Day Game

by Shelley Ouellette

“When you think of Seminole State softball, you think of Courtney Miller.” – John Scarpino, director of athletics at Seminole State College

Mayor of Lake Mary declares May 1 Courtney Miller Day in honor of Seminole State’s longtime softball coach

When Seminole State College (SSC) head softball coach Courtney Miller moved to Lake Mary from Winter Springs five years ago, she never dreamed the city would name a day in her honor. But, this spring, Mayor David Mealor of Lake Mary did just that, declaring May 1 Courtney Miller Day in recognition of her coaching achievements and her impressive 800 career wins.

“Whereas, on February 21, 2014, Courtney Miller reached her 800-win milestone, defeating Hillsborough Community College by a score of 7-1,” Mayor Mealor read, “now therefore, through the authority vested in me as mayor of the City of Lake Mary, Florida, I, David J. Mealor, do hereby proclaim Thursday, May 1, 2014, as Courtney Miller Day in the City of Lake Mary.”

A native of Jasper, Missouri, and a graduate of Missouri State University, Courtney started the Seminole State fast-pitch softball program in 1994, following a seven-year stint at St. Cloud University in Minnesota, where she served as a fast-pitch softball coach and completed her master’s degree in physical education.

“I decided to leave Minnesota to get out of the cold,” says Courtney. “At the same time, Florida’s junior college system was transitioning its softball program from slow-pitch to fast-pitch, so it was the perfect opportunity for me to make the move.”

Now in her 20th season as the SSC Raiders’ head coach, Courtney oversees a nationally recognized program that can boast the 2012 Florida Region VIII State Tournament title, an eighth-place finish at the 2012 NJCAA National (College World Series) Tournament, and 14 consecutive post-season appearances in the state tournament.

And, while game wins and championship titles are important, Courtney, who also serves as an SSC professor and academic advisor, says her players’ success in the classroom is equally as significant.

“The most important lessons I took away from Courtney’s leadership were: hard work pays off, punctuality is important and appreciated, show respect, be responsible for your actions and belongings, and be accountable for what you say and do – true life lessons,” says Ashley (Bitzer) Sprague, who played for Courtney during the 2003 and 2004 seasons. “But, perhaps the most important was the emphasis Courtney put on academics over athletics. She would always explain that your body can fail at any minute, but no one can take away your education.”

Over the years, Courtney’s players have earned All-Conference and All-State academic honors, and 72 of them achieved Academic All-America status. In 2012, the NJCAA ranked Courtney’s Raiders eighth in the nation academically.

“I’m proud of our wins, but the academic recognition proves that student-athletes can succeed in the classroom and on the field, and that’s not an easy feat,” Courtney says. “More than 98 percent of my players graduate, and many have gone on to become lawyers, engineers, educators, and police officers. That says a lot about the program we’ve built over the past 20 years.”

That program also includes Courtney’s longtime volunteer assistant coaches Bill Fields and Jack Bitzer, whose two daughters played softball at Lake Mary High School and Seminole State.

“Without Bill and Jack, Seminole State softball would never have reached the level of success that it has,” Courtney says. “I can think of very few people who would give of their time and talents the way they have – it speaks volumes about their dedication to our players, team, and school.”

Looking toward the future, Courtney says it will be tough to top the “Courtney Miller Day” experience, but she plans to continue coaching as long as she’s still having fun and making a positive contribution to the Seminole State softball program.

“If I’m fortunate enough to make it to 1,000 wins, that would be a nice way to mark the end of a very gratifying career,” she says.

Photo: Mayor David Mealor of Lake Mary presents the Courtney Miller Day proclamation to Courtney.

Framing Creations

We live in an increasingly digital world, where mementos and memories are now stored on hard drives and saved in clouds. That’s all well and good for the sake of convenience, but Eric and Adriana Nye believe that beautiful photos, precious memorabilia, and stunning pieces of artwork deserve more than a few likes on Facebook. They deserve a place on your wall.

The Nyes, who have owned Lake Mary’s Framing Creations together for 15 years, have taken countless keepsakes and given them new life with the right frame and glass.

“We’ve framed everything,” Adriana says with a laugh. “Jerseys, christening gowns, military medals, diplomas, posters. We’ve done it all.”

Upon arriving at Framing Creation’s new location on Sun Drive, clients begin by selecting from more than 6,000 different frames on display in the showroom.

“And there are even more choices available in our catalogues,” says Eric, who offers everything from leather and acrylic frames to metal and wood. “You can also order prints and posters here. Give us the info, and we’ll find it and get it here.”

Creating beautiful shadow boxes is one of the Nyes’ favorite projects. The boxes can contain just about anything from mementos to priceless family photos and heirlooms.

“You can bring in a disc or email us the files, and we can have the photos professionally printed and framed,” Adriana says. “We work with your budget, which means we can do custom work or have you select from ready-made frames crafted in-house. Prices start as low as $49.99.

“Part of our service is that we’ll go to clients’ homes and help them choose the right frames to complement their décor, and we’ll also go back and hang everything,” Eric adds.

“Custom framing makes a huge difference in terms of how a piece of art or a photograph looks,” Adriana says. “I’ve had people start with store-bought frames and then go custom, and they can’t believe it’s the same picture. It really makes that much of a difference.”

And for those who prefer to stay digital, Eric and Adriana can create a custom digital frame. They’ve also framed flat-screen televisions and now do custom plaques and awards.

Besides a knack for bringing out the best in whatever they’re framing, the pair have also earned an unfailing reputation for over-the-top service, which includes free house- and office-calls.

“Every step of the way, we take very good care of our clients,” says Adriana. “We have a total-satisfaction warranty. We follow a family through from baby pictures to diplomas to wedding photos. That really means a lot to us.”

– Kristen Manieri

Photo: Longtime Framing Creations owners (and Lake Mary residents) Eric and Adriana Nye.

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Earth Origins Outlet

Times are a-changin’, and there’s nowhere to better see the shifts than in the grocery store. From gluten-free and organic to free-range and all-natural, nearly every product on store shelves – from peanut butter to pork chops – is getting a healthy overhaul. The big-chain grocery stores, however, are only just catching up to the trend. Earth Origins Outlet in Lake Mary is leading the charge.

With the largest selection of organic and natural food items, plus an unparalleled slew of supplements and the area’s best selection of organic produce, Earth Origins Outlet is much more than meets the eye. Half the store has your typical grocery departments, including produce, meat, dairy, and bulk foods, and the other half is devoted to outlet displays stacked high with food products sporting discounts of up to 75 percent.

“We are able to go out to suppliers and get pallet deals, buy these products at a cheaper cost, and then pass those savings on to our customers,” says store manager Allen Gravely.

Other grocery stores may have a handful of healthy options, but it’s nothing compared to the selection at Earth Origins Outlet, where it’s all healthy.

“We don’t have any conventional food or drink items. It’s all natural and organic here,” says Allen, who loves to see the surprise on his customer’s face when they get a look at his prices. “We’re offering your favorite healthy food items at 10 to 60 percent off regular grocery store prices.”

The selection of organic meats, a hot commodity these days, is continuously expanding.

“There has been such a demand that we now offer 40 different varieties of meat, from lunch meat and organic cheese to whole chickens and turkey breast,” says Allen.

Besides everything the average family would buy in a weekly trip to the grocery store — including things like toilet paper and cleaning supplies — Earth Origins Outlet also has an expansive offering of supplements spanning two entire aisles, where shelves are lined with everything from vitamins to homeopathic remedies.

There are also hundreds of bottles of organic and naturally produced wines, representing one of the best selections in Central Florida, in fact.

“The number-one statement I hear from our customers is that they are so glad we’re here in Lake Mary because there is no one else offering the product variety we offer,” Allen says. “Plus, if there’s something we don’t have, I’ll do my best to get it for you.”

– Kristen Manieri

Photo: It’s easy to make healthy buying choices at Earth Origins Outlet in Lake Mary. Everything on the shelves is all-natural or organic… all at a savings of 10 to 75 percent.

