Say (Cream) Cheese!

by Chip Colandreo

Lake Mary’s delicious new photography club helps amateurs and pros perfect their recipes for picture-taking success

It all starts with the finest ingredients: a well-composed photograph captured by a trained pair of eyes and a capable camera. It’s then sliced and toasted to perfection using the latest digital photography software. Next, add a “schmear” of your favorite contrast-boosting adjustments or color-enhancing filters and finish it off with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar…

Wait… are we talking about mouth-watering bagels or eye-popping pictures? Actually, it’s hard to tell where one subject ends and the other begins at Lake Mary’s newest photography club, but either way the results are positively scrumptious.

Veteran professional photographer and Longwood resident Joe Drivas didn’t set out to establish what has become known as the Bagel King “Photo Breakfast Club.” Instead, as he settled into a Saturday morning ritual of coffee and pastry at the new Lake Mary Boulevard bagel shop, Joe innocently posted his whereabouts and enthusiasm for the place on Facebook.

“I’d post that I was there, and a few of my nearby photography friends said they’d join me,” Joe remembers. “Whenever you get photographers in the same place, we spend a few minutes talking about the weather and catching up on each other’s lives, then the conversation always finds its way back to photography.”

As the weeks went by, some of the amateur and enthusiast photographers among Joe’s Facebook followers asked if they could join in, too, and Joe was thrilled to oblige. Before he knew it, Joe was hosting impromptu photography summits with 15 to 20 locals, all eager to pick his brain, trade tips, and enjoy delicious breakfast treats as they discussed their favorite subject.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Joe says. “We do it about twice a month and announce it ahead of time on Facebook. We don’t charge for it or anything like that. Everyone is welcome, from someone who is a total novice but eager to learn to part-time and full-time professional photographers who want to keep their skills sharp. Our meeting has a very different feel and purpose to it compared to the larger clubs in the area.”

Joe is also active in many of those big photography clubs, like the 500-member Orlando Camera Club, which often organizes juried photography competitions.

“In a judged competition, a photo is shown on the screen, and the judge might say, ‘Gee, this photo would have been even better if the photographer had taken one more step to the left.’ Well, if the photographer was standing at the edge of a dock, one more step could’ve put him in the water. You don’t get to talk about things like that in the big clubs. At the Bagel King meetings, attendees bring in their photos, and we talk about them – what were you doing, how were you feeling when you took this shot? What drew you to this picture, and how can we make it even better together?”

Joe, one of the nation’s premier Photoshop craftsmen, sets up his computer and a color-calibrated TV monitor in Bagel King’s meeting room where he spends a few minutes each with a handful of photos submitted by the meeting’s attendees. With each photo, he describes step-by-step his process to apply filters, adjustments, and Photoshop plugins to make each photo look its very best.

“I’ve really learned a lot about Photoshop layering and plugins, and it’s made me a much better photographer,” says Denise Smith, a local property manager who also does some professional photography on the side. “Though I follow him on Facebook, I’d never met Joe until he started hosting these meetings. My goal has always been to learn by surrounding myself with the best photographers I can find, and this is where they go.”

In response to club members who want more in-depth Photoshop training, Joe also periodically hosts advanced Photoshop clinics at Bagel King for a small fee.

Discussion topics at each Photo Breakfast Club meeting aren’t just limited to picture taking. At a recent gathering, club members spent 15-20 minutes asking Joe about his quadruple-backup system to prevent data loss in even the most catastrophic circumstances.

“In 38 years, I’ve never lost a single photo, and I don’t want any of you to ever lose one, either,” Joe told the crowd.

As attendees finished off their bagels and took their final sips of coffee, Joe did the same while he recapped another Saturday morning well-spent.

“People leave with a full stomach and a head full of new ideas and new knowledge,” he says. “It started out as a fun get-together, and that’s exactly what it is.”

To learn more about the club, search for Joe Drivas on Facebook.

Photo: Attendees at a recent Bagel King Photo Breakfast Club meeting pose for a picture of their own.

A Dynamic Duo

by Jennifer Clemens

Meet two local “superwomen” who triumphed over breast cancer and created an alliance to help others

It’s a beautiful thing when something just clicks – that aha moment, the spark of an idea, a friendship. Liz Duncan and Becky Mulligan have experienced all of these and more.

It happened during a girls’ weekend in the summer of 2012. While sitting on the beach, Liz and Becky were talking about their recent battles with breast cancer and how they could make someone else’s journey more comfortable. The conversation turned to seat belts, of all things, and how something designed to keep you safe becomes a major discomfort for breast cancer sufferers during the many trips to and from medical treatments. Click!

“I just couldn’t get the idea out of my head,” says Becky, a Winter Springs mother of three and full-time office manager of i9 Sports. “I knew I had to make time for this.”

Liz, who lives in Longwood, felt the same passion, and with her background in healthcare (she’s an instructor for Florida Hospital’s Adventist University) and Becky’s business savvy, the two formed a partnership: Sisters4Hope.

Like many business ventures, it didn’t happen overnight. It took a few tries to turn their theoretical concept into a physical prototype that was just right. The result? A small, pink-ribbon-blazoned memory-foam cushion that fastens to the seat belt (à la Velcro) and redistributes pressure on the chest. Another bonus? Liz and Becky donate a portion of all proceeds to breast cancer research.

Their entrepreneurship involved many late nights (including wee-hour Skype sessions with an overseas manufacturer), quality checking thousands of products, and shipping them to retailers across the country. No doubt, these ladies do it all. But for Liz and Becky, it has become a labor of love. They continue to be humbled by the outpouring of support from family and friends who lend a helping hand.

“My garage has actually become a sweatshop,” laughs Becky. In temperatures exceeding 95 degrees, she, Liz, and Becky’s children have worked behind the scenes, moving boxes and organizing inventory. In fact, it was Becky’s daughter Shauna (age 18) who helped create the name Sisters4Hope.

For all women battling breast cancer, “sisters” doesn’t mean sharing the same parents. It’s sharing the same struggle. Liz and Becky wanted to capture that bond in their optimistic company name. In the process, they realized their sisterhood goes even further. They are also sorority sisters from their respective alma maters.

These two indomitable women have become familiar faces in Central Florida’s efforts to support breast cancer research and educate the public. With Florida Hospital’s Pink Army, they have helped register women for their very first mammograms. They also serve as mentors for newly diagnosed patients and raise money for local causes such as Libby’s Legacy, Ribbon Riders, Pink in the Park, and various cancer walks. Additionally, because of Liz and Becky’s efforts, local women can now obtain free, slightly imperfect seat belt cushions that have been donated to Compassionate Hands and Hearts in Orlando.

Sisters4Hope is making a name for itself outside of Florida, as well. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, Liz and Becky’s cushions will be sold at Pep Boys – and not just Seminole County locations. The ladies negotiated a nationwide promotion with the billion-dollar company to sell the cushions at 570 locations across the country.

The Internet has been huge for Liz and Becky, not only for marketing, but enabling people to find them. After losing his mother to cancer, one man searched the term “superwoman shirt” and found Sisters4Hope. He wanted to honor his mother by burying her in something that symbolized her strength and courage. Liz and Becky’s “superwomen” T-shirts, another one of their creations, were a match.

“It’s the little things like this – helping a man during his grief – that make us realize we are making a difference,” says Becky.

When asked what advice they have for women who are newly diagnosed, Liz says her main takeaway is, “You’re not in it alone. Let others help you, and don’t isolate yourself.”

Becky agrees, adding, “Your first instinct might be to think ‘Why me?’ or to panic, but it’s important to be calm, talk to others, and make educated choices.”

They are inspirational words from two women who have been in the trenches themselves and have come out stronger – and smiling.

Photo: Liz Duncan (left) and Becky Mulligan at the opening of Florida Hospital for Women in Celebration, where Sisters4Hope helped educate women about breast health and register them for mammograms.



Known to many of her patients as the “bone whisperer,” chiropractor “Dr. Dana” Schoonmaker of Lake Mary’s Chiro-Fit is a master at solving the body’s most stubborn mysteries. An experienced biomechanics and rehabilitation practitioner, Dr. Dana applies her background in exercise and sports science to benefit her chiropractic patients.

“I’ve practiced in the field of physical medicine since I was a teenager,” Dr. Dana says. “So I understand the connection between our muscles and bones and how simple adjustments can release pressure and correct nagging issues that may have been previously overlooked.”

Applying her signature “whole-person approach,” Dr. Dana utilizes a head-to-toe assessment to evaluate her patients before she designs their personalized plan of correction.

“Consider this: the spine is the body’s breaker box,” Dr. Dana explains. “Each section is responsible for sending electrical signals to the body. If a patient, for example, has allergies, sleep issues, or digestive problems, this tells me a lot about which areas of the spine could be out of alignment. Even those who consider themselves ‘well’ or injury-free can benefit from chiropractic because it helps the body better communicate with itself, which results in enhanced overall health and performance.”

Offering chiropractic adjustments, therapeutic massage, nutritional counseling, and sports-specific training, Dr. Dana and the team at Chiro-Fit also work in partnership with athletic coaches, trainers, and physicians to support amateur and elite athletes.

“As a multi-sport competitor myself, I understand that athletes require tailored care plans to address their specific needs and goals,” says Dr. Dana. “However, whether you’re an athlete or someone suffering from a lifetime of complicated injuries and pain, there is not one recipe for healing. Each patient is different, which is why we focus on individual, long-term wellness.”

Dr. Dana is also committed to educating her patients about their health and the healing process.

“My patients are used to me pulling out my anatomy book,” she says. “If a patient understands how his body interconnects, he will better understand why I recommend certain adjustments or lifestyle changes. This leads to improved compliance, which ultimately results in healing and increased functionality with less pain in a shorter amount of time.”

