Herald JournalHerald Journal, Jan. 12, 2004

Sisters in a different way

By Jody Anderson

Watching Alicia Painschab and Lisa Hruby cavort across the ice skating rink, it is plain to see there is a special relationship.

The gliding and whirling, slipping and falling are accompanied by the music of laughter, and in Hruby's case, fits of uncontrollable giggling.

Theirs is a success story of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, which was re-established in Wright County February 2002.

Painschab, 23, a 1998 Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted high school graduate with an associate of arts degree in landscaping and horticulture, and Hruby, an irrepressible 9-year-old girl from Dassel, were matched in October of 2002, and have been fast friends since then.

"Kids are getting involved in the wrong things," Painschab said. "I've always wanted to help out."

The first couple visits were overseen by a coordinator until everyone felt comfortable, then the girls began doing activities on their own.

Both are outgoing and active individuals who enjoy a wide range of activities three to four times a month, among them: hiking, bowling, fishing, roller skating, ice skating, and baking.

Big Brothers Big Sisters are very supportive, sending weekly emails with ideas for outings, and several times a year organizing larger group activities. Recently they participated in a Hawaiian bowling party, and Painschab and Hruby won tickets to a Gopher football game; a first for both of them.

"It doesn't take much time or money," Painschab said. "It's a great experience."

Lisa's mom, Sandy Hruby, is an enthusiastic supporter of the association. The Hruby family has three adopted children: Tyler, 10, from Bulgaria, Lisa, 9, from Romania, and Joey, 2, from Minnesota.

"Lisa looks forward to each visit," Sandy commented. "It's a wonderful program."

With three small children in their home, the program has helped give Lisa Hruby some special attention.

"It's been a very positive way for Lisa to build an appropriate relationship with an adult outside our family," Sandy said. "Tyler is on a waiting list, but guys are harder to match. We need more men involved."

Individuals interested in Big Brothers and Sisters, for themselves or for their children, may contact the Wright County Coordinator, Heather Neenan toll free at 1-866-789-2557, or Shirley Olson, the HLWW school district coordinator, at 543-3471 ext. 205.

Online applications are available at www.bbbsa.org.

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