West Construction Services, INC.

by Jack Roth

When Dale West brought his construction company – West Construction Services – from Fort Lauderdale to Central Florida 10 years ago, he knew it was a risk. His was already an established and reputable business in South Florida, and Dale knew he would have to rebuild his clientele and reputation in a new region. Thanks to his focus on quality and customer service, the transition has been a success.

“I took small jobs at first,” remembers Dale. “I put my tool belt on and got out there with the guys because I knew I had to build trust with local clients and crews. I was willing to start from the beginning again because my family really wanted to move to Central Florida. My wife and I knew it was a great place to raise kids.”

Dale now co-owns the company with his son, Joey, who is finishing up his construction management degree at UCF and Seminole State College. A Green Advantage Certified building contractor, West Construction Services specializes in residential and commercial construction with projects ranging from new construction to both small and large remodeling and renovation jobs.

Dale takes pride in meeting and exceeding the needs of his clients, making sure projects are completed on time, on or below budget, and personally guaranteeing each and every customer is truly satisfied with the results.

“In order to provide our customers with the best products and services, we welcome our customers to participate in the design and decision-making process through our construction management service,” explains Dale. “We offer this service because it allows for customer interaction during the entire construction process to ensure complete satisfaction with the results.”

In addition to building a great reputation in the region, Dale has also become involved with many community charities and organizations, including Wounded Warrior Project and Relay for Life. For Dale and his family, being part of a community isn’t just about living there. It means engaging in a way that benefits others, whether through business services or charitable contributions.

“Our goal is to become a trusted building contractor in Lake Mary, Heathrow, and throughout all of Central Florida,” Dale says. “This means engaging in the community and really becoming a part of it.”

Ten years ago Dale West made a bold move, but he knew that if he stuck to his principles and focused on quality and customer service, everything would work out. It has, and South Florida’s loss is now Central Florida’s gain.

Photo: Dale and Joey West of West Construction Services

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Ian L. Gilden, Attorney at Law

by Georgia Fojo

The only constant in life is change.

Perhaps you save diligently for retirement only to be faced with an unexpected circumstance. Or you experience a serious illness or injury, suddenly leaving you vulnerable. You might think there’s no way to prepare for challenges like these, but attorney Ian L. Gilden can help you plan for your long-term well-being and financial security, realize your goals, and establish legal safeguards to combat life’s difficulties.

“When issues are addressed ahead of time, it’s an emotional weight off your shoulders, your stress levels come down,” Ian says. “There is no ‘one size fits all’ plan. It’s important to outline goals for yourself and your family, and have the proper documents in place.”

With more than 25 years of experience, Ian practices in the areas of estate planning, probate, wills, trusts, guardianship, incapacity and elder law, and estate and trust administration. Ian was selected as one of Florida Trend magazine’s Legal Elite. He also has obtained an AV Preeminent Attorney Rating from his peers and is a founding member of the charitable organization, the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Central Florida.

“I treat people as I want to be treated, with respect and dignity,” says Ian. “I’ve always run my practice that way, and it has served me very well. This type of work is very gratifying for me.

 

 

 

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The Gathering Place

by Chip Colandreo

Take a stroll around the new Center Lake Park, and get ready for the biggest ribbon cutting in Oviedo history

In 2006, with a voter-approved bond referendum in hand and enthusiasm about Oviedo on the Park at an early high, city leaders engaged the nonprofit Project for Public Spaces consultancy to come from its headquarters in New York City and help define the vision for this innovative new amenity.

Bryan Cobb remembers the day well. A longtime City of Oviedo employee and the current city manager, Bryan was there with members of the city council, local business leaders, and many other “stakeholders,” as they’re known in this type of planning. For reasons he cannot quite remember today, Bryan was unable to make it without bringing his two oldest sons Alex and Kyndle along, then 17 and 11, respectively. Bryan felt a bit sheepish, but members of the city council took it all in stride, inviting the 11-year-old, Kyndle, to sit in on their breakout session with the consultants. With the help of Project for Public Spaces, the councilmembers of the day brainstormed a handful of ideas for Center Lake Park, the space around the picturesque lake at the heart of Oviedo on the Park. Some of the initial plans were bold, trendy, reflecting the latest thinking in advanced urban renewal. At one point, someone in the breakout session turned to young Kyndle and asked what he thought of it all.

“It’s nice,” the boy shrugged with as much tact as he could muster, “but I’d never go there.”

And with that, the discussion changed. Councilmembers looked at each other and realized Oviedo on the Park was destined to be something truly unique. This was an amenity for Oviedo that must be made by the people of Oviedo, and future planning sessions were expanded to include everyone from high-school students to senior citizens. If Center Lake Park and the surrounding Oviedo on the Park development were going to become the city’s new gathering place, they would have to be unmistakably, quintessentially, Oviedo. And on May 16, residents are going to see firsthand that’s exactly what they are.

“To see this come to fruition, after all the years of planning, all the people who’ve been involved, it’s really pretty special and pretty spectacular,” says Mayor Dominic Persampiere of Oviedo.

Let’s take a tour through Center Lake Park, shall we?

“It all starts with the new Cultural Center,” says Dru Boulware, Oviedo’s recreation and parks director. “There’s nothing like it in the city.”

On the northeast shore of Center Lake is the nearly 10,000-square-foot Cultural Center with its adjoining amphitheatre stage. Inside, the center is expected to become Oviedo’s new go-to place for meetings, presentations, wedding receptions, parties, small performances, and other events. The center features a full catering prep-kitchen, exquisite restrooms, and two green rooms perfect for brides and grooms to use in advance of their big day. A ticket window outside allows for paid-access events, and the main hall can hold 200 to 300 people, depending on configuration. Several events, including two weddings, are already scheduled at the Cultural Center. The center will house the office of recreation manager David Burgoon, who residents can contact to book the space.

Large doors in the rear of the main hall can open to the spacious, outdoor amphitheatre stage, which overlooks an open lawn suitable for 1,000-2,000 concertgoers.

“The whole center is wired for video and sound, too,” Dru explains. “For example, if a concert promoter wants to sell VIP tickets to the show, those VIPs can hear and watch the performance on the amphitheater stage from inside the comfort of the Cultural Center.”

Moving clockwise around the lake, a beautiful boardwalk leads residents past a small event lawn, where spectators can enjoy wedding ceremonies, or other intimate presentations from the Cultural Center’s south patio. Next is Oviedo on the Park’s main promenade, which leads guests down to Center Lake’s boat dock. There, pedal-powered paddleboats can be rented (20 minutes for $5) giving couples or a foursome the opportunity to paddle around the lake in style. Residents who were hoping the boats would be in the shape of chickens, not swans, should know city leaders were looking out for their taxpaying pocketbooks. Inexplicably, chicken-shaped boats would have cost the city about three times as much as their swan-shaped brethren. Go figure.

South of the promenade is the large children’s play area, a whimsical playground with the latest equipment, all built with safety in mind. Conveniently adjacent to the playground are air-conditioned restrooms.

All that play is likely to make tummies rumble, so The Cantina is next. The concession stand will be run by the city, offering parkgoers a quick sip or bite to refresh and reenergize.

Circling around toward the southeast shore of the lake reveals a soothing space built with adults and families in mind. With hanging lights strung overhead, residents can enjoy some quiet time or play a game of chess with oversized pieces arranged on a chessboard grid built right into the artificial turf. Next to this family lawn is the splash pad, sure to be a hit with children of all ages during Oviedo’s endless summers. The pad, with its many

lively fountains and other water features, will be free and open to the public.

On the extreme south shore of Center Lake is Oviedo on the Park’s most versatile space. The open lawn could eventually house a small restaurant, but for now the city is planning some food truck events and other informal gatherings there. Down toward the water is a cozy stage, perfect for a soloist or small combo, with terraced seating in front.

Are you overwhelmed yet? There’s much more to come, including Oviedo on the Park’s most poignant feature.

The tradition of military service runs deep in Oviedo, but the city has never dedicated a proper veterans memorial within its borders. That is changing thanks to the Oviedo Veterans Tribute Committee, which includes Fire Chief Lars White, the Oviedo American Legion Post, and Eagle Scout Matthew Felder. In concert with city leaders and donors, the Tribute Committee designed a solemn space within Center Lake Park which pays homage to all branches of military service with cascading infinity fountains and colored pavers underfoot. Fittingly, the Tribute will honor Oviedo veterans both living and deceased. The city’s Memorial Day commemoration will be held there at the end of May. (Look for full coverage of that event in our next issue.)

Just outside the Veterans Tribute is another special landmark at Center Lake Park: the clock tower donated by the Rotary Club of Oviedo. The club raised all the funds for the clock and presented it to the city at a recent dedication.

Curving to the southwest is Center Lake Park’s small dog park, also Astroturfed for easy cleanup, complete with water fountains for both two- and four-legged visitors.

“You hit the small fountain with your foot and water comes out for your dog,” chuckles Dominic, who, despite his deep involvement with Oviedo on the Park from its earliest days as a concept in 2001, delights in finding something new to enjoy every time he visits the site.

The gated dog park features a shaded staging area adjacent to a small enclave with benches, the perfect spot for residents to rest after an exhilarating trip around their new park. When ready to get on their feet again, visitors can jog or stroll along the sidewalk that completes the rest of the circle around Center Lake.

