Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The 2017 Magic Moments Gala

On April 7th, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Minnesota held our annual Magic Moments Gala. We’re happy to report that this year’s event was a great success!
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Attended by supporters around the community, we filled the River’s Edge Convention Center with hundreds of kind-hearted people concerned about the youth in our community. Local vendors and businesses supplied beverages and donated items to our silent and live auctions. Volunteers sold raffle tickets, and guests were even treated to a vocal performance.

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After the silent auction closed, the evening began with a welcome greeting from Debbie Clausen and Julie McHugh, co-chairs of the event. Emcee, author, and co-founder of Top 20 Training Willow Sweeney spoke throughout the night about a mentor’s importance.

 
After a delicious meal, Willow Sweeney presented entertainer Ashley DuBose to perform for the crowd. DuBose, whom you may recognize from season 5 of The Voice, spoke of her beginnings in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. As Ashley explained, she and her former Big, Donna, remain very close. DuBose even wore earrings that her Big had given her as a gift while she performed. Among the three songs she performed throughout the night, Ashley sang her latest release, Be You, which she explained was an introspective piece partially based on the lessons she learned as a Little with the BBBS Program.

 
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A video slide show of area Bigs and Littles played throughout the night on the big screens. Videos of this year’s award winners played, and an emotional Karl Johnson accepted the 2017 BriAnna Kruzel Growing Up Big Award. BriAnna’s mother, Tami was in attendance to present the award. Karl became a big in 10th grade and continued on until his sophomore year of college. He is currently finishing up an internship with the United Way and will be graduating this spring from SCSU with a degree in Social Work.

The live auction, presented by Andrew Imholte of Black Diamond Auctions featured some fantastic prizes this year:


  • Party on the Patio: A walking tour of the Fairview Gardens Greenhouse and Nursery and a catered meal and drinks provided by Famous Dave’s, Westside Liquor, and C&L Distributing 
  • A Day on the Lake for eight people: Pontoon Rental from Westres Marine and Sport, a $100 gift certificate to Ernie’s on Gull Lake, drinks provided by Bernick’s and snacks from Pepperidge Farm. 
  • A pig roast for 130 people: Roasted pig and sides prepared by Chef Geno Skaj of Trobec’s Bar and Grill, drinks from Westside Liquor and Bernick’s, and snacks from Pepperidge Farm. 
  • A Timberwolves Chairman’s Club package with accommodations for 12 people. All-inclusive dining with a world-renowned chef and a suite attendant and parking passes for three vehicles. Donated by Federated Insurance
  • A guided Muskie trip for 2 on Lake Alexander by Our North Muskie Guide Service. Dinner provided by The Landing at Lake Alexander
  • One week rental of a Luxurious Class C motor home from PleasureLand RV. Snacks were provided by Pepperidge Farm along with soda from Bernicks.

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As the last item up for bid, auctioneer Andrew Imholte surprised the crowd with TWO one-week RV rental packages. Following the live auction, Imholte opened the floor to the Fund-A-Dream donation. This year’s goal was $40,000, and we are happy to report that The Magic Moments Gala raised an amazing $185,00 for our mentoring program!

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota would like to thank everyone who attended this year’s Gala. It is with the support and donations of our community that we are able to continue doing our work for the youth of central Minnesota.

Stay tuned for more information on other events taking place throughout the year. The Federated Challenge golf challenge will take place August 6th and 7th at the St. Paul River Centre, and our annual Golf Fore Kids’ Sake event will take place August 21st at Territory Golf Club. View photos from last year’s event and learn more info on our website.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Burst into Spring with Exciting New Activities for Your Little

After a long winter, are you ready to burst into spring with exciting new adventures? Central Minnesota offers plenty of opportunities to learn, explore, and experience. What fun adventures will you and your Little enjoy this year? Add these activities to your calendar for an action-packed spring!
Take a Trip to the Zoo
giraffes-69141_640.jpgThe Twin Cities is fortunate enough to have two zoos! Both the Minnesota Zoo and the Como Zoo are open all year and highly ranked by visitors. The Como Zoo is free and has a popular botanical garden while the Minnesota Zoo has a well-beloved bird show that kids of all ages will enjoy.


