Everyone needs a hero to look up to, and some kids have a hard time finding someone they can count on.

But officers of the DeLand Police Department are hoping to change that.

A new program, called Bigs in Blue, will give smiles, camaraderie, friendship and more than a few valuable lasting life lessons to DeLand children in need of a mentor.

“The DeLand Police Department is partnering with the West Volusia Boys and Girls Club and the House Next Door to provide officers who will serve as mentors to children in need,” said DPD Officer Brian Bice.

Managed by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida, the program will match children in need to volunteer officers, according to information provided by DPD.

Officers will meet with their matched little sister or little brother at their schools or area neighborhoods for one hour each week while the officers are on duty. So, these children will have their own big brother or sister in blue spending quality time just with them, Officer Bice said.

Officer Bice, who already has his match, is one of the first to step up and make a difference in the life of a child.

In addition to Officer Bice, who also is the DeLand High School Resource Officer, DPD Chief Jason Umberger also has stepped up to lead by example as part of this community youth outreach program and has a mentee.

Others have volunteered, including Officer Rod Hancock and Officer David Erndl, who both are waiting to be matched with a child in need.

Reaching out to the youth in DeLand was one of the top goals Chief Umberger outlined when he first arrived in DeLand more than a year ago, and this program is just one way to help fulfill those promises and engage the youth of the community, he said.

"Bigs in Blue is a unique opportunity for police officers to make a difference in the life of a young person who needs a positive role model and mentor," Chief Umberger said. "I've seen firsthand the impact a ‘big’ can have in the life of a ‘little’ brother or sister. I wholeheartedly support Big I wholeheartedly support Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Bigs in Blue program."

The program is a piece of a larger effort by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida, based in Jacksonville.

For more than 100 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida has been providing one-on-one mentoring services for children facing adversity, according to information provided by BBBSNF. In the last year, 95 percent of participants maintained or improved their attendance at school; 95 percent had no behavior referrals or suspensions and 96 percent were promoted to the next grade level, the information states.

To volunteer, participate or for more information, visit bbbsnefl.org or call (904) 727-9797.

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