Her patients are proof. “I found Dr. Dana’s treatment plan to be successful and, for the first time, I found relief in a cervical issue I’ve been dealing with for years,” says a loyal Chiro-Fit patient. “Not only has she explained in detail the treatment plan necessary, but she also advises me on what I can do for myself to better my health in many aspects.”

– Shelley Ouellette

Photo: Dr. Dana Schoonmaker applies a chiropractic adjustment to a Chiro-Fit patient.



Have You Seen This Dog?

by Pam Neff

Thanks to an innovative Wekiva neighborhood Facebook group, you sure have… and dozens more just like him.

There is absolutely no doubt that our pets are like members of our family, and as owners, we do all we can to keep them safe. When our adored animals unexpectedly wander from home and go missing, we instinctively begin the endless neighborhood search by foot or in the car, yelling out their names, hoping we find them sooner rather than later. There’s no substitute for boots-on-the-ground hot pursuit of an animal in need… or, is there?

In Wekiva Springs there is, thanks to one local resident and his creation of the online Wekiva Missing Pets network.

With a simple Facebook group, Wekiva resident Chuck O’Neal has found a much better way to help his community stay on the lookout for missing animals. Instead of physically hanging flyers up and down the street, or randomly Facebook posting to a wide network of non-local friends, the Wekiva Missing Pets page allows neighbors to instantly share pictures of pets in the immediate area with hopes that they’ll receive a quick response.

Chuck was compelled to start the page over a year ago after his neighbor’s small dog, Troy, went missing.

“Troy’s owners asked the homeowners association to do an email blast to residents, but they were told that was not possible,” says Chuck. “Many neighbors went looking for Troy, but to everyone’s great sadness, he was hit and killed by a car on Hunt Club Boulevard before he could be found.” If there had been a faster way to spread the word about Troy, Chuck thought, the dog could have been saved.

Since Chuck created the online group, community members have been able to reunite dozens of missing pets with their families. Some of the stories are priceless, like the time a family’s dog wandered into a nearby Publix one rainy evening. The store’s employees immediately posted the dog’s photo to the Wekiva Missing Pets page. The owners saw the post and had their pet back home in no time. And one day, when local resident Bill Horton checked the page, he noticed a familiar furry face staring back at him. It was Bill’s brand-new pup, Rudy, who had managed to escape the house. Within minutes of contacting the group, Bill was reunited with his dog. Though the particulars of each reunion may vary, the outcome of owners finding pets warms the community’s heart every single time.

Without the Missing Pets group, according to Wekiva residents Ryan and Megan Engelhardt, they would have never found their seven-year-old dachshund, Sir Alex, who ran away from home a few months after they moved to the area.

“When I realized Alex was missing, I jumped in the car and started driving up and down the streets, talking to any neighbor I saw,” says Megan. “I had taken off Alex’s collar that day, so I was afraid I would never see him again.”

Unbeknownst to Megan, her neighbors had already taken action. A short time after Alex ran away, Todd Schroth, a Wekiva Missing Pets network member, spotted Alex and snapped a quick picture on his phone. Todd found a way to keep the dog safe, posted his photo to the Facebook page, and waited for a response.

Meanwhile, when Megan told another neighbor to be on the lookout for her lost pooch, the neighbor pulled out her phone, punched up the Missing Pets page, and handed the phone to Megan. “The first post I saw was a picture of Alex!” Megan recalls with joy.

Needless to say, after a few hours curiously exploring his new neighborhood, Alex was tail-wagging and happy to be back in Megan’s arms.

“With people using social media so often, you can share a missing pet announcement with the group and keep the word active and in front of people 24/7,” Todd says. “It’s more effective than the old-fashioned way, just driving through the neighborhood or getting a quick glance at a sign that you can’t quite make out. This is a great tool for our community.”

And based on the group’s membership count, many others would agree. Today, the group, which started out with only 10 people, has grown to more than 500 friends and neighbors working together for the sake of saving Wekiva’s animals.

“Every community should have something neighborhood-focused like this,” says Chuck. And although the group operates through a free social network site, Chuck makes sure to maintain strict control over admittance to avoid those looking to phish or spam. “I ask that nobody advertise or use the group contrary to its intent,” he says.

As for Megan and Ryan, they are forever grateful for their neighbors’ willingness to help them in a time of need.

“Complete strangers have come together for animals through this group,” says Megan. “They know our animals are family.”

Chuck attributes the online group’s success to the perseverance of his neighbors. “It’s all about Wekiva neighbors helping neighbors,” he says. “It does take a village to bring these furry family members home.”

As the search for missing pets evolves in the digital age, we applaud our compassionate, animal-loving community members who continue to keep a close eye out for our irreplaceable animals.

Photo: Chuck O’Neal, founder of the Wekiva Missing Pets network, with Sir Alex, one of the animals recovered thanks to his community-focused Facebook group.



Being the owner of a thriving small business takes a lot of hard work and patience. For Timm Godby, owner of two FASTSIGNS franchises in Casselberry and Sanford, the effort has paid off in the form of a successful family business of which he is very proud. And no one has benefited more than Timm’s scores of happy customers.

“When I bought the Casselberry franchise in 1993, I gave up a lot and took a big risk,” says Timm, who was a General Motors executive in Michigan. “But I knew this is what I wanted to do, so my wife and I moved the family to Florida.”

Within weeks, Timm was creating signage, banners, and graphic solutions for a wide range of clients.

“I had the marketing and sales background, so I hired experienced sign makers and graphic designers to take care of that end of it. We started hitting our stride right away, but it’s definitely a process.”

Over the years, Timm’s son Aaron learned the trade and is now the general manager of the Casselberry store and works with his brother Michael, who handles sales. Aaron actually met his wife, Nicole, while working there. Timm’s son-in-law, Eli Vizcarrondo, met Timm’s daughter Tara while working at the Casselberry location and is now the general manager at the Sanford store. Timm still oversees administrative duties and marketing programs, but Aaron, Eli, and Michael handle the day-to-day operations.

“It’s very rewarding at this point because we are all like-minded in how we want to serve our customers,” adds Timm. “Owning any business can be a roller-coaster ride, but I was careful to pick something that I could see myself enjoying every day, and this motivated me to guide my sons and son-in-law, who really wanted to get into the business.”

As far as relocating to Lake Mary all those years ago, Timm considers that one of the best decisions he and his wife Cynthia, a professor at Seminole State College, have ever made.

“It’s been wonderful being a part of this community and providing great products and services for our neighbors,” says Timm, who admits the area’s great schools are what sealed the deal in 1993. All four of the Godbys’ children graduated from Lake Mary High School and then from UCF. Timm’s daughter Amanda now teaches at LMHS. “We do a lot of community outreach as a business, which has connected us to the region in so many ways. I can’t imagine being anywhere else at this point.”

– Jack Roth

Photo: FASTSIGNS owner Timm Godby (second from right) with son-in-law Eli Vizcarrondo (left), and sons Aaron and Michael Godby


The McKibbin Agency

“You’re fired!” No one likes to hear them, but those words set in motion a fascinating bit of local history that eventually gave birth to The McKibbin Agency, one of Sanford’s longest-serving and most-respected insurance businesses.

In the early 1950s, Clifford McKibbin, Jr. was let go from his job as city manager of Sanford, only to become business partners with the man who fired him, former mayor Andrew Carraway. Clifford eventually bought and renamed their insurance business that had been serving the Sanford community since 1918, and The McKibbin Agency was born.

By 1972, Clifford’s sons Alex and Bruce had joined the family business, and Bruce continues to serve The McKibbin Agency’s many clients today.

One thing is certain, longevity has given Bruce and partner Georgeanne Bledsoe unique perspective on what area businesses and individuals must have to protect themselves and the level of personal service they expect.

“When you call our agency, you’re going to talk directly to an agent,” says Bruce. “We work with multiple insurance carriers to find the best fit for your specific needs.”

Insurance is about protection. With more than 70 years of combined experience and deep roots within the community, The McKibbin Agency cares about your financial security as much as you do.

– Hedy Bass


Willow Schools Maitland

Students with learning disabilities in the Altamonte-Wekiva Springs area have an incredible new resource at their fingertips: the brand-new Willow Schools campus in Maitland.

Willow Schools, previously named Bridges Academy, has served students with learning disabilities at its Oviedo-Winter Springs campus for nearly ten years, and now the same outstanding academic remediation education program is expanding to Maitland and its surrounding communities.

One in five students nationwide experiences significant challenges learning to read, solving mathematical problems, or demonstrating knowledge through writing. In many cases, the underlying issues are the direct result of a learning disability such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, auditory processing deficits, and mild speech and language difficulties. If these issues go untreated, the toll on a student’s academic performance and self-confidence can be devastating for the student and the parents.

“When a student comes to us, our goal at Willow Schools is to get to the cognitive source of the learning disability, which we do through an assessment in 26 areas,” says Carla Brandt, principal of both the Maitland and Winter Springs campus. “We know that each learner is unique, so we note what abilities they have and what abilities need improvement.”

The assessment process also reveals the student’s specific learning style and allows Willow Schools to create a prescriptive module book, individualized to meet each student’s needs. Students are then placed in classes based on their abilities.

“One major positive outcome of this setup is that children realize they’re not alone and that there are other children with the same difficulties,” says Carla. “I’ve had students say to me, ‘This is the first time in my life I have a friend,’ and it just warms my heart.”

The goal is to help students reach their full potential and then transition back, successfully, into a traditional public or private school.

“When we realize that a student has reached the point where they’re ready to transition back to a traditional school, we alert the parents and help them select the best school in the area based on the student’s individual needs,” says Carla. “It’s bittersweet when a student leaves us, but we’ve never had a student return to our program, so we know we are giving them the tools and self-confidence they need to succeed.”