“It’s not often planners get to see their work actually come up out of the ground,” says Bryan, who was a city planner when Oviedo on the Park and Center Lake Park were first conceptualized 15 years ago. As the city manager today, Bryan will be front and center when the ribbon to Center Lake Park is cut on May 16. Bryan’s son Kyndle, the 11-year-old (now in college) who helped city leaders refocus their vision for the park, will also be there.

As intended, Center Lake Park will become the new epicenter of Oviedo events. In addition to the Memorial Day event, the city’s Fourth of July celebration and Snow Mountain holiday extravaganza are already confirmed for the new park this year. Other groups are in discussions with the city about moving their outdoor festivals to the park, as well.

What’s next for Oviedo on the Park as a whole? Starbucks and Chipotle will soon open at the corner of City Plaza Way and East Mitchell Hammock Road, directly south of Center Lake. A mixed-use building with retail space on the ground floor and office or residential space above is also confirmed and will break ground soon. Restaurant Row and much more retail space are also planned, but city leaders say the residential piece has always been the first priority, a necessary component to attract stable restaurant/retail clients.

Speaking of residential options, luxury apartments, high-end townhomes, and charming bungalows are all open and thriving in Oviedo on the Park, with more residents moving in every day.

“Oviedo on the Park will have something for everyone, and Center Lake Park is at the heart of it all,” says Dominic. “The ribbon-cutting celebration will be an all-day event with live music performed on the amphitheater from noon until midnight, wine and craft beer under the stars, and much more. We expect huge crowds, so please be patient, but above all enjoy the day. This is your park.”

Ribbon Cutting Celebration

Saturday, May 16

The dedication of Center Lake Park will be an all-day affair, starting with a ribbon cutting in the morning (check CityOfOviedo.net for the official time) and a party in the park lasting well into the night. Expect plenty of live entertainment on both of Center Lake Park’s performance stages, including constant shows on the main amphitheater outside the Cultural Center. Food and family fun will be available throughout the day, with beer and wine being served under the stars in the evening.

Photo: Center Lake Park’s vibrant playground is a hit with Katrice Galloway and her children Adrice, Kristian, and Giovanni.

 

My Gym Lake Mary

by Shelley Ouellette

Where can kids find fitness, fun, and friends – all under one roof? At My Gym in Lake Mary and Maitland, of course!

Specializing in children’s fitness, My Gym offers fun programs to help kids age six weeks to 10 years develop physically, cognitively, and emotionally.

“Whether your child is just learning to crawl or has an interest in gymnastics, sports, or our new Zumba kids program, we have options for all ages and abilities,” explains owner Joe Beaulieu.

Featuring structured, age-appropriate, weekly classes that encourage children to move and play, the My Gym curriculum combines music, dance, games, tumbling, and more to create an environment that promotes strength, coordination, and flexibility while developing social skills and self-esteem.

“We are proud to have recently partnered with the global nonprofit organization, Kidpower, to provide our students and parents the tools to combat bullying, violence, and abuse,” Joe adds. “Through subtle cues and age-appropriate dialogue, our teachers will encourage positive social interaction to help each child realize his or her fullest and brightest potential.”

My Gym also hosts seasonal camps, birthday parties, and the popular Parents’ Night Out program, which gives parents the opportunity to take a well-deserved break while their children play and learn in a safe environment.

 

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Precision Smiles Dental

by Jack Roth

When Sami Banoub, D.M.D., founded Precision Smiles Dental in Lake Mary, he wanted to offer his patients a dental “lagniappe” — an extra or unexpected benefit that spoke to his strong commitment to building relationships and making a dental appointment a lot more palatable.

“I provide quality and affordable dental care to everyone,” says Dr. Banoub, a Longwood native and graduate of Lake Mary High School. “Establishing and maintaining a viable family practice requires that you take the time to build lasting relationships with people, and in order to do that, patients need to know you’re committed to their well-being.”

Known as the “Saturday Dentist” because of his flexible office hours geared toward busy, working families, Dr. Banoub focuses on educating his patients and starting them on the path to good oral hygiene.

“Even with advancements in technology, there’s still a trepidation associated with going to the dentist,” says Dr. Banoub, “and that’s detrimental because having a healthy mouth plays a huge role in your overall health. Neglecting your teeth and gums now can result in serious and costly health-related issues down the road.”

Dr. Banoub points to research that shows regular dentist visits can do much more than keep your smile attractive – they can help you keep diseases like diabetes or heart disease at bay.

“The problem,” Dr. Banoub explains, “is that more people than you would imagine don’t have dental insurance and simply can’t afford regular dental checkups and preventative treatments.”

In an effort to remedy this, Dr. Banoub has set up an in-house dental savings plan designed to provide greater access to quality dental care at an affordable price. Offering a discounted fee schedule for most services, the plan costs less than traditional dental insurance and covers cleanings, fluoride, and bitewing X-rays. In addition, those who participate in the Precision Smiles Dental savings plan can save money on procedures traditional dental insurance doesn’t cover, such as cosmetics, sedation, Invisalign braces, teeth whitening, and dental implants.

Although cost savings and flexible hours create added value for Dr. Banoub’s patients, an even tougher roadblock to dental care exists for many: fear. But Precision Smiles Dental has a remedy for that, too. For those who would rather endure the agony of a toothache than set foot in a dentist’s office, Dr. Banoub offers sedation therapy, which uses medication plus dental nitrous oxide gas to help patients relax whether undergoing a complex procedure or a simple tooth cleaning.

“We want to make sure you’re relaxed and comfortable, so procedures like getting a filling or having a tooth extracted are as uneventful as possible,” says Dr. Banoub.

Getting married soon? Who doesn’t want two reasons to smile? Dr. Banoub has a wedding gift for you. Simply become a new, active patient at Precision Smiles Dental and bring in your wedding invitation to receive a free Zoom Plus Advanced teeth-whitening treatment (a $600 value) with a paid or covered exam, cleaning, and full set of X-rays. Dr. Banoub hopes his gift will encourage those who have avoided regular dental visits in the past to start the next phase of their lives on the road to good oral health with the healthy smile they’ve always wanted.

“Once patients see how comfortable and helpful dental care at Precision Smiles Dental can be, I hope and expect they’ll continue to go in the right direction,” Dr. Banoub says. “I want to provide resolutions for all the reasons people don’t go to the dentist and remove all obstacles so it comes down to a personal choice, not a financial or time management decision.”

Thinking of health as a key to happiness, Dr. Banoub believes that, as a dentist, he has to give in order to receive.

“I think the practice of dentistry can be a more pleasant and affordable experience for my patients,” he affirms. “I always remind myself why I got into this profession and remember that generosity always makes good things happen. If I can help my patients have a better life because they have a good oral hygiene plan, I feel good about it, and they’re better off for it in the end.”

Photo: It’s all about family with Lake Mary High School graduate Dr. Sami Banoub.

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Cavallari Gourmet

by Shelley Ouellette

Lake Mary residents are fortunate to enjoy a vibrant selection of ethnic restaurants and retail stores, but until late 2014, the city was missing an essential ingredient – an authentic meat market and specialty shop. Thanks to Cavallari Gourmet, located at the intersection of International Parkway and State Road 46A, that need has been met in the most delicious way.

Owned and operated by the same family who founded the original Cavallari Gourmet in Oviedo, the Lake Mary store combines restaurant and retail elements to deliver the old-school service and top-quality products discerning shoppers expect.

“We’re your neighborhood gourmet meat market and specialty grocery shop,” explains owner/operator Joey Sberna. “Whatever you might be looking for you can find here: quality, freshness, great taste, convenience, and fantastic customer service.”

Known for its fresh, handmade sausages and premium meat selections, Cavallari also offers customers made-to-order subs, Boar’s Head cold cuts and cheeses, and unique grocery options, including international fare and hand-blended sauces from local vendors. Draft beers, wines-by-the-glass, and decadent desserts are also available to complement a “big-city style” sub sandwich or homemade deli salad.

“Our customers know quality, that’s why they come to us,” Joey says. “At Cavallari, we offer the same high-end meats and specialty cuts you typically find when dining out. Our steaks and meats are butchered fresh, on site, to your liking. All of our ground beef is ground right here in our store. We grind nothing but whole sirloin tips and the trimmings from our top-quality steaks.”

Lamb and specialty cuts are also featured in the meat case. From juicy lamb loin chops to boneless leg-of-lamb roast or veal shank for osso bucco, the Cavallari team strives to ensure customers have access to traditional family favorites for everyday meals and special occasions.

And, if handmade sausage is on your menu, Cavallari truly delivers. With nearly a dozen varieties of pork and all-white-meat chicken sausages on display – including cheese and parsley rings, mild and hot Italian, bratwurst, and andouille – chefs can create their favorite dish with fresh, flavorful ingredients.

“We’re one of the last places that hand-makes sausages the old-fashioned way,” says butcher Bill Gritz. “We make the best sausages around guaranteed.”

Additionally, Cavallari’s heat-and-serve meals offer busy families a simple way to enjoy homemade Italian cuisine in just minutes.

“Our take-home meals make preparing dinner easy any day of the week,” Joey says. “Whether you’re craving lasagna, homemade meatballs, chicken parmesan, prime rib, or a delicious deli sub, we can help you create the perfect menu to impress your friends and family. And, if you fall in love with our everyday portions, we also offer special-order, party-size servings that feed four to eight. Many of our party-fare items require extra time to prepare, so we encourage customers to place orders at least two days in advance.”

“I love the chicken kabob skewers,” says a loyal Cavallari customer. “Just throw them on the grill for dinner.”

