Monday, November 30, 2015

BIG Thank You

Thanksgiving is a time for showing those around us how thankful we are to have them in our lives. The Little Brothers and Sisters within our organization are a daily reminder of how grateful we are to have such amazing volunteers and sponsors. Without your dedication and involvement in our organization it would not be possible to provide the Littles with the many benefits we have to offer them. You are the key factor in help the kids of central Minnesota by creating a positive outlook on their future as well as teaching them the impact of helping others.

Your generous involvement within our organization provides us with the opportunity to provide more opportunities for the Littles including, Sports Buddies, Bigs in Blue, College and Career Readiness, High School Bigs, Big Families, Big Couples, and many more. Each of these different initiatives makes a life changing impact on the lives of the Littles- for that we are grateful!

We would also like to give a big thanks to all of our sponsors for their support and generous contribution towards our organization. You enable the Littles to explore new experiences in life-changing opportunities.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Myths About Becoming a Mentor

The thought of becoming a mentor is usually followed by a number of different myths. Because mentoring makes a huge difference in a young person's life, we teamed up with a few of the Littles to put an end to these myths. Here is what the Littles had to say:
Myth: I have to spend a lot of money.

Fact: How much money you spend on your Little is completely up to you. The Littles just want a friend to talk to, play with, and learn from. It is important for the Littles to know they have someone who cares about them and is there to help them with day-to-day activities. Here are what the Littles say they like best about spending time with their mentors:
  • “I just need a friend or someone to talk to” -5th grade
  • “Helping with homework” -4th grade
  • “She always is nice to me and kind and I never had a big sister ever so she changed my life a lot.” -4th grade


Myth: I have to spend a lot of time and plan fun activities.

Fact: The Littles enjoy playing games, sports, doing homework, crafts, and most importantly just having a friend. Here are what some of the Littles said their favorite activities were with their mentors:
  • “When she plays Candyland with me.” -1st grade
  • “Play basketball and hang out” -5th grade
  • “Drawing pictures, playing games” -1st grade

Myth: Only the mentee benefits from a relationship.

Fact: Being a mentor creates a long-term trusted relationship that both the mentor and mentee can benefit from. As a mentor, the greatest benefit you will receive is seeing the positive difference you have made in your Little’s life. Here is how the Little’s say their mentor has made a difference:
  • “She's helped me believe in myself more and be more confident” -5th grade
  • “She has impacted my life because she helped me with my school homework so I get good grades” -5th grade
  • “I feel my big has changed my life a lot because now I never back down from a challenge” -8th grade

The first step to becoming a mentor is to get yourself excited for the opportunity. Hopefully, by clarifying these myths, you will be able to build up your excitement to follow through with the next part of the process - filling out the online application.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Top 10 One-Hour Fall Activities in Central Minnesota

With the new school year starting it can be difficult to find time to spend with your Little.  However, fall is a time filled with many fun and engaging activities for you and your Little to enjoy together. To give you some inspiration, we have put together a list of 10 one-hour-long activities for you to try this fall:

  1. Go out to eat: There are many local restaurants that have “kids eat free” night or that offer discounted kids meals.  Some of these restaurants include:
    • Buffalo Wild Wings
    • House of Pizza
    • IHOP
    • La Casita
    • Mongo’s Grill
    • Perkins
    • Pizza Ranch

  1. Play at the park: Central Minnesota is filled with lots of fun parks for both kids and adults.  Some of the most popular include:
    • Munsinger Gardens
    • Lake George: Playtime at the park
    • Quarry Park and Nature Preserve
    • Heritage Park

  1. Head to the Zoo: What is more fun than taking your Little out to the zoo to see animals from all over the world!  You don’t need to drive to the cities, either. Some local zoo’s include Hemker Park and Zoo in Freeport, Minnesota and Pine Grove Zoo in Little Falls.

  1. Volunteer to Rake Leaves: Teach your Little about the importance of helping others in your community by volunteering to rake leaves for their neighbors.

  1. Go to the Museum: Explore and learn some of the local history Central Minnesota has to offer.  Many local museums feature events and educational programs as well. Some local museums include:
    • Stearns History Museum
    • Cokato Museum
    • Benton County Historical Society

  1. Go to an Orchard: Fall is the perfect time to take your Little to have fun at a local orchard.  You can enjoy the pumpkin patch, corn maze, wagon rides and so much more. Your Little won't be able to stop talking about it! Local Orchards include:

  1. Go to the Library: Many local libraries offer different story and craft times; this is a good opportunity for you to work on homework and reading with your Little. Visit the Great river Regional Library page for more details.

