBBS launched a national initiative, Defending Potential.

All children are born with equal potential. It is up to us to defend, ignite, and empower their potential so they can experience their brightest possible future and reach their full potential.


It’s your money that keeps us going and enables us to start more children on the right path. You have every right to know how it is used. Take a look at how every BIG and LITTLE contribution helps make matches possible. Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Black Hills is a 501c3 (tax exempt) organization.