By Cindy Himes
Local Bigs Honored at State Level
The Penguins Foundation is proud of its long-standing partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh (BBBS) and we would like to congratulate both Malissa Seman and Mark Bezilla for being honored as Pennsylvania’s “Bigs of the Year!”
BBBS’s mission is to create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth and both Malissa and Mark are shining examples of a mission accomplished.
There are 22 BBBS agencies in PA. The BBBS State Association reviews all nominations statewide and selects a Big Brother and Big Sister who have demonstrated characteristics in line with the award criteria. Nomination forms are then submitted to the BBBS National Office for consideration when naming the National Big of the Year.
Malissa, a former BBBS staff member, and her Little Sister Calie have been matched since 2016. Calie has faced several insecurities around having an absent parent and she has become much more confident with Malissa’s consistency and encouragement. The match still consistently keeps in contact and goes on regular outings twice per month.
“When it came time to meet her match, Calie was ecstatic when it was Miss Malissa standing at our door,” stated Calie’s mother Kris. “I honestly don’t think any of that excitement has ever disappeared over the last five years. Malissa has definitely played a huge part in getting Calie out of her shell to be the outgoing, mature teenager she has become.”
“If I didn’t have a Big, I don’t know where I would be,” said Calie. “I wouldn’t be who I am today without having Miss Malissa here to help guide and shape me into the person I am and the person I want to become.”
Calie plans on going to college to become a veterinarian.
Congratulations also go out to Mark Bezlla! He and his Little Brother, Eric, have been matched for over 10 years. Eric’s Aunt Roslyn signed Eric up for BBBS after his father passed away and she felt that he would need some extra guidance.
Mark has become the first person Aunt Roslyn calls with good or bad news and has been there to comfort their family when it’s needed. He doesn’t shy away from hard conversations – he shows up and puts in the effort. He has attended multiple Take Your Father to School Days, and countless football games and school functions.
“In spite of our age and culture differences, Mark has been open to learn all about my world…I sometimes wonder how different my life would be if I didn’t have Mark,” stated Eric. “He helped me gain my confidence and helped me redirect the sadness that I had after the loss of my Dad. He turned the light back on in my heart.”
“I was extremely pleased when we first met Mark,” said Eric’s guardian Aunt Roslyn. “He had a kindness about him I noticed immediately. Their match was effortless from the moment they set eyes on each other. Having Mark as a support system has helped him build character, allowing him to become the young man he is today.”
Eric’s goal is to become an educator. He wants to become a principal and be a life changer in someone’s life to give back and have a positive impact on kids’ lives – the same way Mark does for him.
The impact that BBBS has had on individuals in our community is immeasurable. The Penguins Foundation applauds Malissa Seman and Mark Bezilla for making a huge difference in their Littles’ lives – proving that the right person can change someone’s entire world for the better.