The program kicked off with a surprise performance with the Kansas City Marching Falcons filling up the Overland Park Convention Center with cheers, dancing, and laughter. Even before these surprise guests arrived, we had KC Wolf, Sporting KC’s Blue and Slugger in the house taking photos with matches and strutting the red carpet in style. Moon Drop Circus performed before the doors opened with the Rosetta Sisters, an acrobatic duo, and Jason D’Vaude, who was able to balance on a very tall unicycle while juggling. I even think I saw some Minions running around in the hallway!
This year we had over 400 matches attend along with sponsors and supporters of the agency, tallying up to almost 1,200 people in attendance. This was by far our largest attended Match Appreciation Banquet in history! As dinner started, we added in a surprise video to honor our CEO, Micheal Lawrence’s 25th anniversary at Big Brother Big Sisters. Micheal was presented with a custom-made award by local artist, Tammy Smith Design by Former CEO, Roy Morrill, Former Board President, Brandon McManamy and Current Board President Jeremy Shafer.
Shortly after dinner, our special guest speaker Chris Goode, owner and CEO of Ruby Jean’s Juicery, took the stage and gave an inspiring speech about how anything is possible. He spoke of his journey and how he wanted to follow his dreams despite many challenges he faced along the way. By the end of the speech, I felt like the Convention Center was going to come toppling down as everyone in the room shouted, “IT’S POSSIBLE!”
During the banquet, we were able to honor 10 Little Spotlight award winners to Little’s who have done something truly exceptional this year. The Little’s were honored for a range recognition, including being valedictorian, being crowned National Preteen Queen, and interviewing Kansas City Missouri Mayor, Sly James.
Throughout the rest of the program, we highlighted a Lifetime Friendship Award to Former Kansas City Chiefs player, Art Still and his Little brother Danny for their 36 years of friendship! The Kansas City Ambassadors, a group of former Kansas City Chiefs players from throughout history, announced a new partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Also, throughout the program, we were able to highlight each match length of time all the way up to 5+ years. Anyone who was in the 5+ year match received a medal to honor their friendship.
One of the best parts of the Match Appreciation Banquet is announcing the Kansas City Bigs of the Year and hearing their inspirational stories. Littles, parents, and case managers wrote essays to nominate these exceptional volunteers. A committee of agency supporters met to review the nominations and then selected our final winners. Our Big Couple of the Year went to Dennis and Cherre Walling for their match to Little Brother Max. Big Brother of the Year went to Charles Pigneri for his match with Little Brother Sean. Big Sister of the Year went to Jesse Sendejas for her match with Little Sister Jasmine. Jesse has also been named the Big Sister of the Year for the entire state of Missouri. She will now be considered for the National Big Sister of the Year award.