Friday, April 29, 2011

Lakewood Ranch Rotary Club marks 10th anniversary

President, Toni Milholland with in-coming President, John Freeman; past and incoming District Govenors, Jerry Hern and Denise Hern; past presidents and charter members. (Provided photo by Phil Curran).

Hard to believe that the Lakewood Ranch Rotary Club is just 10 years old, considering that in its short history it has launched a phenomenally successful wine and food festival that funds tens of thousands of dollars of grants to local charitable organizations.

The club also brought the U.S. headquarters of Shelterbox USA to Lakewood Ranch.
Congratulations and keep up the good work!


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Good Earth's prime anchor spot will be shared by several businesses

Richard’s Foodporium -- formerly Richard’s Whole Foods -- has acquired Good Earth Grocery and will be closing the Lakewood Ranch Main Street store April 30.

The closing marks the end of an effort to anchor one side of Main Street with a super-sized store.

Previously, Morton's Gourmet Market was in the location, but closed in 2008.

The space sat empty for more than a year before Good Earth moved in.

The Good Earth space will be reconfigured to accommodate several businesses, according to a press release from Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch.

 “With the recent economic challenges, it’s become difficult to support a 12,000-square-foot space — regardless of what type of business it is,” said Brian Kennelly, president of LWR Commercial Realty, in the press release. “Just like people are downsizing their homes, business owners are downsizing as well, which is why we have decided to break that up into multiple spaces. We are excited by the opportunity to repurpose this prime space to meet market demands.”

It does not appear the  Good Earth space will sit vacant for long.

SMR plans to take a portion for the  Premier Sports Campus of Lakewood Ranch and use it as a multi-use sports performance and training center for visiting athletes. The center will also be open to the public through memberships.

LWR Commercial Realty  also has a letter of intent from  a casual restaurant  to take up another portion.

Construction is slated to begin in July with openings anticipated in November. The remaining space will be able to accommodate two-to-three additional tenants.

“While we love the Main Street location, Richard’s has another already established store very close by,” said John Rorer, owner of Richard’s Foodporium, in the press release. “In addition, the 12,000-square-foot space does not fit in to our typical marketing and branding strategy. For these reasons, we will not turn the existing Good Earth store into another Richard’s Whole Foods.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Eating their Wheaties for the wild cow milking competition and more

Headed to Amarillo in November. (Provided photo)
Wild cow milking, stray gathering, bronco riding, calf roping and branding, and team sorting and penning.

That's what's on the to-do list of  Jason McKendree, Schroeder-Manatee Ranch’s cattle manager, and Stevie John, the Ranch’s citrus production manager, Nov. 10-13 in Amarillo, Texas.

They are part of a team that will be competing in a world championship rodeo competition. McKendree and John, and their teammates, Jimmy, Robert and Corey Fussell, all from Arcadia, took first place at the  Working Ranch Cowboy’s Association ranch rodeo this month at the Arcadia Rodeo Arena.

“It has been known to snow in Amarillo in November,” said McKendree, “so we will have to make sure our horses and our team are ready for anything!”

The WRCA uses Ranch Rodeo to bring attention to its cause and generate money for its foundation. The organization provides funds for working ranch cowboys and their families in time of need. The WRCA has been helping people for 14 years and gives scholarships for working ranch cowboys and their children.

“We could not be more proud of Jason and Stevie,” said Rex Jensen, SMR’s president and CEO. “Jason has worked here since 1991 in various roles and is an integral part of our cattle operation and Stevie has been here since 2000. We know they will represent SMR well in front of the world at the Texas competition.”


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Junior ROTC cadets awarded scholarships

Taylor Frey of Lakewood Ranch High School. (photo by Jim Jones)
Cadet Taylor Frye of Lakewood Ranch High School and Cadet Michael Sheppard of Braden River High School were among six Manatee County Junior ROTC members awarded $2,000 scholarships Tuesday at the Bradenton Country Club.

The scholarships were presented by the Bradenton Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America.

For more on all the scholarship winners, see Wednesday's Bradenton Herald and Lakewood Ranch Herald.