Traditionally, about 15-20 of the school’s 100 students on the Winter Springs campus have made that successful transition each year. With the same staff and curriculum in place at the Maitland campus, Carla has the same expectation for that location.

The Maitland campus has the capacity to serve at least 100 students from first grade through sixth grade who do not respond to the “one size fits all” curriculum offered in most traditional public or private schools. Within the next two years, the campus will incorporate students in grades seven and eight and will also expand to serve high school students in three years.

“The parents who have seen the new campus are very impressed,” says Carla. “Visually, it is a beautiful building. We feel like the aesthetics of the new campus truly match the premier program we’re providing inside the walls. Although the actual curriculum is really what matters to the families we serve at Willow Schools, it is nice to have a campus that reflects our state-of-the-art program aesthetically.”

The community has also provided extremely positive feedback about the new location, because it is so easily accessible from I-4.

“Driving to the Winter Springs location was a sacrifice for many of our families at Willow Schools,” says Carla. “They are thrilled about the new location because they either live or work near I-4 and can now easily drop off and pick up their children.”

Educators, pediatricians, psychologists, and all the professionals who routinely make referrals for Willow Schools are also excited about the new location.

“So many people in the professional community have told me that when they made referrals to families, the feedback they received was that the Winter Springs campus was too far for them,” says Carla. “Now we can offer a more convenient location for families, and overall, we can serve more students.”

– Rebekah Riley

Photo: Students hard at work at the Willow Schools campus in Winter Springs. A new, more convenient campus in Maitland is now open.


Home1st Lending

Before the housing bubble burst in 2008, it was fairly easy to get approval for a new mortgage. Today, lending standards have become much more strict and often more complicated for potential homeowners who don’t understand the nuances of home financing. At Home1st Lending in Lake Mary, the one and only goal is to simplify the complex, get people mortgage loans, and make the process as easy as possible.

Home1st Lending secures home financing for individuals by dealing with banks throughout the nation to get the best rates possible.

“The first thing we tell people is that there are options available,” says Christian Lopez, loan originator. “Many people think it’s impossible to get a mortgage loan today, but even though lending standards have tightened, you don’t have to continue to rent or stay in a home you don’t want to be in anymore.”

At Home1st, the philosophy is to treat each customer as an individual, not a number. The representatives there don’t place clients into a loan formula created by the banking industry. Instead, they use common sense to help homebuyers obtain the best loan possible.

“We work with more than 60 of the biggest lenders in the industry, which allows us to get you the best rates on all types of loan programs,” says Christian. “We want to help every one of our clients, and we use every tool at our disposal to do so.”

According to Christian, the housing market in Seminole County continues to recover, with new homes being built and existing homes moving fast. The great thing about this region, he says, is that there is a lot of variety in the properties, which in turn appeals to a variety of tastes.

Christian works with many people from out of state who are surprised at how easy it is to get from either Lake Mary or Sanford to downtown Orlando. They are also surprised at how everything they need is right at their fingertips – quality schools, entertainment, outdoor activities, and a plethora of dining options.

“Lake Mary and its surrounding areas afford people a great quality of life,” he says. “When we see how the region continues to grow and evolve in a positive way, it’s very satisfying because we invested the time and effort to get individuals and families into the homes they wanted.”

– Jack Roth

Photo:  Home1st loan originator Christian Lopez and CEO Theresa Lentini







Coenson Law

“We at Coenson Law are passionate about helping the firm’s clients protect themselves, their families, and their finances.” – Barbara Coenson

Since the beginning of Coenson Law, it was attorney Barbara Coenson’s goal to bring distinctive personal service to the practice of law with the creation of a law firm that follows a true “client-first” model. Coenson Law has stayed loyal to its goal and today enjoys trusting and long-lasting relationships with the individuals, families, and businesses it serves.

Focusing its practice on estate planning, elder law, and special-needs planning, the law firm helps clients develop plans using wills, trusts, and other tools so clients can have peace of mind that their families will be cared for when they are gone. The firm also helps clients plan for disability and care of aging parents with powers of attorney, guardianships, Medicaid, and veterans’ benefits. The firm also helps its clients preserve assets and prepare for a time when their family may need to care for them.

“We treat our clients as if they are our family,” Barbara says. “We help them make important decisions about their lives and their loved ones. It is important that we know their goals, dreams, fears, and concerns as we counsel and advise them on issues that impact their lives, their families, and their assets.”

The law firm helps people make important decisions at important moments in their lives. “The relationships we build with our clients help us provide the very best service,” says attorney Beth Roland, who joined the firm in 2012. “We want to know what is going on in our clients’ lives. We want to understand their needs completely so we can recommend the best solutions. The time I spend getting to know our clients is very enjoyable and rewarding to me.”

The client-first, relationship-driven philosophy of Coenson Law is perfectly expressed in the firm’s motto: “Personal Attention. Professional Results.”

The attorneys and staff at Coenson law do such a good job of developing relationships and trust with their clients, they often transcend the role of “attorney” to become trusted advisors to clients and their families.

“Our clients know that they can call on us at any time and we are here to help them,” says Barbara. “We empower them with knowledge and guide them through careful decision-making processes that are tailored to their specific needs and situation.”

The firm’s commitment to service and wise counsel extends into the community, as well. Barbara and her team can often be found giving presentations at local communities, organizations, and senior centers about sensitive issues like estate planning and long-term care planning. Barbara is also the current president of the Rotary Club of Lake Mary.

“We’re here to help people,” Barbara reiterates, “so helping the community is just another way to accomplish this goal.”


Hallowed Halls and Home Run Balls

by Chip Colandreo

Local 12-year-olds take the baseball trip of a lifetime to the fields of Cooperstown, New York

Through baseball’s most sacred city flows the Susquehanna River. It laps against the grounds of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum before winding its way south, past another precious piece of baseball real estate: Cooperstown Dreams Park. As the name implies, the park is a brown and green dream factory, where for 13 weeks every summer more than 1,000 12-and-under (12U) baseball players from 104 teams (that’s 104 different teams each week) gather to play under the watchful eyes of immortal Hall of Famers. The weekly American Youth Baseball Hall of Fame Invitational Tournaments keep each of the park’s 22 fields alive and buzzing nearly 24/7. Each field, that is, except the largest. The 4,000-seat Little Majors Stadium at the heart of Cooperstown Dreams Park is reserved for only one game every seven days, the championship game to crown the winner of each week’s tournament.

On a warm evening in early July, when Sanford’s Chad Lee first laid eyes on Little Majors Stadium, it was serene, still, and empty… until he hopped the fence.

“The boys had a little bit of time off, and I just wanted to see it,” says Chad, head coach of the Central Florida Pride, a Sanford-based 12U “travel baseball” team made up of young men from Lake Mary, Sanford, and the surrounding communities. “I slipped in and just imagined it in my mind: This is where we were going to be in a few days, in the championship game.”

Chad strolled across the infield, took a few pictures with his phone, and closed his eyes as he took a seat in the eerily silent visitors dugout. It was like a scene out of baseball-movie perfection. The only things missing were the ghosts of Major League legends, à la Field of Dreams, emerging from spectral cornfields in right-center. When Chad opened his eyes he didn’t see Hall of Famers walking toward him, but he could picture his own young players taking their positions on the diamond to fight for the championship. And he was right.

Before they could play ball, though, Chad’s team had to earn its ticket to the Cooperstown tournament.

“It’s tough,” Chad explains. “Every year, about 4,000 teams that ask for invitations don’t get in.”

The window of opportunity is also maddeningly small. The tournament is for 12U teams only. Turn 13, and you’re out, while the level of competition means nearly all players under 12 need not apply. If the Central Florida Pride were going to go, it had to be this year before Chad’s 12-year-old players blew out their candles and became teenagers. As luck would have it, the Pride scored an invite.

Once in Cooperstown, the team took a day to tour the Hall of Fame before getting down to on-field business.

“It was amazing to see the plaques for all the players I’ve heard so much about and to see their stuff,” says Pride player Connor Lee, Chad’s son and a Markham Woods Middle School seventh grader. “Babe Ruth, Ted Williams. It was really impressive.”

“It was cool to see the lockers they had set up for the Hall of Famers, to see the gear they used in real games,” says Dylan Crews, also a seventh grader at Markham Woods Middle and another of the 12 players who made the trip. “It was an incredible experience.”

Incredible as it was, the best was yet to come once the Pride took the field.

Tournament veterans warned Coach Lee that the skill level among teams at the tournament can be, to put it kindly, “varied.” Most of the Northern squads only recently pulled their gear out of winter storage, while year-round Southern teams like the Pride were, quite literally, in mid-season form. As such, the Pride won its first game 35-2.

“By the second inning, I told my guys to turn around and bat left-handed, just so we didn’t show anybody up,” Chad recalls with a mixture of pride and a bit of embarrassment. “We have a lot of respect for the game, and we were worried about making the opposing players feel bad. But what’s so great about this tournament is that every kid is so thrilled to be there. They’re literally living every young boy’s baseball dream. When one of our guys hit a home run, players on the other team were high-fiving him as he ran around the bases. That’s how awesome the atmosphere was up there.”

More blowouts followed as the Pride rose to the occasion and played its best baseball of the season, which began in December. At one point, Dylan hit a home run in seven consecutive plate appearances. For reference, the Major League Baseball record for consecutive home runs by a single player is four. For the tournament, the Pride scored 176 runs and allowed only 23 in 11 games. They hit 48 home runs and posted an eye-popping batting average of .560.

“The best part is, we did this with our kids, just 12 homegrown kids from Seminole County having fun,” Chad says. What’s so odd about that? Especially in the South, the competitive landscape around travel baseball is becoming quite intense. It’s not unusual for top teams to fly in star players, especially pitchers, to make one-game appearances in major tournaments, and plenty of that was happening in Cooperstown.

