Gala celebrates Kids ’n Kinship

Event features Twin Cities musician Tim Mahoney

Lanny Stapp’s vision of retirement was never a golf course.

He wanted to make a significant difference, and became a Kids ’n Kinship volunteer, a decision that has given him an opportunity to be involved in the lives of three young men who grew up in single-family homes.

Stapp’s first experience with one of them, a Lakeville North student being raised by his grandmother after his parents abandoned their children, highlighted the importance of his involvement.

“The first thing he said when he got in the car was, ‘So, you really showed up.’ ” Stapp said.

Kids ’n Kinship matches adult volunteers, individuals, couples or families, with children ages 5 to 16 from single-family homes and in need of additional support and encouragement.

The nonprofit mentoring organization serves Apple Valley, Burnsville, Eagan, Farmington, Lakeville and Rosemount with the goal of having children form friendships with responsible, consistent role models.

Celebrating the more than 3,000 local youths who have been enriched through the program, Kids ’n Kinship will hold its second annual gala at Crystal Lake Golf Club 4:30-7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6.

Kids ’n Kinship Executive Director Jan Belmore said the gala last year to recognize its 40th anniversary was so well-received they decided to do it again.

“The thing I love about our program is that it’s preventative,” Belmore said. “It brings a lot of joy into children’s lives and our volunteers are people who have a heart to volunteer with children. They are the best in the world.”

At the gala, Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom will serve as master of ceremonies, and local musician Tim Mahoney will perform.

Guests will be served an elegant sit-down dinner and may participate in a silent auction, wine cork pull and purse tag pull. The program will include a testimonial by a young adult who was once mentored through Kids ’n Kinship.

“There are so many great stories,” Belmore said. “What they all have in common is that they start with a child, that for whatever reason, is experiencing isolation, distress in the family, their social skills are not good and they need to build friendships.”

Mentors are asked to meet with their mentee once per week. Training is provided, and matches are made through a thorough screening process involving both parties.

Stapp said he has taken his mentees to the cabin, taught them to water ski, shown them how to fix cars and shown them how to manage finances.

“Sometimes, it’s just being there,” Stapp said. “Many times they don’t have any regular routine in their life. A lot of it is just showing up as opposed to going to Disney World.”

Kids ’n Kinship is holding information sessions for people to find out how the program works.

The sessions are at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24, at the Galaxie Library in Apple Valley and at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 28, at the Wescott Library in Eagan.

Registration for the sessions is being accepted on the organization’s website, www.kidsnkinship.org.

Sponsorship opportunities, information and $40 tickets for the gala are available from www.kidsnkinship2013gala.eventbrite.com.

Gala tickets for a table of eight are available at the discounted rate of $280.