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Boys just want to have fun: Perham Kinship mentor shares slice of life with mentee

Prairie Wind Middle School student Joe Goodman, front, and his Kinship mentor Gary Foss, of Perham, keep the focus on fun when spending time together. Marie Johnson/FOCUS

Joe Goodman went deer hunting for the first time this past fall.

The Perham 13-year-old and his mentor, Gary Foss, trekked through the hills and valleys of the Vergas woods on the second hunting weekend of the season, hoping to bag a big one—and have a little fun in the process.

As it turned out, the 'big one' got away, but that didn't stop Gary and Joe from having big fun anyway. Joe got to shoot a rifle for the first time since finishing firearms safety class, and he "took a little hair off" one deer before it escaped into the distance, Gary recalls.

Joe says the whole experience was a memorable one; he loved the views of the country landscape and just "felt great" about being in the Great Outdoors.

Gary has been Joe's mentor for nearly two years. After moving to Perham from Roseau, Minn., four years ago, he joined the local Kinship mentoring program "to make a difference in kids' lives," he says, and he feels like he's doing that now with Joe.

The pair get together once or twice a month to go fishing, bowling, roller skating or any number of other fun activities. They sometimes watch movies, and they try to participate in some of Kinship's scheduled group events, such as kayak building this past fall and an upcoming ice fishing trip this winter.

Joe describes Gary as "a great guy" who's "not bossy; he's strong, and he knows how to have fun."

"I really am just a big kid," Gary admits. "I may be 54, but I'm just a kid at heart."

Gary describes Joe as "quiet, but amazing. He's very athletic, and he can dance... He's also good at roller skating. He's out most Fridays, tearing it up (at the Perham Area Community Center's weekly roller skating events)."

They both describe each other as "fun," and fun seems to be the overriding theme of their friendship. That's a big deal, especially to Joe, who says fun is something that might be lacking in his life if it weren't for Gary.

Joe is one of 52 kids currently matched up with an adult mentor through Kinship of the Perham Area's one-on-one mentoring program. The program's goal is to improve young lives "by establishing and nurturing quality relationships with caring adult volunteers to promote stability, support, friendship and community."

Kinship's local director, Jill Shipman, said that in addition to the 52 kids already matched up, there are another 16 from around Perham who are currently on a waiting list for a mentor.

Kinship offers one-on-one as well as group mentoring activities for boys and girls, and a Reading Buddies program that brings adults into elementary school classrooms to read with young students over their lunch breaks.

In all, Kinship serves more than 200 children across Otter Tail County.

Shipman said Kinship is "always looking for people to share their talents for group activities; painters, carvers, bakers, etc., we always need people to lead different activities." Mentors, too, are of course needed in order to eliminate that waiting list.

To become a mentor, or for more information about Kinship, visit, call 218-346-7102, or email

Those who can't commit to volunteering but who still wish to support Kinship's efforts can participate in fundraisers for the program. There are two coming up in Perham: a soup cook-off contest and Kinship's biggest annual fundraiser, the Freezin' for a Reason Polar Plunge.

More about the soup cook-off

Shipman says Dean's Country Market, as well as all the major restaurants in Perham, are participating; they'll be entering their best soups into this contest fundraiser, with trophies awarded for People's Choice and Judge's Choice winners.

The public is invited to sample the soups for free, and then chip in a $5 donation to vote for their favorite. The sampling will begin at 5:30 p.m. at The Cactus on Tuesday, Jan. 31. The Cactus will also provide non-contest soup and bread that evening to those who leave free will offerings for Kinship.

More about the plunge

This year's polar plunge will start at 1 p.m. at Zorbaz on Little Pine Lake on Saturday, Feb. 11. As in the past, there will be prizes awarded for the best costumes worn by jumpers.

New to this year's event will be a bean bag tournament, starting at 2 p.m. Shipman said Kinship is looking to set a Guinness world record for the biggest bean bag tournament ever held on ice. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top three ranking teams. The cost to participate is $30 per team; teams consist of two people. Registration forms are available online at (follow the "forms" link).

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Detroit Lakes Tribune as a reporter and magazine editor in November 2017 after several years of writing and editing at the Perham Focus. She lives in Detroit Lakes with her husband, Dan, their 3-year-old son and baby daughter, and their yellow Lab.

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