Two mentors, double the encouragement for Carter

Carter Little Brother of the Year 2024 with Gary and Cole Stang

When he reflects back to his younger self, Carter is grateful to have had two dedicated mentors – and friends – in Gary and Cole Stang. What he doesn’t realize is that they are just as grateful to be a part of his life as he is to be a part of theirs.

Carter was matched with Gary through Big Brothers Big Sisters when he was nine. Gary’s kids had recently left for college, and he wanted to mentor a young person and spend time with someone who had shared interests. Carter’s mom, Sarah, wanted to make sure that Carter had a solid male influence in his life.

Gary and Carter hit it off immediately, and Carter quickly became a part of the Stang family, which included Gary’s wife, Merrillee, and his children Shelby and Cole. Though he was already in college, Cole would spend time with Carter when he was back on break, and Carter – an only child – gravitated towards Cole. Cole saw how happy the match made his dad, so when Gary asked Cole to officially be a part of the match, Cole said yes. Now, after seven years with not one but two male role models in his life, Carter is the 2024 Central Minnesota Little Brother of the Year.

Now, instead of having one mentor to look up to and walk him through some of life’s tough situations, he had two, and Carter started to flourish. The trio spent plenty of time doing fun things together – going to hockey games is still a favorite outing – but Gary and Cole also made sure that Carter was doing well in school, and worked with him on expressing his needs and feelings.

With the encouragement of Gary and Cole, Carter started bringing his homework along on outings, and asking questions of his mentors to help him better understand the subject. Soon, Carter realized that finishing his homework and doing well in school would help him do well in his life after high school.

Gary and Cole’s consistent presence and gentle – but constant – pushing have also helped Carter become very dedicated to projects he is passionate about. He has always loved hockey, and going to hockey games with Cole and Gary is one of his favorite activities they do because he enjoys the bonding and ‘guy time,’ but he has also developed a passion for playing hockey.

When he started playing, Carter wasn’t always the best player out there, but Gary and Cole made sure he understood that his skill level wasn’t what was most important – that his passion and commitment to the team and to getting better would get him farther than skill. Now, he’s a leader on his high school hockey team. He encourages his teammates, and understands that hockey is more about team than individual goals and assists. He is a good sport, and the first in line for post-game handshakes or to tell an opposing player they did a great job.

As his love of hockey has grown, Carter has become more involved locally, volunteering with youth teams in the area. He’s even recently started to express interest in going to college to become a coach so that he can help kids get better at – and enjoy – the game he loves.

Along with becoming more involved in hockey, with Gary and Cole’s persistent guidance, Carter has had a part-time job since he was 14, and he has grown his role in his local Boy Scout troop. He is currently working towards his Eagle Scout badge, which Cole says signifies more than just an accomplishment – it “mirrors his resilience and unwavering integrity, driven by his desire to make a positive impact on society.”

While Carter credits Cole and Gary for helping him learn to be a responsible and confident young adult, both of the Stang men are quick to credit Carter with teaching them several life lessons as well.

“Carter has taught me to be a better person.,” Gary said. “Carter holds me accountable and expects a lot out of me. Carter and I know that if you put in the work, good things will happen. Carter reminds me of that when I need to hear it most.”

“Within our extended family, Carter isn’t just a participant; he’s an integral part of our lives,” Cole added. “His genuine care for our well-being, his attentive ear, and his curiosity about our passions shine a light on his empathetic nature. Carter embodies the core values of trust, loyalty, kindness, and courage, setting an inspiring example not just for our match but for the essence of the Big Brothers program itself.”

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