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Danecdotes: North Stars seeking mentor families for young athletes

Mentor families can invest as much time into being mentors as they would like. Some invite players on excursions to the bowling alley or to play laser tag, but others simply invite the athletes over for dinner or to watch the Vikings. Photo Illustration

The Breezy Point North Stars' season will not begin for several more weeks, but the team is looking to the community for help.

The North American Tier-3 Hockey League team has a roster composed of young athletes between the ages of 16 and 20, many of whom are not from the area and spend a large portion of the year living in the dorms next to the Breezy Point Arena.

In an effort to engrain the athletes into the community, and to have them socialize with individuals other than their teammates, the organization is looking for mentor families to interact with them.

"It's kind of a home away from home," said Bambi Brown, whose family has mentored several North Stars athletes. "You open your home to one of the boys so if they need anything, they can call you and they can have some connection here. Anytime we have Sunday dinners, we invite them over."

Deb Peterson, volunteer coordinator of the North Stars' mentor family program, said there are some families participating as mentors, but the team could use several more - ideally, one family for every member of the roster.

"Some mentors have done a really nice job," Peterson said. "Some players have come from overseas ... and they can't get home over the holidays. One family, for instance, mentored two players from Sweden, and they became very close. The players stayed with them over the holidays."

Mentor families can invest as much time into being mentors as they would like. Some invite players on excursions to the bowling alley or to play laser tag, but others simply invite the athletes over for dinner or to watch the Vikings.

"Anything you would do with your own family, you can include them so they have someplace to go other than the dorms," Brown said. "(The athletes) love coming over. They like having a place to go, and they like having us come to games and cheer for them on a personal level - not just as a fan."

In addition to volunteering her time as a coordinator, Peterson has served as a mentor for several North Stars over the years.

"I think it has been really fun," Peterson said. "You get to know the team - these kids come from all over the place. You develop a real relationship with them ... It's just fun to have these kids over for dinner and get to know them. It is a good experience, and you help support the team in the process."

Moreover, according to Brown, being a mentor can bring a new face into your circle while teaching a valuable lesson.

"It's like having another child and, more importantly, it has shown my own children that you should extend yourself outside of your own family to those in need," Brown said. "My kids call them their 'hockey brothers.' We will see them at the grocery store or after a game, and the boys really take to their mentor families as if my kids were their little brothers ... I just love watching them interact."

Those interested in becoming a member family are encouraged to contact Peterson at 218-232-2434 or by email at walleyecatchera@outlook.com.

"Give it a try," Brown said. "These boys just need a home-cooked meal now and again. It is not a lot to give of yourself. It's easy and it's fun. You get to go watch games and be a part of the community. It's wonderful for everyone."

Dan Determan

Staff Writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper.