Monday, February 29, 2016

Top 10 One-Hour Spring Activities in Central Minnesota

With spring break right around the corner, it is important to have some ideas as to how you can keep kids busy. Luckily, Central Minnesota has a wide variety of spring activities to keep the kids learning, exploring, and having fun! Here are some ideas to give you a little inspiration:

Get Creative!

A report by Americans for the Arts states that young people who participate regularly in the arts (three hours a day on three days each week through one full year) are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement. Art As You Like It offers a variety of fun classes from pottery to painting. Have fun and let your Little express themselves through an art project.

Build Something

Finishing a building project can cause a great sense of achievement for a Little. On the first Saturday of every month, the Home Depot offers FREE building classes. These classes will give your Little the opportunity to build tool boxes, fire trucks, mail organizers, birdhouses, Mother’s Day gifts, or any number of other cool projects.

Visit a Local Farm

Spring time is the perfect opportunity for your Little to see baby animals on the farm. Erickson's Petting Zoo offers a chance to feed the animal, ride the ponies, and see the goat treehouse.

Start a Garden

Spring is the perfect time to start planning out your garden. Let your Little join in the fun and create a beautiful garden this year.

Explore Local Museums

Museums are a great place to learn something new with your Little. Central Minnesota has museums for learning local facts, presidential facts, fishing facts and so much more! The Works Museum is a place that every kid should visit at least once. Your little will get to experience stacking blocks, building airplanes out of wood slats, figuring out K’Nex and pulleys and sound refraction.

Volunteer at a Local Animal Shelter

Visiting the local Tri-County Humane Society can teach your Little about the importance of caring for pets. You can pet and play with the animals as well as take a tour. Shelter tours focus on humane education, and cover topics such as pet care tips, dog bite prevention and safety with animals, and pet overpopulation statistics in our community.

Get Active!

Central Minnesota offers so many great places to enjoy the nice spring weather while walking, running, biking, or rollerblading! Take a look at some of the best trails in the area.

Explore The Great Outdoors

Nothing feels better than the warm spring breeze after a cold winter. Get out and explore the new life sprouting this year. St. Cloud State University's Outdoor Endeavors can help facilitate activities for you and your Little. You can rent canoes or kayaks to paddle in the Mississippi River or bicycles to explore the nearby parks.

Check out Local Produce at a Farmers Market

Local farmers markets are a great way to show your Little the impact that farms have in the community. Farmers markets are also a great place to connect with the community and offer a chance to see where your food comes from. Bring your little to check out the St.Joe farmers market and try fresh, local food.

Let Out All Your Energy at an Indoor Park

Spring weather is unpredictable. If it’s too cold to spend the day outside exploring, try going to an indoor park! Indoor parks are a great way to release energy and have fun! Climbing High: Edinborough Indoor Park is a great way to spend time with your Little and let them get out all their energy!

There are so many fun things to do this time of year to keep your Little engaged and having fun. Find more fun ideas, visit the Fun For Kids website and don’t forget to share with us your pictures of how you spent your free time this spring!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

“You Get A Lot More Than You Give”

Bill Riner, a Big Brother in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program for 7 years, says “you get a lot more than you give” when referring to his experience with mentoring. He continues “I have had the opportunity to watch a little boy grow into a very fine, accomplished young man.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota is encouraging men in Minnesota to “Man Up” to meet the rising need for Big Brothers. The goal of the Man Up campaign is to recruit 100 male mentors in 100 days.

There is a critical need for men to volunteer. Boys comprise over 70% of the waiting list for mentors, yet only 20% of new volunteers are men. Boys in our community are waiting an average of 304 days before being matched with a Big Brother.

Being a mentor is about enjoying simple activities with your mentee. “How many senior citizens get to navigate through a straw maze, enjoy a haunted house, or spend an afternoon at a water park,” asks Riner.

“We play catch with a football and laugh about the times we’ve had together, such as when we could not get a kite to fly or the fishing trip where all we caught was cold feet,” states Riner.

The mentoring program provides ongoing guidance and support to its mentoring matches, including offering monthly activities and supplying matches with donated tickets to attend sporting events.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is currently looking for community partners to join them in the Man Up campaign. Several state and local leaders such as Senator Al Franken, St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, St. Cloud State President Earl H. Potter III, St. John’s University President Michael Hemesath, and Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, have created promotional videos for the agency offering their words of support and encouraging males to help meet the need.

Rachel Johnson, Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Recruiter, says they’re hoping local businesses will also consider partnering with them to help match some of their male employees with boys looking for a Big Brother.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is available to make presentations to organizations, companies, and clubs regarding its mentoring programs and evidenced-based outcomes with children in need.

For more information about becoming a mentor, or referring a male to provide friendship and inspiration to a child, visit or contact Rachel at 320-258-4537.

Photo 1: Big Brother Bill Riner with Little Brother Skyler Figallo in 2014

Photo 2: Big Brother Bill Riner with Little Brother Skyler Figallo in 2010

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

It’s Time to Man Up, Minnesota!

At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we have an unfortunate problem that nearly 70% of the children on our waiting list are boys who typically wait an average of 304 days before receiving a Big Brother. We have recently launched Man Up Minnesota to give men a fun and easy opportunity to help strengthen our community by providing boys with long-term, quality mentoring that is proven to help kids who face adversity.

Jackie, the executive director of BBBS shared why they decide to do a "Man Up" campaign versus a standard recruitment campaign. “The timing was right,” says Jackie. “January is mentoring month.” We have reached out to other BBBS organizations in the country who have done similar campaigns with good results. “Our donors, committees, and board,” says Jackie, “have been asking us for something bold and aggressive to match more boys in a more favorable timeframe.” The Big Brothers Big Sisters Program is a community asset and solution when we can match mentors with kids. When we can’t do that, we fail for our community.

BBBS recruiter Rachel gave her hopes of what this campaign will bring:

Other than challenging people to do something that may be uncomfortable for them, I think that this campaign has the opportunity to build beautiful partnerships in the community. I think highlighting partnerships that we have is very important for our community to grow together. We are not only asking of people's time, but for people to help identify those who would become a great mentor. It is an all-around feel good campaign. We do hope to see numbers continue to rise after the campaign. We hope to see a young boy's life change because we were able to find him a mentor.
Rachel believes the community has received the campaign very well. “I think people see our heart behind Man Up,” she says. “We don't have a specific definition of a man or trying to tell men how to be men. We are simply asking for them to stand up and take a young man under their wing, to share life experiences and to give advice when needed.”

It is so important for people to share life together. The Central MN community has such a giving heart that they can recognize and want to help fulfill that need. Learn more about this campaign and help us make a difference in a young man’s life by becoming a big brother. Man Up Minnesota!