by JENNIFER FRAKES | photos by Zeena Gregg Photography

Sisterly Bond

For Kathryn Nielsen, volunteering for Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County is a commitment that she holds close to her heart. Over the last nine years, she has spent nearly every Saturday with her little sister Candra. “Candra has grown from a shy eight-year-old with a very tough family life into a poised, confident 17-year-old who is a kind and caring person,” shared Kathryn. When the two first started spending time together, they took trips to the San Diego Zoo, the museums in Balboa Park, SeaWorld, and Boomers. Kathryn taught Candra to swim, ice skate, ride a bike, and roller blade. More recently, Kathryn has been helping Candra take the first steps into adulthood by teaching her to drive, helping her fill out job applications, and investigating options for college and scholarships. “I am helping Candra plan for college. She’ll be the first in her family to graduate from high school,” revealed Kathryn.

According to Kathryn, Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County has 500 children waiting for a mentor right now and 300 of those children are boys. “If I had one wish I could grant the organization, it would be to provide them with the funding they need so no child has to wait for a Big Brother or Sister in their lives,” stated Kathryn. She encourages anyone who is interested in volunteering to visit The website also has information about the upcoming fundraiser for the organization, Phil’s Big BBQ at the Ballpark on Saturday, June 28.


Giving back to the community is an important part of Kathryn’s life and that of her family. “My beautiful 20-year-old sister was killed in a skydiving accident while we were in college. My parents established an organization in Indiana which for many years has provided much-needed support to parents whose children have died at young ages,” related Kathryn, who began volunteering for Big Brothers Big Sisters in Ohio before she moved to San Diego. In addition to being a Big Sister, Kathryn is also involved with the Rotary Club of Del Mar, St. Peters Episcopal Church, the USS Midway, and What Price Main Street.

In her spare time, Kathryn, a commercial banker, enjoys spending time with her husband, Merrill. They love to hike at Torrey Pines State Beach and can often be found at local eateries such as Villa Capri and Champagne Bakery.

Group: Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County
Mission: To provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better.
Contact: 858-536-4900,

Name: Kathryn Nielsen
Community: Carmel Valley
Volunteer Affiliation: Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County
Profession: Commercial Banker
Family: Husband – Merrill Nielsen
Hobbies: Hiking, Rotary Club of Del Mar, St. Peters Episcopal Church, USS Midway Museum, What Price Main Street
Favorite Local Spots: 56 bike path, Villa Capri, Mia Francesca, Champagne Bakery, Jimbo’s, Torrey Pines State Beach, and hiking trails