Ladies, First

by Chip Colandreo

After two successful years as Lake Mary Little League’s lone girls softball team, the Lunachicks are ready to welcome some cheerful new teammates

If there’s one thing Lake Mary has plenty of, it’s opportunities for children to enjoy the team sports and outdoor activities they adore. If there’s one thing Lake Mary is lacking, however, it’s a chance for more young girls to live out their dreams on the softball diamond. While Little League and Babe Ruth programs in other communities have well-established girls softball divisions, Lake Mary Little League fielded its first softball team only two years ago.

All that is about to change, however, as the Lake Mary Lunachicks softball team has made a name for itself as a fun and capable squad, able to go toe-to-toe with other Central Florida softball teams in the minors division (ages 7 to 10). And now, with the help of Lake Mary Little League softball coordinator, Kimmy Dunn, the league is actively looking to expand the softball program to include as many young girls as it can recruit.

“Our program is such a great platform for girls to learn and have so much fun,” says Kimmy, whose daughter, Avery, plays first base for the Lunachicks. Husband Scott is the manager. “Two years ago, the league gave us permission to field a team if we could find enough girls who wanted to play. It was a challenge, but we did it, and the Lunachicks were born. Last season, we had no problem filling the roster again, and we posted a winning season. For 2015, if we can find enough girls, we hope to add at least one more team in the minors division, expand to the majors division [ages 10 to 12], and add a rookie division team for first-time players ages 7 and 8.”

Kimmy is actively spreading word of the softball program to area schools, and girls are encouraged to sign up anytime before the end of January when practices for the upcoming February-to-May season begin.

What can Lake Mary Little League softball players expect?

“A lot of fun, tremendous support from everyone in the league, and no competitive pressure,” Kimmy says. “The girls just love to play the game. They get so much joy out of it. During our inaugural year, we didn’t win until the very last game of the season, but you would have never believed it by looking at the girls and their smiling faces every time they took the field. When we won that final game, the parents were in tears, but the girls were totally unfazed. They just love to play, win or lose.”

Every child gets to play in every game, and coaches are encouraged to rotate kids around the different positions, so each player can get a feel for the on-field role they like best. In the minors softball division, play is a combination of kid- and coach-pitch. There are no walks, and the young lady pitcher throws the first four pitches. After that, coaches pitch until the batter either strikes out or puts a ball in play.

“The community has embraced the softball program, and the girls really appreciate the support they’ve received,” says Kimmy, whose family has lived in Lake Mary for 12 years. “The boys and their parents often come over to cheer us on, and we have a parents-versus-kids game at the end of every season to celebrate.

“There’s a real sense of community here,” Kimmy continues, “and I can’t wait for the other girls to experience what the Lunachicks have experienced.”

To learn more about Lake Mary Little League softball or to sign up, email Kimmy at

Photo Courtesy of Amy Smith

Meet the Lunachicks

Leah Witham

Ryanne Butler

Brynn Witham

Jillian Canfield

Savanna Corniel

Kyla Paprocki

Adaline Smith

Mia Liatsos

Avery Dunn

Katelyn McInturff

Krysta Vinacco

Anne Long

Hailey McInturff


Savastano & Dunn Orthodontics

Brace yourselves, parents. Countless thousands of American children will need braces at some point in their young lives. So, how do you know if your child will be one of them? At Savastano & Dunn Orthodontics, parents are encouraged to bring their children in for a complimentary evaluation and screening.

“The American Orthodontic Association recommends that children be screened for their first evaluation at age seven, when they have both their upper and lower incisors in,“ explains Tonjia Simkanich, the practice’s treatment coordinator. “If we see them at that age, we can take digital X-rays that will help detect potential problems. The child may not need treatment at that age, but Doctors Savastano and Dunn can predict what will be needed in the future and discuss the ideal time to begin treatment.”

Complimentary observation visits are usually scheduled at six-month intervals so that the orthodontists can evaluate factors such as growth of jaws, loss of primary teeth, eruption of adult teeth, and the effects of habits such as thumb-sucking, tongue-thrusting, and mouth breathing. These early visits also allow the doctors to determine how and when a child’s particular problems should be treated for optimum improvement and comfort, with the least time and expense.

Best of all, these free, twice-yearly visits continue until a determination is made that your child either needs braces or doesn’t.

“Knowing what’s coming up helps take the worry away for parents, giving them a chance to plan financially while preparing their child for the orthodontic experience,” explains Tonjia. “Coming in early, even before treatments are necessary, gives the child a chance to know the doctors and the team who will be working with them. We make it fun for them and that helps reduce their fears and anxieties.

“There are no surprises,” Tonjia continues. “The child knows what to expect. It also helps to make the child a willing partner in his or her own orthodontic treatment. If we can recognize and treat children early, then those patients wind up with the best results. And, they don’t have to go through the more extreme measures – such as jaw surgery – that could become necessary by waiting too long.”

So, parents, if you’re wondering if your child may one day need braces, wonder no more. Early detection is the key to your child’s healthy smile. Go ahead and make a complimentary appointment with the experts in orthodontic treatment and care – the team at Savastano & Dunn.

– Hedy Bass

Photo: Every member of the friendly staff at Savastano & Dunn is a state-certified orthodontic assistant.


Stride Pride

by Jill Cousins, OWSL

In this follow up to our November/December cover story, we check in with Winter Springs High School dean Octavious “Ocky” Clark after his 262-mile “Strides for Students” walk across Florida…

When he finally reached the top of the steps at the Florida State Capitol building in Tallahassee, Ocky Clark raised both fists in the air and celebrated. “I felt like Rocky,” Ocky says, referring to the famously fictitious boxing champion. And who could blame him?

Ocky had trekked 262 miles, starting from the football stadium on Winter Springs High’s campus, in what he called his “Strides for Students” campaign to raise money to improve the school’s athletic facilities. Eight days later, having worn out five pairs of sneakers and aching from head to toe, Ocky reached his final destination.

The following day, Ocky – an All-America track athlete at Florida State University in the 1980s – was honored on the football field at FSU’s Doak Campbell Stadium, just prior to the big rivalry game between Florida State and the University of Florida.

“I was relieved,” Ocky, 54, says of his triumphant journey, “but I was almost sad it was ending. So now I’m looking for something else!”

Ocky, who also coaches the Bears’ track and cross-country teams, came up with the idea for the trek as a way to show his dedication to his students and to honor his late grandfather. James Isaiah Bradwell made a similar journey as young man in 1917, from a town near Tallahassee to Sanford, to find work and a better life for his family. Ocky was hoping to raise $494,000 – one dollar for each of the 494,000 strides he estimated it would take to complete the walk.

Although he is still short of his monetary goal, Ocky has brought a lot of attention to the school, and the community has rallied to support him. Dr. Mickey Reynolds, Winter Springs High’s principal, came up with the idea of selling 250 Strides for Students T-shirts for $10 apiece, and supporters who purchased the shirts were allowed to join Ocky on the first mile of his walk. Cross-country parents Luc and Beth Labreche and Dave and Kelly Butterfield hosted a barbecue that raised more than 2,000 additional dollars.

“We’re just trying to do what we can to help Coach Clark,” Beth says. “This is just a small way for us to repay him for all that he does for our school and our kids.”