Cavallari also features a delectable selection of desserts and sweet treats including cakes, chocolate éclairs, cannolis stuffed-to-order, and Italian cookies.

“We appreciate each and every person who walks through our door,” says Joey. “Without our fantastic customers, Cavallari wouldn’t be possible.”

Cavallari fans can stay up-to-date with store promotions, exciting new products and services, and fun events by joining Club Cavallari at CavallariGourmet.com. To learn more or place a special order, call 407-915-6900.

Photo: Butcher Bill Gritz seasons, mixes, and fills Cavallari’s famous fresh, handmade sausages. Inspired by family recipes and flavored with exotic spices, Cavallari’s homemade sausages are piped into natural casings and contain no preservatives or fillers. “Every one of our sausages is handmade, one delicious link at a time,” says Bill.

 

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Swim ‘N Fun

by Shelley Ouellette

With summertime temperatures approaching 100 degrees, it’s essential that homeowners protect their most important asset – the pool! As residents of the Sunshine State, Seminole County families are fortunate to enjoy “pool life” year-round. And, whether taking a refreshing dip in December or cooling off in July, they rely on Swim ‘N Fun to ensure their pools are healthy and safe.

Family owned and operated in Winter Springs for more than 25 years, Swim ‘N Fun offers homeowners a variety of services to protect and improve their pool’s water quality including in-store, computerized water testing.

“We analyze the results and determine the chemical products needed to balance the water,” says owner Claire Wright. “Our team also provides personal service and recommendations for pool products including vacuums, chemicals, brushes, and equipment. If your pool equipment is not running properly, our technicians will provide expert repairs.”

Swim ‘N Fun also offers weekly pool maintenance services and “pool school” for new pool owners.

“Everyone at Swim ‘N Fun is very friendly and professional – they know their pool products,” says customer Sylvia K. “It’s easy to communicate with them and get what you need done.”

In addition to pool products and maintenance services, Swim ‘N Fun also carries barbecue essentials including grills by The Big Green Egg, Green Mountain wood-pellet grills, and a variety of sauces, accessories, rubs, and smoking wood.

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Rich Hippie

Congratulations! You have finally planned the relaxing vacation of your dreams. Now, if you only had some fabulous clothes and accessories to pack in your suitcase…

Fortunately, Rich Hippie is nearby on the corner of State Road 434 and Montgomery Road, and the boutique’s talented team is ready to help you dazzle in both comfort and style! Whether you’re yearning for vibrant tropical prints, captivating nautical fashions, or elegant resort wear, the exciting options at Rich Hippie are sure to please. With as many as 80 fashion lines in stock at a time, and constant incoming shipments, Rich Hippie has the freshest inventory around to give customers plenty of options. It’s all because owner Jean Gasperoni travels to the hottest markets throughout the world to find the latest trends in cruise and resort wear that are not only unique, but comfortable and chic, as well.

Besides offering a wide variety of stylish dresses, tops, and bottoms, Jean also takes pride in showcasing the latest coordinating jewelry, hats, scarves, belts, and handbags to her clients. And of course, no outfit would be complete without some adorable, comfy sandals.

 

“We have designed our selections in a way that allows clients to throw a new, complete outfit right into their travel bag without having to shop for any additional items,” says Jean, who focuses on fashion that has both style and meaning.

And while Jean believes it’s important for each woman to feel comfortable expressing her own unique style, she doesn’t think they need to break the bank.

“The whole idea of Rich Hippie is that when people leave here they feel good, they look like an individual, they haven’t spent a ton of money, and they look fabulous,” says Jean.

In addition to helping customers feel confident about their wardrobe, Jean truly cares about giving back to her community. Rich Hippie raises thousands of dollars for nonprofit organizations each year through its participation in charity fashion shows and food drives.

So stroll on into Rich Hippie, relax, and let the quaint boutique’s friendly fashionistas help you put together some amazing ensembles for your summer trip. Are you “stay-cationing” this summer? No worries. Rich Hippie’s breathable and up-to-the-minute pieces are sure to make you the hit of all your summer festivities.

Photo: Color-coordinated and ready to go, Rich Hippie makes accessorizing your new look the easiest part of the ensemble.

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Making a Living with the Undead

by Pam Neff

Local couple embraces “Zombie Mania” to turn a part-time business into a gruesome success

For the past year and a half, Longwood residents Brad and Robin Justice have balanced their busy lives and  careers with a new venture, one that involves hanging out with zombies and rubbing elbows with horror and sci-fi TV stars… And they’re having a blast.

While raising three kids (their youngest was born just last November) and working regular full- and part-time jobs, Brad and Robin serve as part of the core team that produces Walker Stalker Conventions, three-day events originally created for superfans of The Walking Dead television show.

The Walking Dead follows a group of intrepid survivors living in a post-apocalyptic world overrun with zombies, or “walkers” as they’re known on the show. Currently in its fifth season, the TV drama is a sensation, but until recently, Brad and Robin had never watched. They were turned on to the show and plugged into its legions of ravenous fans by a friend and old Lake Brantley High School classmate, James Frazier, who produces a weekly audio podcast in which he and his co-host discuss the latest episodes after they air.

“James kept sharing his podcasts on Facebook, and people at work would not stop talking about the show, so I decided I had to see what it was all about,” says Robin, who admits that she initially had to cover her eyes for some of The Walking Dead’s more gruesome scenes.

After a few discussions with James about the show, Brad and Robin were invited to help out at the inaugural Walker Stalker Convention held in Atlanta in November, 2013 (The Walking Dead was originally set in zombie-infested Atlanta). The couple ended up managing the entire convention floor, which welcomed more than 10,000 fans, most of whom were dressed to kill in zombie-themed attire and makeup.

Shortly after the first convention, Brad and Robin were asked to officially join the team.

“Because The Walking Dead is based on a long-running series of graphic novels, there were already hordes of fans waiting for something like this to happen,” says Robin. After the first Walker Stalker Convention, attendance at subsequent events averaged about 18,000 people, and a recent convention in Atlanta drew 36,000 attendees.

Today, Walker Stalker Conventions have grown to involve three or more different zombie, horror, and sci-fi-related TV shows in addition to The Walking Dead, and stars of the shows headline the conventions to attract fans like zombies chasing fresh brains. A recent convention featured appearances by actors from Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Dr. Who, and The Vampire Diaries. The actors meet fans, sign autographs, and provide once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunities.

Those photos are made infinitely better thanks to the elaborate zombie get-ups fans are encouraged to wear. Each event is full of creepy and gruesome fun and excitement, but Brad and Robin’s unique jobs also come with zombie-like hours. After their kids go to sleep, the couple spends time each night communicating with the rest of the Walker Stalker team through phone, email, conference calls, and social media pages.

“We plan the convention, discuss updates and changes, and talk about how we can improve different parts of the event,” says Robin.

While Robin books vendors like zombie authors, make-up artists, and vampire fang designers, Brad keeps track of the volunteers who travel all over the country to help out at each event. With only a handful of employees, the fan-funded conventions rely on 400 or more volunteers to help make each zombie gathering a success.

“We put in the hours, and our payoff is seeing months of work come to fruition,” says Brad.

Although he considers himself a fan of the show, Brad says he’s a bigger fan of the conventions – and convention-goers – themselves.

“It’s like a family. We all get together like a group of old friends that you only see every couple of months at Walker Stalker,” Brad beams.

And having sold out the last three conventions in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago, the zombie craze doesn’t appear to be slowing down. In fact, the Walker Stalkers will be invading Orlando at the end of June.

Since starting his adventure with the Walker Stalker crew, Brad says he’s loved watching how happy these events make people.

“I hear people say, ‘This is the best weekend of my life’ 100 times a day,” Brad explains. “We introduce kids to their favorite actors, and we make the show even more exciting for the fans. It makes for a really fun environment.”

Robin agrees, saying: “We’re happy to be part of such a fun team who cares so much about creating an amazing experience for the fans.”

Photo: Brad and Robin with the cast of The Walking Dead

Cabinets by CBI

by Hedy Bass

Thinking about a facelift for your kitchen or bathroom? It’s widely known that remodeling either room can be a wise investment, adding value to your home, but there is also the intrinsic value of the enjoyment and improved functionality these rooms bring to you, the homeowner. That’s why it’s so important to get it right from the start, and no one understands that better than the design and construction team at Corinthian Builders, Inc. (CBI).

With more than 75 years of combined experience, the principals of CBI, Rick Kovacsik and John Corville, have built and renovated hundreds of single- and multi-family homes, ranging from luxury custom houses to affordable family abodes. Add to the team the expertise of Brenda Ramirez, a professional kitchen and bath designer with more than 20 years of experience, and you have the perfect blend of vision, design, and construction acumen that gives every customer personal, customized service for their project from inception to completion. Brenda’s background even includes many years designing retail shops for Walt Disney World.

In CBI’s recently opened showroom in Lake Mary, customers can sit down for a consultation with Brenda and see for themselves what Cabinets by CBI has to offer.

“As people come in, they will realize we’re not just about cabinets,” says Rick. “We can do a full remodel or build a new home for them, with their plans or with ours.”

“And, with our 20-20 Design software, you don’t have to imagine what your project will look like,” says Brenda. “You’ll get to see it come to life in 3-D imaging. I’m not only your designer, but I’ll be there to supervise your entire project.”

Don’t see the cabinets you want in the showroom? CBI can design custom cabinets for you, whether you’re redoing your kitchen or bath or enhancing your closets or garage to create something more beautiful and functional.

