Big hearts, big difference
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Minnesota presented several area volunteers with its annual ‘Bigs of the Year’ award this past Saturday in Waseca.
The awards include four categories: Big Sister, Big Brother, Big Couple, and School Site Big.
The Southern Minnesota Chapter, which covers Dodge, Steele, Rice and Waseca counties, had a large pool of candidates to choose from. Among this year’s winners are three Owatonna residents, ‘Big Sister’ Jess Hawkins, and ‘Big Couple’ Kathy and Nate Oland.
BBBS executive director Michelle Redman said the recipients are decided upon by the staff and then voted for.
Several factors go into the selection process, including the length of participation, consistency, and the quantitative difference made, although, Redman said, each case is different, and every ‘Big’ and ‘Little’ have their own stories to tell.
The Olands were matched five years ago with a kindergartner named Brady. They enjoy many activities together, including fishing and archery.
“Brady is a typical boy,” Nate Oland said. “He would rather be outside doing something than inside just sitting around.”
Kathy and Nate have found the program to be rewarding.
“We’ve seen Brady grow, and change in a positive way,” Kathy said.
“The program gives you the opportunity to have another person in your life that you can have a special relationship with,” Nate said. “It fills a void for both of us, me and him. For instance, I do stuff with him I used to do with my kids now that they’re getting older.”
Redman said the program encourages couples to get involved.
“Although Nate and Kathy weren’t ‘empty-nesters,’ I’d say it’s an awesome way for people who’ve seen their own kids leave home to participate,” she said. “It can be more flexible with two people as well.”
Kathy and Nate cherish the time they’ve spent with Brady.
“We’ve really enjoyed it,” Kathy said. “We always tell people how great the experience is.”
“It’s definitely not that big of a commitment,” Nate said. “Events are free and fun, and they ask you to be with your ‘Little’ once every two weeks.”
He said he feels that everyone in the program is supportive, as are the people involved.
“Everyone I talk to says they get a lot out of it,” he said. “I think when kids receive mentorship, from any organization, they will have a much better chance of success in life.”
See www.bbbsofsouthernmn.org for more information on Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Minnesota.