Because of limited fan capacity at the Super Bowl due to COVID-19 restrictions, the NFL invited Bigs and Littles to submit self-portraits to be made into “cut-outs,” like this of Andre Lytton, that will be placed throughout the stadium at Sunday’s game.

LEWISTON — Bates College Big Brothers and Big Sisters and their Littles from Connors Elementary School will be fans “in the stands” at Super Bowl LV — albeit in photo cut-outs — representing Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine at the big game in Tampa on Sunday, Feb. 6. The project is part of a partnership between the National Football League and BBBS, the nation’s longest-running national mentoring program.

The NFL aligned with BBBS of America as an “Inspire Change” partner to help support and promote the need for more male mentors throughout the country. As part of this initiative, and because of limited fan capacity at the Super Bowl due to COVID-19 restrictions, the NFL invited Bigs and Littles to submit self-portraits to be made into “cut-outs” that will be placed throughout the stadium at Sunday’s game. Jennifer Cartmell, BBBS of Mid-Maine Androscoggin manager, helped facilitate more than 30 photo submissions.

“Matches are excited to watch the game Sunday to see if they will see themselves,” Cartmell said, explaining photos will not be identified for safety reasons. “We will all be taking a closer look in the stands for a glimpse of our Little Brothers and Little Sisters and their Bates Bigs.”

BBBS of Mid-Maine provides one-to-one mentoring programs for children across seven counties throughout midcoast, eastern and central Maine. Since the beginning of the pandemic, matches have been staying connected through a pen pal program and virtual communication programs.

While the Bates College Bigs have not been able to meet with their Littles in person since March last year, Cartmell said it hasn’t kept them from continuing to be an important part of their Little’s lives. In the last 10 months, she said Bigs and Littles have exchanged more than 500 letters, along with shared activity packets, arts and crafts projects and encouraging messages.

“We know that at-risk youth are likely to bear the heaviest burdens of trauma and economic fallout,” said Gwendolyn Hudson, executive director of BBBSMM. “This pandemic has serious implications for the children we serve, which is why partnerships, like the one with the NFL to inspire youth mentoring, matter now more than ever.”

For more information about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine, call 207-236-2227 or visit bbbsmidmaine.org.