Healthy Habits Begin Here!

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Childhood Obesity is a major problem in the United States – just ask Michelle Obama.  Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities has set out a mission to combat this problem starting right here at home with the youth we serve.  Along with the University of Minnesota Twin Cities School of Nursing, BBBS is set to launch the new Healthy Habits Program. This program, funded by the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, was created to educate local youth on eating healthy and staying active.

There are countless resources in the Twin Cities dedicated to wellness, but many children remain stuck at home due to lack of transportation or the supervision to attend those activities. This is where the Healthy Habits comes in. The program offers both Bigs and Littles a variety of fun, healthy activities where everybody can participate and have a good time, while also ensuring that Littles always have a ride and a chaperone. Along with exercise-based activities, Healthy Habits focuses on making educated food choices. Sessions will be offered to teach matches how to find fresh produce around their community and cook with it at home. To keep active, Healthy Habits will provide sessions at the YMCA to help Littles utilize the programs available in their community. Both types of activities will encourage healthy, long-lasting attitudes toward food and exercise.

This program will kick off October 2016 with events twice a month through October 2017. Matches will be given a “Health Pass” to encourage repeat attendance at Healthy Habits events. When matches attend at least 7 Healthy Habits activities, as noted in their “Health Pass”, they will receive a prize for their efforts. As a part of the Healthy Habits Program, researchers from the UMN School of Nursing will also attend the events and collect valuable data. Their hope is to figure out ways that mentors can better facilitate healthy habits in the lives of their mentees.

We’re looking forward to a very fit and active 2016-2017!

Big Brother of the Year – Luke Walford!

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After a stellar six year (and counting) match, Luke Walford has been named the Big Brother of the Year by Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities. This award recognizes Luke for his unwavering commitment to his Little, Brian.

Luke and Brian’s bond has remained strong throughout all of their major life events over the past six years, including Brian’s transition from elementary school to high school, and Luke’s marriage and growing family. The match has always been an integral part of each other’s lives.

And though weddings and new baby announcements have been very exciting, it’s the little things that have made this match so strong. Luke makes it a priority to attend Brian’s karate tournaments and the two play golf frequently. Most importantly, Luke introduced Brian to photography, a skill the high school student is already turning into a career through an internship with Robbinsdale Public Schools. Brian attributes his enthusiasm for his work to the support from his Big Brother. “I know that if I wouldn’t have ever met Luke my life would not be the same,” said Brian. “It is because of Luke’s love, encouragement and commitment to me that I have found my passion for photography.”

Luke is very proud of his Little Brother, saying, “I’ve enjoyed watching Brian mature from a boy who was once too shy to order food at a restaurant into a photographer who takes control and directs people on photo shoots,” said Luke. “I know he’s got a bright future.”

The encouragement and support evident in this match extends beyond the two of them; Brian’s mother, Sarah, considers Luke a part of their family, saying, “I truly believe that God sent Luke to us to make sure that Brian had a friend and mentor to help him navigate his way through life,” she said.

Congratulations on being the 2014 Big Brother of the Year, Luke!

Big of the Year, Kyle Kauma!

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Let’s continue our summer of recognition for our 2014 Bigs of the Year! Next up is Kyle Kauma, college student and dedicated School-Based mentor.

Regardless of weather conditions, a difficult commute, or a busy schedule,  University of Minnesota sophomore Kyle Kauma, 19, makes the commitment to meet with his Little Brother, Hayyuu, 8, at his elementary school every week. The two spend their time getting to know each other by doing homework together, chatting, and playing games. In just a little over a year, Kyle’s dedication has made a profound impact on the way Hayyuu views the classroom. According to their Match Coordinator, Paula, “Hayyuu has a much better attitude about school and is starting to think about the idea of higher education, something he initially said he didn’t think he was going to attend,”

Hayyuu’s second-grade teacher, Cindy Liu has also noticed some additional benefits to Hayyuu’s friendship with Kyle, saying “Hayyuu became more positive, responsible and emotionally mature.” She goes on to say that,  “Hayyuu started enjoying school and learning. His mom came to me excitedly saying, ‘Hayyuu changed! Hayyuu changed!’”

From their Match Coordinators point of view, “Kyle truly cares about Hayyuu…He does a great job of influencing and guiding Hayyuu to set him on the right path.” For Kyle, it seems as though mentoring is more than an extracurricular activity; it’s a dedication to provide a strong, enduring, and meaningful friendship.

The two continue to meet weekly during the school year, and Hayyuu can sense that he’s a priority, saying, “We laugh a lot. He tells me that I can do anything. He is the best Big Brother anyone could ever have.”

Congratulations Big of the Year, Kyle Kauma!