Stephanie Pierce (left) is the 2015 Big Buddy of the Year. She is pictured with her current Little Buddy, Ella Van Wyhe.

Big Buddies of Rock County honors 2015 mentor

Pierce named 2015 Big Buddy of the Year

Steen’s Marilyn Van Wyhe used three simple words to describe her granddaughter Ella’s feelings toward her Big Buddy Stephanie Pierce.

“She loves her.”

In addition to the feelings from the Luverne Elementary fourth-grader, those within the Big Buddies of Rock County Program think so too and recently named Pierce the program’s 2015 Big Buddy of the Year.

For the past seven years, Pierce has volunteered her time as a one-on-one mentor to a school-aged child fifth grade or younger. Pierce and Ella Van Wyhe have been paired since 2012.

“She is very good with her and very in tune with what Ella likes,” her grandmother Marilyn added. “Ella is a ‘girly girl.’”

Pierce has plenty of experience with young girls.

She and her husband, Travis, have three daughters, Paige Paquette, 23, Abby, 21, and Samantha, 16. Paquette is also a Big Buddy and Abby plans to be involved as a Big Buddy soon.

“It is like my whole family is part of the Big Buddy program,” Pierce said.

Each of her family members has joined in some of the activities completed beyond the regularly scheduled Big Buddy/Little Buddy events.

Those activities include art projects, baking, attending sporting events, watching movies, doing homework and playing outside.

“Last year we made her dad (Justin Van Wyhe) a tie blanket for Christmas,” Pierce said.

In addition to the activities she does with her Little Buddy, Pierce is program director for Sanford’s chemical dependency department in Luverne, and she coordinates the every-other-month activities for the Rock Youth program. Rock Youth, which targets middle school students, began in 2013.

“Travis is just as much involved in this group as I am,” Pierce said.

Rock Youth is an extension of the Big Buddies program involving group activities such as gym nights, girls’ night, guys’ night and dance.

There is no one-on-one mentoring; instead, adults serve as role models during the activities that include educational presentations. Presentation topics include respect, bullying and self-esteem.

Pierce said her involvement in Big Buddies began seven years ago because she enjoys spending time with young people.

“I love kids,” said the LHS Class of 1987 graduate.


About Big Buddies

Big Buddies of Rock County promotes positive family and community values by mentoring children one-on-one. It is hoped the connection enhances a child’s quality of life, character development and education. It is open to all kindergarten through fifth-grade students in Rock County.

Mentors and their children generally spend one to two hours together weekly.

Anyone who is interested in becoming a Big Buddy or who knows a child that could benefit from a mentor can call 507-283-9165.

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