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Hank Hanten and his "Little Brother" often play basketball at The Centre in New Richmond during the winter months. During the other seasons they can be found hiking at Willow River State Park, playing golf, catching a movie at the local theater or ringing bells for the Salvation Army.

Big Brothers, Sisters sought in St. Croix County

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When Hank Hanten's three daughters became adults, he found himself with more time on his hands. He volunteered at various nursing homes and when the opportunity to become a mentor presented itself, Hanten took it.

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Hanten, a Hudson resident who volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Wisconsin, went through an interview process and background check before being placed with a boy from Somerset.

"We have a ball together," Hanten said.

Generally, the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization asks for a one-year commitment to the program. Hanten and his Somerset "Little" have been meeting for a year and a half. Hanten said he plans to continue the relationship until "he doesn't want to hang out with me anymore."

Hanten and his 12-year-old Little said they like to switch up activities and take turns deciding what they'll do.

"He made me try golf," said Hanten's Little, who said he probably wouldn't have tried it without Hanten.

The two also spent a day in Eau Claire for Aviation Day.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters program is designed to serve area youth who face some sort of adversity, whether it's those living in single parent homes, growing up in poverty or coping with parental incarceration. The program is designed to build confidence, create better relationships and create higher aspirations in youth.

According to the Big Brothers Big Sisters website, 67 percent of former Littles surveyed agree that their Big played a role in their decision to attend college. For Hanten's Little the relationship has already helped him make Student of the Month at his school.

"I suggested he use his please and thank yous," Hanten said. "That kind of thing always helps."

Hanten said he encourages everyone to become a Big.

"You'll definitely enjoy it," he said. "I only wish I would have started doing it earlier. I wish he (Hanten's Somerset Little) was my second or third Little."

Hanten said it was a little awkward in the beginning when he and his Little were still getting to know each other, but it didn't take long to break down those barriers. He said he hopes his relationship lasts a lifetime.

"I know some Bigs who still talk to their Littles 20 years later," he said.

The need for Bigs, especially Big Brothers, is great. Only about a third of volunteers are men and about two-thirds of the children waiting to be placed with a Big are boys, according to the Big Brothers Big Sisters website.

Those who want to learn more about the program are encouraged to attend a no-obligation "Big Info" event, which will feature snacks, stories from current volunteers and information about the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. The events are offered to anyone who has thought about volunteering or just wants to learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters.

For more information on Big Brothers Big Sisters or the Big Info events, call 715-381-7289 or email info@bbbsnw.org.

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