August 2020

Hello Friends!

Our kids need you more than ever. Along with the challenges they were facing earlier this year, they also have been dealing with the one-two punch of COVID-19 and our country’s racial tension. With a team that includes their parent(s), our professional staff and the Little, goals for their lives are clearly identified. Those goals can be achieved when kids get the opportunity to work with a Big.
Every child in our program is different, unique and full of promise. By becoming a Big, you get to be “that person” to help, inspire, and guide them. The rewards are just as meaningful for the mentor as it is for the child. There are several options for defending the potential of our youth – to become a Big, a Big Couple, a Big Family or a High School Big.
Seriously, if you have ever considered finding out more about being a Big, now is the time. If you have a passion for kids, now is the time. If you want your legacy to be making a difference for kids today and tomorrow, now is the time.
I asked our Program Coordinators to talk about why Big Brothers Big Sisters is so relevant and necessary in today’s world. Here are their answers:

Tasha: In a time where there is so much change going on in the world, our kids need a constant. They might not have this at home and they get that from our Bigs. With COVID-19, kids may not understand. For parents, it’s a very demanding and stressful time. In addition to their parents, kids need someone in their corner who can just be there for them. There are so many kids who just need that someone and that's what we do. We give them that someone. Bigs also need a distraction from the world today so this is a great way for them to make a connection with someone and make a difference. 
Robyn: Something that I learned and I think is so important for people to understand is that everyone, no matter how great or how difficult their home life may be, all need that extra person in their corner. I have found that the Bigs grow just as much as the Littles do during their match. I have seen many adults get matched and each month I can hear their confidence begin to soar. 
Rebecca: Our work matters because kids learn to develop friendships with positive influences and are given the opportunity to broaden their world view scope through those relationships. They get to engage in activities that they would not usually be able to do or go places they wouldn't normally have access to.
Mary: Our work at Big Brothers Big Sisters is important because we provide youth facing adversity with a caring mentor to meet with them 1:1 on a consistent basis. This gives youth an adult who is invested in getting to know them and support them. An adult who can check in on them and encourage them. We see our youth grow in confidence, avoid risky behaviors and excel academically. Being able to provide our services is absolutely essential to our community and today's youth.  
Jamie: I believe the work we are doing is important because youth have a mentor that they are able to look up to and can teach them many valuable skills. Our Littles have something to look forward to each time they meet with their Bigs, and they have an experience that is unique to each of them. Our job is about creating relationships and building bonds, and it's awesome when you start to see the matches just starting to connect with one another. 
Thank you again and again for helping Big Brothers Big Sisters continue to be responsive, relevant and successful. We can’t do it without you.

Jackie Johnson
Executive Director

Olivia Olson and Troy Dobbs will be celebrating one year of their match with Noah on August 15! These three have enjoyed fishing, soccer, working on homework, and playing board games.

Olivia and Noah have gone to Troy’s hockey games together and cheered him on! This Big Couple match has a great friendship already and Noah really looks up to his Bigs! 

Dennis and Peyton are!

A Big welcome to one of our newest matches: Dennis Strassburg and Peyton! These two enjoyed meeting each other and found out they both enjoy sport and video games. They are looking forward to video chatting and finding out more about each other! 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.

Your book reading can help change the lives of kids in Central Minnesota! Join us for our first-ever Dream Big Book Club online event! Meet the author online as she reads selected parts of the story-sharing about her discovery and reasons for writing.

"The Evidence of V: A Novel in Fragments, Facts, and Fictions" by Minneapolis author, Sheila O'Connor.

"The Evidence of V" is a powerful and unforgettable Minnesota story about youth,
motherhood, and family. You will read facts and fictions of the circumstances of V and June's lives. And come away with a deeper appreciation of how family history shapes family's future.

Tonight - Tuesday, August 4, 2020
7:00 - 8:00 pm
Facebook Live event or if you would like the link to the Zoom, contact or or call 320-258-4510 asap.

FREE EVENT - During the event we will ask for your financial support, please consider a gift to support our mission if you are able. All gifts, in any amount, will be matched dollar for dollar up to $2,500! And all donors will receive a signed bookplate from Sheila O'Connor. If you can't attend- text BIGS to 243725 or click here to donate and have your gift matched. Thank you for standing with kids!

We're happy to be nominated in Your MTH's Race to 300! Twelve local non-profits are competing to be in the top four winner's circle by August 15. The Top Four will share a $60,000 donation from Minnesota Truck Headquarters! Currently we are in third place and closing in on second! With your help, we can make a BIG impact and #WinForKids.

Please vote daily and from all of your devices! It is very easy and you do not have to give them any personal information. Visit and click on the red "vote now" button to vote.

Voting ends 8/15/2020.  Thank you!!