“Twelve-year-old kids being flown in, dropped off at the stadium in limousines – it’s crazy,” says Chad with a laugh. “Suffice it to say, we don’t do that kind of stuff on our team, but we’re still able to compete and win.”

Win they did until the very end, where the Central Florida Pride fulfilled Coach Lee’s premonition and strode into Little Majors Stadium for the championship game looking, playing, and feeling like big-leaguers.

“That was my favorite moment,” says Connor, “walking into the big stadium and seeing all those people cheering for us. We’ve never experienced anything like that.”

“There were 4,000 people in the stands, and they tell us another 80,000 watched the championship game online,” Chad says, still in awe. “We played our hearts out, but we got into an early six-to-nothing hole. We almost came all the way back, bringing the tying run to the plate in the last inning, but it just wasn’t to be.”

A last-inning loss in the final game was disappointing, but it did nothing to diminish the incredible experience of the tournament for the players or the coaches.

“I’ve played and coached baseball all my life, since I was five, and I can say without a doubt this was the greatest week of baseball I’ve ever experienced,” says Sanford’s Brian McAuley, the Pride’s assistant coach. “To see what those kids did during this incredible 11-game stretch was unbelievable. All the smiles, all the great times they had. It might have been more fun for me to watch it than it was for them to do it!”

“It was awesome,” Dylan confirms. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience I’ll never forget. We were literally living the dream.”

Oakmonte Village

It’s been said the measure of a society is how it treats its elderly population. While some seniors may need little to no assistance, others may require medication management and some healthcare monitoring. Still others may need acute care. With aging populations, many communities around the country are struggling to identify and meet these needs. Here in Lake Mary, we’re more fortunate. Oakmonte Village, in the heart of Lake Mary, was designed to meet both the independent and assisted living needs of seniors, and it has become a shining example of how senior living can and should be.

A 25-acre luxury senior living community, Oakmonte Village features 207 independent living residences and 114 assisted living units. The independent living residences include 165 feature-rich apartments in Oakmonte Village’s elegant Valencia building and 42 Tuscany-influenced villa homes. The newly opened assisted living/memory care units are already 92 percent occupied. Soon to come will be the final phase, a freestanding 40-bed memory care building to care for residents with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Groundbreaking is scheduled for late 2014.

Oakmonte Village raises the very concept of catered living to new heights and brings together into one community the attention to detail and service that seniors deserve.

“We provide a critical service to the community,” says Alex Sarmiento, Oakmonte’s regional director of operations. “We offer a continuum of care, from independent living to assisted living and memory care. We’re a community within a community, and our residents have everything they need at their fingertips.”

Among the services and amenities Oakmonte Village provides include daily meal plans, nursing care, personal training, weekly housekeeping, maintenance, in-house pharmacy, beauty salon, 24-hour reception desk, gym, onsite physician services, transportation (for doctor visits, shopping, and houses of worship), arts and crafts center, library, state-of-the-art theater, outdoor swimming pool, and game and card rooms.

“I like to call this a cruise on land,” says Alex. “We have everything you can think of that provides convenience and security for our residents. It’s very satisfying and rewarding to see where we’ve come in the last five years, because we’re responding to the needs of our community. The overall population in our industry is aging, and as a result more people need assisted living and memory care, which is what we are providing.”

Alex stresses that many residents of Lake Mary have family members living in Oakmonte Village, so the facility is an important part of people’s lives. He likes to think that Oakmonte represents what Lake Mary is all about − an engaged community where residents and businesses interact.

“We’re very involved with local schools and have kids volunteering here all the time,” Alex says. “We have also worked with a number of community entities, including the Rotary Club of Lake Mary, the Lake Mary Heathrow Festival of the Arts, and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando.”

As director of operations, Alex sees families coming to visit residents every day – children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. He takes pride in the fact that they enjoy coming to Oakmonte because of the uplifting environment.

“It’s a normal part of life. As parents and grandparents get older and move into senior living communities, we’re honored to help make that a positive experience,” says Alex. “There are many places that offer the same services and amenities, but it’s how you deliver them that matters the most.”

Helen has been a resident at Oakmonte for two years and has never been happier.

“The staff is so kind, anxious to help, respectful, and they make you feel important,” says Helen. “There’s not enough time in the day to participate in all the activities. Between the classes, field trips, entertainment options, book club, iPad training, mah-jongg, bridge, and canasta, I can literally be on the go all day. I hope to remain at Oakmonte Village for a long time.”

– Jack Roth

Photo: Oakmonte’s independent living amenities include 42 villa homes and 165 luxury apartments. Oakmonte Village also offers a range of assisted living/memory care options. A freestanding, 40-bed memory care building is coming soon.


The Art of Healing

by Jill Duff-Hoppes

A unique gallery – in a place you might not think to look – is earning rave reviews from artists and art lovers alike

Lush palm trees and favorite fishing spots. A cat napping in a garden oasis, another snoozing on a chair. Kids playing outside and a girl lounging in a hammock.

These and other laid-back images have been on display this summer in the “Lazy Days” exhibition at Florida Hospital Altamonte’s Art of Healing Gallery.

About 30 paintings, mixed-media art, and photographs have been showcased in the “gallery,” which is actually a well-traveled corridor on the hospital’s first floor.

The “Lazy Days” exhibit is scheduled to give way the first week of September to a new theme, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” The final exhibition of the year, “Each Day is a Gift,” will open in December.

The Art of Healing Gallery is a community partnership between Florida Hospital Altamonte, the Seminole Cultural Arts Council (SCAC), and Circle Christian School. The gallery debuted in December 2010.

The exhibits, which change quarterly, showcase work by professional and amateur artists throughout Central Florida. Even a few of the hospital’s doctors and executives have displayed their artwork in the gallery.

Artists submit their entries through the SCAC, and the pieces are juried by an arts review committee from the hospital.

In addition, art created by local students is included in the shows. Those pieces are not juried.

Josie Foranoce, the gallery’s administrator and an SCAC board member, says the program’s goal is to provide an escape – however temporary – for patients and their families.

“It really was designed to create a healing environment in an institution where healing is the goal,” says Josie, who works at the hospital as director of laboratory operations.

Response to this art-in-public-places program has been enthusiastic from the start. Hospital staffers enjoy seeing a rotating collection of artwork adorning the gallery walls.

Artists and invited guests are treated to an opening reception for each show, complete with refreshments and music.

“Artists do love to see their work hung, and they love to see other people looking at it and admiring it,” Josie says.

Hospital visitors, meanwhile, often stop to admire a piece or two as they walk up and down the hallway.

“You can read their expressions on their faces, that they’re just lost in that moment in time,” Josie says.

Artists chosen for the “Lazy Days” show included Kurt Harris, president of the Sanford Seminole Art Association, and Reg Garner, Seminole County’s 2014 Artist of the Year. Kurt was selected as the featured artist for his tranquil painting of white sailboats dotting Lake Monroe. The acrylic painting, which the art selection committee felt best represented the show’s “Lazy Days” theme, was used on promotional materials for the exhibit.

Kurt knows firsthand about the relaxing and restorative properties of art. The Sanford resident battled colon cancer 15 years ago, and during that time, making art served as a powerful diversion for him.

“It was a way to focus my attention on something other than the thought that I might have a disease,” Kurt says. “It was great therapy and did wonderful things for my attitude.”

Reg, a Sanford native, thinks beautiful images in medical settings can make people feel better during times of illness, worry, and stress.

“It’s so soothing to them,” says Reg, who also has 20 landscape and waterscape photos on permanent display at Central Florida Regional Hospital in Sanford. “It really helps.”

Three of his digital photos were selected for Florida Hospital Altamonte’s “Lazy Days” show. One photo was of beach chairs nestled between palm trees. Another was a picture of a butterfly in a sea of yellow flowers along the St. Johns River.

In addition to spotlighting artwork for hospital employees, patients, and visitors to enjoy, the gallery benefits the community in another way. All the art is for sale, and 25 percent of each purchase price is donated to the Florida Hospital Foundation.

The hospital is located at 601 East Altamonte Drive in Altamonte Springs. The gallery is free and open to the public. Artwork can be purchased by calling the hospital’s concierge services at 407-303-5395.

For details about this and other Seminole County arts programs, visit

Photo: Sanford artist Kurt Harris with his acrylic painting, Sails on Lake Monroe. The painting was featured in the “Lazy Days” exhibition this summer at Florida Hospital Altamonte’s Art of Healing Gallery.

Maitland Orthodontic Specialists

Our life’s journeys can take us to many fascinating places and span dozens of fulfilling years, but when we retell the tales of our travels, the friendships we’ve made often trump the details about “where” and “when.” Just such a friendship story is being written at Maitland Orthodontics, told by two world-class practitioners at two different points in their own professional journeys.

The main characters are Dr. Gilbert Principe and Dr. Travis Weeks, but the real stars of this story are the patients who’ve found their beautiful smiles at Maitland Orthodontic Specialists for the past 30 years and the members of the Maitland-Altamonte community who can expect to do the same for the next 30, at least.

“I met Dr. Principe at a conference, and as we talked, we realized that we both had the same values and the same vision of what an exceptional orthodontic practice should be,” recalls Dr. Weeks.

When he finished dental school and his advanced orthodontic training five years ago, Dr. Weeks could have taken the common, lucrative path. He could have immediately opened his own orthodontic practice and reaped its short-term rewards as he began to put book knowledge to work in the real world. Instead, Dr. Weeks chose to refine his craft under the wings of orthodontic masters.

He began his journey in Winter Springs under the tutelage of Central Florida orthodontic legend Dr. John Smith, and the process continues under the watchful eye of the equally legendary Dr. Principe.

