Serving Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, Pasco, Citrus, Hernando and Sumter counties.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay serves three counties--Hillsborough, Polk and Pasco. This year, we selected Bigs of the Year in each of the three counties and then selected two from the group as our agency-wide Bigs of the Year. Read all six inspiring stories below.

Meet our 2013 Big Brother of the Year, Dr. Sam Bennett!

It was three years ago, but Sam Bennett remembers exactly what his new Little Brother Nicholas said when they first met: "I have been waiting all of my life for you--my Big Brother!"

Sam Bennett and Nicholas are the 2013 Big and Little Brother of the Year for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay.

Sam is no stranger to accolades. He was Polk County Teacher of the Year, Florida Teacher of the Year and a finalist for the National Teacher of the Year. And he was no stranger to Big Brothers Big Sisters, either. He mentored three boys before being matched with Nicholas and has been a wonderful advocate for the agency. Still, being the one Nicholas had waited 'all of his life' for might have been a little daunting for some. But for Sam, it reaffirmed his decision to keep mentoring.

"I have attempted to be Nick's personal CEO (Chief Encouraging Officer). But, Nick has also encouraged me and taught me to not give up and be a fighter no matter what comes your way. For a young fourth grader who has faced so many adversities, he just keeps keeping on,' says Sam.

Nicholas has his share of challenges. He has brittle bone disease, which means he misses a lot of school and doesn't get to go out for PE. And he lives with his mother, grandmother and sister--he's the only male in the house. Sam is there to fill in the gaps, helping with academics, providing a diversion during PE, and serving as the male role model Nicholas' mother wants so badly for him to have.

Nicholas is already planning to go to Southeastern University, where his Big Brother is a professor. It's enough to make any 'CEO' very proud!

Meet our 2013 Big Sister of the Year, De Anna Sheffield Ward!

Seven-year-old Sharmel had no interest in going to the library, but that's where her Big Sister, De Anna Sheffield Ward, took her the first time they met.

De Anna and Sharmel are the 2013 Big and Little Sister of the Year for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay.

"Without De Anna teaching me the importance of reading, I probably wouldn't be the bookworm I am today," says Sharmel, now 18 years old. "That's the main reason I love Big Brothers Big Sisters so much--because it expands your horizons."

When De Anna met Sharmel, De Anna was single, new to Tampa and working as a TV news reporter. Four years later, De Anna was so inspired by the power of one-to-one mentorship that she left her TV news career to work for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay. Now, Sharmel is a senior in high school, brimming with self-confidence and De Anna is settled in Tampa, with a husband and two young children...and a Little Sister for life.

Sharmel is most proud of always wanting to do better for herself, with each achievement motivating her to reach higher. Ten years, she didn't think she'd go to college because she didn't have friends or family who had attended. But ten years ago she didn't have her Big Sister De Anna, encouraging her to dream, bringing forth that sparkling sense of self, and guiding her to success.

 Meet our 2013 Hillsborough County Big Brother of the Year, Derrick Crowley!

Just a few months into their relationship, Derrick Crowley had reason to be proud of his Little Brother Darrell. Darrell was selected Student of the Month. A few years later, Derrick is the one earning accolades.

Derrick Crowley is the 2013 Hillsborough County Big Brother of the Year for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay.

Derrick and Darrell were matched by Big Brothers Big Sisters when Darrell was six years old. Now he’s nine. A child changes a lot between ages six and nine, and with Derrick’s help, Darrell has made huge strides academically and socially. But Derrick will tell you he’s changed just as much.

“Having a Little Brother makes me a better person, by making me more patient, friendly, and outgoing. If a person is in a position where he or she can be a role model, then they should be," says Derrick.

To Derrick, mentoring is as simple as that. He can, so he does.  Get past his modesty, though, and you’ll learn that Derrick makes a point to see his Little Brother every week, and talks to him on the phone daily. Derrick, who is a retired Chief Master Sergeant with the Air Force, has also made a point to introduce Darrell to new people and new situations in order to build his self-confidence.

Unfortunately, Darrell was born into a family whose history includes academic failure and incarceration. But thanks to Derrick, Darrell is well on his way to forging a much more positive history for himself.

Meet our 2013 Polk County Big Sister of the Year, Ruth Weaver!

When math is your weakest subject, it helps to have a Big Sister who is an accountant.

“Ruth and I will be friends for life!” says Isabella.

Ruth Weaver is the 2013 Polk County Big Sister of the Year for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay.

Ruth and her Little Sister Isabella met six years ago, when Isabella was in elementary school. Isabella has always worked hard in school, but when she came home with a C in math, Ruth was there to help her bring it up to a B. And now, in eleventh grade, Isabella is a straight A student.

Her good grades are important, because Isabella has big dreams. With Ruth’s encouragement, she has her sights set on college and hopes to be a meteorologist one day.

Last year, when Isabella mentioned her interest in meteorology, Ruth called her Mentor Manager at Big Brothers Big Sisters and with the agency’s help arranged a trip to Tampa so that Isabella could get a personal tour of the newsroom from WFLA’s Chief Meteorologist Steve Jerve.

Isabella’s confidence has noticeably increased in the six years she’s spent with her Big Sister Ruth. And their friendship is truly something special.


Meet our 2013 Pasco County Big Brother of the Year, Anthony Christopher!

When Anthony was growing up, his older brother was always there for him and even helped raise him. Now, as an adult, Anthony is filling the same role for Harley, a young boy in Pasco County who desperately needed someone he could count on.

Anthony Christopher is the 2013 Pasco County Big Brother of the Year for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay. 

Harley has had a troubled and confusing childhood marked by neglect and abandonment. When he was ten years old, his grandmother (who now cares for him) called Big Brothers Big Sisters in search of a male role model who could help Harley cope with his past and prepare for a more positive future. That’s when Anthony entered their lives.

“Anthony gives 110% as a Big Brother and a friend to Harley. He knows what being a friend to Harley really means and he and his wife have given Harley a second family where he feels safe and loved,” says Heather Shell, Anthony’s Mentor Manager.

Harley has been Anthony’s Little Brother for three years and they’ve developed a wonderful bond. They spend time together each week, playing board games, cheering on local sports teams, playing golf and basketball, and going to the movies. In between the fun, Anthony encourages Harley to confide in him. Harley is learning to control his anger and work harder in school.

Thanks to Anthony, Harley’s grandmother is finally breathing a little easier. She now has every confidence that jail will not be in her grandson’s future…and that college will be.  

Meet our 2013 Pasco County Big Sister of the Year, Sioux Isgett!

How do you arrange time to see your Little Sister when the phone is disconnected? If you’re Sioux Isgett, you don’t wait for the phone to be turned back on, you just get in your car and make the drive over.

Sioux Isgett is the 2013 Pasco County Big Sister of the Year for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay.

From the beginning, Sioux has been devoted to doing whatever she can to help her Little Sister Victoria achieve her full potential. As a young girl, Victoria tended to stare at the floor rather than looking you in the eye.

But in the five years that she’s known Sioux, Victoria has truly blossomed into a strong, independent 14-year-old young lady.

Together, the two have spent time on nature trails, learned about healthy eating, enjoyed crafts together and more. Whatever they do, Sioux reminds Victoria that if she believes in herself, she can accomplish anything.

With Sioux’s encouragement, Victoria even joined the Civil Air Patrol, where she went through boot camp and even learned to fly a plane! How’s that for setting your goals high?