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 2022 Bigs of the Year!
2022 Virginia Thomas Big of the Year
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. Once restrictions were lifted, Michael and Eli were able to enjoy all kinds of outings and their relationship blossomed.
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.
Michael has truly shown how just a small commitment for a few hours a month can make a Big impact on a child’s life.
2022 Ron Mobayed Military Big of the Year
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida announces Austin Holliday has been named as the Ron Mobayed Military Big of the Year for 2022. Austin was selected to receive this honor because of his commitment to helping his Little Brother DaShawn learn, grow and reach his full potential.
Austin is an Air Traffic Controller in the U.S. Navy and has been stationed at Naval Air Station Pensacola since 2018. Austin was matched with DaShawn in April of 2019. Over the past three years, Austin has been a positive influence in DaShawn’s life, by helping him overcome various challenges. Austin helps make sure he stays on track with his schoolwork and has coached him in basketball and football.
On June 14, 2022, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida worked with Austin’s superiors and colleagues to surprise him with the Ron Mobayed Military Big of the Year award, while he was working at N.A.S. Pensacola. This award was established to honor 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. On October 3, 1995, Ron and his crew were tragically killed in the line of duty while responding to a distress signal.
This award pays tribute to our military volunteers and is awarded to a Big who exemplifies the spirit of Lt. Mobayed through their commitment to their Little, to Big Brothers Big Sisters, and to the children of our community. We want to thank Austin for not only serving our country, but for all he has done for his Little Brother.
2022 Okaloosa County Big of the Year
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida is proud to announce Daniel Pink as the 2022 Okaloosa County Big of the Year! On May 23, 2022, Daniel's Little Brother Alex joined other staff members at the Okaloosa STEMM Academy to surprise him with the award. Daniel, who currently teaches at the school, has gone above and beyond the expectations of our program.
Daniel was matched with Alex over two years ago, in the height of a pandemic. Despite the challenges and restrictions prohibiting the pair from meeting in person, they were able to build a relationship. Daniel would send Alex care packages in the mail and stayed in touch with him, by calling him at least once a week.
Daniel continues to be a positive influence in Alex's life by helping him through all sorts of challenges, including the transition to middle school. He encourages Alex to work on school projects, read new books and helps him with his homework. They have also enjoyed many activities together, such as playing with robots, playing games and going to arcades.
Daniel has truly shown how just a small commitment for a few hours a month can make a Big impact on a child's life.
2022 Santa Rosa County Big of the year
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida is proud to announce Wendy Hughes as the recipient of the 2022 Big of the Year award in Santa Rosa County.
On June 14, 2022, our staff worked with Wendy’s friends and family to surprise her with the award at our monthly board meeting in Okaloosa County. Wendy thought she was taking a casual motorcycle ride and was completely caught off guard when they arrived at the meeting, where her Little Sister Wendy was waiting.
Wendy was matched with Little Wendy in the summer of 2016, when she was just 11 years old. Sharing the same first name, the two instantly shared a unique bond and have built a strong friendship over the years. Despite all sorts of challenges, including the pandemic, Wendy finds new ways to connect with her Little, by accommodating her changing passions and interests.
Wendy has been an outstanding mentor and member of our volunteer community for almost six years and we are so grateful to have her as part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters family.
2022 Escambia County Big of the Year
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida is proud to announce Robert Hoyt and Ann Yoshihashi as the recipients of the 2022 Escambia County Big of the Year award. The pair was selected to receive this honor due to their dedication in mentoring their Little Brother, T'Anthony, and helping him grow and reach his full potential.
Bob started mentoring T'Anthony at school, when he was in first grade. A few years later, Bob and Ann decided to start volunteering as a Big Duo with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida, to share the commitment and responsibility. Volunteering as a Big Duo, allows Bob and Ann to have flexibility with their schedules and work together. When Bob or Ann is unavailable or out of town, the other steps in and continues to spend time with T'Anthony.
Over the past seven years, Bob and Ann have been committed to fostering, developing, and helping T'Anthony succeed. They are invested in his academic success and often help him with his homework and find fun ways to challenge him. They have also introduced T'Anthony to a variety of activities, such as playing sports, video games, flying drones, cooking and going to local events. Bob and Ann have been outstanding mentors and members of our volunteer community, and we are so grateful to have them as part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters family.
2022 Beyond School Walls Big of the Year
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida is proud to announce Jill Cumbia as the 2022 Beyond School Walls Big of the Year. Jill is a Digital Products & Services Specialist at Pen Air Federal Credit Union. She joined the Beyond School Walls program in February of 2021.
The Beyond School Walls program is aimed at helping students improve their chances of graduating and transitioning to the workplace and/or post-secondary education, vocational or military. Our corporate partners open the doors of hope and opportunity for students, by allowing them to shadow volunteer employee mentors in the workplace for a few hours each month during the school year.
Jill was matched with her Little Sister Cassady, is Spring of 2021. Jill has been a positive influence in Cher life by taking her on fun outings, helping her with college applications and giving her insight about the University of West Florida, where Cassady plans to attend in the near future.
Jill 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.
2022 Bigs with badges big of the year
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida is proud to present John Adams with the 2022 Bigs with Badges Big of the Year award. This program is aimed at bridging the gap between youth and those who protect, serve, and support our community through their chosen profession to build trust and respect within the relationship. These Bigs include: police officers, sheriff's deputies, firefighters, correctional officers, EMT's, state troopers, state and federal employees, and our military.
District Chief John Adams has been a firefighter/Paramedic with the South Walton Fire District since 2006 and helps coordinate resources at the scene of emergencies. He helps lead and direct the operations of S.W.F.D.’s Technical Rescue Team. John also has a special knack for working the children of our community and has provided mentorship and friendship to his Little Brother Ryan for the past six years.
John and Ryan have tackled many challenges, including navigating middle school during the height of a pandemic. They have also shared special experiences together, such as, touring local fire stations, visiting museums, attending a Ranger Open House and going to the movies. John has also helped Ryan expand his horizons on what he is willing to try, by testing out new cuisines and international dishes together.
We are so thankful to have John in our program and are proud to present him the Bigs with Badges Big of the Year Award!