A little closer to Central Minnesota, you’ll find the Safari North Animal Park. Open seasonally, this exotic animal park features exhibits from North America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Visit the park’s activities page to learn more about interactive activities you and your Little can do together.


Get the Creative Juices Flowing
Encouraging creativity in kids from a young age can motivate them to become more open-minded, inventive, eager to try new things, and confident. Engage in creative activities that will challenge your Little. Inspire unique art projects, engage in science experiments, test out new recipes, write stories or songs, or play challenging new games.


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Open a Book
Introduce your Little to new worlds and stories with the power of reading. The Great River Regional Library has plenty of volumes and learning resources to enjoy. Take advantage of the variety of special events, guest readers, and interactive activities that the library has to offer. Take a look at their calendar for a schedule of events.
forest-386751_640.jpgTake a Hike
Promote a fit lifestyle with your Little by hitting the trails! The Greater St. Cloud community has a network of hiking, biking, and walking trails around the community. This can also be an excellent way for your little to experience the environment around their community. Consider making a nature scavenger hunt to encourage their interests in the environment or logging all the new trails you visit to keep track of the places you explore together.


Stay Active Indoors
With recreational complexes like Whitney Recreation Center, the St. Cloud Municipal Athletic Center, and the recreational spaces at St. Cloud State University, there are endless places to explore and play. Go bowling, swimming, jumping in trampoline parks, and more for some memorable adventures.
Use your Resources.
Community bulletins like aroundthecloud.org, paramountarts.org, and fun4kidsmn.com make for excellent resources if you are in need of new activities. Take advantage of the vast Big Brothers Big Sisters network to discover new interests or connect with another pair for a day. Trying new and fresh activities occasionally can keep things exciting and can help your Little become more adventurous!
For more fun ideas, to volunteer, or to enroll your child, visit our website at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

How Can You Do a Lot for a Little?

For some, becoming a Big can seem like a larger commitment than they think they’re ready for. At Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota, we try to provide opportunities that allow potential Bigs to see if it’s the right fit for them before pledging their time. We have established a wide range of initiatives that generate interest in our programs and benefit the community and local businesses as well!



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Big for a Day is a great way for companies and organizations to get involved with BBBS of Central MN. This initiative is exactly what it sounds like; adult volunteers from your company or organization get to be a Big Brother or Big Sister for a day!


What can being a Big for a day look like? In Roanoke, VA, the host of the morning show Daytime Blue Ridge volunteered to be Dymun Austin’s Big for a day. Dymun got to see what goes on behind the scenes of the show and she even got to help cook on a live cooking segment! If Big for a Day sounds like something you or someone you know would be interested in, click here for more information.
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Among many others, we also have programs for Big Couples, which allows a pair of two to mentor one child. Big Families allows a Big with children of their own to bring their Little to family activities so that they don’t have to choose between time with their Little or their family. Sports Buddies allows adults with a passion for sports to help build friendships and model good sportsmanship. Sports Buddies also provides interactive opportunities for sports teams or organizations to get involved with BBBS!
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There are a ton more options for military, police, faith-based, or education-seeking programs–to name a few. For a full list of all the special initiatives that are available, visit our website.


As you can see, there are several other ways to get involved with BBBS aside from becoming a traditional Big. Since we have an all-time high number of kids on the waiting list, all of us at BBBS—the Littles, especially—welcome and encourage your participation in our programs, no matter what level of commitment you’re able to give!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Step Up for Mentor Month in Central Minnesota

Patrol Sergeant Tad Hoeschen of the Saint Cloud Police Department is a Big Brother at BBBS. He recently participated in a video calling Central Minnesotans to trying something new, step out of their comfort zones and become mentors.


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Sergeant Hoeschen challenges men and women to help the youth of our community experience what others take for granted. Currently, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota is experiencing a shortage on Bigs and an even more substantial shortage on Big Brothers. January is Mentor Month in Minnesota. If you are considering becoming a mentor, there could not be a better time. There are countless great kids on a waiting list anticipating a Big to mentor them.


