Changing lives in a Big way
These individuals have exceeded the expectations of igniting, empowering, and defending potential in Northwest Florida.
We are so thankful for our 2021 Bigs of the Year!
2021 Michael Robidoux Hero Award
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida is honored to recognize Big Brother and Board Member, Rique Gwin with the 2021 Michael Robidoux Hero Award.
Michael Robidoux was a Big who was matched with his Little Brother Deontrez for over three years. On Sunday March 25, 2018, Michael passed away after trying to save two young children from the surf at Navarre Beach. Big Brothers Big Sisters wanted to honor his legacy by establishing the Michael Robidoux Hero Award to be awarded each year to a Big who exemplifies the passion for serving others like Michael Robidoux did. Every Big is extremely important to our organization, but Rique Gwin has shown a remarkable level of dedication not only to his Little, but also to others.
Rique is a veteran who served in the United States Air Force for roughly 25 years. “I am humbled by this honor,” says Rique. “I have always had great respect for the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization so this recognition is particularly special to me. One of the best things we can all do for our society is to influence young men and women during these critical times of their lives. I can’t say enough how important I think [BBBSNWFL’s] work is for our community in general and these kids.”
As a child, Rique was enrolled into his local Big Brothers Big Sisters program and became a Little Brother. This experience made a positive, life-long impression on him. Rique did not grow up with a father figure, so having a Big Brother helped him grow and develop into the man he is today. To pay it forward, he decided to become a Big and help a young man develop into a strong citizen. He became a Big Brother while living in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and when Rique was stationed at Hurlburt Field in 2017, he decided to continue with the program at the BBBSNWFL agency. Today, Rique has dedicated his time to two Littles, Christian, and Jaylan.
2021 Virginia Thomas Big of the Year
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida is honored to recognize Tiffany McCullough with the 2021 Virginia Thomas Big of the Year Award!
Virginia Thomas was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and lived there until she joined the United States Marine Corps in the very first group of women to join from Alabama. She moved to Panama City in 1965 and, with her husband Tommy, opened Tommy Thomas Chevrolet, which is now known as Bill Cramer Chevrolet Cadillac Buick GMC. Virginia Thomas was very involved in the community, Her passion and heart were children; opening doors and opportunities they otherwise would never have. Virginia Thomas made a BIG impact in the community and in the lives of so many children throughout her life. This award is to be awarded a Big who exemplifies the passion for serving others as Virginia Thomas did.
Tiffany reached out to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida in 2014 and stated that she believed that just one positive person in a child’s life could make a huge impact. Being a police officer, Tiffany has had a lot of interaction with children on the job but stated that these interactions were sometimes so brief that she wanted to do more and provide an ongoing influence to create a true impact.
Tiffany has been a strong, positive, and stable mentor for her Little Sister Daphnee, for the past seven years. Through good times and bad, she has helped Daphnee flourish into the young teenager that she has become today by always encouraging Daphnee to be herself. Tiffany has also done the dedicated work of bringing up Daphnee’s grades and maintaining that success. Daphnee’s grandmother said that Tiffany has shown so much love to Daphnee and has become very protective of Daphnee’s family. Daphnee has commented that she “loves and trusts” Tiffany and she knows that no matter what, Tiffany will always be there for her.
2021 Ron Mobayed Military Big of the Year
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida is honored to recognize Flight Commander Personnel, Alan Erickson as the 2021 Ron Mobayed Military Big of the Year!
The Ron Mobayed Award was established as a memorial to the life of Lt. Ronald Joseph Mobayed, who was an outstanding Big Brother while he was stationed in Pensacola for flight training in the early 1990’s. Tragically, Ron and his crew were killed in the line of duty on October 3, 1995. This award is presented to pay tribute to our Military Volunteers in honor of Ron’s love and dedication to the Military Armed Forces, and is awarded to the Big who exemplifies that spirit of Ron through their commitment to their Little, to the Big Brothers Big Sisters agency, and to the children of their community.
“I am honored to receive the Ron Mobayed Military Big of the Year award and would like to give significant credit to my wife, Sarah, since we are a duo match with Micah,” says Alan. “While I was deployed, she met with Micah each week and always had engaging fun activities planned. [BBBSNWFL] is a fantastic organization that makes significant differences in the lives of both Littles and Bigs. Over the past two years, Micah has taught me the importance of listening and allowing for some silence before interjecting. A little patience has led to great conversation and development for all of us.”
