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Bigs of the Year2012 Winners

Each year Big Brothers Big Sisters honors those Bigs that were able to help their Littles accomplish extraordinary things.  We are proud of each and every one of our Big Brothers, Big Sisters and Big Couples who have committed to making a difference for each child in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program.  This year we honor these Bigs for their significant impact:

Community Based Big Sister of the Year - Leona Hamrick

Big Sister Leona Hamrick and Little Sister Amanda have been matched since April of 2002. Leona resides in Dunedin and works as a Position Assistant at Primary Care Associates.  For nearly 10 years, this pair has seen each other through many of life's changes. When they first met, Amanda was in elementary school. As Amanda entered her early teens, she began associating with the wrong crowd, performing poorly in school, and making bad choices in her personal life. Luckily, her Big Sister Leona was there to help turn her life around. To describe how she first became involved, Leona states “I was new to the area and looking to get involved with a cause which benefited youth. I used to be a high school coach, and missed being involved with community activities and influencing youth. Big Brothers Big Sisters allows me to be active within my community. It is a perfect fit for me. I really enjoy being able to influence my Little in a positive way.” With guidance from Leona, Amanda enrolled in online classes, graduated high school early, and is now on her way to earning a college degree.  Over the years, Big Sister Leona helped Amanda with just about everything from school work, finding employment, applying to college, and occasionally driving her to class. Through it all, this match has been there for each other for almost 10 years. “It’s been amazing to witness Amanda grow from a shy girl, into a beautiful, confident and secure college woman” says Leona. Little Sister Amanda and her mother are like family to Leona and she states "there would be an empty place in her heart had she never been matched with her Little Sister."

Community Based Big Brother of the Year - Richard Perry





Big Brother Richard Perry and Little Brother Andrew have been matched since September of 2009. Richard is currently retired and living in Homosassa. He states “I heard about Big Brothers Big Sisters through a good friend of mine who was a Big Brother. I was intrigued by his experiences and stories. After attending some functions, I knew I wanted to get involved. I was excited about sharing my knowledge and life experiences with the youth of this program.” Since being matched, Big Brother Richard has helped Andrew with his difficulties in peer relationships and failing grades in school. Andrew continues to progress; he is learning to be respectful of others, and his class participation and behavior have improved tremendously. During the 2010-2011 school year, he even won an award for his hard work and determination.  In 2010, both of Andrew's grandparents passed away within several months of each other. Big Brother Richard stayed by Andrew's side through the death of his grandparents, transitional living situations, and continues to be part of his life, now in foster care. “Andrew has been through a lot in his young life. It gives me great joy to see him grow up to be so happy and carefree” says Richard. This Big Brother has undergone all additional background screenings and trainings required by the foster care facility without any objection. He visits Andrew weekly in foster care and they talk on the phone between visits. Richard says “I love spending leisure time with my Little because it reminds me of the fun times I had with my children and grandchildren.” Richard is determined to be there for Andrew and refuses to give up on him, stating that "he is willing to do whatever is necessary of him to stay his Little Brother's mentor."

Community Based Big Couple of the Year - Doug Spiker & Christine Battista

Big Brother Doug Spiker and Big Sister Christine Battista, serve together as a “Big Couple” for their Little Brother Garion, with whom they have been matched since October of 2008. Christine and Doug reside in Belleair Bluffs. Doug is a veterinarian and partner at Bluffs Animal Hospital in Belleair Bluffs and Christine has been Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Marketing and Communications Coordinator since August of 2011 and was formerly an intern at the agency. Christine’s experiences as a Big Sister prompted a career change due to her strong desire to further the mission of the agency. “Being a Big Couple is the perfect way for us to spend time together, while giving back to the community. By simply doing everyday things with Garion and giving him individual attention, we are making sure that he stays on the right path, and away from a life of crime, drugs, and violence which is all too common for teens and adults in his surroundings” said Christine. When this match was paired, Little Brother Garion was living in Dunedin, but has since moved 6 times within 3 years, and now lives in south St. Petersburg. This Big Couple constantly works with their Little's mother to establish more stability for the family; including their living situation, schools and health care. “We think it’s important to demonstrate a healthy relationship to Garion and show him the positive effects of a stable life” states Doug. Matched with positive role models, Garion has made remarkable improvements in his reading ability, overall interest in school, grades, and general outlook on his future. “Being a mentor to a youth is an incredible experience and a unique opportunity. We can directly see improvements in our Little after spending quality time with him. There is a positive correlation between the time we spend together and improvements in his behavior and attitude” said Doug. This Big Couple is determined to remain in Garion's life no matter where he is, and regard him as a member of their family.