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Life’s Work

Photo: Honorees who received the coveted Torchbearer Award included Sheila and Michael Kramer, Dr. Tina Calderone, Sheriff Don Eslinger, Jeanne Gold, and Police Chief Steve Bracknell

Lake Mary Life honors three local icons who work – and live – to serve others

For the second year, an intrepid group of international distance runners is currently on a trek around the entire perimeter of the United States, all in the name of world peace. The 12,000-mile Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run began in New York City in mid-April and will return to the Big Apple in August after stops in more than 50 cities across the fruited plain (including a brief visit to Mexico and an excursion through Canada). Along the way, the torch-carrying runners partner with local leaders in each city to honor those who promote peace and harmony at the local level. For the second time, Lake Mary Life was asked to select the men and women who would receive the coveted Torchbearer Awards during the run’s stop in Lake Mary.

Last time, Lake Mary Life chose to honor those who go above and beyond to serve others long after their workdays are over. This year, we shine a light on men and women for whom service is part of their daily job description. But these dedicated leaders don’t just do their jobs, they live them – and these are their stories:

Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger

When the calendar flipped its page to 2014, Don Eslinger reached a major milestone, though he was likely the last to notice. In January 1991, Don was appointed sheriff of Seminole County to fill the enormous shoes of the iconic John Polk.

Sheriff Polk, at the time, was the longest-tenured sheriff in Seminole County history, serving an unprecedented 22-year term as the county’s highest law-enforcement officer before failing health finally forced him from duty. Sheriff Eslinger was tapped to fill the remaining two years of his predecessor’s final term. The people of Seminole County took a liking to their new sheriff, though. They liked him so much, in fact, they’ve since gone to the polls no fewer than six times to keep him on the job.

When 2014 began, Sheriff Eslinger did what many thought was impossible: He broke his mentor’s record, becoming the new longest-serving sheriff in county history with 23 years behind the sheriff’s badge. Twenty-three years as sheriff is impressive, but Don’s history of service to Seminole County goes much further back. He began his career with the sheriff’s office as a radio dispatcher in 1978. He climbed the department’s ranks, eventually becoming a major before his elevation to sheriff.

All sheriffs understand their duty to keep the county’s people safe, but Sheriff Eslinger has also dedicated his career to making Seminole County a better place to live. His support of the Boy Scouts of America is unmatched in the area, and his vision and leadership led to the creation of Kids House of Seminole, the county’s children’s advocacy center where young victims of abuse and neglect can go to tell their stories to law enforcement officers and begin the healing process.

Keeping people safe may be Sheriff Eslinger’s job and his elected duty, but it’s also his legacy and his life’s work, in every sense of the word.

Dr. Tina Calderone, board member, Seminole County Public Schools

Education is in Dr. Tina Calderone’s blood. It has defined her career. And, indeed, it is her life. She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and went on to earn a master’s degree in higher education administration and a Ed.D. in educational leadership from the University of Florida. These credentials typically lead to a career in the classroom or principal’s office, but Tina chose a different path.

Instead, Tina made it her job to help world-class educators do their jobs. She began her career in the educational software industry and eventually served as an associate dean of students at Stetson University and an adjunct professor at Seminole State College.

While her two children progressed through Seminole County Public Schools (SCPS), Tina chaired more School Advisory Councils and was involved in more PTAs than she can recall. She also sat on the board of The Foundation for Seminole County Public Schools, the district’s nonprofit fundraising arm that gives students and teachers the resources they need that are not covered in the county budget.

When a new executive director for the Foundation was needed, Tina answered the call. She expanded a number of Foundation programs while at the helm, including the Arts Alive fundraiser, the Grants for Good Ideas program, and the Golf 4 Education fundraising tournament. Her crowning achievement was the establishment of the Excellence in Education Endowment, a $1 million fund that provides an ongoing source of income for the Foundation’s many scholarship programs and educational support initiatives.

In 2010, Seminole County voters went to the polls and gave Tina a seat on the SCPS School Board. From there, she’s helped modernize the district’s Web presence and online enrollment system, expanded VPK programs to additional SCPS schools, and has given young African-American men the opportunity to become pillars of their community and mentors to their peers as part of Seminole High School’s Young Men of Excellence program, for which Tina was a major advocate.

Though she didn’t always know where she’d end up, Tina’s every step was leading her precisely to where she is today. It’s yet another wonderful life story expressed in a deep love for her daily work.

Jeanne Gold, CEO, SafeHouse of Seminole

Few CEOs can contain their workdays to the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., and neither can Jeanne Gold, chief executive of SafeHouse of Seminole, the county’s emergency shelter for women and children escaping domestic violence. For Jeanne and her team at SafeHouse, the business day never ends, because the threat of domestic violence never takes an evening off.

A former prosecutor in the domestic violence department of the state attorney’s office, Jeanne spent years battling domestic violence and fighting for victims’ rights inside the courthouse. Jeanne was good at her job, as a number of convicted abusers can attest from their jail cells, but she came to realize the good work she was doing did little to prevent violence before the damage could be done.

Already a member of the SafeHouse board of directors, Jeanne accepted an offer to take over as the shelter’s executive director on an interim basis for one year. As interim positions so often go – at least among people with a palpable passion for their jobs – the one-year appointment has since become 12 – and counting.

“I love helping people and solving problems,” Jeanne says. “It’s not unusual for my phone to ring at midnight with a report that a woman and her small child are entering SafeHouse with nothing but the clothes on their back. They need toothbrushes and a change of clothes. The child needs a new teddy bear to replace the favorite one left behind. Thanks to the generosity of our community partners, we can meet those needs and keep that mother and child safe. Being part of that process means a lot to me.”

Jeanne was also a huge part of SafeHouse’s transformation into a beautiful, welcoming state-of-the-art shelter and transitional housing facility. A wickedly capable grant writer and government-funding sleuth, Jeanne secured more than $3 million in funding during her first year on the job to relocate SafeHouse from the old Seminole County Health Department property to its new purpose-built facility in Sanford.

When you love (and live) your job, the clock on the wall can tell you when to eat and meet, but it never says when to quit.

Matthew Michael’s Salon Experience

There are those who view a trip to the salon as yet another necessary errand to squeeze into an already too busy schedule. And then there are those who see it as a time to be pampered, a delicious refuge from the busy world, the place where all of life’s demands float away like clippings swept from the floor. For the latter, there’s the Matthew Michael’s Salon Experience, an oasis of serenity now open in Colonial TownPark.

From the moment you walk through the door and a bliss-inducing array of essential oils gently tickles your senses, it’s clear Matthew Michael’s is not your typical hair salon. Sure, it has blow-dryers, mirrors, and scissors, but underneath the beautifying tools is a mission to make you look fabulous and feel completely relaxed and cared for.

Your hostess will offer you a warm or cool cup of Aveda tea or a glass of wine and then encourage you to take a Sensory Journey. Say yes, and then close your eyes and breathe in various essential oils wafted under your nose. Pick your favorite, and it can be crafted into your very own personalized fragrance.

As you await your appointment time, steal a moment to peruse the hundreds of Aveda products available at Lake Mary’s only Aveda retailer. These botanical products are renowned for their straight-from-nature ingredients and the company’s staunch stance on sustainability and environmental responsibility. From hair care to skin lotions to make-up, a seemingly endless and comprehensive line of plant-based products await.

Then it’s off for a tour of the salon.

“This gives us the chance to make you feel at home,” says Matthew Michael Stefanavage himself. You’ll see the color bar, where guests can chat with their stylist about their hair color goals and then watch as the perfect solution is mixed right before their eyes. “We don’t emerge from the backroom with a mystery bowl of color solution. We mix everything right in front of our clients. It’s all part of making everyone feel informed and comfortable.”

Those receiving a hair wash will head to the Shampoo Spa, a Zen-like room tucked away from the bustling salon floor where subdued lighting, ambient tunes, and heavenly scalp massages transport guests to new heights of relaxation.

