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BBBS announces 2019 Big of the Year awards

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) – Making a difference, one relationship at a time.

That’s the mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana.

The organization works all year long to accomplish that goal, but Thursday, they took a break to honor all the volunteers, who make what they do, possible.

The Volunteer Recognition Dinner took place at the Ramada Plaza Hotel, with the theme of a popular board game: Candy Land.

Several of the area’s unsung heroes were recognized for their behind-the-scenes volunteering.

Each and every person, mentoring the current generation of youth.

Steve Hays was honored with the title, Real Men Reader of the Year. 

The engineer reads to young boys at an elementary school during his lunch breaks.

It didn’t take much to convince him to help around eight years ago.

“To realize that there’s a program to inspire young boys to read, then have books go home with them,” Hays explained, “that was one of the things I said, ‘this is something I’d really like to support.'”

Judges composed of business leaders from around the area picked this year’s Big Brother and Big Sister of the year, Brian Dunkin and Natalie Axel.

Linda Leighty was awarded School Buddy Big of the Year. 

“We had a little before this too, and its just amazing to watch them grow into two beautiful women,” Sheila Diehl tells ABC21.

Diehl and her husband Justin have volunteered for BBBS for 17 years.

The Noble County pair were awarded “Big Couple of the Year”. 

They’ve mentored their “little” Scarlett from a child, into adulthood.

“To me, its all about Scarlett anyways. We wouldn’t be here without her,” Sheila says.

Her husband appreciated the night, saying, “I like it because it takes the time to thank us for what we get and what we put in it, but the sponsors as well.”

The organization plead for more volunteers, saying around 300 kids are without “matches” and dozens more on waiting lists to be matched.

“It’s going to make an impact whether you think it will or not,” Scarlett says, “These kids need us.”

Justin adds, “No amount of time is too little for what we do.”

Daniel Beals

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