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!

6 ways to help your Little stay sharp this summer

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Summer vacation is just around the corner, and in addition to all of the fun outings and adventures you and your Little will have, you can help him or her retain some of that knowledge they’ve been working on all year! Here are six ways to help your Little stay ahead of the game.

Grow a garden The benefits of gardening are countless: kids learn about science in a fun environment, it teaches them valuable skills like responsibility and patience, and you both have delicious, healthy vegetables to eat throughout the summer!

Make a scrapbook You’ll want to remember all of the great experiences you’ll have with you Little this summer, so help him or her keep a scrapbook of everything from tickets, photos, and notes. He’ll be practicing his writing skills and you’ll both be glad you kept a memento.

Volunteer You obviously understand the importance of volunteering, now pass that knowledge on to your Little. There are tons of volunteer opportunities around the Twin Cities whether you want to work with people, animals, or nature.

Read For some kids, reading feels like a chore. It doesn’t have to be. Options involving reading are everywhere, so find on that engages your Little. Read to her, have her read to you, start your own book club and discuss the books you are reading, or sign up for the summer reading program at your local library.

Cook together Whip up some of your famous chocolate chip cookies, or try out one of these wacky recipes. Then, use that time to work with your Little on counting, measuring and

Take a nature hike Be active and enjoy the nice weather while learning about science and nature. Point out different types of leaves, bugs and animals, and then do some research on them when you get back.

Meet a Match: Pat and Derrick

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Derrick had no shortage of company. “I am one of six kids: four sisters and two brothers,” he explained. Add in his four stepsiblings, and his hardworking mother had her hands—and her house—full. She was determined to help all her children find their paths, especially the second-youngest of her brood: football-focused, hip-hop-loving Derrick. “My older brothers weren’t making great choices at the time,” said Derrick, “and my mother thought I could use a positive example.” Since Derrick’s sister Sherry had a terrific Big Sister, Derrick’s mom sought him a match.

Pat was poised for change. Around this time, Pat left his corporate job to work for a healthcare startup. “There was a shift in my life,” said Pat. He felt grateful for his comfortable home, supportive family, education and career opportunities, but he wanted to give back. After connecting with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Pat said he “had these big ideas about changing one kid’s life.” He laughs at the recollection. “Talk about ego! It was all about me on my high horse, thinking about what I could give.” Little did Pat know how much he would receive.

They met after school on an ordinary weekday. “I was really nervous, but so excited,” said Derrick. “It’s a thin line between those two emotions!” Pat remembers walking into a living room packed with family members. “They were all there to meet me—to grill me, really,” said Pat. After introductions were made and nerves were calmed, they decided to play it low-key and hit the local McDonald’s. “It was a little rough at first,” said Derrick, recalling the awkward silences. But then, over burgers and fries, they discovered their common ground: sports. “We’re still both big sportsheads to this day,” said Pat.

During their first few outings, shyness was a third companion. “When you’re just getting to know someone, you can feel really insecure,” said Pat. “You’re thinking is this a good idea? Does this person like me?” They continued to connect around sports: talking about their favorite athletes, going to games, playing football. In addition to time on the field, Derrick remembers doing homework, playing video games, and just hanging out with Pat: “Whatever we had planned, I looked forward to it.”

Their friendship hit a turning point over pizza. “After a number of months, Pat took my friends and me to Chuck E. Cheese to celebrate my birthday. It was an all-day party with games, food, everything,” said Derrick. On the way home, one of Derrick’s buddies called shotgun, and jumped into the passenger’s seat in Pat’s car. “Derrick’s mom called me later, thanking me for the party,” said Pat. Then she gently mentioned that Derrick felt very sad that he didn’t get to ride up front, right next to Pat. “With that single conversation, my whole mindset about mentoring changed. I started really investing myself and opening up,” remembers Pat. “When Derrick’s mom told me that one simple thing, it opened my eyes. I realized that this relationship is for real. It matters.”

They kicked off Derrick’s teens with travel. “I had free flights and we went to California,” said Pat. “It was Derrick’s first time on an airplane, and first look at the ocean. His eyes were like saucers. I don’t know who loved it more, me or him.” A few years later, Pat and Derrick’s mom agreed that Derrick could use a man-to-man “birds and bees” talk. Pat and Derrick now recall the conversation with humor and horror: “It was so awkward! Derrick probably already knew everything I was telling him,” said Pat. “It was the worst,” agreed Derrick. “We both stared out the car window, then talked over one another, then sat there in silence, just so, so embarrassed.” Both men roar with laughter at the memory, noting that if their friendship could survive that episode, it was definitely for keeps.

They hung out through high school. During these years, Pat worked with Derrick on goal setting and managing money. “Pat always gave me ideas, not instructions,” said Derrick. “He’s not like Mr. Know-It-All. He’s more like hey, you have your opinions, here are mine. Take it or leave it.” Derrick, who characterizes himself as stubborn, says that Pat’s advice made all the difference.

That shy third-grader is now 26 years old. Derrick, articulate and smiling, talks about music; he is an accomplished lyricist, composer and performer, and has even played the celebrated South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. Derrick’s passion for cars has him rebuilding a classic Mustang, and he hopes to start a medical training program to become a nursing assistant. He says his mother helped him make this positive progress—and so did Pat. “I wouldn’t have been able to make it this far without him,” said Derrick. “Pat has been there through good times and bad times. It’s this bond. He is 100% family to me.”