Best Friends Mentoring Program hosts annual Easter Bunny photos and seeks new mentors
DICKINSON - Although the snow-covered fields are making it feel like spring has not sprung yet, for those looking to get into the spirit, the Easter bunny will be hopping over to Prairie Hills Mall on Saturday, March 25, and again on Saturday, April 1 from 11 am to 3 pm.
Whether it’s the kids that want to meet the Easter bunny or a need for new family photos, the yearly event helps benefit the Best Friends Mentoring Program.
Bunny visits are free, and photos are priced at $20 for a digital print with the proceeds going to BFMP to fund a variety of things for the program from events to activities. BFMP works to provide adult mentors to children who may benefit from having positive adult influence and interaction in their lives.
The youth mentoring program seeks to provide the needed youth-adult interaction time, guidance and role modeling missing in children's lives. Funding the program can be challenging and as executive director, Angie Rabbitt explains, the nature of their work like providing opportunities and support is not exactly something that is tangible.
Rabbitt has had family members reach out with gratitude unable to put into words what the program has done for their child and teachers who have watched kids grow out of their shyness and into classroom leaders.
Although their services might not be something you can hold in your hand, they are certainly felt in the soul.
“It's that ongoing ripple effect and it affects their siblings and it might affect their parents and it affects the mentor. It makes you want to be a better person because now you have someone looking up to you,” Rabbitt said.
While the program has been profoundly impactful to some families, they are experiencing a high need for adult mentors as Rabbitt and the board president Caleb Burgard said.
“We always have a waiting list and right now it's growing,” the team said.
Between working with Badlands Human Services, DVRCC, and local schools, the program has seen an increase in referrals lately and is hoping to find mentors to become part of the program. Burgard explained that they are in need of male and female mentors who are willing to volunteer their time, which is just one hour once a week.
From ages 6 to 16 the program matches up a mentee with a mentor as a way to provide a positive role model to kids of all backgrounds. The program offers both a school-based and community-based option to those looking to become a mentor and the application is online.
A school-based mentor would meet with their mentee directly at their school doing everything from playing outside to helping with homework, whereas a community-based mentor has the opportunity to meet outside of the school oftentimes at the rec center or out to lunch.
The program has a match who is working on fixing up an old truck together and another group who goes fishing on Saturday mornings, all in an effort to impact the lives of kids in the community.
Both Rabbitt and Burgard are former mentors themselves who feel the program is a good and meaningful opportunity to volunteer and make a difference. It's not counseling or disciplinary, it's just being a friend and lending a listening ear Rabbitt said.
“It's just those little conversations and that one on one attention can kind of help motivate a kid to get through the week and sometimes that's the highlight of their week is the day they get to see their mentor…” Rabbitt said.
Rabbitt feels it would be unfair and nearly impossible to prove that having a mentor changed someone's life since there are an endless amount of factors, but she hopes to be at least a sliver of it.
“We just hope that this is one that is substantial and that really does have a good impact on them,” Rabbitt said.
The program recently moved office locations to 141 3rd St W where they are enjoying settling into.