  1. Farmer’s Market: Take your Little to a local farmer’s market to share with them the importance of supporting local farmers. You can pick out some fresh ingredients and cook with your Little from scratch.

  1. Kinder Gym: Take your Little to the Whitney Center Gym and encourage them to be stay active playing a variety of different sports - or teach them a new one! The Gym hosts weekly activities that you and your Little can take part in.

  1. Go for a Walk or Bike Ride: Central Minnesota has many beautiful walking and biking trails to explore and see the changing fall colors. A few of these trails include:
    • Central Lakes State Trail in Osakis
    • Glacial Lakes State Trail in Paynesville
    • Lake Wobegon Trail in Holdingford

This is only a few of the many things to do in Central Minnesota this fall.  Be sure to get out and have fun with your Little before the cold weather gets here! Don’t forget to share your pictures of all the fun you and your Little have this fall!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What to do in Willful Weather: Indoor Activities for Rainy Days

Being an active Big can sometimes be difficult. Everyday life can get very busy, and planning fun activities for you and your Little is sometimes difficult- especially if your plans are ruined by bad weather. Let’s face it, watching movies on rainy days gets dull and isn’t the best use of time spent with your Little. Are you looking for some fun activities to do inside on a rainy day? There are endless activities that you can do when the weather is too wet or cold to be outside. Here is a short list of 7 different things you can do to pass the time on an unexpected rainy day with your Little:

1. Minute To Win It is a fun and competitive way to keep kids busy and away from the TV on a rainy day.

2. Build something together. Don’t have Legos Lincoln Logs, or building blocks? Get creative- try using toothpicks and marshmallows, straws, or any other potential building material around the house.

3. Ring Toss - Make your own indoor ring toss game. All you need is a few paper plates (with the center cut out), an empty paper towel tube, and some tape.

4. Glow Jars - Using glass jars and a couple glow sticks, turn an ordinary jar into one that glows in the dark. (Wear gloves when handling the glow sticks, and keep a close eye on your Little).

5. Learn with your Little! There are countless rainy-day science experiments- we recommend making your own bouncing polymer balls!

6.Make some simple marshmallow shooters and have an indoor marshmallow war! all you need is a paper cup, a balloon, and (of course) some marshmallows. be sure to supply extras, as more than a few are likely to get eaten.

7.With a little extra planning, make a terrarium with your Little. It may be gray outside, but it always green inside a moss terrarium.

These are just a few of the many things you and your Littles can do on a rainy day to pull yourselves away from electronic devices. Try out a few of these activities, or check out our Pinterest page for more inspiration. For more information and the latest BBBS news, visit us at

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Volunteering Opportunities at Big Brothers, Big Sisters

When you were growing up did you have a parent, adult, or mentor that you could turn to for advice? Well, not everyone is lucky enough to have a person like this in their life- that is where Big Brothers, Big Sisters comes in to help. Anyone can help out in a variety of different ways. One can sign-up to be a Big or sign-up as a volunteer mentor; people can even sign-up as non-mentoring volunteers.

Becoming a Big is the most common way for people to help out in a hands-on way. The process for becoming a Big has several steps, but all the steps are necessary to help ensure the suitability of potential volunteers and in creating the best possible matches.
The enrollment process includes the following steps:

  • Complete online application, providing us with references
  • Complete BBBS training
  • Complete in-person interview/home assessment
  • Driving record and criminal background check

When signing up to become a volunteer mentor, a person is required to commit for a minimum of one year. When a person signs up to be a volunteer there are a few different programs a person can choose from: Community-based, school-based, or site-based program. For the community-based program, Bigs spend a few hours, 3-4 times per month, with their Littles doing activities in the community. 

Community-based programs are a great way for both the Bigs and Littles to get out and meet other people in the community. In the school-based program, Bigs spend about one hour a week at the child’s school. They also keep in touch during the summer months via phone or mail. Site-based Bigs often will meet their Littles at a designated spot in the community and play board games or some other kind of activity.

Signing up to be a non-mentoring volunteer is another great way to get involved and help out! A non-mentoring volunteer is someone who plays an important role by offering their skills to help recruit, promote the agency, and assist at local events. Word of mouth has proven to be our strongest form of referrals and recruitment, so don’t be afraid to tell your friends!