At the 10 beauty stations, stylists apply an immense level of education to their task, training that includes ongoing skill enhancement performed every Tuesday morning. All stylists arrive at the salon with a firm foundation, but that base is constantly fortified in a climate of lifelong education and the constant pursuit of excellence.

“We all take pride in our work, and all of our stylists want to hit a home run,” says Matthew. “Our goal is to tap into your unexpressed desire by asking a lot of questions. We want to make sure you get exactly what you’re hoping for.”

You might even get a few little surprises you weren’t expecting, including a complimentary stress-relieving ritual, such as a neck and scalp massage or a relaxing hand massage.

Men are also pampered at this salon, where even a basic cut and style includes a scalp and neck massage, warm face towel, and the best shampoo ever, as the salon touts.

For ladies, a slew of services, from blowouts and extensions to bridal up-dos and deep conditioning treatments, make this salon the only salon you’ll ever need.

As guests leave, they’re offered a complimentary make-up refresher at the make-up bar and booked in for their next visit.

“There are 12 points of difference we use to delight all of our guests,” Matthew explains. “It is important that they feel the wow factor, that they’re treated like royalty. We’re all about the experience.”

– Kristen Manieri

Photo: Co-owners Allison Agresta, Matthew Michael Stefanavage, and Regina Smith

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Steady as She Goes

by Pam Neff

Community takes steps to help woman in need

Judy Banks has lived in the same Altamonte Springs home since she was a little girl. As a child, Judy cheerfully bounced up the small, gray concrete steps that led to her front door. Having made thousands of trips up and down the steps, Judy paid them little mind as an adult until about 14 years ago when her vision began to change.

In 2000, Judy was diagnosed with the progressive eye disease, keratoconus, leaving her visually impaired and making simple, everyday tasks much more difficult to accomplish. As her eyesight began to deteriorate, Judy’s steps suddenly became a frightening obstacle, causing her to fall several times within the past year.

“I couldn’t judge the depth of the steps anymore, so I kept falling and getting injured,” Judy explains.

Last October, Judy fell so hard that she broke her wrist in three different places. Her painful injury and the increasing frequency of her falls prompted Judy to ask for help.

That’s when the Center For Independent Living came to Judy’s rescue. The nonprofit organization, dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities and seniors live independently, organizes annual RAMPAGE ramp-building events throughout Central Florida. During RAMPAGE, hundreds of community volunteers team up to build ramps for those with mobility needs. When contacted by Judy, RAMPAGE administrators immediately put her on the recipient list for the most recent event.

Shortly after she learned that help was on the way, Judy met her group of builders. Team leader Anthony Gandolfo, manager of the Home Depot store in Altamonte Springs, couldn’t wait to get started.

“After doing research and speaking to the folks at the Center For Independent Living, I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of,” Anthony says. “I posted a sign-up sheet in the store, and within an hour we had more than a dozen volunteers.”

The team began the renovation project for Judy right away. They worked hard pouring concrete, digging holes, cutting wood, and laying posts. When the crew was done, Judy was left with two freshly built wooden entryways to her home. A new set of low, sturdy steps with a handrail now leads Judy to her front door, and a long ramp with guardrails wraps around to the back of her home. The team even left a bit of open deck space where Judy can sit, relax, and enjoy the outdoors.

“The ramp is delightful,” says Judy, who couldn’t be more pleased with the team’s amazing work. “I had no idea it would be this nice!”

Anthony and his team were gratified by Judy’s reaction to the completed project.

“It felt good to be able to do something for someone in need who could not do it on her own,” Anthony says.

Judy is once again able to step safely into her home. She has adapted to walking up and down her ramp with ease, and she is proud to say there have been no falls since the project was completed. This selfless group effort led by members of our community not only improved Judy’s quality of life in numerous ways, but it also left a positive impression on everyone involved.

“When we have an opportunity like this to make an impact in our community, and more importantly, an impact for an individual, it is very satisfying,” says Anthony.

Most importantly, Judy feels extremely blessed and is incredibly grateful for the Center For Independent Living’s dedication to helping people like her, and for the volunteer build team that came to her rescue.

“I feel so much safer going about my day,” Judy says. “This ramp has saved my life.”

Photo: Judy Banks on her new ramp

Oh Brother!

by Jill Cousins

The 2014 Lake Mary High lacrosse team sported no fewer than 11 siblings from five different families.

When it comes to team sports, players often talk about their teammates as an extended family or band of brothers. On the Lake Mary High School boys’ lacrosse team this past season, though, it was more than just a figure of speech. In fact, the Rams’ 2014 varsity- and junior-varsity programs included 11 actual brothers (including two sets of twins!) from five families.

Nine of those brothers were on Lake Mary’s varsity team, making up about one-third of the squad’s roster. The Rams had 30 players on the team for the regular season and 25 during the playoffs.

“We’ve had brothers in our program in the past, but they’re usually not on the team at the same time,” says Gary Robinson, who just completed his third season as Lake Mary’s varsity coach. “Usually when you have brothers on the team, they are separated by age and [ability] level. But this year, we had four sets of brothers on the varsity team at once.”

Coach Robinson says he had no trouble distinguishing between the brothers, even the twins, and he actually didn’t even realize just how many brothers were on the team this season until a parent pointed it out. But here’s the roll call:

The varsity team included two sets of fraternal twins – juniors Aaron and Austin Platt and Zac and Brandon Nash. Junior Connor Carbone suited up with his brother, sophomore Ben Carbone. Junior Kevin Sande and freshman Kyle Sande were also brothers. Junior Garrett Gile played on the varsity squad, while his brother Ian played on the JV team. The varsity twins Aaron and Austin had a third brother, Nick, who played JV, as well. Are you keeping up?

Zac (defender), Ben (long stick midfielder), Aaron (second midfielder), Connor (second midfielder), Garrett (attack), and Kevin (first midfielder) were all starters on the varsity team, which had an impressive 15-5 record and finished the season ranked 10th in the state. The Rams won three games in the state playoffs before losing to second-ranked Ponte Vedra, 8-6. Ponte Vedra lost to eventual state champion Lake Highland Prep in the semifinals.

“We had a very successful team this year,” Coach Robinson says, “and they were a big part of it.”

Lacrosse has been a family affair for the Carbone brothers for the past five years. Ben, who is 13 months younger than Connor, started playing first, when he was a fifth grader at Heathrow Elementary School.

“When Ben started playing, I had never even heard of lacrosse before,” Connor says. “But I went to his very first game, and I thought it was cool. I ended up going to every single game, and the next year, I quit baseball and started playing lacrosse.”

Connor played on Lake Mary’s junior varsity team as a freshman, then made the varsity team the following year, along with Ben. Both of the brothers were attracted to the physicality of lacrosse.

“I’ve always been a big fan of hitting people,” says Ben, who at 6-feet, 175-pounds is the bigger of the brothers. “I feel like lacrosse is a good combination of everything. It’s not all about brute strength, and you don’t have to be a freak of nature, size-wise, to excel.”

The brothers have bonded over lacrosse. Ben restrings Connor’s sticks, Connor drives Ben to practice, and they spend a lot of their free time passing to each other outside the house. Last summer, the boys even started their own informal summer camp, teaching lacrosse to some young neighborhood kids.

With Connor at 5’8”, 150 pounds, the coaches don’t confuse the Carbone brothers, or any of the other brothers, for that matter. But sometimes they have to come up with creative nicknames for the players so there are no mix-ups on the practice field.

“Everyone had to have multiple nicknames because of the situation, with so many brothers,” Connor says. “They would call me ‘Carbone,’ and they’d call my brother ‘Ben’ or ‘Little ‘Bone.’”

“Sometimes they’d call Connor ‘Big Carbone,’ which is ironic, because I’m taller,” Ben says. “But there wasn’t a lot of confusion.”

Coach Robinson points out that the brothers all played different positions and all had distinct personalities. And while he has been thankful to have all the brothers on his team this year (and returning next season), he is equally thankful to have their parents involved in the program.

“When you have multiple brothers on a team, the parents are even more vested in the program,” he says. “At Lake Mary, we are blessed with a lot of good parental support, and when there is more than one son involved, you get even more from the parents. It’s a good thing.”

