ST. CLOUD, Minn. – Each year, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota serves more than 500 kids in a five-county area – and none of that would be possible without the hundreds of volunteer mentors who play a key role in the agency.
Many of those volunteers serve as Bigs, or mentors, to youth in Stearns, Benton, Sherburn, Morrison, and the northern tier of Wright counties. These mentors help their Littles – mentees – build self confidence, self esteem, a more positive outlook on their education, and become a friend to their Little; someone they can trust and enjoy spending time with. From going on walks to baking cookies, doing arts and crafts to fishing, every activity Bigs and Littles enjoy together is important to building that mentor/mentee relationships.
To honor the dedication of its mentors, BBBS of Central Minnesota recognizes five Bigs of the Year annually. A Big Brother and Big Sister of the year are selected along with a Big Duo or Big Family of the Year, and a High School Big Brother and Big Sister of the year are also chosen.
This year’s Central Minnesota Big Sister of the Year is Dani Lovejoy of Blaine, who has been matched with her Little Sister, Aaliyah, more than seven years. Bruce Latterell is the Big Brother of the Year. Latterell, who resides in Foley, has been matched with his Little Brother, Keagan, for six years. Father and son Gary and Cole Stang are the Big Duo of the Year after being matched with their Little Brother, Carter, for seven years. Foley student Terran Bursch is the High School Big Brother of the Year, and Sartell student Allie Magarian is the High School Big Sister of the Year. Bursch has been matched with Gavin for two years and Magarian with Addison for two years.
Three of the Central Minnesota honorees also earned state honors, as selected by representatives from the three BBBS agencies in Minnesota. Latterell is the Minnesota Big Brother of the Year, Lovejoy is the Minnesota Big Sister of the Year, and Magarian is the Minnesota High School Big Sister of the Year. Latterell and Lovejoy both move on to represent Minnesota at the national competition. Winners of the national mentor of the year awards will be announced at the 2024 conference in Dallas in June.
Along with honoring Bigs for their work, Central Minnesota also honors two Littles each year for their progress during their match. This year’s Little Brother of the Year is Carter, who has been matched with Gary and Cole Stang for seven years. Aaliyah – who has been matched with Lovejoy, the Central Minnesota and state Big Sister of the Year for seven years – is the Little Sister of the Year.
Stay tuned on social media over the course of the spring to learn more about each of the Bigs and Littles of the Year.