News & Stories
By Annie Harvieux, Intern
One of the Loppet’s primary objectives is instilling a lifelong love of outdoor sports in youth from all backgrounds. However, it’s far easier to find a cross-section of the youth population that is hardworking and athletic than to find one in which everyone can afford the equipment, transportation, and coaching that contribute to a healthy outdoor lifestyle. The Loppet works hard to make sure Minneapolis youth have the resources and support necessary for an outdoor lifestyle by providing many programs, including elementary school Minne-Loppet programs, middle-school teams (Anwtin and Nellie Stone Johnson), and, in by far the most personal way, the Loppet Mentor Program.
The Loppet Mentor Program, in partnership with Bolder Options (a leader in mentoring services), pairs an adult member of the Loppet community with a young athletes on the middle school teams. Together, the two strangers embark on a year-long journey in which, for two hours weekly, the pair practices outdoor sports and grows to have a meaningful relationship. Mentor Tim Stark says of his relationship with mentee Bryce Holte, “It’s been continuing to grow. It was a little awkward at first because he was a little shy in the beginning and it was hard to break the ice, but now it’s great to talk to him as we do things and have conversations about what’s going on in our lives; it’s a very enjoyable thing.”
Mentor pairs bond in conversation and teamwork during their two-hour weekly activities. Not only do the mentees get a role model and supportive adult in their lives, the mentors are given the opportunity to learn and grow as people as well through getting to know a child. Tim says Bryce is “Energetic… he’s 13 years old, he’s similar to any other 13 year old boy, he doesn’t like to be still, he likes to be moving and doing exciting things, he’s a great kid and with some things he does I can see he’s a really candid individual as well.”
Mentee Rosario Kantar says she likes her mentor, Emily Johnson, and that “if it’s sunny out, we’ll go for a bike ride or canoeing or running,” but that she’s had other experiences with her mentor too: “When it’s bad weather we’ll go to the Science Museum or Como Zoo.” Additionally, Bryce Holte mentioned fishing with his mentor, adding to the list of life experiences mentees are having besides exercise. These experiences that don’t necessarily pertain to high-level training, but are integral to a main objective of the Mentor Program: connecting participating youth with supportive, kind adults, and through that connection offer new life experiences.
The Foundation and mentors provide transportation, equipment, and activity fees, easing the load from mentees’ families. Mentor-Mentee pairs are also encouraged to participate in Loppet Foundation events together, like City of Lakes Loppet winter events or, more recently, the UCare Tri-Loppet. “We did the Tri-Loppet,” Bryce said, referring to his mentor, Tim, “We paddled a canoe together. It was fun.” Tim agreed, stating that “it was a blast. It was neat to be able to do that with him and push him to do his best. I’ve never done a triathlon like that before, and to be able to go through those stages was a neat thing.” Though many adults would be intimidated by a triathlon, especially one with the rugged trail course of the Loppet, many mud-splattered children could be seen at the Tri-Loppet finish line amidst the grown-ups. Both mentor and mentee benefit from racing in a pair: through the mentor program they became one another’s canoe partners, training companions, and race-day buddies.
“The mentor program in general has been a great opportunity for the kids who are doing it,” says Stark, “I’ve really enjoyed being a part of it, and the kids who are in it normally wouldn’t get those opportunities whether it’s for financial or other reasons.” From zoos to triathlons to chats about life in a fishing boat, the Loppet Mentor Program brings together members of the Minneapolis community to change lives in many ways. If you’re interested in getting involved with the Loppet Mentor Program, visit www.loppet.org for details or email Anthony at firstname.lastname@example.org.