Many people shy away from mentorship because of the responsibility and time commitment. These people may not realize the commitment it takes to make a difference to a youth in the community is only about 4 hours a month. Aaron Moore has been a Big for a little over a year and says, “Listening is important and you won’t always have all the right answers. Yet, you do the best you can, and life will work itself out.”





And if you think the Littles are the only ones that gain something from this experience, you are wrong! As Bill Riner, a long time Big Brother says, “You get a lot more than you give.”


Many of these kids have been waiting months – sometimes years – to be matched with a Big. If mentorship is something you are even considering, attend one of our informational sessions. A small time commitment of four hours per month fosters the larger commitment to support a Little and give them the mentorship and spirit they need to thrive! Who knows, maybe you’ll want to take Sergeant Hoeschen’s advice and go for it!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Defeating the Post-Holiday Lull with Your Little

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When the holiday season comes to a close, it can be pretty disappointing to some kids. The weather is still cold, summer is months away, and it seems like there is nothing fun to do. We blogged in November about Winter fun focusing around the holidays: building a fire, making decorations, and finding ways to give back to your community. Those are all still relevant after the giving season, but what about some good old fashioned Minnesota Winter fun? We’ve made a list of some fun indoor and outdoor winter activities to enjoy with your Little:

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Image by Wheresmysocks at English Wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons

Attend a Winter Festival

If you and your Little are up for a road trip, there are tons of winter festivals going on around the state. The always popular St. Paul Winter Carnival takes place January 26th-February 5th, celebrating its 131st year! If you’ve never seen Minnesota’s ugliest fish, you might find some surprising fun at the International Eelpout Festival February 23-26th. Taking place on Leech Lake in Walker, MN, this unique festival will surely be a talking point for you and your Little! Check out Minnesota Native Andrew Zimmern’s favorite winter festivals for more inspiration.


Check out Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria

Voted 2016’s best family resort and waterpark, Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria, Minnesota features 38,000 square feet of indoor water park fun. It includes three four-story water slides, a lazy river, a hot tub, and tons of water-related activities for your Little. View the full waterpark calendar here. For the older kids, rent a snowmobile or cross-country skis, ice skate, ice fish, or go sledding! There are tons of winter recreational activities at this all-inclusive site.



Attend a Hockey Game

Sure, the Minnesota Wild are always crowd-pleasers, but tickets are expensive and the trip to the stadium can be long and inconvenient. There are plenty of fun and exciting teams to watch right around central Minnesota this winter. The St. Cloud State Huskies are always fun to watch, and the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center is a sight to behold for the area. In the NA3HL league, check out the Granite City Lumberjacks, who play in Sports Arena East at the Benton County Fairgrounds.


Area Fun Closer to Home

If you’re looking for something a little closer to home, check out funforkidsmn.com. There you’ll find fun ideas such as open skate times at the St. Cloud Municipal Athletic Complex, Playtime at Lake George Municipal Complex, KinderGym at the Whitney Senior Center, Open Gym at the North Crest Kids Activity Center in Sauk Rapids, and many more fun activities for winter and beyond!


There are tons of fun activities for you and your little this Winter. Keep away the post-holiday blues by having even more fun! After all, the Holidays aren’t the only thing that makes the season bright.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Not All Superheroes Wear Capes

Seeing Dave Fritz walk down the street probably wouldn’t concern you unless you know him. If you did, you’d probably say hello and he’d smile. If you didn’t, he’d say hello and you’d smile. He’s a guy that has that effect on people. You’ll leave his company feeling better about your day, completely unaware that that is his superpower; making people happy.

You’d also be completely unaware that underneath his sweatshirt and jeans, he’s wearing a cape and there’s a large “B” on his chest that stands for “BIG”. Dave Fritz, family man, business owner, Big Brother.
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For those that aren’t aware of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, it is, as Dave says, “a really cool opportunity” both for the mentee and the mentor. “I came to the program thinking, ‘This kid can learn a lot from me.’, but I found that’s not the case. I have learned just as much from him as he has from me.” says Fritz.