Photo: Lake Mary’s band of brothers are (front row) Austin Platt, Nick Platt, Kyle Sande, Connor Carbone, and Ian Gile; (back row) Aaron Platt, Brandon Nash, Zac Nash, Kevin Sande, Ben Carbone, and Garrett Gile.

They’re Getting Dopier & Dopier!

by Chip Colandreo

In the wake of last issue’s cover story on local runners who tackled Disney’s Dopey Challenge (a 5K, 10K, half-marathon, and full-marathon on four consecutive days), we heard from a number of readers who took on the challenge themselves. Our email inbox was filled with incredible stories, but this one was too good not to share.

Let’s face it: The type of runners who willingly subject themselves to the riggers of an ordeal like the Dopey Challenge can be a bit, well, crazy fanatical enthusiastic. And, dedicated superfans of all things Disney can also display some traits of mania obsession intense brand loyalty. Put these two personality types together, and, oh boy, sparks could potentially fly.

It’s amazing, then, that Lake Mary’s Alex and Carolyn Litwin are two of the most down-to-earth, approachable people this side of a certified runDisney event.

“We have a lot of fun participating in the Disney races. It’s what we love to do,” says Carolyn, 63. “The Disney experience is always phenomenal, and we’ve participated in several events.”

Truth be told, that last part is a bit of an understatement. Since 2007, the Litwins have completed eight marathons (most of them on Disney property), more than 40 half-marathons, and too many 5Ks and 10Ks to count. They’ve conquered the Dopey Challenge, of course, and the Goofy Race-and-a-Half Challenge (half-marathon and full-marathon on consecutive days), the Princess half-marathon multiple times, and specialty races like the Expedition Everest Challenge (5K run plus obstacle course and scavenger hunt), and Disney’s first and only marathon relay. Alex and Carolyn are also members of a very exclusive club, those who’ve completed Disney’s Coast-to-Coast Challenge by running a half-marathon at Disneyland and a half-marathon at Disney World during the same calendar year.

All that racing has earned the couple a roomful of medals – literally.

“We like to put the medals we’ve earned into shadow boxes and hang them in our guest room,” says Alex, 61. “We’ve also taken several of our racing shirts and sewn them together into a quilt.”

Indeed, between the shadowboxes and the quilt, guests could scan the room from wall to wall and be hard-pressed to discover the color of the paint.

For all the medals on display, though, about as many are away from the house, serving a higher purpose.

“We’ve donated dozens of medals to Medals4Mettle, an organization that collects medals like ours and gives them to young children and others in hospitals fighting terrible diseases,” says Alex. “It’s an incredible organization. I still get chills describing the wonderful work they do.”

While Alex ran frequently as part of his required training during a 20-year Navy career, the couple didn’t take up distance running together until they were in their late 50s. Avid Disney cruisers, Alex and Carolyn first discovered the runDisney phenomenon while chatting with fellow passengers on a Disney ship.

“When we started preparing for our first race, I didn’t think I was going to live through the first mile,” Carolyn recalls with a laugh. “Now, when someone asks me to be somewhere on a certain date, I always have to check my race schedule!”

Photo: Alex and Carolyn Litwin stand in front of their race-shirt quilt. Draped in front of them are all the medals the couple has earned and donated to Medals4Mettle.

The Ironman of Winter Springs

by Jill Cousins

Greg Sackett spends his retirement years training for the ultimate endurance test

Visions of retirement, for most people, involve kicking back and relaxing after years of hard work, maybe spending more time with the grandchildren, taking up a relaxing hobby, or doing some leisurely travel. But that hasn’t been the case for Winter Springs resident Greg Sackett. His idea of retirement is taking 100-mile bike rides, spending one-and-a-half hours swimming laps at Oviedo’s Aquatic Facility, or taking a three-hour run through his Tuscawilla-area neighborhood.

Greg’s workouts are all part of his training regimen as a retirement-age Ironman triathlete. “It’s a challenge,” says Greg, 57, “and I’ve always liked challenges.”

“It’s a lot of work,” adds Debbie, Greg’s wife of 37 years. “But he’s very persistent about things, and he’s very determined. If he has a goal, he works toward it.”

After 34 years as an air traffic controller at Orlando International Airport, Greg retired in January 2011, at age 54. He began running in the early 1990s to relieve stress and get into better shape. By the late ‘90s, Greg was running marathons.

Running has become a true family affair for the Sacketts and their three children: Rebecca Holcomb (32), Renee Sackett (30), and Mark Sackett (28). The girls were both softball players in high school, and Mark played lacrosse, but they all took up running in their 20s. Rebecca’s daughters Taylor (15) and Ryleigh (9) also run, and Mark’s fiancée, Jaime Lockhart, runs ultramarathons, which are races longer than a traditional 26.2-mile marathon.

When it comes time for family vacations, the Sacketts are always looking for opportunities to run races together. Greg and Debbie took time to run while on vacations in Italy and France. They ran a marathon together in Montreal, and Greg and Mark did their first Ironman triathlon in the city of Mont-Tremblant, Quebec. The Sackett family has also competed in races in more than a dozen states, as well, from Maine to Hawaii.

“We’ve traveled all over the place and met so many people,” Greg says, “and having the kids doing it with us – that’s the best part.”

On June 29, Greg and Mark were scheduled to do their second Ironman triathlon, in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

“It’s a unique situation,” says Mark, also an air traffic controller. “Most families get together and fight. We have no drama. We really enjoy each other’s company. I think having similar interests helps a lot, and our parents did a good job raising us. We’re very fortunate.”

Running also helped the family get through Debbie’s breast cancer battle in 2011. She kept active during four months of treatment, including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. “She even ran a 5K with a wig,” Greg says. “She was in shape beforehand, and I think it helped her body recover. That’s as inspiring as it gets.”

Greg is clearly the leader of the pack. He proudly boasts that he ran with each of his children and granddaughters when they did their first 5Ks, and when Greg and Mark started doing triathlons together in 2009, that further cemented their father-son bond.

“I got into it because he was doing it, and it’s definitely made us closer,” Mark says. “He was getting faster and skinnier in his 50s, and I was getting fatter. I was just out of college, and I was into my social life more than staying fit. That changed when I realized I had a 50-year-old dad who was in better shape than I was.”

Greg got the competitive running bug when a couple of his co-workers talked him into doing his first half-marathon in 1998, with just two days’ warning. Greg admits he was “walking funny for two days” after the race, but he was hooked. When the same coworkers talked about doing a marathon the following year, Greg was in.

Ten years and about 30 marathons later, Greg and Debbie bought bicycles and began doing sprint duathlons – a 5K run, followed by a 12-mile bike ride, and ending with another 5K run. When a friend signed up for an Olympic-distance triathlon in Tampa Bay in 2010, Greg decided to give that a try.

After just three months of training – including private swim lessons – Greg completed the race, which consisted of a 0.93-mile swim, a 25-mile bike ride, and a 10K (6.2-mile) run. He has since completed five half-Ironmans (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride, and a 13.1-mile run) and did his first full Ironman (double the half-Ironman distances) in August 2013, at age 56, with Mark. It took Greg 14 hours and 16 minutes to complete the Ironman. Mark finished in an impressive 11:36.

Triathlon training has become a full-time job for Greg, who puts in between 12 and 20 hours of swimming, biking, running, and weight training each week. He is mindful of his age, though, and takes off at least one day a week to rest. Greg’s goal is to compete in the prestigious Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

“Kona is the ultimate, but I’m realistic at this point in my life,” Greg says. “It’s a lifestyle. You need to commit to it. And for now, I feel good. I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been.”

Photo: Greg (center) draws much of his support and strength from his family: Jaime Lockhart, Ryleigh Holcomb, Mark Sackett, Renee Sackett, Debbie Sackett (his wife of 37 years), Rebecca Holcomb, Josh Holcomb, and Taylor Perez.

