Visionary Miller honored for seeing the ‘Big’ picture

Despite the sweetness of the lush, chocolate desserts created by six generous chefs, the 10th anniversary Chocolate Champagne & Chefs event last Monday evening at the Quail Valley River Club was also slightly bittersweet. This year’s honoree was Judi Miller, who recently retired after 27 years as CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Lucie, Indian River and Okeechobee Counties.

“When Judi arrived, we were serving 35 children in one county. We are now serving 1,435 children in three counties,” said Joanna Meyers, in her welcome address, before introducing new CEO Stacey Watson Mesley.

“I will do everything in my power to make sure that I take Judi’s vision and the vision of all of the board members and sponsors and move it forward in the coming years,” said Mesley.

“Honoring Judi Miller is very personal to me,” shared Anthony Bonna, relating that he had been raised by a single mother who worked two jobs and, while in middle school, began a mentor/mentee relationship with Miller’s late husband Allen.

“Allen really unpacked everything for me, because you can have the values sometimes and you can have the knowledge, but you need someone to unpack that potential. And you need someone to give you that confidence and give you that boost up and to help lead you along the way,” said Bonna, adding that through the years, he truly became part of the Miller family.

Grateful for their mentorship, Bonna graduated from Georgetown University with a degree in finance and, upon returning home, joined the board of BBBS and became a mentor himself. “Today I’m serving St. Lucie County as a County Commissioner and actually had the opportunity to honor Judi with a resolution at our last board meeting, which was a very special thing to do.”

He added that Miller’s impact on the hundreds of children BBBS has served over the years will continue for many generations to come.

“I had the wonderful opportunity to be a part of Big Brothers Big Sisters and what a blessing it has been for almost three decades now,” said Miller. “I’ve seen more kids than I can count grow up to become wonderful young men and women, like Anthony. Many of them come home and they tell you what a difference their mentors at Big Brothers Big Sisters made on their lives and how special that was.”

Thanking the many people involved in the organization, she said, “this honor tonight is not about me; it’s about each and every one of you.”

After a superb beef tenderloin and lobster timbale dinner by Executive Chef Joe Faria, served by his efficient staff, guests got a very grownup treat with an assortment of decadently delicious chocolate desserts prepared by Chefs Tim Blouin, Grand Harbor Club; Ashley Cupp, Quail Valley River Club; Adrienne Drew, Catering by Adrienne Drew; Lori Young, Sweet Creations by LS Young; Jan Neubauer, U Take the Cake; and Scott Varricchio, Citrus Grillhouse. Each had also generously provided raffle items.

Attorney John Moore presided over a live auction with his usual persuasive panache, enticing bidders to purchase a host of items and services, before making an impassioned plea for bids on shiny new bicycles and ‘Hooties Helmets’ to brighten children’s lives.


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Photos by: Denise Ritchie
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