Feb 5, 2016

Hula hoops raise awareness, funds for Cody mentoring

A hula-hoop competition last week brought lots of smiles and laughter as youngsters and college students tried to keep their hoops looping around their waists while performing other tasks.

More importantly, the event raised awareness and money for the Bright Futures Mentoring Program in Cody.

Northwest College women’s soccer players (from front) Caddie Lewis of Idaho Falls, Idaho, Taylor Gregory of Gillette and Katie Hoff of Billings navigate an obstacle course while hula hooping on Jan. 28 at the Cody Auditorium. Cody News Co. photo by Ilene Olson
Bright Futures Mentoring is a home-grown concept consisting of six different mentoring programs benefitting youth in Cody. The program’s main goal is to match school-age children in need of supportive mentoring to caring role models appropriate to their needs.

Executive director Michelle Tidball said the one-on-one mentoring program was created 16 years ago through Park County Mental Health, which later became Yellowstone Behavioral Health. Two years later, Bright Futures went out on its own as a nonprofit organization.

Today, Bright Futures Mentoring works with about 270 youth each month, Tidball said.

“We’re always growing, depending on the needs of our community,” she said. “We are not federally funded; all support (is) local.”

Since its inception, the program has expanded to include adult mentors in schools, high school students mentoring elementary students in schools and older high school students mentoring new high school students.

Tori Lewis of Meeteetse, a member of the NWC rodeo team, throws a loop at a dummy while trying (unsuccessfully) to keep a hula hoop in motion — something the whole team found difficult. Cody News Co. photo by Ilene Olson
In addition, a self-esteem program helps students focus on good friendships and stay away from bad influences, develop good grooming habits and living by the Code of the West, she said.

Tidball said she invites Northwest College rodeo team to do a presentation each year about the Code of the West, including being true to your word. Their presentation always is inspirational and interesting for the kids in the program, she said.

The NWC rodeo team also participates in the annual hula-hoop competition. This year, the NWC soccer team joined in the fun.

Last week’s third annual competition was timed to coincide with National Mentoring Month in January. Its primary goal was to raise awareness, but it also served to raise money for Bright Futures Mentoring through sponsorships and donations.

“One of our kids raised $600,” Tidball said.


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