April 2020

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”  
-Winnie the Pooh

Hello Friends!

How quickly our entire world seems to have been turned upside down. We’ve gone from the bustling excitement of planning our biggest night of the year with 600 guests to restructuring it into a virtual event in June. We’ve gone from actively being in six school districts, managing matches, and having a steady stream of potential Bigs, Littles, and their families join us at our office for interviews, match meetings, and annual check-ins, to relying on technology to communicate and make connections.

As disappointed as we are about the gala, quite frankly, our mission isn’t events. Our mission isn’t throwing a party. Although we do love a fun celebration! Our mission is standing with kids. Being there to provide coaching and encouragement, helping kids to make the most out of their relationship with their Big, and their future. 

Our Bigs provide critical emotional support to their Littles during this unfamiliar, unprecedented time. We know that social-emotional skill-building is what helps kids move through trauma/adversity, and we are experiencing a traumatizing event. That’s why our work is more important than ever. Presently. And in the future. As a supporter of Big Brothers Big Sisters, you know that’s what our Bigs are there for… To be present. To ask the questions. To listen. To offer encouragement.

We are directly connecting to many kids in underserved communities that may be otherwise disconnected from essential services. We are working hard to provide practical resources. Supporting our mission is critical. We are a part of the infrastructure connecting vulnerable people to the information and support they need. 

Our team is more dedicated than ever to be THE difference for kids, the difference that changes the trajectory of their lives. Thank YOU for supporting our mission, even without the party.

Jackie Johnson
Executive Director

P.S. The recently passed CARES Act includes a new above-the-line deduction (universal or non-itemized deduction that applies to all taxpayers) for total charitable contributions of up to $300. The incentive applies to contributions made in 2020 and would be claimed on tax forms next year. Please consider a gift today to support our Matches!
Chris Wieland has been matched with his Little Brother Eric for over five years. Together they have always enjoyed board games, playing catch, and watching sporting events.

Chris has been there for Eric through many of life’s stages. More recently Chris helped teach Eric how to drive and Eric successfully obtained his driver’s license!

Eric is a senior in high school this year and plans to attend St. Cloud Technical & Community College in the fall. Chris and Eric have had many conversations about college, scholarships, and careers. Chris came into Eric’s life at the right time and has been a remarkable male role model from the start!

Eric’s mom, Kris, said, “He has become so close to Chris over the years and I can never thank Chris enough for that. Choosing to come to Big Brothers Big Sisters has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. Chris was worth the wait. I could not ask for a better mentor and role model for Eric. I am forever grateful.”

On Saturday, February 29, Darkhouse Anglers hosted an ice fishing event with our Littles and Bigs! It was a beautiful day and everyone had a fun time learning how to ice fish!

Thank you to Darkhouse Anglers for planning and hosting this activity! We are so grateful for their partnership.

Ali and Josie are!

A Big welcome to one of our newest matches: Ali and Josie! These two have lots in common and are looking forward to trying tons of new activities! As you are considering being a Big, check out our current list of new Matches.

We would also like to congratulate these Matches who are celebrating milestone anniversaries ! We ask all Bigs to commit to at least one year of mentorship - that one year of consistency makes a BIG difference in the life of a child.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota annually recognizes volunteers who go above and beyond in their role as a mentor. The following mentors were selected to receive an award for the significant impact they’ve had on their “Little”/mentee and their advocacy of the mentoring program.

  • 2020 Central Minnesota Big Brother of the Year: Chris Wieland, Sartell, mentor for 5 years
  • 2020 Central Minnesota Big Sister of the Year: Carla Griffin, Clear Lake, mentor for 5 years
  • 2020 Central Minnesota Big Couple of the Year: Tami & Randy Kruzel, Sartell, mentors for 3 years
  • 2020 Central Minnesota High School Big Brother of the Year: Adam (Bubba) Funk, Pierz Healy High School, mentor for 1 year
  • 2020 Central Minnesota High School Big Sister of the Year: Bailey Gapinski, Foley High School, mentor for 3 years

Local mentor candidates represent Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota in the statewide competition. The state selects one outstanding mentor in each category to represent Minnesota in a national competition. In addition to receiving the local title, three mentors from the St. Cloud agency were honored with the statewide title:

Chris Wieland was selected as the 2020 Minnesota State Big Brother of the Year
Bailey Gapinski was selected as 2020 Minnesota State High School Big Sister of the Year
Adam (Bubba) Funk was selected as 2020 Minnesota State High School Big Brother of the Year

Program Director, Ann Matvick, states, “We are honored to have these exemplary volunteers represent our program. They’ve had an extraordinary impact on the lives of their Littles and are a true asset to the Central Minnesota community.”
Big Brother Chris Wieland with his Little Brother Eric
Big Sister Carla Griffin (right) with her Little Sister Brooklyn (left)
Big Couple Tami & Randy Kruzel with their Little Sister Nicole
High School Big Brother Adam (Bubba) Funk with his Little Brother Austin
High School Big Sister Bailey Gapinski with her Little Sister Amanda
Scholarships up to $5,000 are available for current/former Littles and High School Bigs working towards an apprenticeship, certificate, or associate's degree. See our website for more details and to apply!
We are not letting physical distancing get in the way of our biggest night of the year! Save the date and join us June 19 at 8:15 p.m. for a Facebook Live Virtual Big Night in Oz! Our auction opens June 12 and runs through June 19 - all are invited to bid and help raise needed funds to support our Matches and recruit new Bigs.
We have rescheduled the Raffle Drawing due to the COVID 19 outbreak. Our new raffle drawing date is Friday, June 19, 2020 at 8:30 pm as part of a Facebook Live event. You can purchase tickets by contacting a board member or calling our office at 320-253-1616. So, hang on to your tickets, they are still good and buy more to increase your odds of winning! Our kids still need us, this is how we can help! 

Thank you to ALL the amazing sponsors that support this agency! These businesses advance our mission to create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. They serve as resources, provide support to our Bigs & Littles, connect us to the greater community, offer financial stability and more volunteer hours than we can keep up with!

Check out this list of sponsors –  Go Now!  Support the businesses  #heartforkids  that have supported BBBS and so many area nonprofits! You can order online, do curbside pickup, pre-book an adventure, like their social media and share it.

If you are a sponsor and have questions or are looking for ways to support our sponsors contact Emily Steinmetz at 320-258-4515 or  Emily@BigDefenders.org

Erin Bitzan, Peggy Brown, Debbie Clausen, Ann Cofell, Kevin Fitzpatrick (Treasurer), Patty Funk,
Jeff Gannon, Lee Hurd, Andy Knoblauch, Courtney Kunkel, Holly Lee, Bill Martin-Chaffee,
Vince Mohs, Marie Primus (Past President), Luke Riordan, Rick Roehl, Alex Schoephoerster (Vice Pres.), Peter Spaniol (Secretary), Joan Vincent, Vicky Welty (President)
Barb Anderson, Scott Bement, Mimi Bitzan, Mark Coborn, Joe Francis, Brad Goskowicz, Keith Julson,
Shelly Bauerly Kopel, Gary Marsden, Karla Myres, Steve Sauer, Kurt Scepaniak, Joyce Schlough,
John Schnettler, Rob Schumann, Eric Stalboerger, Perian Stavrum, Mark Traut, Bob Walter,
Don Watkins, Sue Wendt, Mike Ziemann