Operation Bigs – Mentor a Military Child

San Diego County is home to the largest concentration of military activity in the world. Therefore, in an effort to serve this population more effectively, Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County designed the Operation Bigs program, a first of its kind program, which provides mentors to children of military families, including active duty, veteran and Gold Star families.

In 2004, following widespread deployments to the Middle East, military spouses from Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base called out for support. Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County responded by establishing a sustainable and scalable program at the 5 elementary schools on base, with funding from Jack in the Box, military and political support, media partnerships, a dedicated staff coordinator, and buy-in and advocacy from the principals at the elementary schools.  Each of these components were critical in laying the groundwork needed to develop a strategic and measurable path to success.

Operation Bigs supports families presented with challenges such as frequent relocation, school transitions, separation from extended family, increased responsibility coupled with a sense of loss when a parent deploys, as well as the physical and psychological stress faced when parents return from war.

Since the launch on base at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base, the program spread across San Diego to serve youth through both site-based and community mentoring programs, however has persisted post-pandemic solely in the Community Mentoring Program. To date, the program has served more than 3,000 Navy and Marine Corps children and it inspired the expansion to over 30 Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliates across the country.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County’s Operation Bigs (OB) program has been recognized as one of the most successful military mentoring programs in the country.

Former First Lady, Michelle Obama came to visit our Operation Bigs program in 2010 and when she visited we were honored by her remarks to the Camp Pendleton Community:
“A wonderful program that we were proud to help celebrate at the White House during National Mentoring Month — that was Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego and their ‘Operation Bigs,’ which provides mentors to so many great military kids here at Pendleton.

“I have changed drastically as a person, both physically and mentally in the most positive ways possible, with Tim playing a large part in that for many years of my childhood.” – Little Brother, Christofer

Military Advisory Committee 2024
Providing strategic direction and council for Operation Bigs

Major General Anthony Jackson, Ret., Committee Chair
Retired Commanding General of Marine Corps Installations West, Camp Pendleton

Lily Carlton
Senior Director of Programs, United Through Reading*; Marine Chaplin Spouse

Tim Chelling
Big Brother Operation Bigs, Retired US Air Force Public Affairs

Colonel Jim Gruny, Ret.
Community Liaison Officer, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego/Western Recruiting Region

Vanessa Hewitt
Enrollment & Matching Specialist, Operation Bigs, Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County

Mary Kirby
Regional Program Director, N9/Fleet and Family Readiness Programs, Navy Region Southwest

Terri Mateo
Big Sister Alum, Lead Director Of Advancement, United Through Reading*

Kim Pham
Program Coordinator, Operation Bigs, Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County

Claudia Aldana Robles
Program Director, Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County

Tina Rose
CEO and President, Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County

Reginald Sims
Operation Bigs Parent, Veteran, US Army

*Operation Bigs Partner

This program is made possible in part by funding from the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which is dedicated to ensuring that impacted veterans, service members, their families, and their caregivers thrive long after they return home.

E-mail MaeB@SDbigs.org

Real Families. Real Impacts.

Thanks to the Jack in the Box Foundation, The May & Stanley Smith Foundation, The Farrell Family Foundation and so many other community supporters, the Operation Bigs program continues to grow. But in order to serve our community’s large number of military children, additional support is still needed. If you want to support our military through a donation to the Operation Bigs program, please contact Talia Katzir, Director of Philanthropy, at TaliaK@SDBigs.org or (858) 536-4900 x205.

The Patriots Connection

Screen Shot 2020-12-07 at 11.35.30 AM