Ocala Police Chief Mike Balken and his “Little Brother,” also named Michael, recently visited a local family farm where they enjoyed multiple outdoor activities including mini golf, a hayride, and a maze.
This latest outing was part of the ‘Bigs in Blue’ mentoring program, which matches children with law enforcement professionals for one-on-one relationships that provide friendship, support, and guidance.
Earlier this year, the Ocala Police Department partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters to bring the ‘Bigs In Blue’ mentoring program to children in Marion County. The program is a national initiative designed to improve communication and understanding between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.
Balken, along with the Ocala Police Department, believes that law enforcement officers are uniquely positioned to serve as mentors.
“Our job is to serve our fellow human beings,” said Balken. “I can’t think of a better way to serve than to volunteer as a big brother or big sister and mentor a young kid and help them navigate their toughest years growing up.”
Bigs visit their Littles twice a month and spend time together participating in all sorts of activities. Since its launch, Balken and his little brother have spent time together at a major league baseball game, fishing, watching movies, and much more.
In a press release, OPD stated that mentorship programs like this are essential for helping kids reach their full potential and have been shown to improve academic performance, behavior, and self-confidence in children.
“If you looked at my schedule, my calendar, you would say there’s no way that the Chief of Police can accomplish this, and I find a way to do it,” said Balken. “If I can find the time to do it, there’s nobody out there in our community that can say they don’t have the time to commit just a few hours a week, a few hours every other week. You know, help a young kid succeed.”
For more information on becoming a mentor or enrolling a child, visit the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Florida website.