HLC Wellness

Age and gravity aren’t always kind, but when it comes to fat-sucking surgery or injections that bizarrely plump up lips and cheekbones, it’s fair to ask… Are these pursuits of beauty safe?

That’s a question HLC Wellness president Mark Marino spends a lot of time contemplating. It’s been nearly a decade since he and his team at HLC Wellness (formerly Healing Laser Clinics) brought one of the most effective smoking cessation programs to Lake Mary. With an 82 percent success rate, the treatment has helped hundreds of smokers quit the habit for life. Helping clients lead healthy lives is the cornerstone of Mark’s mission.

So when it comes to shaving inches off a waistline or years off a face, Mark is not interested in putting his loyal clientele under the knife or putting risky substances into their bodies.

“Everything we do must be effective, but it has to be safe and healthy, as well,” he says. “So I’ve spent years sourcing the perfect weight-loss programs and non-surgical solutions to facelifts and tummy tucks.”

To that end, HLC Wellness is one of only two offices in the country to offer Angelic Lift, a groundbreaking new face and body treatment that gives patients astounding non-surgical enhancements that are completely non-invasive and totally free of side effects.

Developed by Angel Rodriguez, who personally administers his treatments in the HLC Wellness office three days a week, Angelic Lift was designed as an alternative to classic plastic surgery and works using intense pulsed light to literally melt the fat under the skin while simultaneously tightening the skin, so no loose skin is left behind.

“Then the fat is naturally, lymphatically drained from your body, versus being forcibly removed via liposuction,” Angel says.

Treatments, which do not require anesthesia, take anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours, and the patient experiences no pain and no inconvenient or unsightly side effects.

“Patients can head right back to work if they choose,” Angel explains. “There’s no recovery time or bandages to the face.”

Clients typically receive a total of six treatments over three weeks, and the results to the face, neck, and body are strikingly similar to those gained through plastic surgery.

“Our clients look and feel better immediately, and they start to see amazing results within three treatments,” says Mark, who can back up that claim with gushing testimonials from local radio celebs Laura Diaz from XL106.7 and Sandra Carrasquillo from Rumba 100.3 FM, both of whom are happy clients of HLC Wellness.

In addition, Angel has collected a library of more than 1,000 high-definition videos showcasing the astounding before-and-after images of his clients.

“Clients usually start with something like wanting to lose their mommy tummy,” Mark says. “But they love the results so much, they move to other areas of the body. It’s so much safer than surgery and injectables. There’s no scarring or downtime, and the results last for five years. This is a more natural type of facelift. You’ll look like yourself, but better.”

Mark and his team are also offering a fantastic new weight-loss program consisting of snack bars, shakes, and ready-to-eat meals.

“This is something the busy professional can do at work,” says Mark. “We do a weekly weigh-in, as well as lots of coaching to help make the lifestyle changes and the weight loss permanent.”

So far, clients have seen fantastic results, including Lake Mary resident Beth Plummer, who lost nearly six pounds in her first week.

“Like everything we do here, this is all about being healthy and safe, but it’s also about getting great weight-loss results,” says Mark, who tailors the program to each client’s metabolism. “I’m Italian, I’m a foodie, and I love, love food. But this doesn’t taste like diet food. You’ll feel full, not deprived. And we’ll support you in making lasting changes by showing you how to eat right long-term and stay on track.”

These new offerings, as well as facials and massages, are all available inside the spa-like space at HLC Wellness, where a team of certified professionals – including medical director Michael E. Dillehay, M.D. – stand by to make clients feel better inside and out.

“We’re all about you being your best,” Mark says. “And we’re committed to getting you there safely.”

– Kristen Manieri

Photo: The HLC Wellness team: Mark Marino, Angel Rodriguez, Kenneth Marino, Melissa Morgan, and Joanne Fernandez

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StarChild Academy Lake Mary

At StarChild Academy Lake Mary, children are the stars! With a focus on academics, the center is dedicated to accelerated early learning that is supported by a nationally recognized, phonics-based curriculum delivered in a safe, clean, stimulating environment.

“This is a great school! If you are a first-time parent trying to get your child to a place where he or she can learn, you can feel confident that your child is in good hands here,” says parent Aruna Ananth.

With the recent addition of more than 6,000 square feet of multi-purpose space, StarChild Academy Lake Mary is now offering academic and enrichment programs for children age six weeks through 12 years.

“For the 2014-2015 school year, we will offer first- and second-grade classes,” explains owner Stuart Friedman. “Each subsequent year we will add grade levels until we reach fifth grade. In addition to these full-time classes, we also offer part-time pre-school programs, kindergarten, and before- and after-school care for working parents.”

According to Stuart, children who start their education early have a better chance of becoming academically successful.

“What a child can be, what his or her interests will be, and what his or her capabilities will be, are determined in a child’s early years,” he says. “StarChild Academy’s educational philosophy is to provide your child with the skills necessary to excel in school and life. Our philosophy is based on traditional values and proven curricula that recognize the importance of each individual child’s interests and talents.”

Since most StarChild Academy students are typically learning one year ahead of their grade level in reading, writing, science, and math, Stuart says the school also incorporates enrichment programs – including four foreign languages, music, and physical education– into its comprehensive curriculum.

“If you want your child to be ahead of the curve, our curriculum delivers,” Stuart adds. “We utilize nationally recognized programs, including Open Court Reading, Saxon Math, and A Beka, to ensure your child has access to the highest-quality materials, taught by degreed and experienced teachers using the most advanced methods in the industry.”

Extracurricular activities, including dance, gymnastics, golf, music, and soccer, are also available for an additional fee. And, StarChild Academy’s summer camps and enrichment programs are currently underway and filling fast.

“The theme for our 2014 summer program is ‘Out of This World,’” says Stuart. “We’ve added the Brevard Zoo and Epcot to our field-trip schedule, and campers will have the opportunity to experience culinary, yoga, and art classes, just to name a few. We’re also offering a summer enrichment program for first and second graders that focuses on academic fun with an emphasis on a different theme each week, such as the rainforest, all about Earth, and the solar system.”

“My daughter has special dietary requirements, and the staff is excellent at ensuring those needs are met,” says parent Renee Mackenzie. “The curriculum is top-notch, and I know StarChild Academy incorporates play and learning each day. My daughter can count to ten in Japanese, Spanish, and English and is only two years old! It is quite amazing how much she is learning.”

To learn more about StarChild Academy Lake Mary, its programs, and enrollment options, visit StarChildLakeMary.com or call 407-333-8901.

StarChild Academy Lake Mary Amenities:

• Open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

• Serving ages 6 weeks to 12 years

• Full-day and part-time programs

• Before-school, after-school, and summer programs for school-age children

• Structured programs based on traditional values and proven curricula

• Hot meals and snacks served daily in StarChild Academy’s dining room

• Extensive safety features throughout the center, including password protected, Web-accessible video cameras in all classrooms

• Separate outdoor playgrounds for each age group with safe, age-appropriate equipment

• Bus service to and from local elementary schools

– Shelley Ouellette

Photo: StarChild Academy Lake Mary students Brandon Wynn and Ivy Hilliard

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Swim, Bike, Run… Remember

by Chip Colandreo

Local ladies band together for the most emotional 25 miles of their lives

Carol Place will tell you a triathlon is an emotional experience all on its own.

“It can literally change your life,” says Carol, “because you have accomplished something so physically challenging and yet so emotionally rewarding.”

Carol completed her first triathlon in 2006 and still remembers the emotional high that washed over her as she crossed the finish line. There would be more triathlons in Carol’s future, and more emotions, too. Eventually, feelings of joy, pain, triumph, and loss would all gather together to meet Carol as she finished a morning of swimming, biking, and running at the Life Time Triathlon on Miami’s South Beach. But this time, Carol would not be facing them alone.

In mid-September 2013, more than 2,700 miles away in Fresno, California, the Place family faced the tragic loss of their beloved Nevin – Carol’s son, a brother, a husband, and a father – who was struck by a vehicle and killed.