Braden River's Michael Sheppard (center) with retired Col. Gill Ruderman (left) and school board member Harry Kinnan. (photo Jim Jones_

Monday, April 25, 2011

Celebrity bartending at the Polo Grill

Tommy Klauber frequently turns over the watering hole at the Polo Grill to guest bartenders. They get to keep the tips for the charitable organizations they represent.

As a prelude to the Meals on Wheels PLUS annual fundraiser Tropical Nights, Polo Grill and Bar recently hosted a charity bartending event.

The celebrity bartenders earned $528 in tips to benefit Meals on Wheels PLUS.

Meals on Wheels PLUS Board Member Maribeth Phillips (left), Polo Grill and Bar owner Tommy Klauber, and Meals on Wheels PLUS President/CEO, Ellen Campbell with a check for $528.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Vitale Gala bringing Dave Cowans, John Calipari and many more sports notables to town

Lakewood Ranch resident Dick Vitale, shown at his Lakewood Ranch home during a Christmas party for underprivileged children, is bringing some of the best known names in sports to Manatee-Sarasota.
The V Foundation for Cancer Research recently announced that Lakewood Ranch resident Dick Vitale has once again assembled a “prime time” cast to raise funds for cancer research at the Dick Vitale Gala on May 20. The sixth annual Gala, held in Sarasota,  benefits The V Foundation.

Here's the press release:

The three Gala honorees -- college basketball coaches John Calipari of Kentucky and Carolina’s Roy Williams, and tennis legend Nick Bollettieri -- will be joined by coaches, former athletes and sports broadcasters. Most notably , all four head coaches of this year’s Final Four teams will be back together with National Champion Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun, Butler’s Brad Stevens, and VCU’s Shaka Smart, joining Calipari.

“I am excited beyond belief to know that we will have the four PTP’ers (“Prime Time Players”) who led their teams to every college basketball coach’s dream, the Final Four, with us at the Ritz Carlton for our Gala,” said Vitale.“It‘s a great thrill to have them all with us, under the same roof, again for the first time since they battled against one another on the court in Houston. This time, however, they join together in the battle against cancer and their efforts will be directed toward raising dollars to help kids fighting cancer,” he said.

Among those attending the event to raise funds for The V Foundation for Cancer Research: Celtic great Dave Cowens, Hall of Fame Coach Larry Brown, Florida State Head Football Coach Jimbo Fisher, baseball’s Gary Sheffield and an all-star group of collegiate basketball coaches.

Scheduled to attend are Jamie Dixon (Pitt), Billy Donovan (Florida), Steve Fisher (San Diego State), Seth Greenberg (Va. Tech), Ben Howland (UCLA), Bob Huggins (WVU) and Gary Williams (Maryland). Men’s doubles Wimbledon champ Don Johnson is also expected to appear. Gala Host John Saunders will be joined by fellow broadcast colleagues Erin Andrews, Jay Bilas, Rece Davis, Lesley Visser and Dereck Whittenburg.

“We are so honored to have so many great names from the world of sports volunteer to support The Foundation and our fight against cancer,” said V Foundation CEO Nick Valvano. “It’s such a tribute to Dick that so many answer his call to help him in our quest to fight cancer. Their generosity and Dick’s passion continue to humble us,” Valvano said.

All celebrity guests pay their own expenses for the Vitale Gala as their personal donation to The Foundation and in honor of their friendship with Vitale.

The May 20th Gala is close to capacity with approximately 100 tickets remaining. To purchase tickets or for additional information contact The V Foundation at 1-800-4JimmyV (1-800-454-6698).

Thursday, April 21, 2011

One more salute for Sgt. James Harold Alley

Sgt. James Alley
Sgt. James Harold Alley was laid to rest in Arcadia last May. Remarkable story. He died April 6, 1972, when his helicopter was shot down in Vietnam while on a rescue mission. It would be 38 years before his remains finally came home to his family.

Richard St. Peter of Newport News, Va., called this week to say thanks for our story last year that reported that Sgt. Alley's remains had finally been identified through advances in science and that he had been interred with full military honors.