Ocky began his walk amid quite a bit of fanfare at an early-morning pep rally attended by the student body and several local dignitaries, including Mayor Charles Lacey of Winter Springs and representatives from Seminole County Public Schools and the City Commission. When it was time to begin his adventure, Ocky took one great big symbolic stride and he was off – led by the Winter Springs marching band (for the first few minutes) and followed by the Strides for Students T-shirt wearers. Ocky and his supporters made their way onto the Cross Seminole Trail, parallel to State Road 434. And then the first mile was completed, and Ocky was on his own.

Adrenaline pumping, Ocky made it to Mount Dora that first day and was in Ocala the next. When he woke up on day three, he posted on Twitter: “My body clock is saying move, but my legs are saying stay.” Ocky’s support staff, which included photographer Joe Petro, athletic director Steve Luppert, and fellow dean Matt Hesselbart, took turns following Ocky in a minivan and stayed with him at local hotels. Several students and supporters, including daughters Cierra and Carina, showed up along the way to give Ocky hugs and even join him for a few miles.

Ocky says he was generally out walking from 7:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. each day, covering an average of 32 miles. He would jog about six or seven miles each day, then walk the rest, to make sure he kept on track. Most of Ocky’s journey was along U.S. Highway 27 as he passed through some of Florida’s lesser-known towns, such as Cross City, Eugene, Athena, and Salem. At one point, Ocky noted on Twitter that he was in “the valley of nowhere.”

“For sure, my athletic background kicked in,” says Ocky, who at one time was the American record holder for the indoor 800 meters. “I think something in my DNA makeup allowed me to continue. I’m used to pushing myself – as an athlete or as an airman in the military or just in my day-to-day life. I’m used to setting goals and trying to reach them. And I try to instill the same principles in all the kids I work with at Winter Springs High School.”

Photo: Dignitaries from Seminole County Public Schools and the City of Winter Springs gathered with the WSHS student body to kick off Ocky Clark’s Strides for Students walk.


Recreation Accreditation a Cause for Celebration!

“To have the consistent dedication and efforts of our parks and recreation employees be recognized with this national accreditation is truly what makes our city employees simply the best. I congratulate each of them for their efforts. The results of their hard work can be seen throughout the city every day.” – Jackie Sova, city manager, City of Lake Mary

by Shelley Ouellette

It’s no secret that Lake Mary is one of the nation’s most beautiful and family-friendly cities. And, with amenities such as the Lake Mary Events Center, Trailblazer Park Splash Pad, frequent community events, and seasonal youth programs, it’s also no surprise the city’s parks and recreation department ranks among the most elite in the country.

In fact, Lake Mary recently became the only municipality in Seminole County to earn national accreditation through the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA) and the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA).

The prestigious CAPRA accreditation recognizes an agency’s overall quality of operation, management, and service to the community. It signifies that the department has met rigorous standards related to the management and administration of lands, facilities, resources, programs, safety, and services.

“The comprehensive nature of this accreditation required us to evaluate every level of our operations and processes, from policies and personnel to strategic plans and communication systems,” says Bryan Nipe, Lake Mary’s parks and recreation director, who led the city’s team through the two-year CAPRA review. “As a result, we were able to identify efficiencies and heighten areas of accountability, all of which translates into higher quality service to benefit the community.”

Following this intensive self-assessment and a three-day site visit conducted by a team of trained evaluators, the city successfully demonstrated compliance with the 144 CAPRA standards, which serve as the benchmarks of quality for parks and recreation agencies across the country.

“Completing the CAPRA accreditation process was a team effort through all levels of our city and department, and we are incredibly proud of the accomplishment,” Bryan says. “This mark of distinction represents the highest level of achievement in our industry. More importantly, it signifies to our residents and visitors that our parks and recreation department provides excellent programs and safe facilities for all to enjoy, and that is an honor in itself.”

To learn more about the many events, facilities, and programs the Lake Mary Parks and Recreation department supports, visit

You know you live in Lake Mary if you…

1. Meet at the Lake Mary Events Center, a beautiful and unique lakefront facility for business events, weddings, banquets, parties, and retreats.

2. Visit the new Lake Mary Community Center, home of summer camps and recreational activities, and a great space for weddings and business functions.

3. Play at the city’s renowned sports complex with seven clay tennis courts, baseball/softball fields, a soccer field, skate park, playgrounds, and splash pad.

4. Gather at the Lake Mary Senior Center, which provides activities and events for local senior citizens.

5. Learn at the Frank Evans Museum of History.

6. Picnic at one of the city’s 10 neighborhood parks.

7. Enjoy year-round events in Central Park including WineArt Wednesdays, Lake Mary Celebrates, Holiday in the Park, and the weekly farmers market.


Photo: The Lake Mary Parks and Recreation administrative team: Bryan Nipe, director; Amber Lyons, events center assistant manager; and Radley Williams, recreation chief

Proclamation: Transformation

By Chip Colandreo, OWSL

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

Whereas Dominic Persampiere, the honorable mayor of Oviedo, and his wife Debbie seek to improve their health and wellness…

And whereas the Persampieres’ daughter, Amanda, is to be married in June of this year…

And whereas the wedding will require Dominic and Debbie to don tuxedo and gown not worn for some time…

And whereas the owners of the new My House Fitness franchise location in Oviedo are committed to helping the Persampieres reach their fitness and lifestyle goals…

Now, therefore, we do hereby proclaim in this first month of 2015 that Dominic and Debbie Persampiere deserve credit and praise for their decision to hit the gym, put down the potato chips, and gain a new lease on life. It is the honor and privilege of Oviedo-Winter Springs Life magazine to follow the mayor and first lady during their journey so readers can help celebrate the Persampieres’ success and receive entertainment and inspiration from their journey toward better health.

Both Dominic and Debbie admit their daughter’s wedding is the perfect excuse, but getting fit, losing weight, and improving their overall well-being are all goals whose time has come.

“As you get a little older and get a little softer, you’ve got to do something to take care of yourself,” Dominic says matter-of-factly. So, while the Persampieres have never been “gym people,” they both agreed to make a promise to themselves and keep it.

Dominic and Debbie met with Jerry and Vicki Redding, owners of the new My House Fitness franchise location on County Road 419 near the intersection of Lockwood Boulevard. Together they designed a health and exercise plan that would not only help the mother and father of the bride look their best on wedding day, but would also give Debbie and Dominic more energy and a better outlook on the next exciting phase of their lives.

“I’ve been a busy mom for the last 24 years,” says Debbie. “I never made time for myself. All of a sudden, it’s hard to open the lid of a jar, and my balance is all off. We want to enjoy ourselves as we get older. That’s why this is so important.”

With a combination of personal training and group classes at My House Fitness, the Persampieres have hit the ground running – quite literally.

“Jerry and Vicki usually have us start on the treadmill or elliptical machine to warm us up, then they work with us for about a half-hour,” Dominic says. “They have been very inspirational, and they have a whole food plan that is part of the program.”

“The food part has actually been easier than I thought it would be,” says Debbie, who could already see a difference in the mirror after only a month.

“I’ve lost 12 to 13 pounds already,” says Dominic, “and Debbie’s lost more than me. The other day, I even reached for a pair of pants from the slim side of my closet.”

“I had to go out and buy a couple of new pairs of work pants,” Debbie adds. “I have a friend who is always encouraging me to participate in a 5K, so that’s my goal. Not to run the whole time – I’ll get to that – but I want to do a 5K, and I’m looking forward to getting back on the trails around town.”

“We figured it’s time to get back in shape while we can,” says Dominic. “I would encourage anyone who’s on the fence about it to give it a shot. You’ll be impressed with the results.”

We’ll be checking in with Dominic and Debbie’s progress during the next several issues as their daughter’s wedding day approaches.