There are many ways to get involved and be a Big. No one way is better than the other. Every way is helpful, especially when you are helping a child in your community. If you are looking to sign-up or want more information please visit our website for more information.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Merits of Mentoring

Mentoring can have a monumental impact on a young person's life. According to about 40 percent of a teenagers’ waking hours are spent without companionship or supervision. Mentoring can reduce this percentage significantly while yielding many benefits ranging from support in school, support in their day-to-day lives, all the way up to help in the workplace.

Researchers from Big Brothers Big Sisters conducted a study of 950 students across the country on the impact of mentoring. The results were astounding; they proved just how effective mentoring can be on a young person. After spending 18 months with their Bigs, the Littles (compared to students not in the mentoring program) were 52% less likely to skip a day of school, and 37% less likely to skip a class. They also found the Littles to be more confident in their schoolwork.

Mentors can play a significant role in the mentee's life as a major support system with their day-to-day lives. According to, Youth who meet with their mentors on a regular basis are 46% less likely to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking alcohol.

A mentor is a person for the mentee to go to when they need someone to talk to or someone to go to for advice. The mentor is someone that can help improve the mentee’s communication skills by helping them relate to all types of people. Mentee’s often have a higher self-esteem after having a mentor because it shows the young person that someone cares about them.

Mentor’s are great for advice when trying to enter the workforce or trying to move up in the workplace. Do you remember when you tried to get your first part time job? Was it easy to find a job? Did you know exactly where to look and how to apply? Were you scared or maybe nervous for your first interview? Now we might have no problem with any of these things, but if we look back to our first time, it was probably very overwhelming for most of us, especially for those who didn’t have a mentor or someone there to give them guidance.

Having a mentor is like having a “how to” guide. The mentor can teach the mentee how to find and keep jobs. The mentors can use personal contacts to help the mentee find new opportunities and create new contacts. They can also introduce the mentee to business resources and organizations that the young person does not know about. Mentors are also great at helping the mentee set career goals and steps to achieve those goals.

Mentoring is a great way to help a young person get on the right path to having a successful life and career. Mentoring can yield many benefits from school, day-to-day life, to the workplace. For more information about mentoring and its benefits visit

Monday, June 15, 2015

Summer Fun with Big Brothers Big Sisters

Hey Big Brothers and Big Sisters; need some new ideas for the summer other than just taking your Little to the park? Mix up your destinations this summer with one (or all) of these five fun places you can go to with your little around the St. Cloud area:
To Summertime by George!
Summertime by George is a free concert and festival held every Wednesday from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. down by Lake George. The festival will include music, vendors and a kid’s zone, so everyone can have fun. Summertime by George Begins on June 10 and will run until Aug. 26.Consult the complete schedule and plan ahead for a fun night with your Little every Wednesday.

To the zoo!
Lions and tigers and bears, Oh my! Take your Little to see all the animals at the zoo. There are two zoos you can check around the St. Cloud area. The first is Hemker Park and Zoo located in Freeport. The other is Pine Grove Zoo in Little Falls.
To the art studio!
Is your Little an aspiring artist? Let them explore their creative side at Art As You Like It, conveniently located in Waite Park. The art studio offers walk-in sessions and classes for pottery, painting, glass fusing and canvas painting.
To the bowling alley!
Have fun bowling spares and strikes with your Little at one of two different bowling alleys this summer. You can head on up to Sartell for bowling fun at Great River Bowl, or stay in the area at Southway Bowl in St. Cloud.

To the library!
Every Little should learn the joy of reading. The Great River Regional Library is a great place to start. Get them their own library card and help them keep track of the books they check out to read. The libraries also host fun activities that can be found on their event calendars.Find a participating library near you and start reading with your Little this summer.

There are many more creative activities to take part in around St. Cloud than local parks or public pools. Try something a bit different and experience something new with your Little. From Big Brothers Big Sisters, have a fun and exciting summer with your little!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Becoming a Big

Today is National Volunteer Recognition Day! There’s no better way to celebrate than interviewing a couple of our volunteers about what it’s like to be a Big. Christina Gau and Kristen Norlund are just beginning their journey as a volunteer Big with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS). Both of them were motivated to volunteer when Rachel Bogenrief, a recruiter for BBBS, visited the team at DAYTA Marketing to talk about volunteer opportunities and what it means to be a mentor. Kristen was a mentor in high school and had such a great time that she wanted to do it again! She said her first mentoring experience, “was a great experience and I could tell how much she valued our time together and I loved it!”

