OWATONNA — For years, members of the community have been calling for a Friday “happy hour” option for the annual Bowl for Kids’ Sake event for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Minnesota.

The mentorship agency listened this year, and it was a tremendous success.

“We will definitely do that again,” said Michelle Redman, the executive director for BBBS. “It is the first of many Fridays to come.”

The event benefited from the new night in more than one way, especially considering the impending weather Saturday faced. Redman said that the Saturday morning portion of event was down in numbers because of the uncertain blizzard conditions, but that Friday night was like she had never seen before.

“We had just a fantastic turnout Friday,” she added. “It was so much fun and so busy. We couldn’t believe how great it went.”

One of the biggest highlights of the event came from the support shown by the Owatonna School District. Last year, the entire district raised $2,000 for BBBS at Bowl for Kids’ Sake. This year, the district crushed their previous record.

“One school raised more than what all the schools raised last year combined,” Redman said, in reference to Washington Elementary bringing in more than $2,000. “The school district as a whole raised $7,000.”

Another first for the event in Owatonna included sponsoring ten children from the area who are on the waitlist to be matched with a Big. By Saturday morning, three adults signed on with the intention to serve as a child’s mentor.

“This is the first time we’ve tried this, we haven’t recruited at the event before, so any new Big is great for us,” Redman added. “And for the people that didn’t sign up at that moment, they heard the message.”

Currently, 180 kids in the four county area served by BBBS of Southern Minnesota are on the waitlist, with half of those kids from the Owatonna area alone.

“It boggles my mind that there is still so much of a need out there,” said Tom Hyland, who attended the event Friday night with his Little, Ricky. “It’s so much more than you think.”

Ricky had been on the waiting list for a community-based match for three years before being matched to Hyland and his wife. Though Ricky is a bit shy, he is quick to agree that the kids out there on the waiting list would have a great time being a part of the BBBS program.

“It may sound cliché, but if you have a feeling that something is missing from your life, consider being a Big,” said Hyland.

Bowl for Kids’ Sake will continue this Friday at J&J Bowling Center in Faribault, beginning at 4 p.m. Redman estimated that the current amount raised is about $40,000 of the $65,000 goal and is hopeful that the goal will be surpassed this weekend.

Reach Reporter Annie Harman at 444-2378 or Follow her on Twitter @OPPAnnie.

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