Nevin was a Naval active duty petty officer, third class. The Homecoming King of 2009, Nevin was known and well-respected on and off the football field at Oviedo High School. He left behind his wife Cassie, also an Oviedo High alum, and their newborn baby, Jack.

Devastated, Carol received sage advice from a trusted friend in the days following Nevin’s death.

“My dear friend Linda Bucci told me to embrace running and training again as a way to channel my grief and honor Nevin while processing all the emotions I was feeling,” Carol remembers.

“But it wasn’t just that,” Carol’s neighbor and friend, Kristi Murphy, chimes in. “I really believe Carol was motivated to train and be healthy so that she could be there for little Jack for many, many years to come.”

Carol threw herself into running and swimming, but there was an ominous day looming on the calendar ahead: April 6, Nevin’s birthday. By chance – or perhaps by fate – that was the day Miami’s Life Time Triathlon was scheduled to take place.

“That became our goal,” says Kristi. “To prepare for this triathlon together and be there for Carol on that emotional day. There’s nowhere else in the world we were going to be.”

Carol and Kristi were joined by others in their quest. Oviedo resident Holly McArdle began running with them as well, and Holly agreed to be the crew’s “roadie” and official photographer on race day. Oviedo-Winter Springs Life’s publisher Mary Pando rounded out the local quartet of triathletes-in-training. They began early dawn training sessions at Breakthrough Fitness with professional instructor Dominic Lucibello, who made the experience fun as well as intense for the task at hand. After months of sweat, determination, and tears, Carol and her friends were ready. As race day approached, Carol’s “team” had swelled to nearly a dozen members strong.

The squad gathered in Miami for a poignant meal the night before. Later, in the wee hours of the morning on Nevin’s birthday, Carol, Kristi, Mary, and the others took their places on the shores of South Beach as Holly stood nearby to capture the journey in pictures.

It was a difficult race, with strong riptides slowing the half-mile swim and four sloping causeways (each way) adding a significant degree of difficulty to the 21-mile bike ride. On the last leg of the run portion, a moment of unexpected surprise greeted Carol. It was Kyle Teale, a former friend of Nevin’s from Oviedo High who now lives in Miami. Kyle was waiting on the sidelines holding a poster that said “Go Carol,” which helped propel her for the last mile.

“That meant the world to me,” Carol says. “Kyle was there in honor of his dear friend, but also to show support for me.”

Triumphant at the finish line, Carol and her well-worn teammates joined in an embrace as warm as the rising Miami sun. Once everyone was across the finish line, the team gathered for a champagne toast on the beach in Nevin’s memory.

“I think he would have been so proud of me for doing the triathlon,” Carol says through gracious tears. “For the others, this was their way of honoring Nevin, and it was my way, too. I don’t know how I would have gotten through this past year without the love and comfort of everyone who held my hand and my heart. I’m so thankful.”

The ladies have already agreed to do the race together again next year. Holly has even committed to leave her camera behind next time and tackle her first triathlon with her friends.

For Carol, the races and the company of her dear friends have become therapy and a source of healing and, yes, a mission to remain strong for her grandson, Jack, now just over a year old.

“Triathlons,” Carol reminds us again, “can indeed change your perspective on life – they push you beyond your limits and leave you with a sense that you can accomplish anything.”

Photo: The “Live Like Nevin” team: Bill and Theresa Allen, Sandee McCartney, Carol Place, Beverly and Chuck Smith, Mary Pando, Linda Bucci, Kristi Murphy, Dan Gormley (photo by Holly McArdle).

Standing Strong for Baby Arden

by Pam Neff

Members of the Wekiva community unite for a brave, beautiful, and determined little girl whose bright eyes and infectious smile have captured the hearts of everyone she meets.

At almost two years old, Arden Thornbury has experienced more medical obstacles than most of us will face in our entire lives. When she was three months old, Arden underwent a heart transplant at Shands Hospital in Gainesville with her parents Dale and Heather by her side. During that life-altering time, Heather’s coworkers from Wekiva Elementary served as her support system, offering constant encouragement and friendship, and holding fundraisers to help cover the cost of the family’s growing medical expenses.

One of Arden’s biggest fans is Wekiva kindergarten teacher and Heather’s colleague Allison Prose. Allison has organized numerous successful fundraisers since Arden’s transplant, from bake sales and restaurant fundraisers to garage sales. With Allison’s leadership and the community’s participation, more than $10,000 has been raised so far to benefit Arden.

“This family shouldn’t have to spend time worrying about money,” says Allison. “All they should have to worry about is spending time with their precious little girl.”

In May, Allison organized a community garage sale at the Wekiva Elementary bus ramp. The week of the sale, Allison and dozens of other volunteers helped collect, sort, and price items donated by the community. The sale raised almost $3,000.

Because she is a transplant recipient, Arden is burdened with an extremely weak immune system. In addition to the daily health obstacles she faces, Arden is now fighting a new battle. She was recently diagnosed with a very rare mitochondrial affliction called Leigh’s disease, which attacks the brain, the muscular and respiratory systems, and many other organs. Arden’s case is so rare that she is currently the only child in the world living with the condition.

Despite her recent diagnosis, Arden continues to beat the odds and baffle her doctors in a good way, by achieving developmental milestones including rolling over and lifting her head while on her stomach.

Heather says she has always admired her baby’s warrior spirit.

“Arden has a zest for life like I have never seen before,” Heather explains. “She truly wants to be here and will fight to stay.”

Each month, the Thornburys travel to Shands for Arden’s clinic appointments and visits with many other medical specialists. Through the actions of others, it is evident that our selfless and caring community will continue to stand by the Thornbury family through their journey.

And the Thornburys are extremely grateful.

“We want to thank the entire community for helping our family financially and emotionally through this journey,” says Heather. “The fundraisers, the hugs, the well wishes, and the constant check-ins with us to see how our mighty super girl is doing mean the world to us.”

Photo: Garage sale coordinators and volunteers Sue Cousino (Heather’s Aunt), Allison Prose, Mary Grass, Heather, and Arden

Thompson, Evangelo & Kelly, P.A.

Choosing an attorney can be a difficult decision. That’s why the team at Thompson, Evangelo & Kelly, P.A. is dedicated to providing Seminole County residents the utmost respect and the exceptional service they deserve throughout the legal process.

Headquartered in Altamonte Springs, attorneys Paul Thompson, Nick Evangelo, Mary Beth Kelly, and Jon Bukowski offer personal injury, litigation defense, family law, estate planning, and workers’ compensation services.

With the recent addition of Mary Beth to the firm’s leadership, clients will continue to benefit from her 30 years of legal experience in family law, estate planning, and civil litigation.

“My family law practice is focused on providing clients with the legal counsel they need during the most vulnerable and emotional time of their lives,” says Mary Beth. “Divorce presents you with not only financial uncertainty, but also the possibility of facing the future alone. I assist my clients through the ups and downs, ensuring they receive everything they are legally entitled to under Florida law. I also practice estate planning for anyone who seeks to make a difference in the lives of others after they’re gone. Estate planning is not ‘death planning.’ It’s ‘life planning’ − an essential and rewarding process for individuals and families who engage in it with proper counsel.”

– Shelley Ouellette

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Teague Turns 40

by Kristen Manieri

Teague Middle School celebrates four decades of educational excellence in Altamonte with a lively 40th birthday party

With much pomp and circumstance – plus a crowd filled with staff, current and past students, local dignitaries, and community supporters – Teague Middle School recently celebrated the conclusion of its 40th school year. As attendees poured into the cafeteria, members of Teague’s jazz band played on stage until Leon McCants, Teague’s ninth principal, took the microphone to welcome the crowd and usher up a series of guests speakers, including Mayor Pat Bates of Altamonte Springs.

“All four of our kids went to Teague,” the mayor shared happily. “They all thrived here. Young people go through a lot of transition when they get to Teague, but this administration goes above and beyond for them.”

Dr. Robin Dehlinger, a former assistant principal at Teague and now the executive director of middle schools for Seminole County Public Schools, spoke as well. “I got my start as an administrator when I was at Teague,” Robin recalled. “I had a lot to learn, but I was surrounded by great teachers. They taught me how important it is to support teachers in the most important work. I learned how to be a great leader at Teague because there were so many great role models there.”