Big-box stores may advertise remodeling services, but none of them can provide the one-on-one service, level of expertise, and hands-on management that has made CBI one of the most experienced and trusted companies in the Central Florida construction market.

So, if you’re considering an upgrade to your home that will bring added value and enjoyment, or you’re thinking of building a new home that will meet your family’s lifestyle, stop in the showroom and see for yourself what CBI can do for you.

Photo: Rick Kovacsik, Maria Corville, Brenda Ramirez, Benny Lossiseroni, Amber Corville, and John Corville

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Strikes and Strides

by Jill Cousins

Football, baseball, and basketball may get all the glory, but young superstars from two of Lake Brantley High School’s other world-class athletic programs are earning national attention by posting some of the best scores and fastest times in America.

The Run of the Place

Sinclaire Johnson is on track to become the best runner in Lake Brantley High School history

Sinclaire Johnson had no plans to become a runner when she started her freshman year at Lake Brantley High School. In fact, Sinclaire was already an experienced lacrosse player, and that was the sport she assumed she would play for the Patriots.

Even though Sinclaire’s mom was an accomplished distance runner, Claire Johnson says her daughter never showed an interest in the sport. But after attending an informational sports night at Lake Brantley, Claire came back with some literature about the school’s cross-country team and suggested Sinclaire participate as a way to get in shape for lacrosse.

“I was hesitant at first,” says Sinclaire, now a junior at Lake Brantley. “But I tried it, and that first year I ended up going to state. It made me think I had some potential in this.”

Sinclaire had merely scratched the surface of her running potential. But first, she had a big decision to make. Should she continue to explore her newfound running skills by trying out for Lake Brantley’s track team? Or should she continue to play lacrosse? Both high-school sports are played during the spring.

“My family sat down and discussed my future in track versus my future in lacrosse, and track looked better,” Sinclaire says. “It was a hard decision to make because I had invested so much time and energy into lacrosse. But we thought I had a better chance of earning a college scholarship if I ran track.”

The decision was certainly a good one for Sinclaire. She has emerged as one of the premier middle-distance runners in Florida, and earlier this year, she posted the best time in the nation at 800 meters for high-school girls (2 minutes, 13.45 seconds). As a sophomore, in May 2014, Sinclaire became the first girl from Lake Brantley to win two state track titles in a single meet, when she took first place in both the 800 and 1,600 meters at the Class 4A State Championships.

During her sophomore year, Sinclaire set three school records, in the 400 (56.94 seconds), 800 (2:10.08), and 1,600 meters (5:01.49). She broke her own record in the 400 earlier this season with a time of 55.48 and is shooting for three titles at this year’s state championship meet.

In addition to her track success, Sinclaire finished second in the Class 4A State cross-country meet this past fall and took first place at both the district and Seminole Athletic Conference meets. She placed second at the regional meet, while setting a school record of 18:03.39 for the 5K (3.1 mile) race.

Sinclaire also excels in the classroom. She is a straight-A student with a weighted 4.3 grade-point average and is active in both Student Government and the National Honor Society.

“Sinclaire has gone above and beyond in pushing herself to become one of the fastest and most accomplished runners in Lake Brantley history,” says Frank Moxie, who coaches distance runners on Lake Brantley’s track team. “Her dedicated work ethic, strong personality, and focus in both the classroom and in practice set her apart from the rest of the crowd. She is a true example of what coaches look for in their athletes.”

Sinclaire, now 17, never imagined she’d find so much success as a runner. During her lacrosse days, however, she says parents and coaches would often remark that she ran with the swiftness and grace of a gazelle.

“My parents and I talk about it all the time,” Sinclaire says. “We never would’ve guessed this. No one ever told me, ‘I think you would be really good at track.’ If it weren’t for my mother, I probably never would have tried it.”

In addition to influencing Sinclaire’s running, Claire and husband Thomas have also taught Sinclaire and her younger brother Brian, a freshman at Lake Brantley, to be kind and caring individuals.

“She’s a great child with an amazing heart,” says Claire, a physician who is also a yoga instructor, certified rescue diver, and ultramarathon runner. “I’m so proud of all of her achievements in academics and athletics. But I’m even more proud that she is a loving and kind person. She’s so humble about her accomplishments, and she’s always willing to help others.”

Even though she still has one more year of high school remaining, Sinclaire has already set her sights on running track at the University of Texas in Austin and majoring in broadcast journalism. She is hoping to someday be a sportscaster or sideline reporter for cable sports network ESPN. If that doesn’t work out, Sinclaire says she might go to law school and become a corporate lawyer for a big sports company.

She is thrilled that her excellence on the track and in the classroom could lead to a significant college scholarship. For Sinclaire, it would be another way to thank her parents for their inspiration and undying support.

“Ultimately, I don’t want my parents to have to take a dime out of their pockets to pay for my college,” Sinclaire says. “They’ve done so much for me already!”

Ten-Pin Titan

Lake Brantley bowler is already a national star with an even brighter future ahead

“Watch this,” Sean Wilcox says. He picks up his 15-pound bowling ball, cradles it with two hands – like a child who has yet to learn to put his fingers in the ball’s three holes – then twirls the purple sphere into an impossible spin as he launches it toward the pins on Lane 1 of a local alley on a weekday afternoon.

Sean doesn’t need to look up to see what happens next. He knows all the pins are going to fall. He knows he’s thrown another strike. And that’s exactly what happens.

Sean, a 16-year-old Altamonte Springs resident, is a bowling phenomenon. A member of the prestigious Junior Team USA, Sean has represented the United States in national and international competition, and was selected for the Coaches Choice Team by Team USA – making him an ambassador of the sport, both on and off the lanes. This past fall, as a sophomore at Lake Brantley High School, Sean was the team’s top bowler and was an individual qualifier for the state tournament. Sean was recently honored as a 2015 USBC (United States Bowling Congress) Youth Ambassador of the Year and the Bright House Networks Seminole County Boys Bowling Athlete of the Year.

“I can watch him bowl all day long,” says Ticy Schaffer, Lake Brantley High’s bowling coach. “He’s just amazing. He lives and breathes bowling. Even when he has bad days, they’re still good days. I coach the team, but I don’t have to coach Sean. I just try to keep his spirits up!”

Sean has been bowling since he was seven years old, when his mother decided that an air-conditioned bowling alley would be a good place to have Sean’s birthday party on a hot August day. Doreen Wilcox recalls that her son was the only kid who didn’t want to use the gutterball-proof bumpers in the alleys that afternoon. And after the party was over, Sean begged his parents to sign him up for a 36-week youth bowling league.

“We didn’t think he would stay interested for 36 weeks,” Doreen admits, “but he loved it. As a parent, you put your children in different things to see what works. But from day one, he had a passion for bowling. It became a way of life for him.”

On Halloween day of that year, during his P.E. class, another boy pushed Sean down, breaking his right bowling arm in several places. Sean had to wear a cast, but he was determined not to miss out on league play. Instead, Sean bowled left-handed for six weeks.

That year, Sean says he averaged 142. At 10 years old, he shot his first perfect 300 game, and he shot a sanctioned 300 game at 13. At age 11, as one of the youngest members in a youth league at a Wekiva alley, Sean had a high game of 290 and a three-game series of 770. At Lake Brantley this past season, Sean averaged 240.

During his early years, Sean sought out the best bowlers in his league and set his sights on being better than them – even though they were in high school and he was in elementary school. By the time he was 10, the three top players in his league invited Sean to join their team. They called themselves “3-1/2 Men,” because Sean was about half their size.

“They kind of took me under their wings,” Sean recalls. “They taught me the tricks of the trade, so to speak.”

Sean progressed quickly. By the time he was 11, he was competing in youth bowling events, often against much older boys. At one tournament in Lake Wales, against mostly high school and college bowlers, Sean won the event despite being “by far, the youngest in the tournament,” he recalls. Sean signed on with his first coach around that time and started traveling the state to compete at top youth events.

Among Sean’s many recent highlights: He won five gold medals and one silver as a representative of Team USA in the Tournament of Americas international competition. At that event, Sean also won the International Sportsmanship Award. He was also named to the Orlando Sentinel All-Area team and was a first team Seminole Athletic Conference selection. Last summer, at age 15, Sean became a certified USBC Level 1 coach.

“Those first couple of years, I didn’t care if I was good or not. I just did it for fun,” Sean says. “Once I competed in my first tournament, I thought, ‘I can compete in this!’ It became even more exciting to me when I found out I could go to college through my bowling.”

In addition to using bowling as a means to get a college scholarship, Sean is also bowling to help others. Last year he helped create a community event, the annual Russell Home Open/Mixed Doubles Tournament, to benefit the Russell Home for Atypical Children.

“Bowling has been very beneficial to Sean, but we [Doreen and husband Ron] wanted him to learn that it wasn’t all about him,” Doreen says. “We wanted to teach Sean how to use bowling to help the community and give back.”

Since Sean enjoys helping others so much, he has decided to pursue nursing in college. He plans to take courses at Lake Brantley that will allow him to earn an EMT and paramedics license by the time he graduates. Sean hopes to earn a scholarship to bowl for McKendree University, a private liberal arts college in Illinois.

“I want to bowl in college, then after that, I want to be a nurse,” Sean says, “and I would like to be a PBA [Professional Bowlers Association] member and bowl on the tour. I know I’ll always have something to do with bowling throughout my life.”