Photo: Jerry Redding of My House Fitness Center in Oviedo (center) will be working with Debbie and Dominic throughout the next six months to improve their overall wellness in a fitness and nutrition regimen.


Adopt-A-Road is a Two-Way Street

by Georgia Fojo

If you thought Adopt-A-Road cleanup projects were just for businesses and booster clubs, think again. Local families and friends are using the program to help their community and themselves.

We’ve all seen them throughout Seminole County: official blue road signs branded “Adopt-A-Road.” They dot our local sidewalks and seem to appear every few miles on almost every stretch of county road. Adopt-A-Road is part of the SERV program (Seminole Education, Restoration, and Volunteer), which keeps Seminole County’s roadways and waterways free of litter and debris through volunteer participation. The program also promotes watershed awareness and stormwater education. In the last year alone, Seminole County Adopt-A-Road volunteers spent nearly 1,500 hours gathering more than 700 bags of litter. Along the way, they marked 1,303 storm drains and covered an impressive 108 miles.

It’s easy to assume businesses and community groups account for the lion’s share of participation in the Adopt-A-Road program, but several local families and friends are using the program to improve their own lives as they beautify the county’s streetscapes.

United under the program’s mission, these do-gooding crews including the Bolduc family of Wekiva Springs, take pride in cleaning up their communities and have fun doing it. It’s a two-way street – feel-good community service in exchange for a better environment and better relationships. Everybody wins.

“I’m really encouraged to see families and friends in our community giving their time and energy for free to help protect the environment while also growing in the experience,” says SERV coordinator Elizabeth Stephens. “As a coordinator of the Adopt-A-Road program, I find it really motivating to see not only conservation in action, but people enjoying it, as well.”

Biking along Hunt Club Boulevard one early Saturday morning, Mark Bolduc discovered 30 to 40 bags of pungent trash strewn across the sidewalk and roadway.

“I rode through the mess feeling sorry for the person who would have to clean it up,” Mark recalls. “Then, a few moments later, I realized that person needed to be me. So I rode back to the house, grabbed a trash bag and several pairs of gloves, and proceeded to clean up the mess.”

Days later, Mark noticed an Adopt-A-Road sign further down Hunt Club Boulevard. Inspired, he called Seminole County and began adopting several roads around his Wekiva home. While most businesses and community groups in the program adopt a mile or two of roadway, the Bolducs are more ambitious. Since 2012, they have adopted South Hunt Club Boulevard, Sand Lake Road, Bunnell Road, Markham Woods Road, and State Road 434 from I-4 to Sand Lake Road.

“I guess it’s a hobby because we enjoy spending a few hours each month participating in the program, getting valuable exercise, and teaching our children the importance of helping others and caring for the environment,” says Mark.

Mark works full time for the Federal Aviation Administration, and his wife Fran is a nurse at Florida Hospital. Participating in the program is a way for the Bolducs to embrace their core values: family time, fitness, environmental awareness, and community pride. And it doesn’t stop there. The Bolducs have also developed fun ways to incorporate their Adopt-A-Road experience into the family’s part-time pet-sitting business and photoblog. Through creative photography and a fitness program, the family promotes exercising with your pets in the context of litter prevention.

“The Bolducs are an exemplary group,” says Elizabeth. “They go above and beyond the minimum requirements of the program, and we’re lucky to have them participate in Adopt-A-Road.”

Photo: Mark and Fran Bolduc with their children, 11-year-old Kaley and 8-year-old Ryan

BeFIT Health Studio

Whether you’re 15 or 65, now is the time to take that first step toward a fit and healthy lifestyle!

Fortunately, BeFIT Health Studio in Lake Mary is here to provide every tool you need to succeed, and the best part is that you will receive encouragement and support every step of the way.

If you’ve spent money on old-fashioned gym memberships without much success, rest assured BeFIT is not your typical gym. In fact, BeFIT is a non-membership private training studio, where highly skilled personal trainers use state-of-the-art equipment to help individuals, partners, and small groups meet their personal fitness goals.

The non-membership model means no hidden monthly fees − simply pay for your own private training program to target your specific needs. Whether your personal objective is to gain strength, endurance, posture, stability, flexibility, or to lose weight, BeFIT will empower you to make it happen.

One reason BeFIT Health Studio’s clients are successful is because co-founders Jeremy Cook and Justin Bedor make it their top priority to improve clients’ overall quality of life.

Jeremy, a family man who enjoys the warm community feel of Lake Mary, believes that your goals should be a direct reflection of your daily life.

“Your whole body is one unit, so our training techniques include the utilization of multiple muscle groups,” Jeremy explains. “After all, total-body training is vital for your functional lifestyle, whether you are picking up children, or lifting bags of groceries from the car.”

Of course, another key to BeFIT’s success is keeping the workouts fun.

“Our clients feel welcome here, and our objective is to nurture and improve their lives through health and fitness,” says Justin, who is inspired to help others through his own journey back to health. “After college, I gained a lot of weight due to inactivity. However, after losing and keeping off 60 pounds of extra weight by eating healthy and exercising, my greatest pleasure now comes from motivating others.”

“Some people are dealing with diseases or injuries, while others want to get stronger or lose some weight,” says Jeremy. “At BeFIT Health Studio, we take time to learn about your individual goals, and then we provide all of the support and assistance you need to achieve them.”

So don’t waste another minute! Call 407-732-4745, or visit BeFIT Health Studio in the Regency Pointe plaza off Lake Mary Boulevard.

– Crystal Lang

Photo: BeFIT co-founders Jeremy Cook and Justin Bedor


Orlando Federal Credit Union

When Orlando Federal Credit Union opened its branch in Casselberry last September, it staffed the location with some of its most talented and experienced team members. Simply put, Orlando Federal Credit Union wanted to ensure that new members in the community received the same outstanding customer service enjoyed by members at its nine other Central Florida branches.

Though new to Seminole County, Orlando Federal Credit Union has a rich history, beginning with its first branch in 1936 in the basement of what was then Orlando City Hall on Boone Avenue. Over the years it expanded to nine branches serving members in Orange, Lake, and Osceola counties. It has survived and thrived in an often volatile banking environment for more than 78 years, making Orlando Federal Credit Union one of the oldest credit unions in Central Florida.

With the grand opening of its 10th branch in Casselberry, local customers can reap the benefits of credit union membership. That means fewer fees, lower rates on personal loans, higher interest on savings and certificates of deposit, and better fees on mortgages when compared to most traditional banks.

“Those are just a few of the advantages of being part of a member-owned, full-service credit union,” says Jeff Jakubik, vice president of marketing. “It’s a cooperative with everyone working together, and the money stays local.”

Keeping it local means helping people get loans when they need them most and helping members recover from past credit challenges.

“If a member doesn’t qualify for a traditional loan, we can help them correct their situation,” Jeff explains. “Sometimes that comes in the form of a secured credit card based on their account balance, or it may come through educational seminars, also open to non-members, that highlight ways to become financially fit and healthy.”

Along with other benefits, such as Prime Plus, which offers free checking for people 50 and up, Orlando Federal Credit Union participates in a shared networking service with thousands of locations nationally, making it easy for members to access their accounts and make transactions when away from one of the local branches.

With its stellar staff in place, new members at the Casselberry branch of Orlando Federal Credit Union can look forward to a friendly, inviting environment that will meet their banking and financial needs.

– Hedy Bass

Photo: Orlando Federal Credit Union’s Casselberry branch is staffed with experienced, friendly team members ready to help with your banking needs.