St. Peter,  a former U.S. Air Force combat photographer based with the 600th Photo Squadron at Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base, knew Jim Alley.

They played softball together at Vandenburg Air Force Base. Jim was a left fielder. St. Peter was the catcher.

When Jim Alley was lost in the downing of that helicopter, it was a real shock in the small community of combat photographers, St. Peter said this week in a phone  call from Virginia.

"It was a quiet day when they came in and said he had been shot down," St. Peter said. "He was a nice guy."

"It was a long time coming," said St. Peter of Sgt. Alley's homecoming.

St. Peter continues to do national defense work after all these years.
He is presently assigned as a civilian with the Joint Forces Command, Suffolk, Va., as a video producer.

In all those years, he never forgot his friend, and even visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D. C., to get a rubbing of Sgt. Alley's name from Panel 02W, Line 130.

But it was just this week that he learned the conclusion of the Jim Alley story by searching the worldwide web.

For the story of Jim Alley's long journey home, visit:

Monday, April 18, 2011

Looking to the future in East Manatee

Residents of East Manatee are taking their dreams of the future public in separate meetings this week, north and south of the Manatee River.

Parrish residents will be sharing aspirations for their community Thursday night during a workshop with Manatee County commissioners.

High on their list are adding a sewer system for the central village of Parrish, completion of U.S. 301 improvements from County Road 675 north to Moccasin Wallow Road, and stormwater system improvements, said Ben Jordan, president of the Parrish Civic Association.

Tami Vaughan, a board member of the civic association, will present a 20-minute powerpoint, “Future of Parrish: Dreams Become Reality,” to commissioners 6:15 p.m. Thursday at the Parrish Community Center.

On Wednesday, the Lakewood Ranch Incorporation Study  Group is presenting an discussion on possible cityhood for the Ranch.

The Lakewood Ranch meeting is set for 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

There will be a brief overview presentation followed by open discussion on all aspects of incorporation. The public is invited.

Attendees are asked to RSVP to For more information: visit

For more, see Tuesday's Herald.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Inspiration down on Lakewood Ranch Main Street

Tommy Klauber completed his first 5K. (photo Jim Jones)
Prim and Karman Nietro moved all the way from Michigan to Manatee County to enroll their autistic son, Brian, in Pinnacle Academy.

Tim and Donna Neidert moved here from Fort Myers to enroll their son, Travis, at the same school.

Karen Alterisio and her family moved here from Maine to enroll her daughter, Catherine, who has a non-verbal learning disability, at Pinnacle.

I heard the same story over and over again Saturday of parental struggle, sacrifice and love to do whatever it takes to help a child with a bewildering disability.

There were 600 runners, and maybe 1,000 walkers who turned out for the third-annual C.A.R.E. Be Aware of Autism 5K run and one-mile fun walk at Lakewood Ranch Main Street.

For more see, the Sunday Herald.

It's Autism Awareness Month. See Vin Mannix's preview:
Grooving to the music during Saturday's event. (Photo by Jim Jones)

For more photos, visit:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Three openings: Myakka residents can apply for fire commission vacancies

 Manatee County Commission is taking applications for the Myakka City Fire Control District which operates two staffed fire stations: one on Wauchula Road in Myakka and the second on State Road 70 near Verna Bethany Road.

There are three vacancies on the volunteer board for four-year terms.

The Fire Board has autonomous control over the fire district, with the authority to spend money, incur debt, and hire and fire personnel. The board meets monthly at a location, date and time that works for all Board members.

The Myakka City Fire Control District was established in 1986 by a special act of the Manatee County Commission as a Manatee County Dependant Fire District.

The district  is located east of County Road 675 and extends east to the DeSoto and Hardee county lines, covering an area of 230 square miles.

The district responds to more than 500 emergency calls annually.

Myakka residents are eligible to apply, but each seat has residency requirements. To learn more, contact Myakka City Fire Chief Dan Cacchiotti at (941) 322-6525 or e-mail him at

Applications are due May 15 and may be found online at

Duck on a dock

It was quiet out on the big lake at the heart of Nathan Benderson Park on Wednesday.