 

 

 

 

Panther Pride

by Brenda Davis

Crooms Academy dedicates its first athletic hall of fame to honor an iconic coach and living piece of Sanford history

Local sportscasters called him “the winningest coach in Crooms Academy history” during the 1960s. Recently, many of the athletes who produced those wins reunited in Sanford not only to pay homage to their former mentor, but also to be honored themselves with induction into the new Richard L. Evans, Jr. Sports Hall of Fame.

Sanford native Richard Evans, Jr. always loved sports. Although some believed Richard was too small for athletics, he pursued them anyway, and he excelled. During the 1951-1952 football season, Richard was quarterback of the Crooms Academy Panthers. It was the only year in which the school’s football team went undefeated.

After graduation and a stint in the Army, Richard attended Florida A&M University on an athletic scholarship and earned a degree in education. He returned to Sanford to coach baseball, football, and basketball at his old alma mater, and between 1959 and 1971, Richard enjoyed remarkable success, including a state baseball championship in 1962.

“I was fortunate to have some very good baseball players,” Richard says with a reminiscing smile. “They were seasoned players who were very good.”

Over the years, Coach Evans worked hard to keep alive the memories of the distinguished sports teams, players, and coaches of Crooms Academy. During the school’s 2007 Grand Reunion, Richard recognized those players he’d known over the years and awarded them special certificates for their accomplishments and contributions.

Still, Richard wanted to do more to honor the men. They had come of age during turbulent times in the segregated South. Richard’s students performed admirably in the classroom and on the field and went on to distinguish themselves as military servicemen, professional athletes, pastors, educators, and businessmen.

Richard’s powerful influence was a huge factor in their lives. He inspired them, and tried to live what he preached.

“I told them to give 110 percent, no matter what,” Richard says. “I was reared with hard work. My stepfather owned a lumber mill. I always told the players to be honest, truthful, and work hard.”

Richard and his wife, Dorothea, were discussing the Crooms legacy one day when Richard got the idea to establish a hall of fame to recognize former Crooms Academy athletes and their achievements. Soon after, he met with an attorney and began laying the groundwork for the organization.

Former players Dr. Ronald W. Merthie, William Lockhart, Emory Blake, and former Crooms student Cynthia Kendrick Wallace gathered at the coach’s home, and Richard shared his vision. Immediately, the group began planning the induction ceremony. When Richard stepped out of the room, the group asked Dorothea if they could offer a very special tribute to Richard as part of the evening’s festivities. Dorothea happily agreed.

During the last days of 2014, the Richard L. Evans, Jr. Sports Hall of Fame Inaugural Induction Ceremony was held at the Sanford Civic Center, and 43 former Crooms Academy athletes

were honored. Onstage were nearly two dozen of the inductees, including players from the aforementioned 1951-1952 undefeated team, members of the state champion baseball team (1961-1962), Crooms coaches, and several athletes who had distinguished themselves in Major League Baseball and the National Football League. Deceased honorees were remembered posthumously, and their awards were given to their families.

After the players were acknowledged, they offered their own tributes to Coach Evans. There were special proclamations and greetings presented to Richard by U.S. Congressman Alcee Hastings and Sanford Vice Mayor/Commissioner Velma Williams in addition to numerous congratulatory messages from friends, former students, and colleagues.

The challenge now is to carry on Richard’s vision.

“Service to his community has always been vitally important to Richard. He wants this to be his legacy,” Dorothea explains. Present and future inductees into the Richard L. Evans, Jr. Sports Hall of Fame will be charged with the task of serving their communities through volunteerism and financial support.

Stated goals for the hall of fame include preserving the legacy of Coach Evans and continuing his dream of recognizing outstanding Crooms Academy athletes. The organization operates as a donor trust, allowing contributors to honor Coach Evans by making charitable donations in support of causes that are close to his heart. At present, those causes include Free to Be Me, a literacy program, and Fathers United, a mentoring program founded by Dr. Merthie, now the pastor of New Life Word Center Church.

Having just celebrated his 80th birthday, Richard is seeing the fruits of his labors multiplied in the lives of his former students and players.

“It’s nothing but a positive experience,” Richard says, adding modestly, “My goodness, I never thought this would happen.’”

Photo: Above: Twenty of the inaugural 43 inductees into the Richard L. Evans, Jr. Sports Hall of Fame were able to attend the ceremony: (Foreground) Freddie Bush. (Front row) Arthur G. Knight; Robert Fielder; George F. Evans; Coach Richard Evans, Jr.; Dr. Miles Austin, Sr.; Jacob Sanders; and William Lockhart.

(Back row) Dr. William B. Sherman; Nathaniel Scurry; Rev. Emory Blake; William Hartsfield; Jesse Dowdell, Jr.; Billy T. Bush; Harry Harvey; Grady Edge; Dr. Ronald W. Merthie; Lamarr Richardson; Rufus Boykin; Harry Boston; and Ernest Bradley.

 

 

Facemyer Air Conditioning & Heating

Is there a worse feeling for a Florida resident than coming home on a hot summer day and discovering that your air conditioner is not working? Rod Facemyer hates that feeling, too, and he wants to make sure that you don’t have to experience it during these hot Central Florida months.

As owner of Facemyer Air Conditioning & Heating, Rod has dedicated himself to helping local residents stay cool during our long, hot summers. Facemyer offers the best in air conditioning installations, as well as maintenance and service. And with another long summer just around the corner, Rod encourages all his customers to get their AC checked now… before something goes wrong and they’re left sweltering in the brutal summer heat.

“Our summers are long and brutal, and nothing runs more than your air conditioning,” says Rod, who has 35 years experience in the business and opened Facemyer in 1997 in Sanford. “You want to make sure it’s been tuned up and is ready for that long journey.”

Every system installed by Facemyer’s expert technicians includes one year of membership in its Comfort Club, a maintenance plan that ensures your air conditioner is clean, running properly, and providing optimal performance for year-round comfort.

“We like our customers to get into the routine of getting their system serviced,” Rod says. “This will keep your air conditioner in top running order, it will lower your utility bills, and it adds life to the system, so you’re replacing it less frequently.”

In addition to inspections every six months, Comfort Club members also enjoy a 15-percent discount on repairs, parts, and accessories, and they get priority service when their systems need repair.

“We pride ourselves on typically being able to get there on the same day,” Rod says, “and we also provide after-hour service at no additional charge.”

Rod and the Facemyer staff also provide a personal touch, and customers have been known to stop by the office just to chat. It’s that day-to-day interaction with customers that Rod enjoyed so much when he first learned how to install an AC system back in 1980.

“I worked for my uncle in Sanford,” says Rod, who moved to the area from Ohio at age 20. “I found something I really enjoyed doing and decided this was going to be my career. There’s nothing better than seeing a smile on a customer’s face when we bring their A/C back to life.”

Photo: Facemyer Air Conditioning & Heating owner Rod Facemyer ready to go with one of Facemyer’s service vans.

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Lake Mary Paints

by Crystal Lang

If the palate of colors around your home or office is boring you to tears, now is the time to dry your eyes and embrace a much-needed change.

Lake Mary Paints, located in the Panera plaza across the street from Heathrow, has arrived, and its team is ready to roll out all of your paint, stain, floor covering, and decorating project needs.

Because the talented crew at Lake Mary Paints knows that customers are also neighbors and friends, they value the trust you place in their certified professionals to provide expert advice, superior products, and outstanding service. This means the Lake Mary Paints staff is readily available for home or office visits so they can offer helpful, honest feedback to help you achieve the look of your dreams.

After all, Lake Mary Paints understands that your home or office is your showplace, and it should reflect your personal warmth and character. With an enormous selection of colors, styles, and options at their disposal, experts take time to listen to your needs and walk you through every step of the process, from start to finish.

“Our goal is to be a one-stop-shop for all of your premier paint, paint supplies, and contractor-service needs,” says owner Sam Sallapudi. A Lake Mary resident who has been in the commercial and residential painting business for more than eight years, Sam and his family understand that personalized service and premium products at an independently-owned store truly make a difference when it comes to customer satisfaction. That is why Lake Mary Paints is open seven days a week to offer in-store contractor services for any home improvement job.

When it comes to paint, the professionals at Lake Mary Paints know quality matters. The vast inventory of paint and paint supplies includes premier products from Benjamin Moore, Pittsburgh Paints, Porter, Old Masters, and many more.

“Partnering with top-notch businesses like Lake Mary Paints in exclusive communities such as Lake Mary allows us to focus on providing the finest quality products and color trends available,” says Kyle Pollard, territory representative for Benjamin Moore paints.

“Every project you have is important to us, which is why we’re here to offer you advice and provide you with the right products to make your work easier and your result professional,” assures Sam, whose courteous staff is eager to help improve the walls around you, the ceilings above you, and the floor beneath your feet.

Photo: Kyle Pollard, territory rep for Benjamin Moore Paints; Lake Mary Paints owner Sam Sallapudi; and Bryan Rogers, store manager

 

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Lake Mary Endodontics

by Chip Colandreo

There’s a simple formula to explain the ongoing success of Lake Mary Endodontics: Dr. Travis Caissie’s reputation as Central Florida’s most skilled and compassionate endodontist constantly precedes him, and his wife, Lee Caissie, is always there to back him up.

