South Florida duo part of Big Brothers Big Sisters program receive national recognition

MIAMI (WSVN) - Two South Florida men have been recognized as Big Brother and Little Brother of the Year for 2019.

Hugo Mantilla and Luis Nieto are part of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program, and ever since they met, they have been inseparable.

The competitive pair were brought together over a decade ago.

“I’m in another family because Hugo is my family,” said Nieto.

Their special bond led Mantilla to suggest to Nieto that they apply for Big Brother and Little Brother of the Year.

“I’m very competitive, so when Hugo said, ‘Do you want to sign up for this?’ I was like, ‘If we sign up for this, we have to win,'” said Nieto.

Whether they’re out on the boat fishing or playing on the tennis court, the two are always down for a friendly competition.

“We were the best, or the number one, out of 150,000 matches for Big Brother Little Brother of the Year nationwide,” said Mantilla. “That was truly an honor.”

Nieto also shares Sunday dinners with Mantilla’s extended family and took a trip to Mexico for Mantilla’s wedding.

Their relationship even inspired Nieto’s career path.

“As a kid, I always knew I was going to do something that was very fulfilling in life,” said Nieto. “Now I know what that thing is. When I met Hugo, I was like, ‘Oh, finance is pretty cool.'”

Their close relationship has led to local, state and now national recognition as the brothers thank the program for bringing them together.

“I think the honor has become a responsibility,” said Mantilla.

Nieto agrees and said he will pay the gift forward to another little brother.

“Giving him responsibility shows him that he’s not just a kid,” said Nieto. “He’s a human being, and later on in life, he’s going to be a great human being, so that’s why I want to become a mentor.”

The duo encourage men and women to sign up for the program so they can experience the type of friendship they share.

“There’s a word in Spanish called ‘convivir,'” said Mantilla. “You don’t have a translation to English, but it roughly means to spend time together and you sort of grow. You’re spending quality time together. It makes the bond so much stronger. That’s what we’ve got. We’ve done a good job of convivir.”

They also acknowledge there’s currently a waiting list for a big brother.

“There are so many littles in search of bigs,” said Mantilla.

Mantilla and Nieto received their awards back in June at the Big Brothers Big Sisters National Awards Gala in North Carolina, but they continue to celebrate their family-like friendship months later.

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