Young Life Banquet is Oct. 27
Detroit Lakes 10th grader Justine Peters isn't the same person she was last year.
"I was always second guessing myself, and I was struggling in school because I didn't have many friends and I just didn't think I was smart enough to do anything," said Peters.
But something changed all that -- something changed her.
"I heard somebody talking about Young Life and how fun it was," said Peters, who decided to check it out.
The Christian-based youth group instantly struck Peters, who says she had always gone to church growing up, but never felt a real connection with God until then.
New friends flocked into Peter's life, as she not only continued to gain strength and contentment in her faith, but in herself as well.
"I'm so much more confident now," said Peters. "I feel like I can set my mind to anything, and God is with me every step of the way."
Peters isn't alone in her love of Young Life.
In Detroit Lakes alone (Youth Life is an international organization), there are roughly 250 middle school and high school students involved in the program.
A non-profit organization, Lakes Area Young Life supports itself through local fundraisers like selling Christmas trees, a summer triathlon and an annual banquet, which is right around the corner.
"The banquet is a way to highlight and celebrate what's gone on in Young Life over the last year and to cast a vision of where we're going in the future and where people might be able to be involved in that," said Peter Paulson, area director for Lakes Area Young Life.
The free-will donation banquet is being held Saturday, Oct. 27, at 5:30 p.m. in the Holmes Ballroom.
Themed "Back Stage Pass," the event is open to everybody interested in taking a behind-the-scenes look at the organization through members' stories, laughter and food.
Spanky's Stone Hearth Restaurant is donating the dinner for the banquet, while students and volunteers inject a little humor and entertainment into the evening.
There is no limit to the amount of people, but event organizers are asking for RSVPs as they prepare for the banquet.
Proceeds from the event go to help fund the Lakes Area Young Life as it provides four areas of outreach.
Every week, members of Young Life get together to have fun and strengthen their spiritual relationship.
"We do skits, music, a Young Life leader will tell stories about God, and it's just a good, fun night where you could have the homecoming queen and the unnoticed freshman in the same room just having fun," said Paulson, who says the group is packed full of different students from every walk of life, group and income level.
This is where Young Life students get out of their everyday life and embark on the adventure that is camp.
A unique aspect here is that Young Life leaders also attend camp with their local students, which Paulson says helps them maintain a strong bond throughout the year.
These are kids that are interested in growing in their faith.
Adult leaders "walk beside them" as they explore the Christian faith and what it means to them.
"The heart blood of Young Life," this is where adult volunteer leaders meet kids on their terms as they spend roughly 225 hours collectively per week just hanging out with area youth -- both those in Young Life and those who are not.
"These volunteers will coach them in sporting events, help with band, robotics...anywhere kids gather, these leaders are there building relationships with these kids and letting them know that even if they don't believe what we believe, we still love them and support them," said Paulson.
"I've seen kids that are somewhat lost in a very confusing world, and the leaders that are trained by Young Life can really reach these kids," said Diana Hansen, who joined the organization a year ago and is now on the executive committee and is chair of the adult committee.
"Sometimes some of these kids don't have much interaction with adults and we give them attention and speak to them about God."
Hansen says she's seen many transformations in the students, while providing a fulfilling experience for her as well.
Young Life is always looking for more adult volunteers, as well as kids to join their group.
For more information on the banquet or the organization, find Lakes Area Young Life on Facebook.