For the first part of his life, Spencer Kloskin lived with his mother and grandmother and said he didn’t really have a relationship with his father, much less a father figure.
When he was 8 years old, he connected with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota — a mentoring network that makes meaningful, professionally supported matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”) — where he was matched with his Big Brother, Kenny Hendrickson.
Twenty-some years ago, before Spencer was born, Hendrickson became a Big Brother while a junior at St. Cloud State University, where he now serves as associate director of operations and facilities for residential life.
“The university had a presentation about Big Brothers Big Sisters and I was wowed by it,” Hendrickson said. “I signed up almost immediately. My then-Little Brother came to events with me. Anytime we would go to events, my Little Brother was the center of attention. And because I would take him with me, a lot of my friends became Big Brothers because they saw how exciting of a program it was and what an impact it had.”
After college, Hendrickson moved to Florida where he also volunteered as a Big Brother. He later moved back to Minnesota, and that’s when he met Kloskin and was matched as his Big Brother. That was 10 years ago.
“We have had the best relationship, the best impact,” Hendrickson said. “I can’t imagine not having Spencer in my life.”
About six months ago, Hendrickson’s sister-in-law passed away. Kloskin, 18, spent the day with Hendrickson and his family at the funeral.
“To know that he was there for me during a really big time in my life, when I was trying to console my brother and at the same time consoling myself and dealing with my own emotions, that’s how I knew I hit the jackpot with Spencer because brothers do things for brothers,” Hendrickson said.
That wasn’t the first tragedy the two had gone through together.
About six years ago, Kloskin was visiting a family friend with his mother. They had spent the night at the friend’s house and when Spencer woke up, he found his mother had died during the night.
“I was coming home from work and Spencer called me and said, ‘My mom died.’ It was a pretty traumatic experience. Here’s a 12-year-old boy who just lost his whole world,” Hendrickson recalled. “In a lot of ways, I think that is when our relationship really took off. I think his trust really grew even further with me.”
Kloskin recalled how his mother loved butterflies and Hendrickson used that illustration to help teach Kloskin about faith, and how butterflies are a symbol of transformation and resurrection.
“I can’t tell you how many times Spencer and I have been together and, out of nowhere, a butterfly will fly by us,” Hendrickson said. “I would say, ‘There’s your mom checking in on you and me.’
“When you think of the journey Spencer and I have been up and down, we have probably been through some obstacles that no two people have ever been through, but yet we are stronger, bigger believers,” Hendrickson said.
Shortly after his mother’s death, Kloskin’s grandmother introduced him to his father. Hendrickson recalled being concerned for Kloskin, even considering if he might adopt him himself. But Hendrickson said Kloskin’s father, who had remarried and had another son, “took Spencer in wholeheartedly.” And not only took Kloskin in, but also encouraged the brotherhood between Kloskin and Hendrickson to continue.
“We right away met and his dad wanted us to continue this relationship. His dad has been a big part of it. It’s just as if we have been friends for 50 years. Our families have intertwined. And that’s the neat thing about it. I know my family would do anything for Spencer and I know his family would do anything for me. It’s a mutual respect and love for each other,” Hendrickson said.
Kloskin, a senior at Tech High School in St. Cloud, said he is now excited for the future when, for a long time, he wasn’t. He has his driver’s license, a job and is enrolled for the fall semester at Alexandria Technical and Community College where he plans to study law enforcement.
“To know he wants to go out and make a difference and treat people with respect and kindness, to be that officer that can help people, says a lot about how he has grown and developed as a person,” Hendrickson said.
Both Hendrickson and Kloskin feel that there is no price tag you can put on their friendship, although Kloskin joked, “If I win the lottery, he’s getting half.”
“He really did take me under his wings when I really didn’t have anyone else, especially when my mother died,” Kloskin said. “I knew I always had Kenny. Even when my mom was still alive, I looked forward to every Wednesday when I could go hang out with him. That made a big impact me.”
Kloskin said he’s learned a lot from Hendrickson, like how to “keep a cool head” and how to show others respect. He even asked Hendrickson, a member of Christ Church Newman Center in St. Cloud, to be his sponsor when he received the sacrament of confirmation at St. Anthony Church in St. Cloud.
“The greatest thing I’ve learned from Kenny is about brotherhood love,” Kloskin said. “To never switch up on anybody, no matter what the circumstances, to always be there to help them out. No matter what. And not just to love each other but also to show others love, too.”
In March, Hendrickson was named the Central Minnesota Big Brother of the Year and also received the state honor of Minnesota Big Brother of the Year.
“You don’t do these things to get awards. You do these things because the impact you get is ten times more than what you put into it,” Hendrickson said. “If we had more people in the world doing this, what a better world it would be, if everybody just did one small thing, one act of kindness.
“To see how successful Spencer has been, to see the young man he is today and to know I had a small impact in that is worth every bit of being involved in volunteering. If somebody would ask me what the value of this has been, I would say it is equal to my life. He’s my life, he always has been.”