Travis and Lee are lifelong friends, a doting couple with four adorable children, and potent business partners. Part of the reason Travis can provide such consistent, exquisite endodontic care in his operatories is because Lee handles the complete administration of the practice. Instead of managing payroll, cash flow, and all the other responsibilities that come with business ownership, Travis can instead focus on the intricacies of his endodontic care that make Dr. Caissie’s root canals an unbelievably comfortable experience.

It’s the office’s patients who reap the rewards of this endodontic duet, but Travis and Lee admit they get a lot out of it, too.

“Working together is not for every couple; you have to have a special relationship to make it work. Fortunately Lee and I do,” says Travis, with a smiling Lee sitting beside him in the couple’s home near Lake Markham.

This particular couple carries some serious credentials to back up their charm. Travis holds a Master of Science, Doctor of Dental Surgery, and an Endodontics Certificate from the Marquette University School of Dentistry, where Lee earned an MBA with an interdisciplinary specialty in dental office management.

At Lake Mary Endodontics, Travis and Lee work seamlessly together, though they often only see each other in passing during the day. As well as they gel, the Caissies know the limits of their chemistry. There’s one working relationship that does not and will not work for this pair: Travis as the dentist with Lee as his chairside assistant.

“We tried it once, long before we ever came to Florida,” Lee reminisces with a hearty laugh. “That was enough to convince us never to do it again, but it’s a funny story.”

Indeed it is, one that has more to do with Travis’s evolution as a skilled practitioner than you might expect. So, if you’ll indulge us…

It was spring 2002, 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

“Before Travis began his endodontic residency, we accepted an assignment from the Canadian government to provide three weeks of dental care in Nunavut, the northernmost territory in the country,” says Lee, who, like Travis, is a native Canadian.

Simple enough, but little did the young Caissies know they would travel to the third most northern human settlement on Earth, a village of 1,500 Inuits, the native people of the Arctic.

“They picked us up from the airport on snowmobiles, and it was 60 degrees below zero when we arrived,” Lee recalls, “They explained that dentists visit the village only twice a year. They announced our arrival at the hockey rink so people would know to come.”

Come they did, with dental needs that would make a southerner’s head spin. With Lee as his assistant, Travis spent the next three weeks performing on-the-fly dental care in a ramshackle operatory the Caissies had to literally assemble themselves – walls and all – when they arrived.

“But at least I could see three glaciers from the window,” says Travis. “It was beautiful.”

Ironically, some of the seeds of Dr. Caissie’s success were sewn in this shack near the top of the world. Countless generations of adaptation to the blistering cold made the bodies of the Inuit people significantly different than those of other races. As such, Travis had to quickly adapt his anesthesia technique, the numbing required to perform complex dental work.

“The structure of their jaws and faces was completely unique, so all the nerves were in different places,” Travis explains. “I learned how to adjust the administration of the medication to make sure these patients got sufficiently numb.”

“To this day, Travis is renowned throughout Central Florida for his numbing technique,” says Lee. “Patients who dread dental work because of painful experiences elsewhere come here because they know Travis can get them numb. One of the standards of our practice is that we will not work on a patient until they are numb and feel completely comfortable with the anesthetic.”

Once again, Lee is her husband’s biggest advocate and most ardent supporter, but three weeks in the Arctic were enough to convince Lee her preferred setting was the warmth of the well-run business office at Lake Mary Endodontics.

Photo: Jack, Logan, Lee, Travis, Kate, and Carter Caissie

 

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The Fantastic Four

by Jim Abbott

Work is more than a paycheck to these local leaders. It’s a mission they live day-in and day-out to make their community a better place.

Too often, work gets a bad rap.

Sure, it can be a grind. But for a fortunate few, work, play, and life mix in careers that go beyond punching a time clock on the 40-hour routine.

Here’s a look at four local residents who gladly put in the overtime, but only because they have passion for their professions and the community service they provide. They don’t just do their jobs, they live them!

A Star Among the Stars

Where do you go with a physics degree and a flair for the dramatic?

For Derek Demeter, there was only one answer: the planetarium, of course.

“It allows you to do science, but it also allows you to create,” says Derek, director of the Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust Planetarium at Seminole State College (SSC) in Sanford. “I always jumped between those two lines. I loved science, but I was also into theater, the arts, and things like that. In a planetarium, the marriage of those two worlds works really well.”

Derek started looking at the stars as a child in Winter Springs and never stopped. On trips with his father to the Orlando Science Center and the planetarium at what was then Seminole Community College, Derek’s curiosity turned into a career and life goal. When his friends were playing video games, the budding astronomer was volunteering at planetariums, learning how they worked.

“There’s really no coursework in schools to learn how to run a planetarium,” says Derek, who earned a degree in physics with a specialization in astronomy at UCF. “It’s one of those increasingly rare professions where you have to be by somebody’s side to learn it.”

It’s a new era of planetariums, Derek says. Technology has transformed the domes into “virtual reality spaces” that go beyond stargazing to explore Earth and cultural sciences. As such, Derek spends much of his free time getting out from under his dome to find new and engaging content, material he excitedly shares with SSC students, planetarium patrons, and even local teachers who come to the planetarium for professional development in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

On a recent research trip to New Mexico, Derek gathered images for a show on Native American archeological astronomy to open at the SSC planetarium in November. An expert astro-photographer, Derek shot spherical panoramas of the night sky to be featured in the presentation.

He took the images atop a 10,000-foot mountain, only to turn around and see tourists looking in the wrong direction.

“Everybody was looking down at the lights of the city below,” Derek says. “We have no connection to the universe anymore. How many of us today even bother to look up?”

Fortunately, Derek still looks to the stars and brings them down to Earth for us all to enjoy.

A Passion for Helping

No matter the hour, Beth Davalos answers the phone when a parent calls.

As coordinator of Families In Transition (FIT), a Seminole County Public Schools program to help students facing homelessness, Beth literally wrote the book on connecting local families with crisis services. At the same time, as a single mother, she understands the human side of each desperate appeal.

“You realize it’s a very vulnerable situation,” says Beth, a licensed clinical social worker who helped start the Seminole County program in 2003. “My personal experience has helped me as a social worker to understand how difficult it can be when you don’t have a lot of support. I was never homeless, but I was a single mother, and it’s a time period that felt very scary, despite one’s knowledge or experience. Anyone can be subjected to facing economic hardship, and you need to have resources.”

Beth also focuses on outreach, connecting the FIT program with community volunteers to provide essential services for needy families.

“I had done a variety of jobs in social work,” she says. “I had worked in an adolescent psychiatric unit, in private practice for children and families, and had volunteered at shelters. I saw a lot of gaps of services for families.”

Beth is determined to close as many gaps as possible, so she picks up the phone whenever it rings.

“If someone calls for help, I want to answer right away,” Beth says. “It’s hard to sleep at night when you know that someone’s calling you, saying ‘Where do I go? What do I do?’ These are real things happening to real people who are our neighbors, and it’s very scary to them. We might not be able to solve it that night, but for them to know that someone’s working on it is extremely helpful to them.”

Homegrown Role Model

Ask the reigning Teacher of the Year at Sanford’s Pine Crest Elementary about the secret to reaching second graders… and he’ll smile and shrug: “I don’t know what I do,” says William Tillman, Jr., now in his fourth year at one of Sanford’s most economically challenged schools. “I’ve been told that I have a great relationship with the students, that they love me and do whatever I ask them to. I just go in and do what I do.”

Push beyond that modest description and it’s apparent that William, who grew up in Sanford, shares a bond with his pint-sized pupils, many of whom face challenging circumstances at home. William once roamed the same streets and emerged as that rarest commodity: a homegrown role model.

An alumnus of Idyllwilde Elementary School, Greenwood Lakes Middle, and Lake Mary High (class of 2003), William earned a music education degree at Rollins College in Winter Park. He planned to be a music teacher until a stint as a substitute teacher at Pine Crest changed his mind.

“The staff members encouraged me to get my certification in elementary education,” William says, recalling the words of colleague Bernie Brown in particular. “She told me, ‘There are not many black males in education, and young black males need a positive role model at Pine Crest.’”

William answered the call, becoming not just a teacher, but also a 24/7 mentor to many young students who don’t have strong role models in their lives. And William still makes use of his music education by teaching group classes in piano after school. He also plays clarinet in the classroom to get lessons across.

“I play clarinet, and I play piano for my students,” says William, 30. “I’m a musician; that’s me, so I let them see me. I don’t know how to be anyone else.”

William stresses discipline, but counters his tough side with a habit of writing encouraging notes to students: “You’re going to accomplish great things!”

And why not? Their teacher certainly has.

Two Decades of 24/7

The phone never stops ringing at Pet Rescue By Judy, the venerable pet rescue and adoption center in Sanford. Volunteers field calls with the urgency of a hospital emergency room or a police dispatcher.

“Your dog was stolen from your backyard?” a staffer shouts into the receiver. She shouts because there’s a dozen barking dogs in the lobby, asking for morning walks.

Meanwhile, two UCF students in fraternity jerseys wait at the front desk to pick up supplies for an on-campus fundraiser, and – in the middle of it all – the organization’s founder and namesake is talking about two rescue dogs that just arrived from Russia.

“We’re international now,” says Judy Sarullo, who has been saving abandoned and abused pets for more than 20 years in Seminole County. It’s a non-stop job that stretches from 5:00 a.m. walks and afternoon chamber-of-commerce meetings to late-night calls from the police about animals failed by their owners.

A transplanted New Yorker, Judy, 66, is a diminutive dynamo known for her blunt good humor.