“I’ve been a BIG to Jaylen for 5 ½ years. At when we were first paired together we would spend between two and five hours together once a week. Now that he’s older and working a job of his own, and we (Dave and his wife) have a new baby, we don’t see each other as often as we’d like, but I make it a point to get together a couple of times a month.”

Fritz is just one of the men in the Central Minnesota area to volunteer his time to make a difference in a child’s life, but the need is much greater than one man can handle on his own. Nearly 70% of all children on the Big Brothers Big Sisters waiting list are boys and, unfortunately, wait an average of 304 days before getting matched with a BIG. It’s time to Man Up, Minnesota.

“He’s definitely pushed my coward button, though. We went to the pet store one day when Jaylen was about 11 and he wanted to hold the tarantula. He looked at me with the tarantula in his hand and asked me if I wanted to hold it. How am I, a 30-year-old man at the time, going to say no to an 11-year-old boy holding a tarantula in his hand? He’s made me ride rides at Valleyfair and jump off the cliffs at the quarries.”

Fritz, an avid baseball fan, has taken his Little to Twins games, Mall of America, movies, golfing and bowling among many other adventures. “My favorite memory with Jaylen was taking him to my family’s cabin. It was an opportunity to teach him a bit more about my family history.”

It’s not all about going out to do things, though. Many Littles would be happy spending time with you at your home or theirs. Fritz said that Jaylen has helped them put in their garden in the summer.

“Kids are smarter than you think. When it comes to kids you’ve got to keep your wits about you. They’re going to push you. Find out what they can get away with and what their boundaries are. You’re going to have to come up with new ways to communicate and still get through to them.  Jaylen has taught me patience and that has transferred to my work. He’s taught me how to be a better worker.”

All at 16 years old. How cool is that?



For more information about becoming a mentor and how you can Man Up, visit Doalotforalittle.org or contact Rachel Johnson at 320-258-4537.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Winter Fun with Your Little

The holiday season is almost here. Some people might dread the colder season, but there are still plenty of opportunities to have fun with your Little. Celebrate the season with some winter-themed fun:
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Give Back to Your Community
Being a Big is about more than just having fun. Since it is the season of giving and giving thanks, why not give back to the community around you? One great place you and your Little can volunteer is the St. Cloud Salvation Army. Whether you have a specific talent to offer or simply an hour of your time, The Salvation Army is the place to turn your passion into action. For more information about volunteering see the Salvation Army Volunteer Opportunity page.

Build a Fire
Need a way to warm up this holiday season? Try building a fire! Unconventional yet fun, this is a great time to spend with your Little. If there is snow on the ground, you can make it even more fun by building seating around your fire pit. Stack the snow high all around your fire then pack it down and add a backrest.  Enjoy the cold with a snow bench and a warm fire and some hot chocolate.
 
Have an Indoor Snowball Fight
If it’s too chilly to go outside, bring the fun indoors. Have your own indoor snowball fight. Make paper balls, roll socks into a ball, sew your own snowballs. Warmer and much cleaner, indoor snowball fights can be just as fun!
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Make Some Cool Winter Crafts
Winter crafts can be a ton of fun! Try your hand at igloo building (using sugar cubes, not snow) or break out the construction paper to make good old-fashioned paper snowflakes. You could even make your own snow globe to help get you in the holiday spirit! Check out more fun holiday crafts at handsonaswegrow.com.
Make Winter Decorations
It’s cold outside, so spend the afternoon indoors making festive winter crafts. Design and create your own winter wreath and decorate them with ornaments. Freeze your favorite winter objects in a layer of ice to decorate the outdoors with ice ornaments. Crafting ideas are endless in the winter. Think about your Little’s favorite activities and check Pinterest for more ideas.

This Holiday season can be a ton of fun! Get out and enjoy them! Make the most of the time with your Little this holiday season. For more tips and winter activities, check the Big Brothers Big Sisters Facebook page.