Menasha, WI -- Third grader McKaylie Niemuth looks forward to lunchtime. Once a week, she gets a special visit from Erin Severson who serves as her mentor through the Best Friends of Neenah-Menasha organization.
Severson says, "I really like kids and everything like that, and my profession doesn't really allow me to have a lot of interaction with them or anything. I work for a credit union, so I mean this is a way to get involved in the community and help out some kids."
Severson stops by Spring Road Elementary School in Menasha each week to spend a 45 minute lunch period with McKaylie. Whether they play a board game, do homework or just talk, their time together is memorable.
"We just have fun together, and I think that just really builds our relationship," said Severson.
"Every time she has to leave she says, 'I wish I couldn't go back to work. I wish I could spend more time with you,'" said McKaylie. "It makes me feel great."
Best Friends of Neenah-Menasha was founded in 1973. Last year, they served nearly 500 children between the ages of 5 and 18.
"Many are from single parent environments. They're really children that could just benefit from having another adult in their life," explains board member Michelle Meyer. "And if they don't have that, they're more likely to be incarcerated. They're more likely to be victims of abuse."
Right now there are 75 children on a waiting list, so more mentors are needed.
"They just have to have a heart for children, and there are people that raise their hands and say, 'I want to help. I want to make a difference,'" said Meyer.
Severson sees the positive impact the program has had on McKaylie.
She says, "It's great to see her excel in school."
McKaylie is already paying it forward.
"Sometimes people have hard times with something and I ask, 'What's wrong?' They'll tell me, and I'll help them work it out," said McKaylie.
It's people helping people.
"It's fulfilling to me to see her grow," Severson said.
A special bond that will last a lifetime.
Best Friends of Neenah-Menasha offers six different programs. To keep them running, they're holding their 9th annual "Strike It Up for Kids" bowl-a-thon in April. To learn more about the fundraiser and mentoring opportunities, click here.