Cookin’ Up a Friendship!

Chicken enchiladas, crab macaroni and cheese, and tuna noodle casserole are just some of the delicious meals that Bri has created alongside her mentor, Chef Michelle.

“Bri’s gotten very good at cooking,” said her mom, Melissa. “It’s always been a passion of hers, but I think it’s a little bit more sophisticated now. She knows how to do things a little fancier than she did before.”

Chef Michelle has been mentoring Bri for a few months now, and their relationship has grown so much as they share in their love for cooking. “She was terribly shy,” Chef Michelle reminisced on the first time she met Bri. “We were on a video call, and she would whisper to her mom who would answer or Bri would just nod, but the first time we cooked together was completely different. She was smiling and giddy. Every time she tasted something, she made a precious little giggle and just came to life. It made my heart melt!”

A typical call between Bri and Chef Michelle starts before they even begin their meeting. With the help of Connecting Champions Grand Rapids Program Coordinator Danielle, Bri and Chef Michelle decide what dish they will make in advance. “It’s so cute,” said Danielle, talking about the preparation for their calls. “Bri will tell Chef Michelle what she’s interested in making, and Chef Michelle will create a recipe from scratch, which is super cool.”

Once a dish is decided upon, both chefs go out to get what they need and measure the ingredients prior to the call, an efficient trick that Bri learned from her mentor.

A couple of months into their mentorship, Bri and her family had the opportunity to go visit Chef Michelle at her restaurant. “It was so great talking about the dishes on the menu and helping them decide on what to pick,” said Chef Michelle. “When the servers sent out all of the desserts, her little face lit up and she smiled from ear to ear. She tried a bite of every single one!”

Both Chef Michelle and Melissa have seen the growth and confidence boost in Bri since they started meeting through Connecting Champions. “First of all, she has grown like a foot taller since we started this journey together; she shot up like a stalk of corn overnight,” Chef Michelle said. “But also, her confidence in general has blossomed. She doesn’t want Mom to do anything for her; she wants to do it all herself. She smiles the whole time we are cooking.”

Melissa noted how Connecting Champions has been a way for Bri to look past her diagnosis and hone her passion for cooking. “She’s not focusing on being sick or how she’s feeling. She’s focusing on her passion, and we get to see her grow in that. It gives a sense of something that she would never have had the chance to do before. It’s really exciting for us to be able to see her grow in that area, and to be able to learn from the best of the best is really neat.”

Together, Bri and Chef Michelle have cooked up incredible food but also a strong bond that has impacted both of their lives. “I swear I’ve gotten just as much if not more from our journey together as Bri has,” said Chef Michelle. “It’s the best part of my day when we cook together. No matter how crazy busy and stressful my day has been, once we get together it completely disappears and I’m only focused on being with her and her mom. It makes me focus on what’s truly important in life. Cooking with Bri are happy days!”

Activity Kits

National Geographic Science Magic Kit

​Help 8-year-old Joe

Future Scientist

Get a science experiment kit to explore with his mentor!

​Help 9-year-old Myla

Future Artist

Get art supplies to create with her mentor!

Help 23-year-old Erik

Future Coffee Barista

Get coffee supplies to learn how to create specialty drinks with his mentor!

The pandemic showed many people what social isolation is really like. It also showed there are many other great ways to connect. That’s why we launched our activity kits. These mailed out packages provide fun activities for our mentors and kids/young adults to do together — virtually.

Reach Out to Us

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