A few ducks in the water, and one on a floating dock.

The duck ambled over to the side of the dock, peeked over the edge and jumped in wings first.

It answered the question for me about how a duck gets into the water. Cautiously at first, but then with great enthusiasm.

The ducks give way Saturday, April 16,  to the Florida Sprints League rowing competition.

And two weeks later, there is the Florida State high school rowing championships.

For more on rowing, see our story at this link:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lakewood Ranch student lobbies in Tallahassee

Micalea Figueroa with Sen. Mike Bennett. (provided photo)
Lakewood Ranch High School sophomore Micaela Figueroa recently worked the halls of power of the Florida Legislature in Tallahassee.

Micaela,  daughter of Santos and Michelle Figueroa, represented District 7 of Family, Career and Community Leaders of America  in Tallahassee.

While there, she informed state leaders about FCCLA and Family and Consumer Science classes. Micaela had the opportunity to meet with Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, who serves as president pro-tempore of the Senate, to address the need for continued support of  career and technical education programs in Florida schools, said Elaine Bowling, FCCLA advisor.
Micaela Figueroa

For more about the Florida FCCLA, visit:

Friday, April 8, 2011

Great American Cleanup starts on the Upper Manatee River

Mark Stukey of Ray's Canoe Hideaway.  (Herald file photo)
EAST MANATEE — The Great American Cleanup on the Upper Manatee River  is set for 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 9. Volunteers with boats and canoes are needed to help in the river cleanup effort and to transport other participants and their collected trash.

Free boat launch and canoes courtesy of Ray’s Canoe Hideaway for those participating in the cleanup will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Volunteers meet at 9 a.m. at Ray’s Canoe Hideaway, 1289 Hagle Park Road on the north side of Upper Manatee River Road.

For directions, see Bring work gloves and a cooler, and the drinks will be supplied. For more information, call Mark and Laura Stukey at (941) 747-3909.

The Great American Cleanup continues 9 a.m. - noon April 16 as volunteers work countywide to clean, beautify and improve roadsides, shores, parks and neighborhoods in Manatee County. Information: visit or call (941) 795-8272.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

We the Kings to headline Rock Out for a Cause

We the Kings, Bradenton’s hometown band with a national following, bring their considerable musical chops and star power to Rock Out for a Cause.

Variously described as a pop-rock or punk-rock band, We the Kings struck platinum in 2010 with their million selling single “Check Yes Juliet.”

They are the best known of six very good bands scheduled to perform starting at 5:30 p.m. Friday on the campus of Lakewood Ranch High School.

But the concert won’t be just about the music.

It is also about charitable causes and a desire to make a difference locally and globally.

Taking Back Lives and Lakewood Ranch Key Club are co-hosting the event which benefits six charities.

Among so many needs and deserving charities, the key was to focus on the causes that were most important to students, said Mandy Kersey, Key Club advisor.

They selected Food Bank of Manatee, Family Network on Disabilities, Manatee Glens, Honor Animal Rescue, and Solve Maternity Homes.

Some of the students knew someone who has been in a difficult situation because of a pregnancy, and wanted to support Solve Maternity Homes. Too many knew of friends who had psychological problems or who contemplated suicide, and appreciated the mental health programs offered by Manatee Glens, Kersey said.

Get your tickets at:

For more about We the Kings, read Wade Tatangelo's story:

For more, see Thursday's Herald.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

So happy to be alive

Jamie Butler and Richard St. Hilaire. (provided photo)
 Capt.Larry Leinhauser of the Manatee County Department of Public Safety and Jennifer Anderson of Lakewood Ranch Medical Center recently shared a sweet story of  life and thanks.

Richard St. Hilaire of University Park suffered what could have been a fatal episode on Oct. 11, 2007.

Emergency Medical Services was dispatched to his home about 5 p.m. Ambulance crews found that he had an abnormal heart rhythm.

Jamie Butler was the charge paramedic on the call that day.