One of the most exciting experiences when volunteering as a Big, is meeting your Little for the first time! The first meeting is at BBBS with the Big, the Little, the parents of the Little, and an employee of BBBS. The goal of the meeting is to get to know all parties involved, learn what is expected of all parties involved, and talk about what the relationship will look like after the initial meeting.

Before you can get matched up with a Little, BBBS has to get to know you. Christina said, “There were a lot of questions. The interview was about an hour and a half long. They asked everything they needed to know to make sure the Little was going to be in a safe environment.” The process is very thorough to ensure a perfect match!

Going through the process of becoming a Big can take up to a month, because, as Kristen describes, “the process of becoming a Big was not only exciting but also very thorough. They dig deep into who you are and why you want to be involved in this organization and spend time with a child. They ask questions about your past, present and future and make sure that you will be a positive role model for the little. They also want to make sure that you will be committed and are planning on staying in the area and carry out the relationship for at least a year.”

Both ladies made it clear that they are excited to become a mentor and a role model for a child who needs one. They can’t wait to get started!

Volunteering is not one sided. Becoming a Big is a very rewarding experience not only for the Little but for the Big as well. At BBBS, we couldn’t be more thankful for our volunteers and everything they do. We couldn’t do what we do without them. A BIG thank you goes out to all volunteers! Thank you kindly for your service.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Impact of Auctions on the Magic Moments Gala

The Magic Moments Gala is quickly approaching! As the primary fundraising event, Shari Wahlin, development director, and the Big Brothers Big Sisters' team has dreamed, created, developed, and invested themselves into making this event a success. One of the key elements of this magical night is the organization’s partnership with Andy Imholte of Black Diamond Auctions. There are a lot of fun elements incorporated to this event, but the impact of the auctions is undeniable.

A few years ago the Magic Moments Gala committee wanted to make a change in their programming. Shari Wahlin describes the change, “In recent years, our Magic Moments Gala committee really wanted to focus on having our event not only be a fund-raiser, but also a FUN-raiser.  We made a decision to move away from a silent auction, but to come up with a creative and fun alternative.”

The decision to bring fun into the fundraising event was received well by Andy. He believes that when an auction is done right, it can actually be the entertainment for the night. “It’s not always about the items. It’s about participating, having fun and being a part of the visual part of the fundraiser.”

The event offers an innovative and fun, “centerpiece auction.” Incorporating the night’s theme into the auction, each table will be adorned with black top hats, LED lights, and foil sprigs. Each centerpiece has a “mystery” gift card with a value of $20 to $100+ that has been donated by area businesses. Shari explains, “During the centerpiece auction, guests identify a person at their table who will act as their Table Auctioneer. The Table Auctioneer will auction off the centerpiece/mystery gift card to their tablemates, encouraging them to bid it up.  The incentive is that there is a special prize for the highest overall bidder and for the Table Auctioneer who secured the overall highest bid. We've had a positive response to this auction type.”

In addition to the centerpiece auction, a classic live auction will take place. Generous sponsors have donated incredible packages that will be auctioned off by Andy during the event. (Check out the Live Auction Items ahead of time and plan out your bids!) Over the years, the Magic Moments Gala Committee has noticed some trends. “We've found that people seem to enjoy  "experiences" more than items, so we have tried to come up with live auction packages that can be shared with family and friends. I really think every one of the ten live auction packages are appealing,” explained Shari.

A highlight for many is fund a dream. Andy shares the sentiment of the moment well, “I love the fund a dream. The moment when we tell a story about why we’re all there and the difference we can make, and then I get to go up and ask people to show their support, it’s the part of the night that can give you chills when you see it happen...The whole room did it. No one person did it. Everyone participated to make that dream a possibility.”

The support for the event is rising each year. The attendance has grown from 350 a few years ago to a sell-out crowd of 700 this year. It’s a beautiful thing to see the community rally behind our youth. Who’s excited to share the magic this Friday?

BONUS: Andy shares his best auctioning tip: “My #1 tip: bid on the first item. The first item is usually the best deal because people are afraid to begin bidding, they aren’t quite comfortable bidding yet. Get in early. If you’re interested at all, bid right away before other people realize they want it.”