As the night progressed, punctuated by musical performances from the Teague Middle School choir ensemble, a steady sentiment took root: Teague is proud of its longstanding tradition of excellence in the arts, athletics, and academics.

The essence of that tradition was splendidly captured during a poignant PowerPoint presentation that beckoned all eyes to a giant screen above the stage. Starting with the 1970s, each photograph showcased the bygone hairdos and clothing fashions of the decades, as well as images of beloved past principals and staff members. Attendees pointed at familiar faces, giggled at photos of IBM computers from the ‘80s, and smiled as the images marched forward from past to present.

“Teague is very much a part of my heart,” said Adrienne DeRienzo, former principal, as she stood at the podium. “There are so many wonderful memories here, and I know it’s because of the wonderful people I had the privilege to be surrounded by for so many years.”

“How do I pack 28 years into five minutes?” asked Michael Bundy, who started at Teague in 1986 and now serves as the dean of students. “I found my home here at Teague. This is my family.”

Judging by the congenial mood at the event and the number of hugs and smiles shared around the room, many people felt the same way.

 

More T Clinics

Bart Malone is a 43-year-old entrepreneur with a wife and four kids living a high-energy, fast-paced life. A few years ago, he found himself feeling tired, seeing no results in the gym, carrying more stress, and sleeping poorly. That’s when a friend and doctor told Bart about testosterone therapy and recommended some blood work. The blood tests revealed Bart’s testosterone level was, in fact, low. The testosterone therapy Bart began changed his life, and that is how More T Clinics was born.

“I feel like I’m 25 again and can conquer the world,” says Bart. “That’s why I founded the More T Clinics, so that other men can experience the life-changing results of testosterone therapy, like I did. You don’t have to accept being stressed, lethargic, and depressed as part of reaching middle age. There’s help out there.”

More T Clinics opened its doors at Uptown Altamonte this January and specializes in hormone balancing for both men and women. Bart has staffed his clinic with experts in the field, and his mission is to provide a high level of care by offering safe and effective treatments for testosterone replacement. More T’s medical director, Daniel Thomas, M.D., has more than 25 years of experience improving men’s health.

“Hormone issues show up differently for men and women, but it’s a physiological issue of which everyone should be aware,” explains Bart. “Because when your hormones are out of whack, there are a lot of negative symptoms. The problem is that doctors tend to be more reactive to treating the symptoms and not proactive in fixing the problem. We attempt to be proactive with wellness. Hormone therapy is a preventative approach.”

Living in Lake Mary has provided a great environment for Bart and his wife, Kim. With four children between the ages of 9 and 20, lifestyle is important to the Malones. Testosterone therapy helped Bart get his lifestyle back, and he plans on opening more clinics to help as many people as possible do the same.

“I was motivated by my personal experience, which literally transformed my life for the better,” Bart says. “You can’t change your genetics, but you can change your quality of life by being proactive with your health. Hormone therapy is a big part of this, and we want to provide people with safe and effective therapies that will make them feel better.”

– Jack Roth

Photo: Bart Malone is the CEO of More T Clinics in Altamonte and its most compelling testimonial.

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Winter Guard World Champions

by Kristen Manieri

What is winter guard? Take a look at the world champion Lyman Diamonds and learn from the very best.

Coach Stephen Porter had a feeling things were going to go well when his Lyman Diamonds Winter Guard Troupe arrived in Dayton, Ohio, to compete in the recent Winter Guard International (WGI) world championships. So did all the girls on his team, though no one dared mention it. After a three-month winning streak that catapulted the 20-member Lyman High School team to the top of the national rankings, everyone was still holding their breath and crossing their fingers. Even though Lyman was favored to take top prize, 140 other teams vied for that same trophy, and there were no guarantees.

…But before we go too much farther, let’s pause to answer an obvious question: What exactly is winter guard? Think of it as a cross between color guard (the flag-throwing troupes typically seen at high-school football games) and artistic dance. With strong military roots, winter guard also often includes rifle drills and even some saber twirling. Performances typically occur indoors, and competition among teams worldwide can be fierce.

Now, back to the fun stuff…

“We were going into WGI feeling very strong,” says Stephen. “We led the rankings all year, so people were watching us and picking us apart. First place is a hard thing to hold onto. I’ve seen teams rank first all year and then lose in the world championship finals. Anything can happen when you get there. We had to keep the program strong and fresh and not focus on the rankings.”

And that’s exactly what the team did. After months of practice and competition, beginning in the fall when Stephen handpicked his team from the 200-plus members of Lyman’s dance team and color guard, the girls clocked over 100 hours of rehearsal time and competed in and won 13 different competitions locally and across the state.

The Lyman Diamonds’ routine, a five-minute piece choreographed by Stephen to the song Big White Room by Jessie J, incorporated all 20 members of the team, freshmen through seniors. Each performer wore white, and the routine weaved flags, sabers, and rifles into a graceful arrangement.

“Beginning in November, we tweaked the program every week,” says Stephen, who is also Lyman’s full-time dance teacher. “The judges are looking for a team to show them the kind of skills that make their performance look effortless and flawless. I write the routine to showcase what I know my students will do well.”

In April, the team boarded a bus to the University of Dayton, where alongside a handful of parents and chaperones, they would compete for the title of world champion. Although this wasn’t Lyman’s first team to reach the championship finals — previous Diamond teams have competed at WGI seven times, placing as high as third — this was the first time Lyman was sending a team that had been ranked first all season.

For Kayla Weston, a senior but a newcomer to the team, the stakes felt high.

“I’d been a competitive dancer for years but never on a team,” she says. “To go in as number one and have everyone looking up to us was crazy. Winning doesn’t come easy at that level. We knew we had to fight, regardless of where we were in rankings.”

And fight they did. After a few hours of practice, the team competed in the preliminaries and again came out on top. In the semifinals, the Diamonds continued to strengthen the program, and the result was another set of high scores. Then it was off to finals, where only 15 teams left from the original 140 would compete for the championship.

As the girls took their places with nervous smiles and anxious nods to each other, the music began for what would be the last time they would competitively perform their routine. For 10 of the team members, those seniors who just accepted their diplomas at graduation, this would be their last competitive moment on the team.

And yet, despite nerves and a mountain of pressure, the performance was flawless. Stephen, the proudest coach in the arena, stood by and watched as his team gave its all and its best. And the judges agreed. Later that day, the Lyman Diamonds Winter Guard Troupe was announced as the overall winner of the competition’s Scholastic Class A division. A giant trophy was handed to the beaming coach, and each girl sported a shiny new medal around her neck.

Later, when Stephen had the chance to reflect on the win, especially as compared to all the close calls his previous teams had experienced, he decided that it wasn’t just winning that was so immensely satisfying. It was that the team had left nothing on the table.

“If you can give your all on your final show and leave knowing that it was the best you’ve ever done, it doesn’t matter where you place,” Stephen says.

Judges and observers agreed that Lyman was the standout in the competition. The team was described as the “epitome of balance and achievement,” with a show that was “sassy and energetic.”

For Kayla and her teammates, winning the finals was the ultimate culmination of a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication.

“When we realized we were first, we were all holding each other’s hands with tears streaming down our faces. It was so intense, and we all wanted it so bad,” she says. “In the end, I learned that you can’t do everything on your own. My team is filled with my best friends, and we have this memory for a lifetime. It was truly an unforgettable experience.”

Terra Care Land Maintenance

Since 1991, Terra Care Land Maintenance, Inc. has been dedicated to “everything outdoors.” From ground break to ground maintenance, the Terra Care experts, led by owner Corey Willey, offer full-service commercial and residential landscaping, pest control, and more.

“We provide comprehensive services including land clearing, complete landscaping design and installation, irrigation, and pest control,” Corey explains. “We bundle these services and guarantee our work from install to maintenance, which allows us to offer unprecedented warranties on our products and work.”