Dr. Griffin Goes to Washington ConnectED to the Future

by Charneisha Pates

Recently at the White House, President Obama convened with school leaders and educators from across the country at a day-long gathering to explore the potential of education technology and innovations needed to bring America’s schools into the digital age. What makes this extra newsworthy for those of us who live in Seminole County is that among the 100 future-ready superintendents invited to “ConnectED to the Future,” one was Dr. Walt Griffin, superintendent of Seminole County Public Schools (SCPS). In fact, Dr. Griffin was the only superintendent to represent the state of Florida.

“Amazing!” exclaims Dr. Griffin in describing his first visit to the White House. “Once inside, there were multiple levels of security that we had to go through. But after being fully cleared, everyone was seated inside of the East Wing of the White House where there were designated seats for each of us attending the gathering.”

ConnectED to the Future focused on the importance of the United States staying competitive and how technology can bridge gaps in learning. It follows up on the ConnectED Initiative that the President announced in 2013 to connect America’s classrooms to high-speed Internet and empower teachers with technology they need to transform teaching and learning. After some brief speeches from invited speakers (including remarks by Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, and Alberto M. Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, who introduced President Obama), the superintendents broke off into small focus groups, where they shared their districts’ best practices.

Dr. Griffin expounded on how the ePathways initiative in Seminole County is constantly evaluating how technology and instruction is used to help students excel.

“We focus on professional development for teachers first,” says Dr. Griffin. “Then we work on integrating those skills with technology in the classroom.” Currently trademarked by SCPS, ePathways works to ensure that educators are teaching students to critically think while solving problems. (See Dr. Griffin’s column in the January/February 2014 issue of Lake Mary Life, page 130.)

As the ConnectED to the Future convening came to an end, educators and superintendents were asked to sign a “Future Ready District Pledge,” a commitment of each individual to work with students, educators, families, and communities in order to become future-ready through activities including helping schools and families transition to high-speed connectivity, fostering and leading a culture of digital learning within schools, empowering educators through professional learning opportunities, and more.

“I am proud of the community and the state of Florida,” says Dr. Griffin. “It is the work of the school system and community that allowed me to be a part of such an amazing opportunity.”

Charneisha Pates is a communications intern at Seminole County Public Schools.


Our Friendly, Neighborhood Comic Book Superhero

by: Chip Colandreo

How many of your neighbors command lines a thousand strong at autograph signings around the world? If you answered, “one,” then you must live near legendary comic book artist George Pérez.

Just up the stairs of George Pérez’s Lake Forest home is a cozy in-law suite. There, the angled ceilings of a loft-style bedroom rise to meet high in the center, giving the room plenty of space, lots of light, and an air of creativity. It’s the kind of nook a willing family might rent out to a vagabond college student – an artist, perhaps – whose talent and passion are new and unbridled. In fact, at first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that’s precisely the case. The walls and ceilings of this room are covered, almost completely, with posters and portraits of comic book characters. But this is not a college kid’s shrine to the superheroes of his youth. This is the workshop of a master, the very man who gave birth or new life to the characters on his walls.

In the center of the room sits George, hunched over a now-rickety artist’s table on which some of the world’s most famous comic book illustrations have been drawn.

“This is my Florida table,” says George, now 60. “I bought it when my wife and I moved here 20 years ago. It’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere.”

Growing up in the Bronx, New York, George developed a fascination with comics at an early age. Before he turned 20, George was already illustrating for Marvel Comics, one of the industry’s two dominant comic book publishers. George drew legendary titles such as The Avengers and Fantastic Four before making what was, at the time, an astonishing career move. George was one of the first major illustrators to publicly jump ship from Marvel to rival DC Comics, home to Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and many other larger-than-life heroes. At DC, George would cement his legacy and continue to push the industry forward. He gained national acclaim with his 1980 reboot of The New Teen Titans series, featuring a group of adolescent superheroes including Robin, Wonder Girl, and several others. The title led to a renaissance at DC and, significantly, was the first mainstream comic book franchise to pay ongoing royalties to its artists.

Many other major projects followed, including a revival of Wonder Woman with a striking and realistic new style born from George’s pencils and inks. Before he finished at DC, George had influenced the look and persona of nearly every character in the DC universe, characters that are currently enjoying a rebirth of popularity, thanks to a steady stream of blockbuster movies complete with cartoon and video game tie-ins.

“I can’t watch the new movies with an unbiased eye because those characters are so intimately familiar to me,” says George. “But in most cases the essence of the characters has been kept, if not the details, and I can appreciate the characters and the films for what they are.”

And, George adds with a grin, any hurt feelings are eased by the healthy royalties he continues to earn during the explosion of new enthusiasm for comic book characters that is sweeping the country. George’s popularity has skyrocketed, too, as new comic book fans discover and appreciate the artistic groundwork George and others laid decades ago. As a result, George and his autograph are popular draws at comic book conventions the world over. Closer to home, he recently received the Key to the City of Sanford from Mayor Jeff Triplett, who declared October 1, 2014 George Pérez Day in the city.

But George is by no means resting on his laurels. Instead, he describes this period of his career as “a freelancer’s dream.”

“I’m drawing comics now for the sheer love of drawing comics,” George says.

His latest project is Sirens, a female-centric series published by BOOM! Studios, a boutique comic book maker in Los Angeles.

Sirens is my love letter to the fans,” says George, and there’s a surprising truth behind the sentiment. The main characters in Sirens are all based on real people, including George’s wife and friends from his community theater group.

“Now, when we go to autograph signings, people want their autographs, too,” George says with a wide smile. “It’s the greatest joy to me – to sit at the table with my wife and my friends signing autographs. It’s phenomenal to see them enjoying the limelight, and the fans get such a big kick out of meeting these characters in real life.”

Back at his “Florida table,” George continues to produce stunningly beautiful work that he hopes will stand the test of time long after his own epic story comes to a close. George mentors younger artists when he can, and he continues to build the ever-growing fan base of comic book lovers, one enthusiast at a time.

“Sometimes I’ll see a young boy or girl at a convention who isn’t quite sure about it all,” says George. “If I can get a smile out of them, that’s gold. Hopefully, there’s a brand-new member of the audience. I once said to a colleague, ‘You know, what we do isn’t rocket science,’ and he responded, ‘But think of all the rocket scientists we inspire.’ He was right. As I’m up here in my studio doodling all alone, that’s something very gratifying to think about.”

It’s a mission worthy of a true superhero.

Warriors for Wink

by Pam Neff

The Wekiva Missing Pets Facebook group featured in the September/October issue of Altamonte-Wekiva Springs Life continues to make a difference in the lives of our local pets. In addition to reuniting dozens of pets with their owners, this passionate group recently worked together to save the life of an abandoned neighborhood cat that later became known as “Wink.”

Wekiva resident Loyda Woods found the cat a few months ago near her house. Appearing very malnourished with a major injury to his right eye, the cat was in desperate need of medical attention. As she’s done in the past, Loyda posted the cat’s photo and details in the Wekiva Missing Pets Facebook group. Although she had no luck finding its owner, Loyda did receive a tremendous amount of compassion for the abandoned cat. “Members of the Wekiva Missing Pets group immediately pitched in to help with food, cat supplies, and suggestions where to take a cat for medical attention,” says Loyda. The biggest boost came from group member Jackie Borum, who is also the president of Project Paws, a nonprofit organization that raises funds to provide medical care for rescued animals. “When I first saw the photos of the cat with one eye missing, I thought, ‘Who wouldn’t want to intervene in a situation like this?’” says Jackie.

