PANAMA CITY BEACH, FLA — Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Northwest Florida honored one of their volunteers tonight as their “Big of the Year” for Bay County Wednesday night on Panama City Beach.

This year’s winner of the Virginia Thomas ‘Big of the Year’ award was Michael Hanna. The award recognizes the recipient’s character, stability, and overall role as a big brother or sister.

Hanna’s ‘little’ is Eli. They were matched right before the pandemic and got to know each other through video chats until COVID restrictions were lifted.

Since then they’ve become the best of friends. Hanna said he was really nervous about becoming a big until he met Eli.

“The first time that I showed up to their house,” Hanna said, “Ms. Leanne was there, I remember Eli. I pulled up and he just bolted and just took off running, opened up the gate and just gave me a huge hug. And I was just like, all my nerves just went away right there. It was just awesome.”

Hanna’s advice for anyone considering volunteering with Big Brothers, Big Sisters is to just do it, you won’t regret it.

If you’re interested in volunteering, click here.