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Building Connections, Growing Together

During the month of October, the Willmar Area Women’s Fund granted $2,500 and partnered with Woodland Centers, and many other local community organizations, to offer the “Kids Connection Experience”. This free event was offered to youth and their families residing in Kandiyohi County, to come out on Tuesday afternoons and experience many different activities including games, food, music, and more.

During a recent “Lunch and Learn” informational session on November 14, the Steering Committee had the opportunity to listen to the updates post the events held in October. Kim Madsen, Director of Community Impact at Woodland Centers, shared about the importance of offering this experience, and how impactful it was to our community and youth. Many positive connections and relationships were created by bringing people together and connecting them to a variety of resources. While the event was geared toward youth, it truly was a multigenerational experience. It not only fostered positive mental health experiences but became an opportunity to be a bridge builder for many individuals who attended the event.

“While this event was aimed at kids, it ended up being multigenerational and connected more individuals than we ever imagined,” Kim stated. She went on to tell a story about a man she met at the event, who ended up bringing his children every week because of the support and positive connections he experienced. “He walked past my booth the first Tuesday, and I could tell by the look on his face that he was distraught. I asked him how he was, and he said “Not great. I’m nervous. My daughter comes home from a mental health facility next week, and I’m not sure how it is going to go. I feel lost and don’t think I can handle it on my own.” Kim proceeded to share about how she asked him if he had heard about the services at Woodland Centers, such as their Mental Health Urgent Care, and his eyes opened. He said he had not and was grateful that she shared this information with him.

The following Tuesdays came around, and the man and both his children, including his daughter, continued to come back to Kids Connection. Kim resumed, “Each week I would see him, and I asked how he was doing…he kept sharing that he was good, and things were going well.” Kim elaborated, “Yet, as the weeks continued, I noticed his growing confidence and that he had a smile on his face. He told me he was grateful to have met me and that if matters worsened, he knew where to go because he had a resource now.”

Many organizations hosted booths at the event. Kim shared that it wasn’t about marketing our services to these individuals, but sharing with them about the resources that are available to them in our community. Kid’s Connection Experience was more than just supporting our youth and offering positive experiences, it connected people with local resources that can help support them through whatever path they are on or hardships they are facing. Kim stated, “It’s about offering them support…by offering them a hand and saying, we are here for you.”

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