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2016 Northwest Florida Big of the Year Awards

The Big of the Year awards are presented in each county to the Big Brother or Big Sister who has gone above and beyond as a positive role model. A Military Big of the Year Award is also given.

Carolyn Nero - Escambia County Big of the Year 2016

Big Brothers Big Sisters has selected Carolyn Nero as Big of the Year for Escambia County. Carolyn and her Little Sister, Tamar, have been matched since June 25th of 2014. Carolyn and Tamar hit it off immediately. On their first outing, Tamar opened up stating, "I'm so happy today!" When Carolyn asked Tamar why that was, Tamar said, "because I get to spend it with you."

From the very beginning, Carolyn made learning fun. Carolyn would have Tamar read billboards while they were driving, learn about healthy food choices, write in a thoughts and feelings journal and learn about price comparisons and better deals while shopping.

Not only does Big Brothers Big Sisters think Carolyn and Tamar have an incomparable match, but Tamar's mother sees Carolyn as part of the family as well. She states, "There is no better match for Tamar. I wouldn't change a thing. Tamar has gotten to experience so many opportunities because of Ms. Carolyn." Tamar's mother also appreciates that Ms. Carolyn will occasionally send Tamar a text saying, "Have a nice day!" Tamar loves the gesture and knows she's spontaneously being thought of.

Carolyn has also showed Tamar the importance of giving back by completing several community service projects together. They have purchased items for Council on Aging, a nonprofit for senior citizens. They have participated in Strides Against Breast Cancer as well as Skating for a Cure. Nothing Carolyn does goes without a teachable moment.

Carolyn said she too has learned a lot from Tamar. During one of their outings, Carolyn was anxious to get to a desired location. Tamar responded, "Patience, Ms. Carolyn. Bad things happen when you rush, and then sometimes you miss the little things in life." Tamar is right. This applies to the perspective of Big Brothers Big Sisters in so many ways. Sometimes, something as simple as a few hours a week can be considered a little thing, but even a child can see the big picture behind those few hours a week. Upon joining Big Brothers Big Sisters, one of Carolyn's references described her as a "guardian angel." That statement couldn't be more true. She has been nothing but a positive role model to Tamar and our agency. Thank you, Ms. Carolyn. You are truly an asset to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida!

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Christian Smith - Military Big of the Year 2016

Christian Smith has been selected as the Military Big of the Year for 2016. Christian reached out to Big Brothers Big Sisters in 2013 when he relocated to the area with the United States Air Force. He had known of the program for many years and was happy that his schedule would finally allow him to participate. Christian stated that he could relate to some of the children in our program due to the very difficult neighborhood that he had grown up in. He specifically asked to work with a child that had such challenges because he knew the need and obstacles associated with such an environment.

His Little Brother, Jaylon, was enrolled in Big Brothers Big Sisters when he was just eight years old. Jaylon is one of six children and lives in a single-parent home. His father has been incarcerated since Jaylon was three years old, and his release date is projected for when Jaylon is an adult. His mother is doing her best to raise her six children on a minimum wage job. At times, she picks up a second and sometimes a third job to help support the family.

The bond between Jaylon and Christian was almost immediate. They both have a laid back and humorous personality that always gives them something to joke about. Christian has never made Jaylon feel like a “victim.” He stresses to his Little Brother that despite the unfairness in life you will experience at times, there is always another day, and he can be whatever he wants. When the family lost their home not once, not twice, but three times, Christian stayed by Jaylon’s side, driving to different areas every other week to bring some light during a very dark and challenging time for a little boy. In the three years that Christian and Jaylon have been matched, Christian has rarely missed an outing. Jaylon is always eager and ready to go because those are his "favorite days.” He doesn’t worry about anything else and just gets to be a little boy. The impact is tremendous, and Christian should be honored for helping Jaylon create memories that he will cherish for a lifetime.

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AJ Bacon - Bay County Big of the Year 2016 

AJ Bacon has been selected as the Big of the Year for Bay County. AJ met his Little Brother, Danterius, when he was just 11 years old in 2011. Danterius’s mom was looking for someone to provide guidance to her son as she knew the influences that were out there. He had a challenging relationship with his father, and his mother knew she could not provide the insight that could only come from a male role model. AJ, who was very active in the community, reached out to Big Brothers Big Sisters despite already being a father himself. He knew the need was great and felt if he could just help one child in this aspect, it would in turn change the community.

The two connected from the beginning. They both have a love of sports, creating a commonality from day one. Five years later, sports is still a huge factor for the match despite rooting for opposing football teams. They have a healthy competition with one another that often results in conflicting stories about who wins in countless games of basketball, pool, and pretty much any activity where they can “one up” each other.  

AJ has consistently mentored Danterius for the last five years. His message is clear: “School comes first. It is the key to success.” He has taught Danterius determination, hard work, pride and self-worth. Danterius says that AJ is his family and that he may not have stayed on the right path without him. AJ is not only an amazing Big but also an amazing advocate for Big Brothers Big Sisters. He has attended countless events and has appeared on 4 a.m. TV spots. He and Danterius even attended our Florida State Association’s annual Day on the Hill in Tallahassee where they met with senators and representatives to share their match story. AJ believes in our message, he encompasses our message, and without a doubt represents the ideal Big Brother.

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Liandethza "Lian" Ramirez-Crespo - Santa Rosa County Big of the Year 2016

Liandethza "Lian" Ramirez-Crespo has been selected as Big of the Year for Santa Rosa County. Lian and her Little Sister, Desere, have been matched since February 2015. During this time, Lian's consistency in Desere's life has made an impact that will far outlast their time in the BBBS program. Over the past 18 months, Lian has regularly met with Desere to have fun, get manicures, attend local festivals, go out to eat and, of course, work on school work. Lian's specific skill set has benefited Desere in any and every way possible. As a freelance tutor, Lian has been able to focus on education to show Desere the importance of applying yourself and always doing your best. During the first summer that they were matched, Lian would work with Desere unrelentingly on math work. This hard work and focus certainly paid off as Desere was even more prepared for her first year in middle school, and her grades dramatically improved.

Desere's grandmother stated that Desere always comes home happy after she has been out with Lian. She said, "Desere always speaks highly of her Big Sister." Lian and Desere will often go to Barnes and Noble or their favorite restaurant, La Hacienda, to spend time together. Desere loves to dance. Lian has always supported her and encouraged her to do her best in everything she does.

When her Little Sister's house unexpectedly burned down in July 2015 and her family had to move out of the Pensacola area, Lian was an unwavering source of encouragement and support for Desere and her family despite the extra distance necessary to travel to see Desere. No matter the distance, whether she is watching her dance or helping her with school work, Lian has made memories with Desere that will last a lifetime. Thank you, Lian, for your compassion and consistent willingness to serve our community. You are truly a blessing to Desere and her family as well as Big Brothers Big Sisters. Congratulations!

 

 

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