“I’m at the point in my career where I want to give back to the profession,” says Dr. Principe. “After 30 years of practice right here in Maitland, I’m now treating the grandchildren of some of my very first patients. I want to work with someone who I know will carry on the tradition of this practice and continue to treat patients with the same level of care and concern that I did. With Dr. Weeks, I know the future of this practice is in expert, well-trained hands, and that’s immensely fulfilling for me.”

Dr. Principe has earned countless fans after three decades of service to families in Maitland, Altamonte, and beyond, and those fans need not worry – Dr. Principe isn’t riding off into the sunset just yet.

“I’d go crazy if I didn’t work,” Dr. Principe says with a laugh. “But having a partner I can trust gives me the flexibility I want at this point in my career, and Dr. Weeks is bringing the latest in new knowledge to this practice, as well.”

“As orthodontists, our job is to straighten teeth, not just put people in braces. With the new tools and technologies we have at our disposal today, we can explore many different ways to accomplish the ultimate goal,” says Dr. Weeks. “And when braces are the best choice, we can now keep patients in them for a much shorter amount of time.”

Dr. Weeks is also helping Maitland Orthodontic Specialists upgrade its behind-the-scenes systems with the latest Apple computers and advanced patient management and digital recordkeeping software. The office itself is in the midst of a wholesale remodel, too, with new carpet and paint throughout and plans for a new interactive game room for kids and a number of new technologies in the exam area.

The new tools are critically important, but both Dr. Weeks and Dr. Principe are quick to come back to the most significant part of this journey: friendship, trust, and respect – all for the benefit of Maitland Orthodontic Specialists and its patients.

“You can walk in an office and immediately get a sense of how partners feel toward each other and how they work together,” says Dr. Principe. “I have the greatest respect for Dr. Weeks, and I know that in the years to come our patients will really appreciate the decisions we’re making today.”

“Dr. Principe is a pure gentleman, one who serves his patients and his community with no secondary motive for himself,” says Dr. Weeks. “That’s someone you want to work with, someone you want to learn from. It’s someone I look forward to walking beside as we take this journey together.”

– Chip Colandreo

Photo: A 30-year journey continues: Dr. Gilbert Principe (left) and Dr. Travis Weeks of Maitland Orthodontic Specialists


A Passion for Giving Grows in Our Backyard

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

By Hedy Bass, OWSL

Famed anthropologist Margaret Mead understood the potential and power of committed citizens working together to change the world around them. When such a group resides in our own backyard, it’s worth taking note. So allow us to introduce the aptly named Our Backyard Foundation.

It all started two-and-a-half years ago with two brothers. Andy Toshie smiles as he recounts how he and brother Miles used to organize golf outings for their friends. “After 10 or 12 years, we decided we wanted to do something better,” he says.

Eager to turn their passion for having fun into fun with a greater purpose, the brothers sought out six friends who, with the support of their families, started a charitable foundation. Looking for a name that would reflect their vision of living and giving locally, they formed Our Backyard Foundation and got to work… and by “work,” the foundation really means “fun.”

The group hosts a number of family-friendly community activities throughout the year, from golf tournament fundraisers to bowl-a-thons. A small fee is charged to participate in each event, generating just enough profit to help the foundation turn around and do some good.

“We knew we wanted to do a lot of things that were fun for our friends and family, not make them expensive, but charge enough extra to enable us give back to the community,” explains Andy, who serves as board president of the Oviedo-based foundation. Seated with him in a booth at Oviedo’s Miller’s Ale House (one of the foundation’s business partners) are fellow board members Cindy Toshie (Andy’s wife) and friend Tami Nickerson.

“We’re fortunate to have friends who are social workers,” Cindy says, discussing how the foundation identifies local families in need. “One of our founding board members is very involved in her church, and she keeps us constantly aware of families who need help.”

Other board members, too, are actively involved in a variety of causes, so Our Backyard Foundation has no problem finding charities and individual families who can use a helping hand.

Take the work of Tami, whose charity of choice, Blessings for Babies, is a recipient of the foundation’s largesse. Tami’s passion to help families facing the hardships that come with a premature birth are motivated by her own experiences following the preterm birth of her son, Hunter. Understanding all too well the trauma and heartache that each family endures, Tami and other volunteers go into neonatal intensive care units in Central Florida and visit with parents, providing emotional support and guidance as well as supplying the family with items they will need when their extended hospital stay is over.

“I don’t want parents to have to leave their baby to go get things they’ll need when their baby comes home,” Tami says. “The first month at home is so critical to these families and having help in the form of gas cards, clothes, or preemie diapers can be a huge help to parents going home to start their dream as a family.”

The foundation also helps support the work of other organizations like Grace Medical Home, which provides primary medical care to the uninsured and underserved, and Base Camp Children’s Cancer Foundation.

The “backyard” covered by Our Backyard Foundation is quite large, encompassing much of Seminole and Orange counties. Sometimes its work knows no boundaries, as in 2012 when Superstorm Sandy devastated the northeast. Our Backyard Foundation set up an Oviedo drop-off location for food and clothes. Gathering up the community’s donations, board members Clint and Vickie Carbonneau rented a moving truck and drove the long route north to help the families displaced by the storm.

As they sit in the booth of the restaurant, it’s obvious that Cindy, Andy, and Tami have countless stories to tell – like the time they helped a family whose four-year-old son had Down syndrome and a hole in his heart get to New York for life-saving surgery, or when they provided nutritious snacks for countless homeless school children. In just two-and-a-half short years, the group estimates it has raised more than $50,000 to help local charities, individuals, and families in need.

“We’re not the end-all,” says Andy. “We’re not the permanent fix, but we try to give a helping hand.”

Indeed, Ms. Mead was right. A small group of thoughtful, committed citizens is making a difference, and they’re right here in our backyard.To learn more about Our Backyard Foundation and see its upcoming schedule of community events, visit

Photo: Our Backyard Foundation members recently attended a poker night fundraiser: Vickie Carbonneau, Melissa Rosello, Carlos Rosello, Tami Nickerson, Scott Nickerson, Cindy Toshie, Andy Toshie, Miles Toshie, and Clint Carbonneau.



Survival of the Littlest

by Hedy Bass

Meet the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk 2014 poster child: Sanford’s Skylar Myers

Skylar Christian Myers was born April 6, 2008. He weighed  6 pounds 7 ounces and was 19.5 inches long. Skylar was born with a congenital heart defect known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome. With the grace of God, a new heart was found for him, and on June 18, 2008, Sky got a second chance on life with a heart transplant.  - Blog post by Rikki Myers

Skylar Myers lives in Sanford with his parents Rikki and Greg Myers. He is six years old, loves to read, and enjoys playing with airplanes and his grandparents’ cats. He is bright and precocious, with a winning smile and personality that instantly touches one’s own heart. To look at him now you might never guess this beautiful boy almost left this world as fast as he entered it.

In 2007, just two days before Thanksgiving, Rikki Myers went in for a routine 18-week ultrasound. Excited about the prospect of learning whether they were having a boy or a girl – something she and Greg hoped to share with family gathered at the holiday table – they were faced with devastating news. Their unborn child had a serious heart defect – hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS).

“You’re in total shock,” recalls Rikki. “You have no idea what all this means and you start going through every emotion.”

HLHS is a rare but very serious heart defect that leaves the left ventricle (the lower-left chamber of the heart responsible for pumping oxygen-rich blood to the body) and aorta small and underdeveloped. According to the American Heart Association, it is the most common cause of death from heart disease in infants. If not treated within the first week or month of life, it is fatal.

Fortunately, advances made in the past 25 years gave the Myers family some hope. They learned about a three-part open-heart surgery call the Norwood procedure that could save their baby. So, with few doctors and even fewer hospitals qualified to perform the procedure, they did their research and decided upon Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“We met the lead surgeon, Dr. Larry Watts and just fell in love with him,” says Rikki, recounting the meeting. “He told us, ‘I don’t have a magic wand, but I promise I’ll do everything in my power to take the best care of your son.’” Convinced Dr. Watts and his team could save their baby, they went home and anxiously awaited his birth.

It was only a matter of days after Skylar was born in April 2008 that Rikki and Greg learned he was rapidly failing, so much so that they requested an emergency baptism for the child they feared may suddenly die. With nothing to lose, the surgeons recommended immediate surgery to begin fixing the heart they described as “smaller than a strawberry.” If all went as planned, he would undergo another surgery in six months and then the final surgery at age three. Fortunately, the procedure went well, and though far from out of the woods, the doctors released baby Skylar into the care of his parents just seven days after his surgery. Skylar progressed well, but various complications brought him to the hospital for surgery unrelated to his heart problem. By this time, Rikki had become Skylar’s nurse as much as his mom.

By the time Skylar was three months old, Rikki and Greg received crushing news from Dr. Watts. He didn’t think their baby would make it to the six-month surgery. Worse yet, he was given only 7 to 10 days to live. Their only option was a heart transplant. With a heart so small, finding a compatible heart in less than 10 days and within the required four hours of Levine Children’s Hospital bordered on the impossible. On day six, Rikki and Greg received a call they’ll never forget. A heart was found in New York. The death of a four-month-old baby would provide the heart that would give their child a second chance at life. Six years after that fateful day, Skylar is a healthy, active, and happy boy who looks forward to starting kindergarten at Wilson Elementary.

Rikki and Greg continue to devote much of their time speaking to businesses, parents, and healthcare providers about their amazing journey. Just this past March, Rikki was the keynote speaker at the American Heart Association’s annual Heart Ball, hosted by SeaWorld. It is there that Skylar and his family made another friend and fan, Terry Prather, president of SeaWorld and an AHA volunteer.

“I have a special place in my heart for Skylar,” he says. “The American Heart Association is the reason we are both here today, and the funds we raise are critical for generations to come.”

You can help AHA raise money for heart health research by participating in its Greater Orlando Heart Walk on Saturday, September 6. See details on the LML calendar, page 108.

