Five years ago, the matches began. Adults and young people were paired up through newly minted Mentor Superior.
The nonprofit organization is committed to placing positive adults in the lives of youth in need of a mentor. Since it began, Mentor Superior has served more than 70 youth in Superior.
Today, 45 youngsters are paired with adult mentors through the program. They go to movies, swim, ride trains, hike, visit museums and play basketball together, learning from each other.
"For every positive role model in a kid's life, they grow to be better citizens, better students," said Ryan Yingling, chairman of the Mentor Superior advisory board.
Like the teachers, coaches and friends of Yingling's youth, these adult mentors help shape young people into adults.
"Community coming together to help these kids is really what we're all about," said Yingling.
He stressed the program been successful because mentors, donors and supporters have stepped up at every turn.
"It's been a pretty amazing, rewarding experience," Yingling said. "It's been a quick five years."
Mentor Superior is inviting the community to celebrate its milestone during a free fall festival 1-4 p.m. Saturday on Barker's Island. Stop by for lunch, a K9 demonstration, games, hay rides, a DJ, face painting and the chance to see specialized vehicles — from construction equipment and an emergency response boat to a police car and fire truck — up close.
"We want to say thank you to the city of Superior, the United Way, everybody who's helped us through the years," Yingling said.
"We hope the community will come out and celebrate with us," said board member Mary Tripp.
Saturday's festival is also a chance to learn more about the program and possibly volunteer. There are 30 children currently waiting for a mentor.
The benefits flow both ways.
"For me, it's a really positive thing," said mentor and advisory board member John Kiel. "What it does is it strengthens the community one or two people at a time."
While Mentor Superior offers monthly activities and discounts to local attractions, mentors can also use everyday moments to connect.
Kiel and his mentee, Adam, have cheered together at sporting events and shared fishing adventures. One day a week, they spend the afternoon cooking and eating dinner with Kiel's family. Then the pair steps outside to throw a baseball around or shoot hoops.
Through it all, they're connecting.
"We talk about school, we talk about bullying and we talk about getting along with people," said Kiel, a Superior police captain.
Adam has people who love and care for him, the police captain said, but he doesn't have that adult male role model in his life. Male mentors, in particular, are in high demand.
"We need men that are willing and able to spend a little bit of time with a teen," Kiel said. "Your time is very important and it's invaluable to youth. If you can give them individual attention, it might be the best thing they had in years."
Tripp has enjoyed watching the relationship between her partner, Geof Wendorf, and his mentee, Brayden, grow over the past four years. They were paired together when Brayden was 5 and have been sharing escapades ever since.
"There's a picture of the two of them on the Timber Twister (a Duluth roller coaster)," Tripp said. "I don't know which is having more fun."
Sometimes, all they need is a good book.
"That little boy loves to read," Tripp said. "They will sit at Barnes and Noble, and read books, talk about history."
People talk about wanting to make a difference in the community, Tripp said. Mentor Superior is the type of organization that puts boots on the ground.
"It doesn't take that much, just being with a kid a couple hours a month," Yingling said. "They know someone is there, present and really listening. It makes a huge difference."
Mentor Superior has one full-time coordinator and is actively pursuing grants and other funding options for a second. They'll get a financial boost from an annual Superior event.
Trends Day Spa and Salon has chosen Mentor Superior as the recipient of proceeds from its 10th and final Black and White Affair, which runs 6-9 p.m. Oct. 20 at Barker's Island Inn. Tickets are available at Trends, 823 Belknap St., Suite 119.
Past Black and White Affairs have supported Superior Public Museums, Center Against Sexual and Domestic Abuse, anti-bullying efforts and Hunger Takes No Holiday.
"Every year it seems like it gets better," said Trends owner Julie Nelson.
Two mentors shared information about the program with Trends staff after Mentor Superior was selected. The presentation made an impact.
"Everyone was crying, it was so touching," said Jamie Engel with Trends. "A few of us here have already applied to be a mentor."
Nelson said it opened their eyes to the fact that there are children who need that positive adult role model in their lives.