School Based Big Sister of the Year - Demetria Johnson

Big Sister Demetria Johnson and Little Sister Rosemarie have been matched since March of 2007. Demetria is currently living in St. Petersburg and is a Program Information Specialist at Big Brothers Big Sisters. Demetria was motivated to become a Big Sister when she was approached by a previous Big Sister who could no longer continue her services. Demetria eagerly wanted to take over the role of Rosemarie’s Big Sister. “The mission of the program is one which I strongly believe in. I wanted to step up for Rosemarie and become her new Big Sister” says Demetria. Within the first couple of outings, Big Sister Demetria noticed that Rosemarie had difficulties communicating and slurred speech due to sucking her thumb. Others had trouble understanding Rosemarie, but her Big Sister quickly became the only one who could identify with her words. Demetria started helping Rosemarie with her reading skills and using polite manners. Over the years, Rosemarie has improved progressively; now showing her determination to read and finish books completely. Before being matched with Big Sister Demetria, Rosemarie was headed down a road of frustration. Her Big Sister was able to connect with her, and get her to focus on what was important - school and behavior. After more than 4 years of having a consistent and patient Big Sister, Rosemarie has shown huge improvements in school work, test scores and a positive change in her attitude. Today, Big Sister Demetria continues to visit with Rosemarie at school; currently in 5th grade. Witnessing what a pleasant young lady Rosemarie has become is pure enjoyment for Big Sister Demetria. “The excitement on Rosemarie’s face is the most rewarding aspect. Whenever we spend time together doing simple activities, like playing board games, she lights up with happiness. This motivates me to be the best Big Sister possible” says Demetria.  She has found both a friend and "true Little Sister".

School Based Big Brother of the Year - Bill Walsh

Big Brother Bill Walsh and Little Brother Jeremie have been matched since November of 2008. Bill is currently living in St. Petersburg and is the Senior Director of Development for the Tampa Bay Rays. The Tampa Bay Rays are closely involved with Big Brothers Big Sister as a prominent corporate sponsor. They have been instrumental in positively impacting children’s lives and empowering them to achieve in the future. “This organization does a tremendous amount within my community. I very much wanted to get involved with an organization which directly impacts the community I live in. I believe this community has a need for role models”, said Bill.  When this match was made, Jeremie was in desperate need of a male role model in his life and quickly grew close to his Big Brother, Bill. Jeremie looks forward to his weekly visits and several of his teachers have stated that his behavior is always better on the days that Bill visits him. Jeremie's third grade teacher even stated that he would start talking about his Big Brother's Thursday visits on Monday. Bill stays in close contact with Jeremie's teachers and helps with any behavioral problems that arise. Besides serving as a great role model to Jeremie, Bill is a strong advocate for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Bill enjoys being a Big Brother so much that he has recruited several other “Bigs” from his workplace, by speaking of his experiences with Jeremie. “To me the best part of being a Big has been watching Jeremie grow into a mature young man. I’ve watched him grow for the past 3 years into a wonderful person” says Bill. He has made a real difference in the life of a child, and by telling others about his experiences, he has made this possible for several other children as well.

High School Big of the Year - Caitlin Bryant

Big Sister Caitlin Bryant and Little Brother Dylan have been matched since October of 2009. Caitlin is currently a high school student residing in Inverness. “I really wanted to help kids realize their potential. There is nothing more rewarding than making an impact on a child’s life”, says Caitlin. Dylan's mother wanted him to have a mentor at school that would encourage him to do his best and to improve on his behavior in class. His teachers needed him to work on developing peer relationships, staying focused, and having better behavior in the classroom. Matched with a positive Big Sister, Dylan has made tremendous improvements in his grades, behavior, and social skills. Because of his Big Sister, he now enjoys school and is making new friends. The relationship has not only helped Dylan, but it has also helped Big Sister Caitlin, who struggles with a disability. Caitlin now realizes that she can do anything she sets her mind to and will be attending college after she graduates from high school this year. Big Sister Caitlin has not only been a role model to Dylan, but to her peers as well. In her school, she speaks about the Big Brothers Big Sisters program often, in hopes of recruiting more High School “Bigs”. By serving as a role model to a younger child, Caitlin has made a real difference for a boy who needed guidance and improved her own outlook on life at the same time. Caitlin says that “watching Dylan smile is such a gratifying moment. I feel a great amount of joy every time he hugs me. There is never a time when we aren’t happy to see each other; that type of relationship is rare.”

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