One in 100 babies are born with some form of congenital heart defect, making it the most common birth defect in the world. In whole, heart disease is the number one killer of all Americans.  Today’s children living with congenital heart disease are the first generation of survivors, as a result of research and medical advancements funded by the American Heart Association. But there’s more that needs to be done as CHD adults get older and for generations to come.

By the year 2020, it’s the goal of the American Heart Association to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent, while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent.

The American Heart Association is currently funding 37 active medical grants in Florida, totaling $5.6 million, and $135.6 million throughout the nation.

Photo: Baby Skylar surrounded by the love of his family: mom Rikki Myers, grandmothers Kathy Dauer and Christine Myers, dad Greg Myers, and grandfathers Peter Dauer and Bill Myers.

North Orlando Surgical Group

There’s no way around it. Surgery is scary… and afterward, it hurts. The good news is that the skilled and caring doctors at North Orlando Surgical Group in Lake Mary are keenly attuned to the concerns of their patients. They do everything possible to ensure that each patient has the best surgical outcome using the least-invasive technology available.

“It’s scary stuff to be facing a surgery,” says the practice’s founder, Dr. Jeremy Steinbaum. “We try to make the entire process as stress-free and easy as we can for the patients. We pride ourselves on doing minimally invasive techniques. We try to minimize the post-op pain and speed you on the road to recovery until you’re back to yourself again.”

That process begins with staffers scheduling pre-op and post-op appointments that are convenient for patients. Surgery is done at either Central Florida Regional Hospital in Sanford or the practice’s surgical center in Orange City. Everything that will happen before, during, and after surgery is carefully explained in detail to the patient.

Once patients are back home, a North Orlando Surgical Group staffer calls to make sure the patient is doing well and things are going as planned. The assistant also sets up the follow-up visit and answers any questions.

“We encourage our patients to call us if they have any concerns post-op,” says Dr. Steinbaum. “Someone is always on call, 24/7.”

Dr. Steinbaum started the practice in 1998 in Sanford. In 2010, he was joined by Dr. Dennis Diaz, a specialist in minimally invasive surgery. Dr. Joan Iacobelli, a general surgeon with 20 years experience, came on board in 2011. Dr. Jeff Arts, a specialist in vascular and endovascular surgery, completed the team in 2013. All the doctors are board certified in their fields.

“Everybody has added something to the practice,” says Dr. Steinbaum, “new ideas, new technologies, and new expertise.“

Dr. Steinbaum, who lives on the Volusia side of Lake Monroe with his six dogs, calls himself “old school,” because he practices general surgery.

“I do a little bit of everything,” he says. “I do a lot of thoracic (lung and chest) and endocrine gland surgery. Dr. Iacobelli does vascular, general, and thoracic surgery, too. Dr. Diaz brought some advanced laparoscopic and robotic experience. Dr. Arts brought in vascular expertise, particularly in endovascular techniques. That’s the new way of doing vascular surgery from inside the system.”

Because of that diversity, North Orlando Surgical Group is able to expertly handle every type of surgery except brain, bone, and heart.

The doctors, who are known for their skill in treating cancer, can also perform many simple in-office procedures.

“We do ultrasound-guided breast biopsies in the office,” says Dr. Iacobelli, who came to Florida from Alabama. “It saves people a trip to the hospital or to the radiology department. We put in chemotherapy ports and do minor surgical procedures here, too. A lot of things that used to require a visit to the hospital can be done in-office. We help people save time and save money.”

Dr. Iacobelli completed medical school and surgical training in Memphis, Tennessee. She has two grown children. Her son is in the MD/Ph.D. program at the University of Pennsylvania. Her daughter is an auditor in Alabama, and Dr. Iacobelli has two grandchildren.

Dr. Diaz and his wife have a teenage daughter at Seminole High School and a four-year-old son in nursery school.

Dr. Arts was in private practice for 12 years in South Florida before moving to Sanford.

The four physicians are their own bosses. The practice is not owned by any hospital, which gives the group a great deal of independence.

“That gives patients a choice of where they have their surgery,” says Dr. Iacobelli. “It allows us to treat our patients the way we think is best.”

Adds Dr. Steinbaum: “Most of all, our patients benefit from the compassion, experience, and skill of our surgeons. We pride ourselves on patient satisfaction and providing good service. Surgery is always a major undertaking, but at North Orlando Surgical Group, patients can spend less time worrying about their operations and focus instead on getting better.”

– Peter Reilly

Photo: Doctors Steinbaum, Arts, Diaz, and Iacobelli (sitting) of Lake Mary’s North Orlando Surgical Group


Boardrooms, Battlefields, and Ballfields

by Jill Cousins

One part coach, one part colonel, Lake Mary’s Ephraim Grubbs is a community servant everyone should know

Five years ago, when Ephraim Grubbs III was ready to start his own construction services company in Lake Mary, he put a lot of careful thought into its name. He decided on The Adjutant Group (TAG, for short), since the definition of adjutant is “to help.” As a military man, Ephraim liked the fact that adjutant is often used as a military term, as in adjutant general, the Army’s chief administrative officer.

But the word adjutant could also be applied to Ephraim’s life. Whether it’s through his role with the National Guard, his devotion to his family, or his commitment to assist and inspire the people of Lake Mary through community service and youth coaching, Ephraim constantly strives to help others.

His commitment to the National Guard recently resulted in a promotion to colonel. It’s the latest and most significant addition to a long list of military honors and promotions Ephraim has received during the past 24 years. Ephraim has been involved with the National Guard since 1998.

“It’s an incredible honor to be selected for this promotion,” says Ephraim, 46, who lives in Magnolia Plantation with his wife, Renee, and three of their four sons: Adam (14), Eli (9), and Noah (7). The couple’s oldest son, Ephraim IV (18), who goes by the nickname Lieph – for “Little Eph” – graduated from Lake Mary High School this past spring and is currently a member of the Alabama National Guard and a student at the University of Alabama.

“I personally feel like this promotion is for my family, for all the sacrifices they’ve made,” says Ephraim. “It’s like their reward.”

Ephraim earned the prestigious promotion after receiving a master’s degree in Strategic Studies at the U.S. Army War College last year.

“It’s never a given,” Ephraim says of his promotion. “You can do everything right and still not get promoted. But it’s always been my goal to continue to move upward. I believe in trying to maximize your God-given talents.”

From the moment his sons began playing sports, Ephraim was on the sidelines as their coach – in football, basketball, and baseball. As his sons have grown, Ephraim has continued to coach, currently leading a number of youth baseball and football teams in Lake Mary. He is also president-elect of the Rotary Club of Lake Mary and served on the club’s board last year.

“I truly feel blessed, and I love what I do,” Ephraim says of his busy life. “As far as coaching sports, the enjoyment of it is very similar to the enjoyment I get being in a military unit – that sense of accomplishment and teamwork with a diverse group of people.”

A native of North Carolina, Ephraim ironically had no plans for a lifetime of military service when he enrolled at The Citadel (South Carolina’s famed military college) in 1986. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and was hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps as a real estate developer. But the year was 1990, and the country was in a recession, so Ephraim took his father’s advice and signed up to become a full-time military man – the first in his family to do so.

“I really enjoyed the structure, the mission, and the attitude of the military and its soldiers,” Ephraim says, “and I discovered I was good at it and had a lot of fun doing it. As long as God gives me the physical and mental ability to do it, and my family supports it, I will continue to do it.”

Ephraim also plans to continue his work as a youth sports coach and with the Rotary Club, and he gives his colleagues in both arenas credit for allowing him to do what he does with the National Guard.

“It would be tough for me to commit the time it takes to earn a promotion to colonel without the community’s support for the teams and associations I belong to,” Ephraim says.

But no one gets more credit from Ephraim for his charmed life than Renee, whom he met on a North Carolina beach when he was working as a lifeguard during the summer of 1987.

“God has a way of giving you what you need, and he gave me Renee. She’s my everything, my ‘Chief of Staff,’” Ephraim says. “Without her, there is absolutely no way I could do all the things I do. I wouldn’t even try.”

The Super Volunteers

Photos provided by The Canovas Photography and ValariC Photography

By Chip Colandreo, OWSL

Where in the world do you begin to assemble a list of the top community volunteers in Oviedo and Winter Springs? Or, more accurately, where in the world do you stop? Oviedo-Winter Springs is blessed with as many Super Volunteers as there are cozy cul-de-sacs in our community. Highlighting even a few risks diminishing all the others, but please join us in congratulating this small but mighty sample of men and women who selflessly work to move our community forward.

Jeffrey & Cheryl Chudnow: Volunteers in Chief

When it comes to their volunteer efforts and involvement in the community, Oviedo Police Chief Jeffrey Chudnow and his wife, Cheryl, can sum up their attitudes toward community service pretty succinctly: “If you don’t want us to come,” Jeffrey says with a grin, “don’t invite us. Because, if you do, chances are we’ll be there.”

“And if you do ask us to volunteer or help out,” adds Cheryl, “don’t be afraid to put us to work. We like to get our hands dirty.”

Those are bold proclamations from such public community figures, but Jeffrey and Cheryl aren’t afraid to back up their words with constant community action.

In short, the Chudnows are everywhere, from the Oviedo Farmers Market (which the couple helps run every month) to meetings of the Oviedo Citizens in Action and the Oviedo Woman’s Club.

Even if Jeffrey and Cheryl aren’t formally involved, they make it a point to attend as many community events as they can to show support and help raise funds for worthy causes. “If I know about a fish fry or fundraiser going on somewhere, I try to be there,” says Jeffrey.

And though they’re not official members of local Rotary Clubs, the Kiwanis Club, or the Optimist Club, the Chudnows can be found at those groups’ events as frequently as the members themselves.

