Every month, across Minnesota, more than 3,500 volunteers carve out time in their schedule to help one child know someone cares about them. In schools and on playgrounds, on bleachers and theater seats, walking around lakes and parks – these dedicated individuals devote themselves to being an additional, caring adult in a child’s life.
This year, one Big Brother has been honored as the best of the best – the Minnesota Site-based Big Brother of the Year. He was selected for this statewide honor after receiving the same recognition from Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities.
Brett spends 90 minutes every other week, September through May, with his Little Brother, 6th grader Michael. Their match is supported by their respective school and workplace; twice each month, Michael and 20 of his classmates board a yellow bus that delivers him to the Carlson campus in Minnetonka, where he is met by his Big Brother and mentor, Brett.
The program is part of an innovative “Beyond School Walls” initiative, funded by Carlson Family Foundation.
“This kind of holistic support – from employees volunteering their own time, to a company committing to flexibility and scheduling, to a foundation providing the funds for staff and transportation – it represents the highest level of community support for mentoring. We feel incredibly lucky to have Carlson volunteers like Brett and philanthropic leaders like the Carlson Family Foundation providing the kind of complete support that can, over time, have a profound and positive effect on a child’s life,” says Gloria Lewis, President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities.
Research shows that the presence of one additional caring adult can make a significant difference in academic performance, avoidance of risky behavior, better relationships with family, and school attendance.
If you ask Brett what it means to be a mentor, you won’t hear him talk about how he’s helped Michael. Rather, be prepared to hear how being a mentor has enriched his own life, how seeing his “Little” has become a highlight of his week. A self-proclaimed “empty-nester,” Brett says that their time together has an important and positive effect on both Michael’s life and his own.
What’s next for Michael and Brett? They have the summer off, like all Site-based matches. Michael is spending time with family and Brett has wedding plans. But research shows that mentoring matches have the greatest effect when they are longer and stronger. So in the fall, the pair will be back in the Carlson Retreat every other week, often playing chess, talking about novels, and generally enriching each other’s lives.