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2017 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.

Chris Parker - Okaloosa/Walton County Big of the Year 

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida presented the Big of the Year award for Okaloosa and Walton County to Chris Parker on Thursday at Sacred Heart Hospital of the Emerald Coast. The Big of the Year award is presented to the Big Brother or Big Sister who has gone above and beyond as a positive role model.  

Parker, a radiographer at Sacred Heart, was surprised with the award by Big Brothers Big Sisters staff and his coworkers. He is one of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ most dedicated school-based mentors. He has been visiting his Little Brother, 10-year-old Daevious, weekly at school since they were first matched in December of 2014. In that time, Daevious has attended three different schools, and Chris has moved with him each time.

During their weekly visits, Parker and Daevious eat lunch together, spend time outdoors, work together in the classroom and talk about making good choices. Parker communicates with Daevious’ teachers regularly and sets reward systems for Daevious to encourage him to reach his goals. Parker describes Daevious as bright, loving, sweet and talkative.

Daevious has great admiration for Parker. “He’s like a ‘real’ big brother,” said Daevious. “My favorite things about Chris are that he’s funny and such a great friend.”

In addition to being a dedicated Big Brother, Chris is also very active in the community. He serves on the Fresh Start for Children and Families board of directors and also volunteers at their Repeat Street Thrift Store.

“Chris truly lives out our mission both professionally and personally,” said Art Schnitzer, diagnostic imaging manager at Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast. “We’re very fortunate to have him as part of our radiology team, and we’re very proud of his commitment to the youth of our community.”

 

Elana Garvin - Escambia County Big of the Year 

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida presented the Big of the Year award to Escambia County recipient, Elana Garvin on Monday at NAS Pensacola. The Big of the Year award is presented to the Big Brother or Big Sister who has gone above and beyond as a positive role model.  

Garvin, an accountant at NAS Pensacola, was surprised with the award at her workplace by Big Brothers Big Sisters staff and her Little Sister. Garvin is a unique volunteer in that she has two children that she mentors, a brother and sister. She has been matched with Little Sister Tymeisha for seven years. After developing a great relationship with her entire family, Garvin took on an additional mentee in 2014, Tymeisha’s older brother, Tyrone.

Over the last three years, Garvin has helped Tyrone improve his grades. He even made A-B Honor Roll last year. Tyrone has his sights set on attending college and hopes to play college football. Garvin has supported him in many ways by providing transportation so that he could attend a high school with a strong academic and athletic program and be involved in a traveling football team, which has taken him to tour several college campuses.

When Garvin came into Little Sister Tymeisha’s life in 2009, Tymeisha was struggling in elementary school. Now 14, she is doing well in school, is a focused softball player and hopes to join ROTC and the volleyball team when she starts high school this fall. When asked what she thought would happen if she didn’t have Garvin as her Big Sister, Tymeisha said, “I think that my grades wouldn't be as good as they are, and I wouldn't have the mindset I have right now. Now I really want to go to college in this certain program and I wouldn't be this way if it weren’t for her.”

 

Marsha Hall - Bay County Big of the Year

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida presented the Virginia Thomas Big of the Year award to Bay County recipient, Marsha Hall, on Thursday at Rutherford High School. The Big of the Year award is presented to the Big Brother or Big Sister who has gone above and beyond as a positive role model.

Hall, a local guidance counselor, was surprised by Big Brothers Big Sisters staff and her Little Sister at her workplace. Hall has been a Big Sister with the program for nine years, the longest match in all of Bay County. The two were matched when Little Sister, Shabreka, was only 7 years old, and over the last nine years, their match has remained consistent and strong.

Hall has stressed academics and hard work and has always pushed Shabreka because she sees so much potential in her. Little Sister, Shabreka, has turned to Hall during some of the most challenging moments in her young life, looking to her for guidance and support. Shabreka is now thriving in ROTC. She made the AB honor roll, works part time, and is considering attending college or joining the military.

“She has always been there for me,” Shabreka said. “She listens to me; she loves me; she believes in me.” Hall has shown Shabreka that, despite all the challenges, she will succeed in life, and her Big Sister will be there every step of the way.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida has been the area’s leader in one-to-one mentoring for 28 years by serving children ages 6 to 18. Our mission is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever. Last year, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida served 650 children in Northwest Florida.

 

Carl Byrd - Military Big of the Year 

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida presented the Ron Mobayed Military Big of the Year award to Master Sgt. Carl E. Byrd on Sunday at First City Church. The Big of the Year award is presented to the Big Brother or Big Sister who has gone above and beyond as a positive role model.

Byrd, an airman in the Air Force, was surprised with the award by Big Brothers Big Sisters staff and his Little Brother at his church. Byrd has been matched with his Little Brother, 8-year-old Dy’Narrius, for almost two years, and the two have built a strong and lasting friendship. Byrd shows his Little Brother the meaning of giving back to his community by volunteering together at a local soup kitchen and visiting the elderly at a local nursing home.

Byrd has also shared many “firsts” with his Little Brother including his first time fishing, first high school football game and his first time on a boat.

“Having Dy’Narrius as a Little Brother has been one of the most rewarding things of my life,” Byrd said. Watching him grow and mature in many aspects of his life has caused me to see a greater purpose in my being as well.”

When Byrd and Dy’Narrius first met, Dy’Narrius struggled with math. Byrd quickly found a way to help his Little Brother while still making learning fun. The two went to their favorite breakfast joint, Scenic 90 Café, a partner of Big Brothers Big Sisters. There, Byrd would create math challenges for his Little Brother using the miniature packets of jelly and honey at the table. Dy’Narrius loved it and soon started solving math problems with ease, constantly asking for more math challenges to conquer.

Recently, Byrd also received the Vanguard award from the Air Force for saving a man’s life. As he was on his way to work in October of last year, he noticed the van ahead of him was swerving. The van stopped abruptly, and Byrd pulled over to see if he could help. The driver of the van was seizing, unresponsive and had blood coming out of his mouth. Without hesitation, Byrd began performing CPR and was able to revive the man. He continued care until the ambulance arrived and traveled to the hospital with the victim. Byrd showed great courage and leadership in an intense situation, and Big Brothers Big Sisters expressed their appreciation for him.

“Big Brothers Big Sisters is honored to have Carl as a member of the BBBS family,” CEO Paula Shell said. “He took charge of a stressful situation and was able to save a life. He is the epitome of courage and models that every day for his Little Brother. Carl is very deserving of both the Vanguard award and the Military Big of the Year.”

The Ron Mobayed Military Big of the Year 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 the spirit of Ron through their commitment to their Little, to the Big Brothers Big Sisters agency, and to the children of our community.
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