Jackie gathered donations and reserved funds for special cases, and Wink was taken to a Lake Mary veterinarian for eye surgery. Even better, an adoptive family from the Wekiva Missing Pets group was waiting to bring Wink home the moment he was released.

Wink initially caught the attention of Emily Anthony and her family due to his striking resemblance to their own lost cat that was never found.

“We felt a great deal of sadness for the poor injured cat that was no closer to finding a home,” says Emily. “We decided we were going to do whatever was needed to adopt this cat. We have plenty of love to give him.” Though they still miss their previous cat, the Anthonys feel that Wink is a blessing – a true testament that everything happens for a reason.

Wink’s story started out rocky, but it couldn’t have ended any more perfectly with the help of this amazing group and our inspiring community.

Murray Insurance Agency

Despite the federal government’s best efforts to implement the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans are struggling to apply for health insurance. The good news for Seminole County residents is that Murray Insurance Agency is here to answer all of your questions. An independent agency for Florida Blue (Blue Cross and Blue Shield), the Longwood-based agency has specialized in helping neighbors with their health insurance needs since 1981.

“Health insurance has always been a complex arena, and with the most recent healthcare reform, people are more confused than ever,” explains Edward Murray, owner. “We meet with clients face-to-face, discuss their coverage options and manage the application process from start to finish. Simply put, we make the process easier for people.”

Murray Insurance agents know all the details about the Affordable Care Act and keep up with the daily rule changes that often come with regulated government insurance. With 30 representatives in Central Florida, the agency gets paid exclusively by Florida Blue to help consumers, so the cost for clients is the same whether they go through Murray Insurance or try to navigate the complex application process themselves.

If you have just been told that your employer is no longer providing health insurance, or you are a small business owner trying to figure out if you can afford health insurance for your employees, or you are self-employed and confused about your health insurance options, or you have been denied healthcare coverage in the past because of a pre-existing condition, Murray Insurance Agency can help. The agency’s staff will eliminate the chaos and confusion, and most importantly, enroll you in the health plan that best meets your needs.

“There are people without health insurance who do not realize that we can help them obtain quality health insurance coverage at little or no cost to them,” says Stephanie Murray-Aldridge, director of operations. “As a consumer, it’s extremely important to find out if the Affordable Care Act can benefit you. It’s our job to understand the nuances and present you with the best options based on your specific circumstances.”

Edward stresses that because the agency is a family-owned and operated business, there’s a greater sense of obligation to local consumers and the community.

“We’re part of this community, and we feel like we are morally committed to help Central Floridians with their health insurance needs,” says Edward. “The reality is that trying to secure health insurance can be overwhelming and stressful, so we focus on streamlining the process, keeping it simple, and keeping people properly informed. Hopefully, by doing so, we provide people with the support and expert guidance they need.”

– Jack Roth

Photo: Confused about health insurance? The Murray Insurance Agency staff is here to help, all at no extra charge.


New Faces on the Force

by Brenda J. Davis

Meet the Lake Mary Police Department’s three newest officers

Taking the oath of office was the important first step for new Lake Mary Police officers Charles Clark, Juney Thompson, and Harold Langworthy. On November 17, Lake Mary Police Chief Steve Bracknell officially swore in the three officers before they began a 16-week program of intense training and evaluation that is ongoing.

Sergeant Joseph Gowen, LMPD’s field training coordinator, says there were multiple applicants to consider for the department’s three coveted spots. However, Sgt. Gowen recalls, “These [three] distinguished themselves admirably throughout each step in the overall hiring process.”

Today, the new officers are well on their way to becoming an integral part of the expertly trained and highly respected force that keeps Lake Mary safe. But before they hit the streets, Lake Mary Life sat down with the new trio to help the community get to know them better.

Officer Charles Clark

LML: What motivated you to become a police officer?

CC: After working for 20 years in my family’s construction business, I was preparing to take over from my dad. But when the housing market crashed, we were forced to close our doors. I’d always desired to become a police officer, so I began the process of getting into the Police Academy and finding a position in law enforcement.

LML: Where are you from originally?

CC: I was born in Winter Park and grew up primarily in Fern Park and Oviedo. I attended Oviedo High School and Seminole State College.

LML: Tell us about your family.

CC: I have been married for a year-and-a-half. I have a five-year-old stepson, and my new baby daughter was born on November 26.

LML: What do you want the people of Lake Mary to know about you?

CC: I will work hard to keep Lake Mary as one of the most respected communities in Central Florida.

LML: What hidden talent do you possess that is sure to amaze your fellow officers?

CC: I am a woodworker, and I play the drums.

LML: What do you hope to accomplish during your time with LMPD?

CC: Lake Mary was my primary choice for a law enforcement position. I would like to have a great career of 20 years or more working for a wonderful city, while meeting and helping all the great people here along the way.

Officer Harold Langworthy

LML: What was your motivation for becoming a police officer?

HL: As a young kid, I’d always looked up to police officers.

LML: Where are you from originally?

HL: I’m from Deltona.

LML: Where did you study to be a cop?

HL: I studied criminal justice at Seminole State College.

LML: What hidden talent do you possess that is sure to amaze your fellow officers?

HL: I don’t know if it’s necessarily amazing or not, but I consider myself pretty handy. There’s not much I can’t do – be it carpentry, electrical, or whatever. I can even repair broken cell phone screens. If I can figure out a way to do something, I’d rather do it myself.

LML: You’re in the middle of a 12-hour shift, and you’ve not eaten all day. What’s your on-the-go meal of choice?

HL: Right now, I’m craving Subway like crazy… their B.M.T.

LML: Do you have any sports interests?

HL: I’m a Miami Dolphins fan, and I suffer through the bad and the good. I’m not a fair-weather fan.

LML: What do you hope to accomplish during your time at the department?

HL: I can see myself thriving here as I’ve done before. I really hope to be a well-rounded police officer and effectively help the community.

Officer Juney Thompson

LML: Why did you want to become a police officer?

JT: After working in construction for 13 years, I felt I had accomplished the basic goals of my life. I was financially stable, and things were going well, so I thought why not take a leap and go into something I’d love? After about three years of research, including my time in the Police Academy, I found that the more I delved into law enforcement, the more I loved it.

LML: Where did you grow up?

JT: Oak Hill, Florida, a little town just south of New Smyrna Beach.

LML: What’s your hidden talent?

JT: I can cook toast better than most people.

LML: You’re in the middle of a 12-hour shift, and you’ve not eaten all day. What’s your on-the-go meal of choice?

JT: I work out and try to stay active, so it would have to be something light and high in protein – preferably chicken.

LML: Are you a sports fan?

JT: I follow football a little bit, but I’m really into auto racing: Formula One, NASCAR, anything with wheels.

LML: What do you hope to accomplish during your time with police department?

JT: I hope to make this city proud to have me. Every good thing that has come into my life – my wife, my best friend, and my whole new life after I moved away from home – has come from being here in Lake Mary. I have professional goals for where I want to go in this department, but overall, I want to give back to this city because it’s given me everything good. Lake Mary was my number one choice after the Academy. I’m right where I want to be.

Senez Roofing

In an economy in which many roofing companies go out of business after a year or two, Senez Roofing is the exceptional exception – it has been family owned and operated for more than 40 years.

Founder Ernie Senez’s secret? Treating each customer’s roof like the roof he would want over his own family.