The 2020 Federated Challenge raised a record-breaking $3.087 million for Minnesota & National Big Brothers Big Sisters July 26, during its first-ever virtual gala. Even during this unprecedented time in history, a record 61 prominent businesses and more than 500 attendees logged on to their computers and mobile devices to support youth mentoring in Minnesota and throughout America.
One hundred percent of the money raised will be donated to Minnesota’s three Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Locally, the donation from Federated Insurance provides 40% of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota’s budget, with the rest coming from grants, sponsorships, and individual donations.
“We knew in our hearts that cancelling this year’s event was not an option,” said Federated Insurance Chairman and CEO Jeff Fetters. “And that decision became more significant this year than ever before, as many kids have been patiently waiting to be matched with a Big. Sunday’s event set that in motion – opening the door to create strong bonds and long-lasting friendships.”
A portion of the donations are earmarked for the Federated Challenge Scholarship Program, which provides up to $5,000 per year to qualified Littles or high school Bigs enrolled in a non-four-year program focusing on apprenticeship, certificate, trade school, technical, or community college. Since the program’s inception, close to 100 students have benefited from the scholarship fund and are earning job-ready training degrees with little to no debt.
“Remarkable times call for remarkable people, and our generous Federated Challenge corporate sponsors and individual donors have answered that call,” said Fetters. “We may have been apart, but we still came together to help Big Brothers Big Sisters matches ignite potential.”
The virtual gala – hosted by Co-chairs Jeff and Marty Fetters – featured WCCO veteran broadcaster Dave Lee. The event included special messages from members of the Minnesota Gophers athletic department, Minnesota United Football Club, and Minnesota Timberwolves. Guests also heard mentoring success stories from Bigs & Littles including a powerful mentoring story from former Little Brother Isaih Handy, of St. Cloud.
“Collectively, the funds we raised during this event will directly support countless young people,” added Fetters. “The Federated Challenge continues to be a first-class event, whether it’s held in person or virtually. Most importantly, it continues to rally people around a cause that empowers youth and strengthens communities. Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mission is one we proudly stand behind.”
The Federated Challenge was founded in 2004 as a two-day fund-raising event hosted by Federated Insurance, a commercial insurance company headquartered in Owatonna, Minnesota. Now in its 16th year, this event has raised more than $41 million for youth mentoring programs.
“We cannot thank Jeff and Marty Fetters, Co-Chairs of the Federated Challenge, Federated Insurance, and all those who support the event, enough. We are profoundly grateful for their ongoing partnership and support, which makes it possible for us to carry out our mission of creating and supporting one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth.” noted Jackie Johnson, Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota.
Photo Left to right: Auctioneer Glen Fladeboe of Fladeboe Advancement Company, Federated Challenge Co-Chairs Marty and Jeff Fetters, and Dave Lee of WCCO Radio proudly display a check for $3.087 million raised during the 2020 Federated Challenge. (Photo courtesy of Federated Insurance)

A big thanks to Kelli and the Snap Fitness team for thinking of us and partnering with us for the Big Virtual 5k event! They raised $200 for kids with this fun virtual activity. We look forward to planning future activities/events with them.

This month we have four new board members that will be beginning their service on our board. We are looking forward to them joining our mission to "Create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth."

Please welcome BBBS of Central MNs newest board members!
Jenna Binsfeld,
HR Business Partner, Park Industries
Curran Poganski, Vice President Brokerage, Rice Real Estate Services, Inc.
Christie Schulte, General Counsel, Coborn’s
Sonya Weiber,
Sr. Director Oncology, CentraCare Health System

Were you a former Big or Little in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program? Let's reconnect!
As the nation navigates its way through crisis, we are all feeling the toll of the unknown. The kids served through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program are no different. Now, more than ever, they need the friendship & support of a caring mentor.

We are utilizing this time to grow our alumni and volunteer network, while our mentoring matches continue to connect via phone, text, video chat, and letters. 
Alumni can become re-engaged with the mentoring program in several different ways such as sharing their story, becoming a Big, serving on a committee, or volunteering at agency activities & events.
We have over 100 kids on the waiting list and we continue to enroll mentors and host virtual information sessions. To learn more about the alumni network or becoming a Big, visit

This month’s Partner Spotlight goes to Federated Insurance!

You may not be aware of this, but the Federated Challenge Gala and Golf Event provides our agency with nearly 40% of our annual operating budget. You can imagine our stress when the pandemic hit and events were being canceled or moved online! But we knew that Federated would come through for us and they did - even increasing what they raised in 2019! They are an incredible group of people who deeply care about our Littles and our mission.

Federated Insurance has been our shield, just like their logo, in these uncertain times. Our mission has been reaffirmed by their commitment to us, which is reflected in their mission statement, "As a mutual insurance company, we believe our value is measured by the success of our clients." Our Littles are poised for success with their Bigs and Federated Insurance defending their potential. We are proud and grateful to be the non-profit partner of Federated Insurance and look forward to many years to come!
Jenna Binsfeld, Peggy Brown, Debbie Clausen, Kevin Fitzpatrick (Treasurer), Patty Funk, Jeff Gannon, Lee Hurd, Courtney Kunkel, Holly Lee, Bill Martin-Chaffee, Vince Mohs, Curran Poganski,
Marie Primus (Past President), Luke Riordan, Rick Roehl, Alex Schoephoerster (Vice Pres.),
Christie Schulte, Peter Spaniol (Secretary), Sonya Weiber, 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