2021 Okaloosa County Big of the Year
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida is honored to recognize Cindy Kahl as the 2021 Okaloosa County Big of the Year!
Cindy and her Little Sister Gaby have been matched for two years. Cindy, having been a mentor in the past, decided to become a Big Sister because she wanted to support local children in need and make a positive one-to-one impact.
Cindy has become a strong, positive influence in Gaby’s life. Academically, Cindy has helped Gaby with her schoolwork which has resulted in an upward turn in her grades. She incorporates math in their day-to-day activities such as gardening projects or by having Gaby help measure an area and calculate how many bricks are needed to finish a project in her yard.
Cindy incorporates her Little Sister’s family with community service activities like inviting them to pick grapefruits from the trees on her property and donating them to an organization that helps feed people in need. Additionally, Cindy and her Little Sister wrote thank you letters to be sent to hospitals across the country to thank them during the COVID-19 pandemic for all their hard work.
2021 Santa Rosa County Big of the year
Big Brothers Big Sisters is honored to recognize Samantha Mortimer as the 2021 Santa Rosa County Big of the Year!
Samantha has provided mentorship and friendship to her Little Sister Kamilla for over two years now. Together, they spend time cooking, baking, going to workshops, attending the ballet, and having tea parties.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Samantha and Kamilla wrote letters to each other, video chatted, texted, and called each other to keep in contact until it was safe for them to see each other in person. Little Sister Kamilla shared with her match specialist that even though she misses Houston, Texas, where she is originally from, she is happy the move allowed her to have Samantha as her Big Sister in her life.
“I can only refer to her as selfless, kind, and a loving Big Sister,” says Match Specialist, Yoselin Morris. “Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida truly appreciates everything she has done for Kamilla, and we are looking forward to seeing all the fantastic and amazing things this match will continue to do together.”
2021 Escambia County Big of the Year
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida is proud to announce Tommy Huynh as the 2021 Escambia County Big of the Year. Tommy has shown John that he can be successful by using his own adversity. John has gone from a struggling student to finishing his senior year on honor roll and college bound. Tommy was also almost killed in an accident and had to learn how to walk and talk again. He has used this personal struggle to show John that no matter how hard and dark things seem, you can work through them. Tommy has motivated him and pushed him to complete all of his volunteer hours and work hard and save money. John is now a senior in high school on honor roll. He works hard at Whataburger and is complimented by his teachers on what a great student and wonderful kid he is. Tommy’s support has truly guided him through young adulthood. Their match is inspirational and one that all can learn from.
2021 Beyond School Walls Big of the Year
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida is proud to announce Pam Hatt as the 2021 Beyond School Walls Big of the Year. Pam is the Vice President of Marketing at Pen Air Federal Credit Union. She joined the Beyond School Walls program (a program designed to help students improve their chances of graduating and transitioning into the workplace and/or post-secondary education) in 2018 and was matched with her first Little Sister, Japrecia. In January of this year, she was matched with her second Little Sister, Valery. Pam has been a positive influence in both of her Little Sisters, coaching them on post-graduation plans, interview tips and more! Pam has been committed to the Beyond School Walls program, even when faced with unforeseen circumstances and having to switch to a strictly virtual platform due to the COVID pandemic. She has gone above and beyond her duties as a Big Sister. Pam has truly shown how just a small commitment for a few hours a month can make a Big impact on a child’s life. We are so grateful for her continued support and dedication.
2021 Bigs with badges big of the year
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida is grateful to have Big Brother DJ Folley as a part of our family and community. DJ has provided mentorship and friendship to his little brother, Antonio, for 3 years.
DJ is a vital component of our community as he recently was promoted to Lieutenant and has worked in Law Enforcement for over 20 years. He was recently presented an Appreciation Award for being a part of the Active Shooter 360 program for the last 10 years, which is designed to help train County supervisors in the event of an active shooter situation. Aside from all of this, DJ still managed to help Big Brothers Big Sisters out with allowing us to use his squad car to store school supplies for “Cram the Van” and has always offered to help in any way he could.
DJ inspires Antonio to always have a goal and strive towards it, whether it was working on getting A/B honor roll at school or working out with him to train for Football tryouts. DJ has managed to be an active, consistent person in Antonio’s life and that is what mentorship is all about. He has always made time to be there for his little brother where it matters the most like Antonio’s 5th grade graduation, his birthday celebrations, and even just dropping by for an hour in between shifts to talk with him about his day.
We are so thankful to have DJ in our program and are proud to present him the Bigs with Badges Big of the Year Award!