The John and Reve Walsh Award is presented to those who has made outstanding contributions to the issue of missing children. Their work done must positively affect Florida missing children and their families and/or positively impacted the safety of Florida’s children. The individual(s) work over the years must indicate a profound contribution that institutionalized improvements thus preventing children from abduction and/or safely and successfully recover those who go missing.
As the President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast (BBBSSC) for 35 years, Joy Mahler has championed disadvantaged children’s rights to a life of safety, stability, and opportunity. BBBSSC’s mission is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever. Over the years, Ms. Mahler has launched various one-to-one mentoring initiatives that she and the Agency specially designed to meet the unique needs of at-risk youth. Among others, these initiatives have supported pregnant girls, high school students at high risk of dropping out of school, youth who are involved in the juvenile justice system, and children who have felt the shame and aloneness of having a parent in prison. When a child is referred to BBBSSC, they often suffer from a low self-esteem, perform poorly academically, and exhibit risky behaviors. As a result, they are particularly vulnerable to finding themselves in unsafe situations.
Under Ms. Mahler’s leadership, BBBSSC has helped at-risk children to navigate the tremendous socio-emotional, academic, and behavioral challenges they face, and create a pathway to a life of promise. This pathway leads at-risk and disadvantaged children away from the multiple life safety hazards that they face. BBBSSC has a consistent history of making a profound impact on the lives of the children it serves. Year after year, and with Ms. Mahler’s leadership and direction, more than 90% of the at-risk children the Agency serves improve or maintain satisfactory academic achievement, reap self-confidence gains, and avoid risky behaviors. Among mentored high school students, 95 percent graduate from high school and 91 percent of graduates furthered their education, entered the military, or obtained employment.
BBBSSC, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, has earned many accolades, including Charity Navigator’s highest rating. It was also recognized this year by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America with the Gold Standard Award for Team Leadership and Quality Community Programming. The Agency served 55 children the year that Ms. Mahler became the President/CEO. This past year, BBBSSC served a record 1869 children in 10 Florida counties.
Ms. Mahler earned her B.S. in Consumer Community Services from Michigan State University. Shortly after graduation, she began working in the juvenile justice system. After moving to Florida in the early 1980s, Ms. Mahler started working with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and this is where she found her home: “Working on the prevention side, with caring adults nurturing children, seemed more proactive and in line with my ideology.” Ms. Mahler is also a graduate of the American Institute for Nonprofit Management at Duke University and the Executive Education program at Columbia University. She is a Past Chair of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Florida and she currently works on a national level as a Co-Chair of the Large Agency Alliance for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Ms. Mahler has been selected as a Woman of Impact by the Sarasota County Commission on the Status of Women, and she is a Leadership Sarasota graduate. She also earned the Award for Exemplary Effort for Advocacy for Girls and Women by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Ms. Mahler’s advocacy for at-risk children includes educating legislators about Big Brothers Big Sisters and what it achieves for at-risk youth in our local communities. Additionally, Ms. Mahler is a member of the federal government’s Positive Youth Development Council, and she co-chairs a sub-group that develops strategies to meet development goals for at-risk youth. Ms. Mahler is also a long-time Big Sister to a young woman who has now embarked on a promising career.
Ms. Mahler has dedicated her life to ensuring that the most vulnerable of children receive the guidance and support they need, and that they know they can achieve a brighter future. By changing the course of thousands of disadvantaged children’s lives, these children were no longer vulnerable to running away from home, or being groomed by a predator, or becoming the victim of child abuse.
About Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast provides one-to-one mentoring relationships to children ages 6-18 years old throughout the Gulf Coast of Florida in Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto, Highlands, Hardee, and Charlotte, Lee, Hendry and Collier counties. Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast holds itself accountable for children in its program to achieve measurable outcomes, such as educational success; avoidance of risky behaviors; and higher aspirations, greater confidence and better relationships. The organization provides children facing adversity, often those of single or low-income households or families with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one mentoring relationships that change their lives for the better, forever. For more information please visit: www.bbbssun.org.