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Operation Bigs- Big Sister of the Year: Marcia Skolmutch
Marcia has been an Operation Bigs mentor since May of 2008. Her first Little Sister, Kayla, was going through a difficult time dealing with her father’s deployment. Marcia helped her develop new interests and coping skills while her father was away. Kayla’s mother expressed her thankfulness for Marcia’s presence in her daughter’s life many times, saying, “Marcia always provided Kayla with much needed attention and a shoulder to lean on.” Over the course of their year and a half match, Kayla grew into a more positive, focused and thoughtful child. Kayla said that one of the most important things her Big Sister, Marcia, taught her was to “think before I speak.” Marcia was a great support to Kayla as she prepared for her family’s move to Okinawa; encouraging her to keep a positive attitude about Japan, meeting new friends, and starting at a new school.
Marcia is now matched with her Little Sister Amanda, and they will be celebrating their two-year anniversary this year. Amanda is one of six siblings, who must share her parents’ time and attention with her brothers and sisters. Marcia is able to give Amanda one-on-one attention. The two love to work on homework, do arts and crafts, and play card games together. Marcia says she has seen Amanda grow into a more confident young lady. Amanda summed it up by saying, “My Big Sister is awesome- like a peanut butter & jelly sandwich!” Amanda’s mother has been so grateful to the program for offering her children a special friend in their lives that they don’t need to share with anyone else. Amanda’s father will be deploying this year and there’s no doubt that Marcia will be there to help support Amanda through the transitions of the deployment process.
Marcia provides snacks for the Operation Bigs sessions and donates games and art supplies to the program. This year Marcia has also helped Operation Bigs staff start a recruitment relationship with her church, which has brought in new volunteers and resulted in new matches at one of the most difficult sites to recruit Bigs, San Onofre Elementary School. Marcia’s dedication to her friendship with her Littles and her unwavering patience and enthusiasm to the program is why she was selected as 2011 Operation Bigs Big Sister of the Year.
Operation Bigs Big Brother of the Year: Steve Sikorski
Steve has been a volunteer with Operation Bigs since February 2007. He is a retired Operations Manager and Marine Corps veteran. His father was also a Marine, which enables him to offer his Littles and their families a unique understanding of the struggles they face, both from the military child’s perspective and a parent’s perspective.
During his time as a Big Brother, Steve has had a positive impact on five Little Brothers whose fathers were active duty Marines. His current Little Brother, Isaiah, is a quiet and polite 10-year-old boy whose father is now deployed. Isaiah took to Steve immediately, saying “My Big Brother Steve calls himself old, but I don’t think he’s old. He makes me feel awesome and great when I’m with him, because he’s so fun. Since my dad is deployed, my Big helps me with my homework and helps me with reading.”
Steve says, “Many years ago I was a son of a deployed Marine and I never forgot some of the difficult times that my mother went through while my dad was deployed. It was a time of worry and anxiety. I was also a Marine serving in Vietnam, and I experienced how hard it was on my fellow Marines who had children at home. These two experiences have been the major motivation for me in becoming a Big Brother aboard Camp Pendleton. I wanted to make a small difference in a child’s life and for them just to have fun. It’s been a great experience and one that I have received more than I ever gave.” Steve is an Operation Bigs Ambassador, and has helped recruit new Bigs by speaking to his community contacts, and appearing at events for the agency. Steve’s selflessness and dedication to his Littles and the Operation Big program is why he was selected as the 2011 Operation Bigs Big Brother of the Year.