For Jeffrey, the commitment to community service is both a personal and professional calling. “In 2007, when I interviewed to become chief of the Oviedo Police Department, the city manager at the time told me the city wanted a chief who would be involved in the community,” Jeffrey remembers. “That really resonated with me. Personally, I enjoy being involved and helping as many people and causes as I can. As chief, I understand that it’s a very important way to help connect the department and our officers with the people we serve.”

As such, Jeffrey has instilled the spirit of community service throughout his corps of officers and police staffers. In the recent past alone, an Oviedo Police Department officer has served as president of the Rotary Club of Oviedo, the Kiwanis Club of Oviedo-Winter Springs, and the Oviedo-Winter Springs Optimist Club. Like Jeffrey, his officers volunteer countless hours – in street clothes and on personal time – to help the Johnson Hill-Washington Heights Community Outreach beautify its historic community, aid the Oviedo Historical Society as it works to keep Oviedo traditions alive, or give back to countless other organizations.

Even on the clock, Jeffrey expresses the police department’s community commitment in a number of ways. When Oviedo was struck by a rash of property thefts out of unlocked vehicles, Oviedo Police could have sent a few public service announcements to local media outlets and called it a day. Instead, Jeffrey and his officers personally walked door-to-door to engage with residents and share tips to help keep their property secure.

“If my officers and I are more personally involved in the community, it makes the entire department more approachable,” says Jeffrey. “We’re not just meeting people in times of crisis. Then, if there is ever an issue, I’m not just the chief and we aren’t just police officers. We’re neighbors you know who can help you.”

The significant time Jeffrey and Cheryl spend volunteering and serving the Oviedo community can make for a very busy calendar in the Chudnow house, but Jeffrey is quick to praise Cheryl for her support and enthusiasm to help him go above and beyond his official duties as chief.

“Anytime I say, ‘This is going on, and I’d like to be there,’ Cheryl is always eager to jump in, too,” Jeffrey says. “Having her behind me makes all the difference.”

“People like him, and he likes people,” Cheryl says of her husband as the two share a smile. “He really gets into it, and we enjoy doing it together.”

Danny & Jenette McKinney: Speaks Louder than Words

For 45 years, Oviedo Citizens in Action (OCIA) has engaged and uplifted Oviedo’s tradition-rich African-American community, and few have meant more to one of Oviedo’s signature civic groups than Danny McKinney and his wife, Jenette Davis-McKinney.

President of OCIA for the past seven years, Danny helps coordinate the organization’s efforts to aid Oviedo residents young and old.

“We just finished our annual back-to-school drive so that every kid has the opportunity to start the school year ready and equipped to learn,” says Danny. “We work with elderly citizens, too – keeping them engaged and responding to their needs. We even offer computer training to make sure they stay up to date on technology and can do all the latest things we take for granted.”

OCIA works closely with the city of Oviedo, the Oviedo Police Department, and the Parks and Recreation department to help ensure area youth have amenities and opportunities to make productive use of their free time. Danny himself recently cut the ribbon to officially christen new facilities at Round Lake Park.

Danny and OCIA’s close connection to the people in Oviedo’s Recreation and Parks department is no coincidence. The city’s recreation coordinator happens to be Danny’s wife.

“I actually became involved in Oviedo Citizens in Action before Danny did, back in the very early ‘90s… and then he went and took over as president!” Jenette says with a hearty laugh. “I started working for the city in 1991, and my title at that time was special events coordinator. As part of my job, I got involved as a volunteer with a number of organizations, and I was especially drawn to OCIA.”

Jenette and OCIA made for potent partners, and the team eventually set out to address a glaring need in the community.

“I thought we needed to do something within the city to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day,” Jenette says. “Dr. King was all about equality, and I wanted to bring everyone in Oviedo together to honor him and to promote equality in our community.”

With help from OCIA and her colleagues at the city, Jenette organized Oviedo’s very first official Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration at Riverside Park in 1992. What began as a gathering of about 150 people in the park’s multipurpose room has now become one of Oviedo’s biggest annual events, featuring a spectacular parade down Broadway Street and a celebration with nearly 10,000 neighbors, requiring the event to be relocated to Round Lake Park. And Jenette continues to lead and organize the festivities to this day.

“We enjoy everything that we do,” says Danny, a 911 dispatcher for the city. “We love to help and uplift people.”

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how big your house is or what kind of car you drive,” adds Jenette. “What really matters is what you’ve done for the community, and that’s why we strive to do everything we can.”

Gary & Doris Grund: Rotary Royalty

The fact that Gary Grund recently earned the Rotarian of the Year Award from the Rotary Club of Winter Springs is impressive. That his wife, Doris, is a Non-Rotarian of the Year is remarkable. That they both earned the awards in the same year is downright unbelievable. You better believe it, though, considering how much the Grunds do for Oviedo-Winter Springs.

Gary helped upgrade the Rotary Club’s signature fundraiser this year, the Denim and Diamonds Vegas Night. The most recent event brought in $24,000, which the club will give out in scholarships and other charitable donations. That’s more than double last year’s haul of $11,000. Doris, for her part, helped secure sponsorships and silent auction items that made the impressive tally possible.

Aside from Rotary, the Grunds volunteer with the local Relay for Life, Regina Bereswill’s Helpful Hands, Kids House of Seminole, and many, many more.

“We don’t do it for thanks or recognition,” says Gary. “We do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

Jim & Marci Gordon: Boys, Boards, and Backyards

For Marci and Jim Gordon, their commitment to community service in Oviedo has its roots deep in America’s heartland. “I grew up outside Omaha, Nebraska, just across the street from the original Boys Town Village,” says Jim, a partner with Beers and Gordon, P.A., in Oviedo. “Boys Town is like its own city out there, with a gorgeous church, its own post office, a hospital, and its own ZIP code.”

“We were married at the church, and I did research for my college thesis at the hospital,” Marci adds. “Boys Town was a very important part of our lives, and we knew what important work they do with at-risk kids.”

So when the Gordons moved to Oviedo 16 years ago, they didn’t have to look far to find a worthy cause to embrace. The couple just had to wait until their own boys were old enough to make mom and dad’s community service both possible and pertinent.

“As our kids got older and started school, we finally had the time to get involved in the community, and we really wanted to show our sons that it was important to volunteer and give back,” says Jim. “That’s when we began working in the community and involving them as often as we could.”

It didn’t take long for the Gordon family to adopt Boys Town Central Florida in Oviedo as a cause close to their hearts, and it didn’t take Boys Town long to realize they had some special volunteers on their hands. “We were helping out at events there pretty often, and they really liked our story, so it was only natural for us to join the board of directors,” Jim recalls.

“Serving on the board at Boys Town is a perfect example of how we like to do ‘board service,’” says Marci. “With the kids at Boys Town especially, they really respond when they see that you care, that you’re taking the time to listen to them and show them that they are important. It’s not just about raising money for Boys Town. It’s about putting in the time to really help those in need.”

The Gordons apply the same philosophy to all their board appointments, and there are more than a few. Jim sits on the Oviedo Police Foundation board and the HOPE board. Marci spent six years on the grant board of Susan G. Komen Central Florida. She’s also vice president of the Krewe of Leaders, a longtime ambassador at the Oviedo-Winter Springs Regional Chamber of Commerce, and is very involved in the Oviedo Businesswomen’s Network and its scholarship programs for young women graduating from both Oviedo and Hagerty high schools.

With any extra time, the Gordons help lead the party planning committee of their neighborhood and even put on an elaborate re-telling of the Christmas story in their backyard every holiday season. Jim is also a soccer coach, formerly at the local YMCA and more recently with Florida Kraze Krush Soccer. “If you can give back, you should,” says Marci.

“Our boys get a kick out of volunteering, too,” adds Jim, “which makes us feel really good.”

Todd Cluxton: Field General

He’s been the volunteer president of the Oviedo Little League for 12 years, but “Coach” Todd Cluxton is about to go full circle… full circle around the base paths, that is.

“I coached local Little League teams for years as my boys were growing up,” Todd recalls. “Once they grew out of the league, I started volunteering as president. Now, my first granddaughter is starting T-ball, so it looks like I’m going to add ‘coach’ back into my duties for a while.”

As a coach or president, Todd has helped thousands of local children embrace America’s pastime, and his efforts continue off the field, too, as a member of Oviedo’s Parks and Recreation advisory board.

Todd has served the Rotary Club of Oviedo as its treasurer for eight years and spent seven years on the board of the Oviedo-Winter Springs Regional Chamber of Commerce and is a past president. He continues to volunteer at numerous chamber-sponsored community events, “usually manning the beer booth,” Todd says with a laugh.

“I enjoy giving back to the community,” says Todd, a vice president at Citizens Bank of Florida. “It’s important, and it’s fun.”

Lisa Covelli: Kiwanis and Kids

The current president of the Kiwanis Club of Oviedo-Winter Springs, Citizens Bank of Florida’s Lisa Covelli keeps her volunteer efforts focused on a theme that’s close to her heart.

“I decided to join Kiwanis because so many kids don’t have the support and opportunities that my children enjoyed,” Lisa says. “It’s unfair that those kids face so many obstacles that they didn’t create.”

Through Kiwanis, Lisa is able to help direct tens of thousands of dollars back into the community every year, much of it in the form of scholarships to hardworking, underprivileged kids.

An Oviedo native, Lisa also serves on the public relations and communication committee of Boys Town Central Florida and recently joined the Helpful Hands board. She helps distribute more scholarships through the Krewe of Leaders and is active in HOPE’s back-to-school drives and Christmas in the City events.

There’s plenty more, and it all comes back to Lisa’s intensely personal theme: “Helping kids is what tugs at my heartstrings the most.”

Regina Bereswill: Called by Crisis

About four years ago, Regina Bereswill founded Helpful Hands of Seminole County with the simple mission of helping local children and families in crisis. It was a crisis of her own that first led Regina down her path of philanthropy.