“I used to be normal,” she says, explaining how a soft spot for strays evolved into a $1.1 million, 9,000-square-foot rescue center because “I forgot to stop.”

Judy’s love for creatures remains strong, but she has become less forgiving of humans.

“I just hate people more now,” Judy deadpans, weary of listening to decades of excuses from would-be pet owners inconvenienced by the responsibility. “People tell me, ‘I’m moving.’ Well, find a place that takes an animal. You made a commitment. Now go and do it.”

That hard emotion is balanced by the affection Judy feels for her volunteers and the animals, like the new arrivals Mischka and Butter who take to snoozing in the bathtub of Judy’s home. It’s a happy ending after a long night of emails and phone calls to sort out flight changes from Russia.

“They are so sweet,” Judy says. “They slept on my lap the whole way home. I think I was more traumatized than they were.”

Night of the Year

by Chip Colandreo

District leaders and community sponsors gather Seminole County’s Teachers of the Year for an evening of thanks, praise, and celebration

From elementary to high school, from PE to AP American history, 63 of the finest educators in Seminole County Public Schools were recently honored at a lively gala in Altamonte Springs. The event, organized by The Foundation for Seminole County Public Schools and funded with support from dozens of businesses and community groups, featured a gourmet dinner, live entertainment, and many messages of appreciation from SCPS leaders and sponsors.

The main event of the evening was the big reveal of Seminole’s Countywide Teacher of the Year. Of the 63 Teachers of the Year elected by colleagues from each Seminole County public school and educational support program, 12 were chosen as finalists for the countywide honor. District leaders eventually narrowed the field to three: one Teacher of the Year to represent all elementary schools, one for middle schools, and one for high schools. With anticipation in the air, middle school Teacher of the Year Brian Furgione from Milwee Middle was announced as the big winner. For the next 12 months, Brian will travel the state and around the country representing Seminole County Public Schools as its signature educator. You can learn all about this remarkable teacher in our full profile on Brian on page 50.

Brian received $1,000 from The Foundation, a $200 luxury watch from Monarch Jewelers, and a number of other gifts and prizes. He also won free use of a new Buick for one full year, something that will come in handy as he criss-crosses Florida to meet with other Countywide Teachers of the Year and policymakers to improve education for all students in the state.

Brian might have taken home the big prize, but every Teacher of the Year left the gala with a number of rewards, including a $50 gift card from the Walk on Water boutiques in Lake Mary and Winter Park. The Teachers of the Year also took home a heart full of appreciation.

“It’s amazing to be recognized for doing something we love to do so much,” says Wicklow Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year Erin Nusbaum. “I was surprised and shocked to be chosen by my peers. I’ve been at Wicklow for 10 years, so this is very special.”

“It’s such an honor, because this is the best of the best,” says Lyman High School Teacher of the Year Toni Fields. “I’ve been at Lyman for 33 years, and I don’t like big to-dos, so I’ve always shied away from Teacher of the Year nominations before. But my colleagues refused to let me turn it down this time! People have since stopped by my school to give me handwritten notes and cards. It’s been so wonderful. This is why we do what we do.”

Another interesting theme at the gala was the strong representation of Teachers of the Year from outside the traditional classroom. The 63 Teachers of the Year included a number of art, music, physical education, television production, and ROTC teachers. The group even included a dropout prevention specialist and a guidance counselor.

When the night was through, the Teachers of the Year began a well-deserved spring break. But like every educator in Seminole County Public Schools, they went right back to delivering world-class education to every local student the moment classes came back in session.

Join us in saying, “Thank you!” to all the exceptional teachers in our community and to this year’s Teachers of the Year!

Photo: Brian Furgione with his wife Ashley

The Best of the Best

by Jessica Forgino

Meet Countywide Teacher of the Year Brian Furgione, an unconventional educator with a classic perspective on learning

When you walk into Brian Furgione’s middle school civics class, you won’t likely find students sitting in rows with their noses buried in a text book. That’s just not Brian’s style.

Instead, students are often on scavenger hunts, equipped with iPads, in search of lesson-revealing QR codes around Milwee Middle School. Or they might be digging through old newspapers from the 1700s. Perhaps you’ve come on a day when Brian’s class is learning a song to remember the “Road to the Revolution.”

“My philosophy is pretty straightforward: let learning happen,” Brian says in his waning New Jersey accent. “If I provide the students with real-world, educational opportunities they want to take hold of, they will want to learn.”

Using new technology is certainly something that has set Brian apart as a teacher, and it’s made his classroom a place where students not only learn, but also have fun. Scoring a grant to purchase iPads and laptops, Brian developed curriculum that is centered on interactive learning.

Known as “Mr. Furg,” the young teacher is already revolutionizing the classroom, says Dr. Michelle Walsh, Milwee’s principal. “Exciting, challenging, and thought-provoking are the best adjectives to describe the environment in Mr. Furgione’s classroom,” she says.

Now in his fourth year at Milwee Middle, Brian is a Florida transplant from the Garden State, where he attended Rutgers University. Although first interested in journalism, the history buff decided to go in a different direction after a series of odd jobs.

“I wanted to do something altruistic, something that would benefit the community and share my passion for history with others,” Brian says, noting that he was also in search of a warmer environment.

Lured to Florida by the sunshine and an assistantship at UCF, Brian and his wife, Ashley, found their way to Seminole County. But teaching about government soon became a family affair. Ashley, a seventh-grade teacher at Jackson Heights Middle School, also teaches civics.

“Our dinner table is filled with political banter and bouncing lesson ideas off one another,” Brian says. “We have a great dynamic – we come up with an idea, and it splinters a dozen different ways until we have a lesson we can both teach using our personal teaching styles.

Sometimes I joke she is probably more qualified to teach civics than myself, as she majored in political science at Rutgers.”

However, Brian’s passion for influencing youth goes well beyond his four classroom walls. On Friday evenings, he takes his upbeat spirit to the court. Brian originally began playing basketball with a few teachers who would stay after school, but the hobby soon turned into an organization of staff and students jokingly referred to as the “MBA” – short for Milwee Basketball Association.

“A few students heard about it and asked if they could join in, so we started ‘recruiting’ kids who we knew wanted an outlet they wouldn’t necessarily get during the school day,” Brian explains. “It’s turned into something where 20 to 40 kids come out and play on any given Friday outside of basketball season.”

On top of his Friday night basketball league, Brian also coaches boys and girls cross-country, is a member of the district’s Digital Learning Team, and is a new teacher mentor.

Outside of school, Brian and Ashley have fallen in love with Seminole County, utilizing the trail system and kayaking in area waterways. The young married couple also loves traveling and hopes to make their way back to Europe someday after a thrilling experience there last summer.

But in the meantime, it’s teaching that inspires the district’s Countywide Teacher of the Year day-in and day-out, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I am inspired to inspire,” says Brian. “I love pushing my students and seeing what they can accomplish and achieve. I aim to be the teacher who the students can count on – not only for support, but to be a driving force who helps them reach their full potential and go further. Every day I wake up excited to go to work and try to make a difference – whether that difference is one student or one hundred.”

 

Maitland Newsies… Read All About ‘Em!

by Pam Neff

With the help of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, two Maitland Middle School teachers team up to provide students with the ultimate educational Newsies experience

In six short weeks, seventh graders from Maitland Middle traveled back in time to become experts on the history of

Newsies, the musical inspired by the newsboys’ strike of 1899. The project was a team effort, fulfilled through the collaboration of seventh-grade teachers Dawn Dunham and Laurie Fletcher and education director Dana Brazil from the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

New to her position at the Dr. Phillips Center, Dana was eager to work with a local school to develop a theater-based education program. With the hit musical Newsies coming to the center, Dana shared her idea with Dawn and Laurie, who agreed it would be the perfect opportunity for a cross-curriculum project.

Dana secured a Broadway League Education Grant and provided Dawn and Laurie’s seventh graders the opportunity to study the Newsies era, gain exposure to a variety of theater production techniques, make their own newspaper, and take a class trip to the center in downtown Orlando to see the show.

“This was a great way to integrate the arts and cultivate our future audience,” says Dana. “The teachers were still able to focus on their curriculum and standards, but through the lens of Newsies and the history that it’s wrapped around.”

In order to provide ample exposure to the musical’s theme and characters, Dana, who is also a professional actress, used her performance expertise to teach the students about characterization. The kids later acquired some new moves when three of the show’s actors arrived at the Maitland Middle School cafeteria to teach dance choreography.

“Almost all of the cast is male, and the dancing was hard,” says Dawn. “My students realized how much work it took to be a part of the show.”

In class, Dawn’s civics students studied the history of what led to the 1899 strike and acted out the play. However, the majority of the project was completed in Laurie’s language arts class, where students researched, recreated, and published their own Newsies-era paper.

It was a realistic newswriting experience from beginning to end. Laurie transformed her classroom into a busy newsroom, giving her students firm deadlines. And like features you’d find in a real newspaper, articles were based on historic events, sports results, and fashion trends. The kids even designed their own advertisements.

“The students completed all of it themselves and directed the project the way they wanted it to go,” says Laurie. “They spent time editing and revising their work, and we ended up with this amazing newspaper.”

In the end, 31 students published their writing in the newspaper, which was professionally printed with the help of editors at the Orlando Sentinel.

To cap it all off, 96 seventh graders and 13 parents descended on the Dr. Phillips Center to see the show on stage, and everyone had the time of their lives. But before the opening number, students donned vintage newsboy caps and sold their very own newspaper creation outside the theatre. They made $600 in sales and donations, all of which went to the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids nonprofit organization.