“In 1973, Mr. Senez saw the need for homeowners to get a quality roof at a reasonable price,” says Shawn O’Quinn, Senez Roofing’s sales manager. “Staying family owned and operated allows Senez Roofing to maintain the highest standards. This has made us Central Florida’s number one choice in roofing contractors.”

Another reason Senez Roofing is number one is that the company doesn’t hire subcontractors. All of its workers are on staff and have been with the company for years.

“Other companies hire subs on a job-by-job basis, whose skill levels and commitment to the customer are unknown, at best,” says Shawn. “Because our roofers are all on staff, we know their work, and they know that we expect the best from them.”

Senez Roofing is state licensed, and all of its employees are covered by workers’ compensation insurance and liability insurance. The top-notch staff specializes in re-roofing and repairing shingle, metal, and flat roofs.

“We do some new construction, but our specialty is existing homes,” says Shawn. “A lot of roofing companies only specialize in new construction. It’s a different story when you have to tear an old roof off. It gets complicated when you get into the flashings and fixing the rotted wood. Not every company out there is qualified to do this. Our roofers are experts when it comes to taking an old roof off and putting a new roof on.”

Most roofs are finished in a day, and the professional and courteous workers always do an extensive cleanup of the grounds after completion.

Senez Roofing has many satisfied clients throughout Seminole County and often gets thank-you notes for a job well done.

Norman H. of Lake Mary says: “I am writing to commend you and your staff for the quality and timely job of replacing my roof… Everyone in your firm that we encountered treated us well and always responded to our needs. We will never hesitate to recommend your firm to our neighbors and friends.”

With rave reviews like that, Senez roofing is on track to serve homeowners for the next 40 years and beyond.

– Peter Reilly


Florida Health Care Plans

Just hearing the word healthcare is usually enough to cause a dangerous rise in blood pressure, but finding the right health insurance coverage for an individual or an employer does not need to be stress-inducing. In fact, one employer who subscribed to a group plan from Florida Health Care Plans (FHCP) proved that life-changing healthcare was as simple as taking a daily walk.

“We work with a large manufacturer in Volusia County that subscribes to our employer group plan with the WorkForce Wellness component,” says Bissy Holden, director of wellness and communications at FHCP. “One particular employee was overweight and smoked three packs of cigarettes a day. The WorkForce Wellness program inspired the president of the company to take an active interest in this employee’s health. The president walked with this individual every day during lunch and the result was that the employee lost 100 pounds, quit smoking, and significantly lowered his body mass index.”

The Florida Health Care Plans WorkForce Wellness program is a collaborative effort that includes employers, employees, and the FHCP team. It offers a variety of tools for employees to achieve a healthier lifestyle. Some of these tools include a certified wellness manager to help guide and implement employee wellness plans, health fairs for employees, and disease management education programs.

Last year, FHCP expanded to offer these types of plans to employers and individuals in Seminole County. Now FHCP’s small and large employer group plans, as well as individual plans through the Affordable Care Act and Medicare advantage plans, are available for Seminole County residents. More local doctors are also being added to the FCHP network including Dr. Angela Merzenich, a familiar face right here in Lake Mary.

“We’re thrilled to have the wonderful Lake Mary family practice physician, Dr. Angela Merzenich, in our network in Seminole County,” says Bissy. “She’s the kind of healthcare professional who provides the level of quality care that our 55,000 members have come to expect.”

Quality healthcare is a given for FHCP members, but many of the plans also offer unique perks. For instance, FHCP has partnerships with a variety of gyms in Seminole County so individuals with certain plans can exercise at these gyms at no additional charge.

“We want to make it easier for our policyholders to live a healthy lifestyle,” says Bissy. “Prevention is a key part of staying healthy, so we offer these perks along with programs and education resources for our members that allow them to be their own best health advocate.”

– Rebekah Riley

Photo: Dr. Angela Merzenich of Lake Mary is proud to be part of the Florida Health Care Plans network in Seminole County.


Primrose School of Lake Mary Heathrow

Children’s minds are like sponges, and parents of young kids are chock-full of anecdotal stories to prove it. In recent years, national attention has been turned to early childhood education, particularly focused on the first five years. From infancy to preschool, children possess high brain development and growth potential and communicate at a remarkable rate. Few understand this better than Sabrina Boesch, co-owner of Primrose School of Lake Mary Heathrow, a longtime preschool educator, and a mother of two.

“I just love watching little children grow. It’s amazing how quickly they learn, adapt, and build character,” says Sabrina, who has more than 20 years of experience in early childhood education. “At our school, we see to it that every child maximizes his or her potential in an ideal, safe, and nurturing environment. Developing social and cognitive skills at an early stage can be critical for future success in school and life.”

Sabrina fell in love with Primrose Schools and it’s Balanced Learning curriculum while serving as the director of a Primrose School in Orlando. With the encouragement and support from the corporate office, Sabrina and her husband Chris opened Primrose School of Lake Mary Heathrow in January 2011 with nine students. Four years later, with the highest level of accreditation an early learning school can receive (AdvancED), Sabrina’s school has grown to 200 curious little learners. Primrose also undergoes rigorous internal review three times a year through the SEA program (Service Excellence Assurance). From combing through the curriculum to assessing teacher training and ensuring safety and health standards, SEA works with Sabrina and her team to do what is necessary to maintain a safe place where children will thrive every day.

And, not only are the children thriving, but so are Sabrina and Chris. The Boeschs’ journey to becoming Primrose franchise owners will be featured on Primrose Schools’ revamped franchising website. Sabrina and Chris were two of 10 selected franchise owners out of a pool of 300. Unaccustomed to being in the spotlight, Chris and Sabrina found themselves in Los Angeles for a photoshoot last November.

“It’s a huge honor,” says Sabrina, “And it was a great way to usher in our 25th year of marriage. We’re proud to represent our school in educational childcare.”

Parent testimonials speak volumes to Primrose School of Lake Mary Heathrow’s great reputation. Take a moment to read reviews from the school’s online community, and you’ll quickly see why parents choose it among all the schools in the area. “We Primrose,” “It feels like home,” and “Two thumbs way up!” are just drops in the overflowing bucket of rave reviews. Parents choose Primrose because they know they are leaving their children with qualified, caring professionals who share their same vision, values, and love for children.

“Choosing the right care for your child is one of the most important decisions you will ever make as a parent,” says Sabrina. “At the end of the day, it comes down to entrusting the care of your child to a provider that will give you peace of mind and give your child the best possible experience.”

At Primrose, partnering with parents is a high priority, and every effort is made to keep parents abreast of their child’s progress.

Children are given all the tools needed in building a strong foundation to lead healthy, safe, and productive lives. The comprehensive Balanced Learning curriculum is exclusively for Primrose Schools and is developed from two leading learning philosophies. The teacher-guided style follows an established curriculum, while child-initiated activities encourage children to explore their interests freely with teacher support.

Primrose advocates that school is more than just reading, writing, math, and science. Enrichment programs offer exploration of music, technology, arts and crafts, Spanish, and gardening, for example. Character development programs foster compassion, generosity, confidence, and social/emotional aptitude. “Helping Hands” and “Life Skills” are two focus areas in which children learn about community and personal well-being, respectively.

Primrose School of Lake Mary Heathrow serves children from six weeks of age through private kindergarten. It also offers an after-school program and summer camps for students through fifth grade. To learn more, visit the school’s website at

– Georgia Fojo

Photo: Sabrina and Chris Boesch, owners of Primrose School of Lake Mary Heathrow, have a lot to celebrate in the new year: their school’s four-year anniversary and being featured on Primrose Schools’ revamped franchising website.


HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Altamonte Springs

Filling a critical need in the community can be a challenging task, but at the new HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Altamonte Springs, the staff has both embraced the challenge and provided patients with one of the most comprehensive rehabilitation programs in the country.

“We generally look for locations where rehabilitation services are sorely needed,” says Mary Lynn Swartz, CEO. “Surprisingly, despite all of the great hospitals and other healthcare services in Central Florida, we learned that Seminole, Orange, and Osceola counties didn’t have many rehab beds, and there was no free-standing rehab hospital in the entire tri-county region.”

As a result, HealthSouth went to work building a 55,000-square-foot, 50-bed inpatient rehabilitation hospital that offers comprehensive rehab services designed to help patients return to the active and independent lives they enjoy. The hospital provides a wide range of physical rehabilitation services, a vast network of highly skilled, independent private practice physicians and HealthSouth therapists and nurses, as well as the most innovative equipment and rehab technology.

In addition to caring for general rehabilitation diagnoses such as orthopedics, cardiac, pulmonary, and neurological conditions, the facility has specialized inpatient programs for stroke, brain injuries, trauma, and many other conditions. Rehab is covered in full or part by most health insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid. HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital, which opened in October, has contracts with most major insurance companies and is willing to negotiate with other companies as needed.

“Our role is to take care of patients who need rehabilitation after they have been hospitalized,” explains Mary Lynn. “Our goal is to improve their activities of daily living and return them to the level of function they had before they were hospitalized.”

More than 125 experienced and knowledgeable employees – including a nursing team, a rehab therapy team, and support members – work together to develop and implement a personalized treatment plan for each patient based on his or her needs and goals. The facility boasts two full-time physiatrists specifically trained in physical medicine and rehab. In addition, the hospital has access to a full spectrum of specialists who can address the specific needs of any patient.

“We conduct a specialized analysis of each person’s needs,” says Mary Lynn. “We take pride in measurable results, and the only way to achieve those results is to provide the individualized attention to detail that every patient deserves.”

Technology also plays a big part in the success of all rehab therapies, whether occupational, physical, respiratory, or speech/language, and HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital has things that you won’t see in other rehab facilities. A state-of-the-art therapy gym provides every tool needed to facilitate successful rehabilitation, and a versatile courtyard offers a broad range of surfaces on which patients can gain strength in movement and mobility.

In addition to the comprehensive therapy services they provide, Mary Lynn and her team also offer nutritional counseling, home assessments, transportation arrangements, physician referrals, medication administration, and meal plans. Case management workers coordinate patient care and work with families regarding plans for patient discharge and serve as a liaison between the patient, family, insurance carrier, treatment team, and community agencies.

“Patient and family education is a critical part of the rehabilitation process,” stresses Mary Lynn. “Patients are typically here an average of two weeks, so giving them and their families the tools they need to function at a high level in a home setting is part of the process. In order to provide our patients with a rewarding and satisfying experience, we must educate their caregivers so the transition from hospital to home is seamless.”

Mary Lynn believes that the measurable results HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital obtains on a consistent basis can be attributed to the commitment and dedication of the entire staff.

“I’m thrilled to be a part of this,” she says. “We are filling a community need, and the entire staff is extremely passionate about what they do. Every day I see nurses, therapists, and other healthcare professionals giving 100 percent of themselves because they believe in what they are doing and have the tools they need to provide the best care possible – and the patients are benefiting from that.”

– Jack Roth

Photo: The HealthSouth rehabilitation team stands ready to meet any patient’s needs.


RSVP Volunteers Pay Off in Dividends

by Hedy Bass

Retirees and other senior volunteers are going back into local classrooms to nurture young minds and hearts

Some might call it a mutual admiration society. It’s hard to tell who gets more out of it, but when those in the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) go to school, it seems they’re just as excited about seeing the students as the students are to see them.

There are currently more than 100 RSVP volunteers in Seminole County Public Schools who work under the Dividends program, which matches volunteers with students or teachers in need of assistance. The one big difference is that RSVP volunteers are 55 and better (yes, better!). These are people who have lived full lives and want to give back by sharing their time, talent, and wisdom with others.

While all 100+ volunteers deserve our community’s respect and gratitude for their dedication and work, we asked Misa Mills, manager of community involvement for the Dividends/RSVP programs, to identify a few senior volunteers who exemplify outstanding commitment and service to schools in our area. These are their stories:

Isabel Brislenn- Woodlands Elementary

Ninety-one-year-old Isabel Brislenn is referred to as “the daily dose of sunshine” in the media center at Woodlands Elementary. The eldest volunteer in the Seminole County school system, Isabel was voted the Senior Dividend of the Year for the 2013-2014 school year. The former government employee and grandmother of seven and great-grandmother of four (with one more on the way) is tireless in her devotion. Despite her age, Isabel volunteers four-and-a-half hours daily during the school year and shows no signs of slowing down.

“The work I do here is appreciated,” Isabel beams. “As long as I’m able, I feel there is something I can do for somebody. I have the time.”

When Isabel is not using technology in the media center to keep records of lost books or processing new books into the system, she cuts and pastes for teachers or dusts the bookshelves. Isabel even happily makes coffee for the faculty and staff.

Isabel has gained a reputation as a woman with a cheery smile, a positive attitude, and the willingness to help in any way she can. In doing so, Isabel has quickly endeared herself to faculty, staff, and students alike.

When asked to describe Isabel’s contribution to the media center, reading teacher Michelle Dapore succinctly sums it up, “She works hard, hard, hard.”

Yvonne Gallagher- Pine Crest Elementary

Yvonne Gallagher, 78, is a superhero, at least to the students, faculty, and staff at Pine Crest Elementary in Sanford. Just ask Anne West, the school’s media specialist. Describing her sweet and caring demeanor, Anne calls Yvonne “unflappable.”

When Yvonne’s husband passed in 2012, she moved to Sanford to be closer to her family. A former Publix employee for 32 years, Yvonne felt the need to stay busy and involved. She found meaningful volunteer work through the Dividends/RSVP program. And indeed, Yvonne manages to keep very busy with a daily volunteer schedule that has her working at Pine Crest most days from 9:00 a.m. until the dismissal bell rings.

Part of what makes Yvonne so treasured at the school is her willingness to learn anything new, from the Book Fair cash register to library circulation software. In addition to shelving books, assisting students, and working on special projects, Yvonne’s artistic handiwork can be found on the painted shelf markers that the children love to use and in the decorations that adorn the media center.

This soft-spoken grandmother of three, with one great-grandchild and another on the way, refers to the teachers at Pine Crest as “angels.”

As for the children she sees every day at school, Yvonne lovingly smiles and says, “I just want them to learn.”

Terry Brown- Goldsboro Elementary

Sixty-six-year-old Terry Brown knows how to get children excited about reading. Serving at Goldsboro Elementary as a Reading Acceleration Program (RAP) volunteer for the past two years, Terry has honed her skills, helping early readers who struggle in the classroom and who are working below grade level.

“I love working with kids,” says Terry, who dreamed of being a teacher when she was a girl in high school. “I love to read, and I want them to love it, too.”

Couple that passion for reading with Terry’s love for teaching and you have a volunteer who has children saying, “Pick me! Pick me!” when she enters their classroom to choose a child for a 30-minute RAP session.

Terry’s gentle nature and genuine concern for the students she works with are making a difference as evidenced by the kids’ advancement in reading levels and the compliments Terry gets from teachers.