“I was a very driven woman in the corporate world until I was diagnosed with cancer,” Regina recalls. “It sent me into a tailspin, but I believed that God had a plan for me. From that plan came Helpful Hands.”

Regina’s foundation has since raised and distributed countless thousands of dollars to help local children in elementary, middle, and high schools. Helpful Hands partners with those schools, churches, Boys Town, HOPE, the city of Oviedo, and many other organizations to identify young boys or girls who may be at risk or whose families are facing hardship.

The Helpful Hands teen program works with older kids to keep them in school or help them return to the classroom or earn a GED. The athletic program gives children who could benefit from character-building athletics the chance to play on a team, an opportunity that their families could otherwise never afford.

At Christmas, Helpful Hands makes dreams come true for children of all ages − from teenagers all the way down to little boys and girls who write touching letters to Santa Claus. Underprivileged high-school seniors in the community have been able to experience the joys of graduation, prom, and the simple dignity of their own yearbook thanks to Helpful Hands.

There’s so much more, but Regina insists the underlying goal is blissfully simple. “We want to put smiles on peoples’ faces,” says Regina, who is gearing up for Helpful Hands’ biggest fundraiser of the year, A Night Under the Stars on October 11. “Knowing that we can help children enjoy all these wonderful things is what drives me now.”

Harry Arthur: Feed My Sheep

The simple Biblical instruction to “feed my sheep” is what drives the volunteer efforts of the Tuskawilla Shepherds, led by Harry Arthur. They follow these timeless instructions in big ways and small.

One Sunday every month, Harry and a cadre of other volunteers fulfill the mission, one pancake at a time, at Pathways to Care, a medical recovery facility for the homeless in Casselberry. They prepare and serve a scrumptious breakfast for the residents, complete with eggs, bacon, hash browns, and Harry’s famous banana pancakes.

On a much larger scale, the volunteers distribute food by the truckful through their Tuskawilla Shepherds foundation, which Harry’s father founded in 1991. Last year alone, the foundation provided 750,000 pounds of food to 18,000 needy families in Seminole County. This year, the foundation has set an additional goal to help stock food pantries at every Seminole County Public School. “Helping people is what it’s all about,” says Harry, who is also active in the Rotary Club of Winter Springs and many other civic groups. “That’s the whole reason we’re put here.”

Kathy McDonald: Doing the Most Good

If all you know about the Salvation Army is red kettles and ringing bells, Oviedo’s Kathy McDonald would like a moment of your time. A volunteer member of the advisory board for the Seminole County Salvation Army since 2001 (and current board chair), Kathy knows firsthand just what the dollars and cents dropped in those holiday kettles can do. “The Seminole County Salvation Army’s main emphasis is on social services,” Kathy explains. “We maintain a large food pantry that is open to any Seminole County resident in need. We also help individuals with pressing financial needs, like prescription medication and rent assistance.

“In addition to that, we are a disaster-relief center,” Kathy continues. “We can immediately bring potable water and other disaster supplies anywhere in the area as directed by emergency managers.”

Kathy is also the last remaining charter member and a two-time president of the Kiwanis Club of Oviedo-Winter Springs, and she’s a trustee for the Florida Kiwanis Foundation. “Need knows no season,” Kathy says, echoing another Salvation Army motto. “If God has blessed us, it’s incumbent on us to share those blessings.”

Bagel King Lake Mary

In Bagel King’s newest restaurant in Lake Mary, there’s a picture hanging on the wall of three smiling girls, posing next to an old-fashioned cash register. The words “Bagel King” are cheerfully ironed on their matching T-shirts. The photo is of eight-year-old Tinamarie Perrotta and her teenage sisters Lucille and Francine, and it was taken in 1977 on the day their parents opened their first Central Florida bagel shop.

Frank and Tina Perrotta had moved their family from Long Island, New York, to Florida, and when they opened the original Bagel King on Aloma Avenue in Winter Park, it was the first kettle-baked bagel place in the area. Frank had been baking bagels for nearly 30 years, starting when he was a young boy in Brooklyn, and it was truly his passion – a passion he certainly passed on to the youngest of his five daughters, today known as Tinamarie Schmit.

“I really had a calling for it,” says Tinamarie, now Bagel King’s owner and unofficial “Bagel Princess,” who began working behind the counter for her father when she was in middle school. “In my high school years [at Lake Mary High], I was making all the salads and spread recipes that we use today.”

Tinamarie has been running Bagel King’s hugely successful restaurant and catering business at its current Casselberry location since 1994, and she finally opened up the Lake Mary location – on the corner of Lake Mary Boulevard and Longwood Lake Mary Road – in February of this year.

“I’ve had a million customers ask me when I was going to open a store in Lake Mary,” says Tinamarie, who grew up in the Markham Woods area. “I still have a lot of friends on this side of town, and they’re excited. It’s my roots. It’s where I was raised. The area’s so beautiful and new, and the store has been very well received in the area. I love Lake Mary!”

And what’s not to love about Bagel King? New York-style bagels that are baked fresh every day and come in more than a dozen flavors. Mouth-watering, freshly baked desserts. Piled-high deli sandwiches. Scrumptious daily breakfast and lunch specials, spectacular potato knishes, and yummy (and healthy) salads… all at great prices.

But the delicious food is only one reason devoted customers come to Bagel King.

“It’s homey; it’s friendly,” says store manager Phyllis Tyers, who has known Tinamarie for almost 30 years. “Like [the bar in the TV show] Cheers, this is a place where everybody knows your name. The bagels are a bonus – people know they’re great. But they also come here for the new friendships we’ve created. When our customers come here, we want them to feel like they’re welcome in our home.”

That was definitely the feeling Longwood photographer Joe Drivas had when he first visited Bagel King. A Brooklyn native, Joe used to have his bagels shipped here from New York. But when the Bagel King in Lake Mary opened, he decided to give it a try. Joe was so impressed with the food and friendly atmosphere, he started a Photo Breakfast Club at the restaurant (turn to page 28 for the full story).

“I became friends with Phyllis the minute I walked in,” Joe says. “I tasted the bagels, and they tasted like New York bagels. And I loved the pastries, too. But the most important thing is I loved the friendliness. It’s a homey atmosphere, they treat you like family, and the food is great!”

In addition to the delicious take-out and eat-in menu items, Bagel King also has a catering business that offers endless possibilities for your next business meeting, birthday party, wedding, or bar/bat mitzvah. Bagel King can also host up to 25 people in its conference room.

“Whether it’s a dozen bagels or catering for 500 people, we want to exceed your expectations,” Tinamarie says. “We go over the top to make every experience spectacular – by providing great service, a fresh and amazing product, and a smile.”

Stop by for a visit to see – and taste – for yourself. Bagel King is open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week.

– Jill Cousins


Photo: Bagel King owner Tinamarie Schmit and some of her favorite things – freshly baked pastries and New York-style bagels


Strike Up The Band!

by Chip Colandreo

Meet the Old School Band, a group of retired South Seminole Middle School teachers who keep the Great American Songbook alive to the delight of local retirees

“We’ve been playing music together for 30 years,” says Mary Schiano. “We certainly can’t stop now.” And just like that, the Old School Band was born.

Mary is the rhythm guitarist and ringleader of a remarkable foursome of local musicians, all former South Seminole Middle School educators, who are answering a new calling in retirement.

“We all grew up listening to the wonderful tunes of the 1930s all the way to the ‘70s, and we enjoy playing them together,” says Mary. “And now we bring that music into local retirement homes and share it with the seniors in our community. It’s a wonderful way to serve the seniors, because we’re certainly getting up there ourselves!”

Mary, a former reading teacher at South Seminole, is joined by vocalist Gretchen Hyde (retired PE teacher), Dan Chisholm on saxophone (retired English teacher and technology specialist), and drummer Maris Klavins (retired science teacher). Together, the group taught at South Seminole for a combined 140 years.

While there, the quartet would often gather its musical talents to entertain South Seminole’s faculty and students. Mary and her crew put on 11 different Broadway-style shows during their careers, enlisting other teachers, administrators, and even kids to play the timeless characters while the bandmates provided the iconic soundtracks from New York’s Great White Way.

“Little by little, we began to retire,” says Mary. “I was the first; my last year was 2004-2005. As the others finished their careers, we didn’t want to stop performing together, so we started the Old School Band in 2011.”

The band has since performed 27 different gigs, all completely free of charge, at various retirement communities throughout Seminole County, including a recent show at Oakmonte Village in Lake Mary. The Old School Band maintains a repertoire of about 100 classic tunes across five decades of American music. Each one-hour show consists of 16 or 17 songs handpicked by the band.

“We want to bring their music to them,” Mary says of the Old School Band’s always-appreciative audiences. “Everyone has memories associated with these songs, and so do we. It’s very special to see the faces and reactions when we begin to play a song that is remembered so fondly by the crowd.”

Mary’s lifelong friend, retired Eastbrook Elementary School teacher Fran Fazio, is with the group at every performance, playing a critical off-stage role that makes each event even more poignant.

“I dance through the crowd, singing with the seniors and lifting them up to dance with me, if they can,” says Fran. “It’s important to help these seniors be engaged, and they really love it. They tell me I’m their therapy, and that makes me feel so good.”

Maris’s wife Carole (a longtime Greenwood Lakes Middle School teacher) and Dan’s wife Gwen also help Fran spread joy among the crowd as often as they can.

“People have offered to pay us to play at other gigs, but we only want to perform for free in the retirement communities,” says Mary. “We practice once a week and perform as often as we’re able. It keeps us together even as we all stay very busy with our own lives in retirement. It keeps the music alive, too. These songs are such a wonderful part of our lives, and we want to share them. It’s very natural for us, because we love the music so much, too.

Photo: Nostalgic, spontaneous dancing is a common sight at the Old School Band’s performances.