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NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (AP) — Kara McGonigle cheered on her “little sister” Ryley Gordon as she got up to bowl at Wonder Bowl on Sunday afternoon.

When it was McGonigle’s turn, 10-year-old Gordon of New Bedford was by her side to hand her a pink bowling ball.

They were among a couple other big sisters with their littles playing in a sponsored lane at the 14th Bowl For Kid’s Sake fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters that will benefit the New Bedford program. Over 15 teams took up lanes to bowl for the cause.

Alan and Simonne Coutinho sponsored a couple lanes in memory of New Bedford native Sean Gannon, a Yarmouth police K-9 officer who was shot and killed in the line of duty April 12. He volunteered with the Bigs in Blue program for three years.

“I had all brothers growing up so this is my first little sister,” McGonigle said of Gordon. Growing up in Mattapoisett, she had four brothers.

“I don’t have children myself and I love kids,” she said. McGonigle of Dartmouth used to work in human services and now works in the corporate world and wanted to give back to the community, she said.

Gordon said hanging out with McGonigle for the past few months has been “very fun.” She said the two have been roller skating, to the beach and the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island.

McGonigle said Gordon has a lot of energy like her and Gordon said “I’ve also got a lot of energy like your dog,” referring to Molly, the chocolate lab.

This is the first year Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay organized the fundraiser since it took over the Child & Family Services’ Big Brothers Big Sisters program in New Bedford late last year.

According to Mirian Villatoro, enrollment coordinator, male volunteers are needed as there’s a waitlist for little brothers.

On the other hand, Jenny Bautista, community engagement and recruitment coordinator, said more little sisters are needed since the program gets a lot of female volunteers.

In the fall, a program is set to launch with kids in New Bedford housing who will get transported to UMass Dartmouth to spend time with big brothers and sisters there, Bautista said. There are similar models at Boston University, Boston College and Babson College, she said.

The women said the organization also works with Spanish speaking families and there’s a need for Spanish speaking bigs and littles.

There are over 60 children in the New Bedford program and over 60 big brothers and sisters, according to Barbara Cotton, regional development officer of the Cape and Islands. To learn about how to get involved, visit

According to Deanna Bodeau, match support coordinator, volunteers sign up for at least a year, committing to a minimum of two hours for each outing twice a month. The goal is for quality time spent together and volunteers have taught littles to ride a bike, roller skate or even to tie shoes.

“You’re not in it alone,” Bodeau said, since she reaches out to volunteers to help support them.

Laura Mirabito, a 6th grade teacher at the Old Hammondtown School in Mattapoisett has been with the program for two years.

During one of her turns, little sister Sophia Duarte, 11, let Mirabito bowl for her.

“I got you a spare,” she said when she came back.

Mirabito has two daughters of her own: one who’s turning 15 next week and another who’s 17. Mirabito had Duarte’s older sister Khiari, now 14, as a student. Khiari was moving and joining the program was the only way to keep in touch with her, she said.

Now, Mirabito is a big sister to both Sophia and Khiari. They hang out together and separately.

“They’ll always be a part of my life,” she said.




Information from: The (New Bedford, Mass.) Standard-Times,