“I try to make it fun for them,” Terry grins, referring to the six students she currently tutors. That includes letting them flip the famous hourglass Terry brings to the room, so they can see how much time they have to read together.

Adding to Terry’s joy of volunteering at Goldsboro is the opportunity to see her granddaughter Samantha, who last year was one of her students, making Terry’s time at Goldsboro all the more sweet.

Mary Weeks- Goldsboro Elementary

Mary Weeks, 60, is a member of the Nanas and the Papas, a group of volunteers who love inspiring children to read. Mary makes sure that every Wednesday, volunteers keep to a busy schedule at Goldsboro Elementary, meeting with kindergartners individually or in small groups.

Mary’s background makes her uniquely qualified for this volunteer position. With a master’s degree in education, she knows the importance of helping develop early literacy skills in children and the impact it will have on their future academic success.

“Sharing the joy of reading, having the one-on-one time with a child, and inspiring them to read is what’s fun about what we do,” Mary says of the Nanas and the Papas.

Every kindergartner in the classes served at Goldsboro Elementary gets time to read with a Nana or a Papa. The first half of the semester, the volunteers read to the children. The second semester, the children read to them, and by that time a bond between them and a love for reading has been nurtured.

Would you like to be an RSVP volunteer at a local school?

RSVP of Seminole County Public Schools will hold an open house/breakfast on Friday, January 30 from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. You will get an overview of the many volunteer opportunities available and a chance to hear from some current RSVP volunteers.

To attend the open house or to learn more about the Dividend/RSVP programs, contact Misa Mills, manager of community involvement at 407-320-0178, or by email at Misa_Mills@SCPS.K12.FL.US


A Tapestry of Talent in Seminole County

by Jill Duff-Hoppes

Persistence has finally paid off for Caryl Stevens.

Over the years, she has entered many arts and crafts competitions, but somebody else has always walked away with the awards.

However, all that changed when Caryl entered the recent Seminole County National Arts Program (NAP) contest. Caryl, 78, nabbed not one, but two awards for her expertly crafted quilt. She took first place in the adult amateur category, plus the top honor: best in show.

“This was the first time I’ve ever gotten a blue ribbon for anything,” says Caryl, a self-taught quilter. “I cried when I got mine. It’s just so nice to have the quilt be recognized.”

The annual contest is open to Seminole County government employees and their family members, a wide net that includes city government and public school employees.

Caryl, a former Casselberry resident, now lives in Jacksonville. Her daughter, Robin “Shorty” Robbins, is Seminole’s Parks and Recreation division manager. Shorty is the keeper of the winning quilt, which features a “Thousand Pyramids” design of triangles in mostly blue hues.

Both Shorty and Caryl are self-proclaimed history buffs who enjoy being reenactors at living history events. Shorty displays the quilt at the events because of its accuracy to the 1800s time period.

“It really is an amazing quilt,” says Shorty, 57, who lives in Sanford. “I was thrilled for mom.”

Founded in the 1980s, NAP gives employees across the country the opportunity to showcase their visual arts talent in public shows. The rules call for at least 100 participating artists per show.

Caryl wasn’t the only member of her family to take part in Seminole’s 10th annual exhibit. Shorty submitted jewelry, and her granddaughter, Aurora, entered a painting. Aurora, 11, attends Hamilton Elementary School in Sanford.

Seminole’s show is coordinated by Christine Patten, the county’s library services division manager. The exhibition was showcased in October at the county services building in Sanford.

This was the first time during Christine’s four years of coordinating the contest that an amateur took best in show. Usually, she says, an intermediate or professional artist wins.

Caryl, a seasoned seamstress, picked up quilting about 10 years ago, after she had a stroke. Her long-awaited awards were made even more special because of the accompanying prize money, provided by the NAP Foundation. Caryl won $600, which prompted her to make a beeline for a sewing shop.

“I didn’t use it for important things, like paying bills,” chuckles Caryl, who splurged on a machine to help her cut fabric. “My hands aren’t as strong as they used to be.”

Photo: Seminole County Parks and Recreation division manager “Shorty” Robbins of Sanford and her mother, Caryl Stevens, pose with a quilt that Caryl crafted. The quilt, which belongs to Shorty, won two awards at the 10th annual Seminole County National Arts Program exhibit and contest.

Dunwoody Dental

You might not realize it, but getting a good night’s sleep can be imperative when it comes to maintaining complete oral and dental health. Just ask Dr. Amy Hertz and Dr. Minta Lopez-Torres of Dunwoody Dental, a family and cosmetic dentistry practice located off of West State Road 46 in Sanford.

In addition to providing their patients the highest quality family care with less-invasive procedures, Dunwoody Dental is choosing to focus on the treatment of sleep apnea, the underlying cause of many dental concerns.

With decades of combined experience, Doctors Hertz and Lopez-Torres witnessed the emerging trend of dental problems related to sleeping issues, especially sleep apnea. About six months ago, Dunwoody Dental decided to begin treating those problems at the source.

“We started making appliances to help with snoring for our patients, and that opened the door to helping individuals who have sleep apnea,” says Dr. Lopez-Torres. “We believe that getting to the root of the dental problem, and focusing on preventative treatment, is the best way to serve our patients in the long run.”

Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during the sleep cycle. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea. OSA occurs during deep sleep when the muscles in the throat and tongue relax and block the airway. When breathing stops, oxygen levels drop, which creates a microarousal as the brain wakes up to prevent suffocation. These microarousals prevent the body from getting deep, restful sleep.

In addition to causing numerous health problems, the sleep disorder, in turn, causes dental issues and concerns.

“Sleep apnea can be linked to acid reflux, which can cause tooth erosion and decay,” says Dr. Hertz. “The microarousals can be linked to tooth grinding, which causes the teeth to wear down and break.”

Through careful examination of their patients’ medical history, Dr. Hertz and Dr. Lopez-Torres became more aware of the “red flag” health symptoms.

“We noticed a correlation between OSA and patients who have a history of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, reflux, sleepiness, waking up with headaches, and snoring,” says Dr. Hertz. “When patients are treated, you can see some improvement not only in their teeth, but also in their health symptoms as well.”

To help identify and detect sleep apnea, patients at Dunwoody Dental are screened through questionnaires that relate to sleeping and health risks that are common to those with the disorder. If patients fall into the “at risk” category, Dr. Hertz and Dr. Lopez-Torres suggest patients do a sleep study to confirm they have sleep apnea and measure its severity.

“Today, sleep studies don’t have to be done in labs. They can be done at home. We offer our patients a choice,” says Dr. Lopez-Torres. “We then receive the data on their sleep study and create a treatment plan.”

Patients who show signs of severe sleep apnea (which is usually diagnosed as mild, moderate, and severe) are advised to obtain a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine from their doctors. But at Dunwoody Dental, patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea are now offered the opportunity to use a mandibular advancement dental device that helps bring the lower jaws forward, which opens the airway.

“We have found that treating patients with this device has been very effective in addressing sleep apnea as well as helping to solve recurring dental problems,” says Dr. Lopez-Torres.

Doctors Hertz and Lopez-Torres also say that although using a CPAP machine is the best treatment, not everyone enjoys wearing it while sleeping, and not everyone wears it on a consistent basis. For this reason, Dunwoody Dental can help those individuals who may benefit from an alternative or additional treatment method.

“We want to help patients take care of their overall health in addition to focusing on their dental health,” says Dr. Hertz.

– Pam Neff

Photo: Dunwoody Dental Doctors Amy Hertz and Minta Lopez-Torres