Panama City, Fla — Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida is proud to announce Michael Hanna as the recipient of the 2022 Virginia Thomas Big of the Year award in Bay County.
On June 1, 2022, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida surprised Michael with the award at a poolside ceremony in Panama City Beach. His Little Brother Eli joined a group of Michael’s family and friends, many who had traveled from out of town, for the celebration.
Michael was matched with Eli in early 2020, just before the start of a pandemic. Due to restrictions, the pair had to get to know each other through telephone conversations and video chats. Michael spent hours talking to Eli, even going on phone “adventures” through the house and creating dances together on social media.
Once restrictions were lifted, Michael and Eli were able to enjoy all kinds of outings and their relationship blossomed. Michael helped Eli conquer his fear of water and learn how to swim. They have also enjoyed many boating trips and caught lots of fish. Michael is also a positive and stable role model for Eli.
When speaking about their relationship, Eli’s grandmother stated, “Without the Big Brother program our paths may have never crossed, but I am so glad they have. You have made such a huge impact with Eli. From dancing on Snap Chat with him, laughing at silly things, to listening when he needs someone. You have helped him in so many ways!”
Michael understands and encompasses the mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida, as well as the vision of philanthropist Virginia Thomas, this award’s namesake. Thomas had a passion for opening doors and creating new opportunities for children and made a big impact in the Panama City community. This award was established to honor Thomas and celebrate a Big who exemplifies the passion of serving others.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida has been the area’s leader in one-to-one youth service for 32 years by providing caring, adult mentors to children ages 5 through 18 and beyond. Our mission is to help children reach their potential through professionally supported, positive relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. Last year, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida served 511 children in Northwest Florida.