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Event honors Big Brothers, Big Sisters

Correspondent photo / Anthony Suszczynski Kenedy Jenkins, 9, of Youngstown tells Santa what he hopes to get for Christmas at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mahoning Valley annual Christmas party and volunteer awards Sunday at Girard High School.

GIRARD — Six years ago, Boardman resident Rita Fercana became a mentor — also known as a “big” — within the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mahoning Valley, where she was paired with her 12-year-old “little,” Angolina Krshner of Youngstown.

This year, Fercana was the recipient of the Big Sister of the Year award.

She was presented the award at the annual Christmas and volunteer celebration Sunday at Girard High School. The event featured a catered meal, arts and crafts, games, and even a visit from Santa Claus for the children and their big brothers and sisters.

“I think I’ve made a big impact on Angolina’s life and her family’s. I’m not only involved with Angolina, but I do get involved with the family as well,” Fercana said.

“Each time she picks a week for an activity and then the next time I get her, I pick it. I see her every two weeks. So we’ve been roller skating, we’ve been bowling, we’ve gone to parks, we’ve gone to… the Indians games, we’ve gone to Browns games. She likes to go jump at, I think it’s Extreme Air (Trampoline Park in Niles),” Fercana said.

“So we each pick an event. We always go out to eat. You know she picks the activities just as much as I do.”

Angolina said, “She changed my life ’cause (without) her, I really wouldn’t be here … ’cause she’s been an inspiration for me and I have a great time with her.”

She said she enjoys when the two get their nails done together and is thankful for the new phone that Fercana bought her for Christmas.

Big Brothers Big Sisters creates one-on-one relationships with children and a mentor, with the goal of helping the children to realize their full potential. Fercana said she decided to become a big sister after a friend had a positive experience mentoring a child in the program.

Brian Higgins, 47, of McDonald, is program director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mahoning Valley and has been with the organization since 1996. Higgins said that he graduated with a social work degree from Youngstown State University and has been working for Big Brothers Big Sisters

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