This commitment to full-service property care is delivered by Corey’s team of professional landscape contractors, certified horticulturists, certified pest-control operators, and licensed arborists.

“Our Florida Nurserymen and Growers Association certified professional landscapers are fully qualified to handle any horticulture service that you require,” Corey says. “If you trust your landscaping needs to us, we will ensure the very best customer service, quality, and turnaround time possible with a landscape guarantee that is unmatched in the market. We also grow most of our plant materials, which allows us to offer competitive pricing for projects of all sizes.”

In addition to the five-acre property Terra Care currently owns off International Parkway in Sanford, the family-owned-and-operated business will open a retail nursery in Orange City this fall that will carry a variety of products including soil, mulch, sod, water features, fertilizers, native Florida plants, and exotic landscaping materials.

“The nursery is another extension of our full-service promise,” Corey explains. “We’re looking forward to offering Central Florida consumers the expertise and materials to address all of their residential outdoor needs.”

While growing Terra Care and his family of five, which includes three daughters and his wife Sarah, Corey also served six years in the United States Army.

“My goal has always been to build the best landscape company in Central Florida,” he adds. “My 25 years of experience in the green industry, coupled with my military service, have provided me the tools to develop a top-notch team that delivers what our valued clients deserve: the best quality and the most reliable service in the region.”

And Corey’s clients agree. “I highly recommend Terra Care to anyone who needs landscape support, as they hands down beat any national firm for loyalty, service, and cost,” says Robert Horton, one of Terra Care’s largest property management clients.

To learn more about Terra Care Land Maintenance or schedule a consultation, visit TerraCareCFL.com or call 407-330-9000.

– Shelley Ouellette

Photo: Terra Care owner Corey Willey.

 

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A Personal Tour de Cure

by Pam Neff

For one local couple, cycling for diabetes research is the ride of their lives

Each year, Sabal Point residents Lee and Sharon Sisselsky join about a dozen of their friends and neighbors to pedal with a purpose. The group forms a cycling team to raise money to help find a cure for diabetes, and this year, with the aid of more than 170 other supporters throughout Central Florida, the team raised nearly $60,000 for the cause.

Lee and Sharon picked up cycling in 2006 when Sharon was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Sharon never considered herself a bike rider. And Lee, an avid cyclist originally from Pittsburgh, didn’t find cycling to be as pleasant when he moved to Florida.

“I couldn’t take the heat and humidity,” says Lee. After Sharon’s diagnosis, however, they needed to find an enjoyable form of exercise, so they gave cycling another try.

“We bought matching bikes and the proper clothing, and it turned out to be much easier to get back into it than I ever thought,” says Lee, who admits the right clothes make a big difference in the Florida heat. “Now, we can ride in 98-degree weather without a problem because of our clothing.”

When Lee and Sharon found out about the annual Tour de Cure, a nationwide cycling fundraiser that benefits the American Diabetes Association (ADA), they immediately wanted to participate. For the past seven years, the Sisselskys have taken part in local 10-to-100-mile Tour de Cure rides to help improve the lives of those who suffer from diabetes. They first started riding as a “friends and family” group of three to five people and quickly became more involved as volunteers in the ADA planning committee. Two years ago, Lee successfully petitioned his employer, Lockheed Martin, to sponsor their Tour de Cure team, better known as Team Andiamo, an Italian phrase meaning, “Let’s Go!”

Team captain for the past two years, Lee has played a large role in the event, recruiting more than 172 cyclists to the Lockheed Martin team. And for the past four years, Lee has been responsible for designing, planning, and marking the 140 miles of road used in the event.

This year, the Central Florida team raised nearly $60,000 at the Lake Nona Tour de Cure in March, making it the most successful team in the 10-year history of the Central Florida event. Lee, Sharon, and their friends from the Sweetwater-Wekiva area raised more than $8,000 alone.

“I am beyond thankful to be a part of the mission to prevent and cure diabetes and improve the lives of those affected,” says Lee.

As a diabetic participating in the event, Sharon was part of a group of cyclists known as The Red Riders. Wearing red cycling jerseys, they encourage and cheer for each other throughout the ride.

“It makes you feel good to know that you’re the reason everyone is doing this,” says Sharon, who is grateful for the continuous research that helps benefit her as well as her father, who is also diabetic.

Hats off to our neighbors and friends who continue to hit the road for their health and, more importantly, to help make a difference for those battling diabetes.

Photo: Our local community cyclists help make a difference for those living with diabetes. Left to right: Judy Kahan, Elliott Davis, Roxane Abelow, Jorge Roa, Stuart Dropkin, Tamara Peacock, Karen McIntyre, Sharon Sisselsky, Lee Sisselsky, Mark Acker, and Stephen Wolf

Identifying a Problem

by Kristen Manieri

Local volunteers partner with iDignity to give those without identification new hope

Open your wallet and take a look at your driver’s license. We don’t often think about it, but that card is your access to just about every important facet of your life. You need it for banking, travel, prescriptions, employment, voting, medical services, car rentals… the list goes on and on. Your license (or pieces of ID just like it) proves instantly that you are who you say you are. Now, imagine life without a license or other key IDs such as your birth certificate and Social Security card. You could quickly become invisible.

And that’s where iDignity comes in. With the help of some Longwood-area volunteers, the organization recently staged its first documentation event in our community. Since 2008, iDignity has existed to help the disadvantaged in Central Florida obtain their personal identification, such as birth certificates, Florida ID cards, and social security cards.

“The need for these services is just massive,” says Jared Witt, the pastor of Longwood’s St. Stephen Lutheran Church, who also serves as iDignity’s coordinator for Seminole County. “Without identification, you can’t apply for a job, you can’t vote, you can’t cash a check. The psychological cost of not being able to do these basic things and not even knowing how to begin to turn things around is huge. Those in need are left feeling pretty much hopeless about their situation. Legally, they’re basically invisible.”

In late May, Jared marshaled more than 100 community volunteers to set up shop at his church and help iDignity spread hope, one wallet-sized card at a time.

“The end goal of these events is to get people a Florida driver’s license or state ID card, the primary document people need for just about everything,” Jared explains. “To get there, the state requires you have proof of your social security number, a birth certificate, and two forms of address verification or some sort of certification that the person is homeless.”

About 60-70 percent of the clients iDignity serves are, in fact, without a home.

“You learn at these events just how many people are living in a forest somewhere,” says Jared. “These are people with mental health issues and no safety net in their family network. There are a million reasons why they end up on the street, but once they are there, if they don’t have a safe place to keep their documentation, it will likely get lost or stolen. This happens quite frequently.”

In many cases, birth certificates were never issued for iDignity clients, or they were born outside of the United States; this means they must jump through a slew of hoops in order to obtain a state ID.

“Also, if they were born in another U.S. state, we have to send the application for the new birth certificate there, and each state has its own unique requirements.”

In more complex cases, where proving someone’s identity is going to be a lot more difficult, iDignity partners with an attorney who will advocate for the individual until an identity is established.

“We also work with veterans who need help with their retirement documents and access to VA medical services,” Jared says.

At the recent event, more than 100 clients arrived at St. Stephens to take advantage of iDignity’s free services. Some walked, some drove up, and some were bused in by iDignity volunteers. Upon arrival, each client met with a volunteer to begin the process of getting identification. Those who were able to provide or complete all the required paperwork at the event boarded the DMV’s mobile ID bus and had a new driver’s license or ID card printed on the spot.

Jared and his Seminole iDignity team will host another event in November.

“We’d like to build to four events a year with monthly document distributions, but it’s a huge undertaking,” says Jared. “Two events a year cost around $30,000. If people are taken with the vision, we accept donations for iDignity at St. Stephens, and we’re always looking for advocacy, especially with any groups that work with the homeless population, to help spread the word and pass out flyers for our next event. It’s an important cause, and we’re always looking for support.”

Photo: To show AWSL’s Kristen Manieri just how efficiently iDignity can handle a client’s identification needs, event organizer Jared Witt renewed Kristen’s vehicle registration and driver’s license while she was covering the May event.