Monday, March 9, 2015

What it Means to be a Mentor

Who is a Big?
Thinking about becoming a Big, but not really sure what it would involve? The basic role for any Big is to be a role model in the life of their Little. Bigs are available to add some extra security and dependability in the life of a Little. Being an active part in the life of a Little helps the process of growing up for children in need of a boost.  A good Big is there to set an example of how to embrace life and do their best.
What a Successful Big Does
  • Put the child’s well-being and safety first
  • Take the time to build a friendship
  • Are consistent and dependable- spend time with their Little regularly and keep their word.
  • Recognize the importance of the friendship
  • Focus on having fun with the child but can also set boundaries and limits
  • Identify the strengths of the child and help them to build them up
  • Acknowledge that positive impact on the child comes after the relationship is built
  • Realize that no friendship is perfect all the time
  • Work as a partner with BBBS and the parent of the Little
  • Utilize BBBS staff as a resource for navigating any difficulties or expressing concerns
How Being a Big Affects the Little
Being a Big has a huge impact on the life of the Little. Having a mentor keeps the Little motivated to succeed. A Big should be there to help the Little with their homework or talk through a problem at school. Having a mentor also helps boost the Little’s self-esteem. They feel more important because someone is there giving them attention and being genuinely interested in their personality and their life. Having a Big can potentially be life changing for the Little.

Who is a Little?
A Little is someone who needs a little more guidance. A Little may lack a mentor in his or her life, which is where Big Brothers Big Sisters comes in! We help make mentor matches with Littles and build lasting relationships to help the community. If you are interested in helping the community or mentoring a child, visit our website to learn more about becoming a Big.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Release: Foley High School National Honor Society Raises Funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters

ST. CLOUD, MN (February 19, 2015) –

Foley High School’s National Honor Society recently presented Big Brothers Big Sisters with a $1,000 check to support its mentoring program. The students, led by their advisor Barb Koester, planned and organized Breakfast with Santa, a festive community event which benefits Big Brothers Big Sisters.      

Each year, approximately 70 Foley High School students serve as “Bigs”/mentors in the program distinguishing Foley as the only school district in which the number of available mentors is often greater than the number of children in need of a mentor.

Jackie Johnson, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters, states “Foley High School is an example of true community where the high school students reach out and befriend a younger student.  Big Brothers Big Sisters is only successful in the district because of the support and advocacy of the administrators, teachers, and staff.  They have been integral to helping us enhance and expand our school-based program, which has served hundreds of children within the Foley district.” 

Photo 1: (From left to right) Elizabeth Granlund,  Cheyenne Lesniak, Beth Marquette- School Based Coordinator, Ann Matvick- Program Director, Brittany Boltjes, Shelby Johnson, Nicole Skwira 

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota was established in 1969 and provides children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Match Spotlight: Big Sister Maeve Ryan and Little Sister Hannah

By: Jessica Holmgren

Maeve and Hannah were happily matched on Valentine’s Day last year. They have become good friends through coloring, playing games, chatting, and exchanging laughs. Maeve has been a great support to Hannah by being consistent, communicating over breaks, and sharing her positivity with Hannah each week that they meet. Maeve has also been a wonderful advocate for BBBS on her college campus by sharing her story and care for her Little Sister. Hannah has grown a great deal in her confidence and her smile continues to get bigger with every visit from Maeve! It’s been a pleasure to watch these to grow together and it will only get better!

If you would like to start creating a story much like Maeve and Hannah please contact Rachel today at 320.258.4537 or

You can start something amazing today!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Release: Big Brothers Big Sisters Recognizes Outstanding Volunteers

ST. CLOUD, MN (January 16, 2015) – Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota annually recognizes a “Big Brother” and “Big Sister” for their outstanding role as a mentor. “Big Brother” Ryan Ross was selected as the agency’s “Big Brother of the Year” and “Big Sister” Faye Mrozek was selected as “Big Sister of the Year”.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota also recognizes High School Bigs/mentors for their contribution to the program and their community.

Ben Kraemer, Foley High School, was selected as the High School Big Brother of the Year.

Kia Grinland, Sartell High School, was selected as the High School Big Sister of the Year.

All awardees will be recognized on March 15th during the Big Celebration, an annual event held to honor the agency’s mentors.

Big Brothers Big Sisters will be celebrating all mentors involved with their program this month, as January is National Mentoring Month. The agency is currently enrolling Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Big Couples, and Big Families. There are currently over 85 children on their waiting list. To learn how you can become involved in the life of a child, please call (320) 253-1616 or visit

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota was established in 1969 and provides children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.