Monday, September 28, 2009

Benefits of mentoring for adults

Chuck Slocum challenged adults 55 and over to mentor children (9/21/09). He noted about 300,000 Minnesota children are on road to failure if adults don't help. He made a strong case for the critical need to mentor “throw away kids.” What he didn’t say was how adults can benefit by their involvement as mentors.

Think about it, the only thing better than going to a baseball game is taking along a youngster and helping him or her learn to understand and enjoy the game. Isn’t teaching a kid how to make a meal better than going out to eat on your own? Being perhaps the one enthusiastic fan a child has to watch him/her play their game is far more rewarding than watching millionaire athletes play on TV. And finally, one of the greatest benefits to mentoring is that after you’ve enjoyed time together you get to bring the child home. It is like having the fun of being a grandparent, without all of the parental responsibilities.

It may well be that us older adults need kids just as much, if not more, than they need us.

The above posting was a letter of the day in the StarTribune.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Successful 10th annual golf benefit for Kinship

Over 90 golfers enjoyed golfing on a ideal summer's day September 14th at Paynesville's Koronis Hills Golf Course. Not only did they enjoy a round of golf they also raised $25,000 to benefit Kinship's mentoring program. This was Steve Peterson and Mary Wilken's 10th year of sponsoring this event. The golf event is a tribute to Steve's dad, Lloyd, who farmed for many years in Paynesville. A special aspect of the day was when one of the golfers, Jeremy Willner, drove in a hole in one.

Hats off to Steve and Mary for hosting this successful event! As always a wonderful spirit of hospitality was evidenced as participants not only enjoyed golf but also lunch, supper and a brief program. Steve and Mary's efforts have raised about $200,000 over these past 10 years. Pictured are Steve and Mary along with Nancy Wagner (Kinship staff at center).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Over the top across the bottom

Last Saturday watching a high school cross country meet I observed a young lady cheering on the runners who was wearing navy terry cloth shorts which had written across them in red lettering “sexy”.

Quickly I thought what was she thinking wearing such shorts at such a public event? I then wondered about how her parents could have let her out of the door. Finally I settled on the question most concerning, how is it that we allow stores in our community to sell such clothing to our children and youth?

The United States of America is known across the world for its freedoms. Sadly, without an equal dose of responsibility those freedoms can lead to decay and downfall. I think that most adults would agree that selling shorts with cutie and sexy across the bottoms is irresponsible. To whom are these merchandisers accountable? I would invite you to join me in stopping by stores that sell such merchandise, ask to speak to the store manager and letting him/her know you are uncomfortable with their practice of selling such clothing to our kids. Then write to the company headquarters as a follow up.

We must ask ourselves when we see this kind of thing is how can adults, you and me, allow this kind of irresponsible marketing to occur to our children? Let's let our dissatisfaction be known, the kids are counting on us.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mentoring is vital for the economy

An experienced leader in business, Chuck Slocum, wrote a challenging article in today's StarTribune, "Mentors are needed so fewer kids will fail". He invites business leaders and others to respond to the challenge of "Eliminating Throwaway Kids". It is estimated that more than half of the 60,000 kindergartners entering school in Minnesota are not fully prepared. Sadly, about 25% will be unable to catch up. Without intervention, such as mentoring, the cost to society over time often includes unemployment, crime, drug dependency and unwanted children. Mr. Slocum points out that of the more than 5 million residents within the state of Minnesota about 1 million are 18 or younger. Tragically, we can predict that about 300,000 of these children and youth are on a failure tract. One business leader commented "We in Minnesota can't afford to have hundreds of thousands of potential new workers shelved when we need them the most."

The article also noted that it costs a family about $220,000 to raise one child from birth to adulthood. Yet, 40 million Americans are living below the poverty line of $20,000 a year income for a family of four. This includes about 15 million children.

Thanks to Mr. Slocum for raising this significant concern and opportunity. We need people from the business and faith communities to respond to the challenge. Our common futures depend on it. If you are interested in getting the word out about mentoring within your business or place of worship please contact Kinship today,, 612-588-4655.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

School fees and the common good

As the parent of a high school freshman, I was stunned to learn kids at Robbinsdale Armstrong High School must shell out a $200 fee to participate on an athletic team and $100 fee for an activity, such as chess club, debate or even the privilege of participating in a play. These fees don’t include any of the out of pocket expense for equipment, instruments or trips. So, if you’ve got a particularly athletic or musical child, it could easily cost you $600/year per child in fees alone. Should you have more than one child, do the math, it quickly adds up to a princely sum. Armstrong is not alone with student activity fees. These fees are increasingly commonplace in schools everywhere.

As one of five kids in my family growing up in Minneapolis, and attending the old Central High, fees for sports would have most certainly precluded my participation. As a shy kid with little confidence I needed encouragement, not discouragement. I’m thankful that “back in the day” my family didn’t have to pay for my cross country running, cross country skiing, or track. Like so many others, sports and music were highlights for me in high school, college, and beyond.

Don’t we want as many of our kids as possible to be involved with plays and sports after school, especially those who might not have many resources? With childhood obesity becoming epidemic rather than putting up road blocks with fees we should be doing all we can to encourage activity. While I know that there are scholarships for kids on reduced or free lunches, I’m certain many would not feel comfortable asking for such assistance.

User fees are a form of taxes for things that until recently we paid for collectively, understanding that we were supporting the common good. Some churches are now attaching fees for kids attending Sunday school and confirmation programs. Remember drivers education, that used to be included in public school? Not any longer, now students/parents better be prepared to shell out $350 or more for private lessons. Our belief in collectively contributing to the common good has been dramatically eroded.

I hope that we will reconsider this trend toward user fees and once again support young people's activities with our taxes. Let’s do all we can to encourage, not discourage, our kids healthy development. It is for our common good.

This blog is also posted at the MinnPost online newspaper.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The incredible power of passion

They made it! After 23 days Gary Walters and his family made it from Brainerd to Washington DC rollerblading. Every year Gary does something well beyond his capabilities and yet, with overwhelming passion, he's able to achieve his goals.

Gary and family are a great reminder for me to lift up my goals a bit higher, beyond those things which are easily within my grasp. They also remind me of the value of fun and family time. What a great memory this will be for Gary, his wife Lisa (sag wagon), daughter Jessica (biking) and son Jackson (rollerblading) as they can recall an amazing journey which also raised funds and awareness for Kinship mentoring. I'm proud of Gary and his family and hope that it will inspire many others to either become mentors or support mentoring programs. Much like their journey, mentoring can be a tremendous life changing experience, with fun along the way!

Their journey is chronicled on Facebook.