The Northwoods branch of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Wisconsin is coming off a big year. Acquired by Big Brothers Big Sisters in 2013, the Northwoods branch has added community mentoring to the program, brought the Color Dash to Rhinelander, and has been recognized by the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce.
“It was recognized as non-profit of the year because of the immediate and significant impact on the Rhinelander area within just one year of founding up here,” said Chamber Executive Director Dana DeMet. “The value of their programming was made especially clear when they were able to assume the services previously provided by Kinship of the North rather than let those services go away. Coupled with their significant community investment in bringing the Color Dash to the Rhinelander area, it is apparent that the organization takes great pride in their service to the Rhinelander area and its community.”
Development and Marketing Coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters, Mary Kinnunen, credits the ability to work together. “We have great teamwork between volunteers, board members and staff,” she said. “Plus, Big Brothers Big Sisters is a trusted organization with a long track record of proven results. Child Safety is our number one priority.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters aims to “provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.”
“The word adversity is broad. It can mean poverty, being really shy, difficulty making friends, being bullied or being the bully, even special needs,” Kinnunen emphasized. “Our Match Support Specialist, Cookie Lough, finds personalities that fit.”
It’s up to these specialists to match the right “Bigs” (adults) and “Littles” (the children) together for a harmonious mentoring relationship.
“For our volunteers, board members, staff and business sponsors, being involved in a program that shows a child hope and trust and a better perspective in life is amazing and humbling.”
Receiving no government funding, the organization relies 100 percent on community financial support. Big Brothers Big Sisters’ largest event, Bowl for Kids’ Sake accounts for 36 percent of all funds raised. Bowl for Kids’ Sake is gearing up for its second annual event in Rhinelander, taking place April 10 at Hodag Lanes. The theme is ‘I love Rock ‘n Bowl’ which invites participants to dress as their favorite rock stars.
“Money raised at this event will provide Northwoods children with a caring adult mentor in their lives,” Kinnunen said. “This leads to higher self-confidence, improved academic performance and a better sense of the future.”
Bowl for Kids’ Sake committee member Jo Waltenburg says they have been working to draw attention to the event. “We are blitzing the community, contacting businesses to form teams. We are really excited about having a youth and family bowling shift this year.”
Kickoff and captains meeting is Friday, March 6 from noon to 1 p.m. at Hodag Lanes, and includes lunch. More information online at bbbsnw.org.
“We so appreciate the community support this past year,” said Kinnunen. “It’s been just phenomenaland in 2015 we are excited to be matching more Rhinelander children facing adversity with caring, adult mentors who will change their lives for the better, forever”