Laurie and Dawn agree the project was a thrill from beginning to end.

“The students learned what it was like to stand up to the big guy and fight for their rights,” says Dawn.

“It is awesome to have local community partners who give our kids these types of experiences,” adds Laurie. She and Dawn are grateful for the community’s tremendous support, which created such a memorable class project.

Photo: Maitland Middle School teachers Laurie Fletcher (left) and Dawn Dunham proudly celebrate the completion of the innovative Newsies unit with their classes.

 

 

Proclamation: Transformation – Part 3

by Chip Colandreo

photos by ValariC Photography

Not the End. Just the Beginning.

OWSL follows Oviedo’s first couple as they continue complete a six-month odyssey to transform their bodies and lives

Wedding bells will toll in June to announce the marriage of Amanda Persampiere, daughter of Mayor Dominic Persampiere of Oviedo and his wife, Debbie. But the chimes will also signal the conclusion of a six-month fitness and nutrition overhaul for the in-laws-to-be. With the help of My House Fitness in Oviedo, Dominic and Debbie engaged in an intense regimen of personal training sessions and completely overhauled their diet to slim down for the big event, and the results have been remarkable.

“I’ve lost a small child,” Dominic quips, describing his total weight loss of 50 pounds and counting. Debbie is close behind at 32 pounds lost.

So, the 64,000-calorie question is: Will the slice (or two) of wedding cake represent the end of this wellness adventure?

“Absolutely not,” says Dominic. “We’re not stopping. Why in the world would we? We feel better than we ever have. We can’t imagine going back to the way things were.”

“I’m so excited about how far we’ve come and how much further we could go,” adds Debbie. “I’ve lost six inches in my waist already, and I’m shopping at stores I haven’t dared to visit in years. They’re having to bring me smaller sizes in the dressing room. It’s so exciting.”

My House Fitness Oviedo franchise owners Jerry and Vicki Redding, couldn’t be more proud of the Persampieres, and the couple’s success represents an important milestone for the Oviedo gym, as well.

“Dominic and Debbie were our first clients when we opened this franchise location,” Jerry explains. “With our guidance and support, they embraced the entire program wholeheartedly, and the results speak for themselves. They’ve accomplished everything they set out to do, and they’re even participating in 5K races for the first time, posting better results each time they go out.”

“Their hard work has paid off, and we’re so very proud of them,” Vicki adds with a wide smile.

“Their bodies look amazing, but what’s more important is the way they’ve transformed on the inside, with their blood work and other results,” says Jerry.

Indeed, both the mayor and his first lady report lower cholesterol and better blood metrics all around. Dominic’s blood sugars, especially, have dropped dramatically.

“That kind of transformation is why we do this,” says Jerry. “It’s very exciting.”

Both 51, Dominic and Debbie say this is the thinnest and healthiest they’ve been since they moved to Oviedo 20 years ago.

“I’ll admit, I never exercised after we got married,” Debbie says. “And I can tell you Dominic never wore size 34 pants in the time I’ve known him, either, but he can now.”

This is impressive, but more remarkable, according to the Persampieres, is how seamless – if not easy – the process of reinventing their bodies turned out to be.

“Jerry and Vicki and the entire My House Fitness team made it a pleasure,” says Dominic. “They set us up with an easy-to-follow meal plan, they showed us how to prepare those healthy meals at nutrition clinics the Reddings offer for clients in their home, and they supported us and kept us on track the entire time. Once we got past the first couple of weeks, once we saw the results kick in, there was no stopping us.”

“I’ve had no problem at all with the changes to our diet,” says Debbie. “They made that part so easy. If anything, I’m looking forward to being more creative with the tricks I’ve learned to make my meals more healthy and delicious.”

But doesn’t the mouth-watering, diet-killing food of six months ago still occasionally call Dominic and Debbie’s name?

“Oh, gosh – heck no,” Dominic chuckles, shaking his head at the memories of meals past. “We could go to the Oviedo Ale House and finish off an entire platter of the chicken nachos before the end of the first quarter. I can’t imagine doing that again. But the best part is, we still enjoy the Ale House as much as we used to. We just make smarter choices there.”

“We’re about helping people enjoy their lives,” says Jerry, discussing the workout and meal plans developed by My House Fitness franchisors Chris and Jen Wherrell. “We teach clients how to eat delicious food in the right portions to help them lose weight without feeling like they’re on a ‘diet.’ We also help them exercise the right way to make the most of their time here at My House Fitness.”

“Working out there is comfortable for me, and that’s a major priority,” says Debbie. “The atmosphere is so good, and I always feel comfortable.”

What do the next six months hold for the suddenly slimmer Persampieres? They say it will look and feel much like the most recent six, with regular workouts and more of their favorite lower-calorie food.

“It’s a lifestyle change, and it’s worth every bit of it,” says Dominic. “I wake up in the morning with more energy now, and I just feel much better.”

Debbie is even more enthusiastic, proclaiming with a grin: “The next time we go to Alaska, I’m climbing a glacier!”

Feeling Drafty in Lake Mary

by Chip Colandreo

LMHS shortstop could be the #1 pick in the upcoming Major League Baseball draft, changing the lives of a local family overnight

How good is 18-year-old Brendan Rodgers? You could ask any of the 100-or-so Major League Baseball scouts who’ve traveled across the country to Lake Mary High School’s Allen Tuttle Field to watch Brendan play. Or you could query baseball luminary Ben Cherington, currently the general manager of the Boston Red Sox, who recently paid a personal visit of his own. For now, just know this: Brendan is so good, in about a month’s time MLB teams are expected to jockey for the opportunity to pay Brendan several million dollars in exchange for his signature.

On Monday, June 8, the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft will begin, and Brendan’s life will likely never be the same. Pundits and scouts agree Brendan, born and raised in Lake Mary, will almost certainly be one of the first three players selected by teams at the top of the draft order, and many believe Brendan is a lock to go #1. For reference, the 2013 #1 pick, pitcher Mark Appel, signed a $6.35 million contract to play for the Houston Astros.

What’s it like to know a multi-million dollar check could be in your near future? What does such knowledge do to a young man and his family? How do they react?

“I just want to wrap him up in bubble wrap until the draft,” Brendan’s mom, Julie, says with a mix of good humor and exasperation. “As a mom, I’ve been so worried about how he’ll react to all this, but he’s so calm. He stays busy with games and practice and workouts and schoolwork. He’s handled it all so well.”

The 6’1”, 195-pound senior speaks softly when interviewed and quietly goes about his daily business with the Rams varsity baseball team.

“The first game of the season was a little crazy,” Brendan admits. “There were 300 to 400 people there, and probably 100 of them were scouts. It was the largest crowd I’ve ever played in front of, but I like going out there and showing the scouts what I can do.”

Which Brendan did… with aplomb. As his national reputation grew over the course of the most recent LMHS baseball season, and the predictions of his “top-three” draft status solidified, the crowd of scouts actually shrank dramatically as teams with 2015 draft picks outside the top 10 accepted the fact Brendan would be long gone before it was their turn to pick. Sending a scout to Lake Mary, those teams surmised, was simply a waste of money and time.

By the end of the season, the game-night scene at Lake Mary High School was almost obscenely normal. A few dozen spectators took in the games, mostly the parents of players on the field, as the best young shortstop in America smacked home runs and made sparkling plays as a matter of course. That the young man wearing #3 was expected to be a top draft pick would have probably been news to most in attendance. Sprinkled in the crowd, though, were plain-clothes scouts who knew better, scouts from the first several teams in the draft order: the Arizona Diamondbacks, The Houston Astros, the Colorado Rockies, and even the ever-hopeful Red Sox who, with the seventh pick in the draft, are a very outside shot to acquire Brendan’s services.

The scouts were really there in case something went wrong, and that is a fear Brendan and his family will continue to deal with on a daily basis until the evening of June 8. A sudden injury, a freak accident, an extenuating circumstance, even an unfortunate trip over the living-room rug could send Brendan tumbling down the draft board, erasing millions of dollars from his immediate future.

The psychological roller-coaster ride of a potential #1 pick is maddening, but Brendan, for his part, is taking it all in stride.

“My teammates are really the only ones who see what the whole thing is like on a daily basis,” Brendan says. “No one treats me any differently. I know who my friends are. As of now, I don’t have people pretending to be my friend because of what’s going on. I just have my circle.”

It’s safe to say dad Greg and mom Julie are more nervous and perhaps even more excited than their son.

“It’s exciting to see this come together, something that’s been coming together since Brendan was six years old,” says Greg. “We just love to watch him play. To think that we might be able to watch him in the minors and eventually retire and watch him play for 10 to 15 years in the Major Leagues… that would be pretty amazing.”

Coach Tuttle picked the wrong year to win his 600th game…

As the 2015 LMHS baseball season drew to a close, just as the media frenzy around Brendan began to peak, longtime Lake Mary baseball coach Allen Tuttle quietly celebrated an incredible milestone: he logged his 600th career coaching win. Lake Mary’s baseball coach for 32 years, Allen wouldn’t have wanted it any other way, happy to see one of his players standing in the spotlight instead. But that didn’t stop the Lake Mary Life cameras from catching a glimpse of a pre-game ceremony in late March, during which LMHS principal Mike Kotkin and athletic director Doug Peters presented Coach Tuttle with a special plaque commemorating win #600 as his family, friends, players, and supporters looked on.