"It didn’t take long for Jamie to get an idea of just how serious the situation was. Mr. St. Hilaire was awake, but very dizzy. When Butler placed him on their cardiac monitor his heart rate was initially OK, but en route to Lakewood Ranch Hospital Mr. St.Hilaire began to feel like he was going to pass out," Leinhauser said in a press release.

"The heart monitor now showed that he was in ventricular tachycardia, a deadly rhythm in which the heart is limited to erratic beating and blood supply to the brain and body is severely compromised. The treatment is a combination of medications administered intravenously and cardioversion. (electrical shock) He was shocked not once, or twice, but three times before his rhythm returned to normal," Leinhauser wrote.

"Paramedic Butler managed his care until they arrived at the hospital. Once the doctors reviewed the care given by paramedic Butler, they advised Mr. St. Hilaire if it wasn’t for her quick actions and skills, he would not be alive today," Leinhauser said.

For a paramedic, maybe just another routine day of life-saving.

But for St.Hilaire, he needed closure by personally thanking the paramedic who saved his life.

That meeting was held at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center on March 30.

“Jamie saved my life and I just wanted to tell her thanks in person,” St.Hilaire said, according to Leinhauser.

For her part, Butler said she, too, was touched by the reunion. "We don’t usually get to see or meet them after our portion of their care is completed," she said.

A postscript. St. Hilaire apparently resisted the urge to immediately call 911 after he began feeling ill.

"Today, he considers himself lucky to be alive and encourages anyone who suspects they may be having a heart attack or stroke to call 911 right away," Anderson wrote in a press release.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Boys and their toys

Among all the activities at the Big Blast fest Saturday, the thing that sticks in my head is the gargantuan slingshot kids used to hurl water balloons into the next county.

Actually they didn't go quite that far, but they went far enough.

I think I detected a little sibling rivalry between Dylan and Owen Aguirrezabal over who could achieve the longest, highest trajectory.

Take  a look at these faces... Owen seems more relaxed, but Dylan is on his back on the ground  pulling with all his might on the slingshot.

The slingshot was the Lakewood Ranch Rotary Club's contribution to the fest, a benefit at Lakewood Ranch's Central Park for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Suncoast.

You know what else the slingshot reminded me of? The pumpkin chunkin' cannon that Bill Stenger and David Hunsader collaborated on and which is now a regular part of the Hunsader Pumpkin Festival.

Somehow, we just never quite grow out of the fascination with our contraptions and what we can do with them.


For more photos, visit our gallery:

Friday, April 1, 2011

Ranking high in patient satisfaction

Marc Miller, UHS president, Jim Wilson, Lakewood
 Ranch Medical Center CEO, Alan  Miller, UHS
CEO and chairman, and Kevin DiLallo,
Manatee Healthcare System CEO
Lakewood Ranch Medical Center has been recognized by its parent company, Universal Health Services, as the top hospital in the company's acute care division for patient satisfaction.

“This is another indication of our commitment to providing quality, compassionate care to our community. We are honored to be recognized as the number one acute care hospital in UHS for patient satisfaction. The recognition exemplifies our team of employees and physician’s dedication to providing the best care possible to our patients, ”  Lakewood Ranch Medical Center CEO, Jim Wilson said in a press release.

Lakewood Ranch Medical Center is one of 22 acute care hospitals nationwide owned by Universal Health Services. Patient satisfaction scores are determined by data derived from direct patient surveys conducted by Gallup Polls.

Old cell phone collecting dust?

One more job for unused phone.
Notice anything unusual about this cell phone?

Give up?

It's branded with the word "Cingular." Cingular was renamed with another company's name in 2007.

That  gives you an idea of how long this flip-top piece of slightly vintage technology has been sitting in a box in a closet.

No longer. This morning it was turned in at Braden River High School for the Cell Phones for Soldiers project. Braden River and Cox Chevrolet are partnering on the project.

If you have an unused cell phone, you also can  turn it in at Cox Chevrolet or Braden River High School.

The cell phones are forwarded to ReCellular to provide calling cards for members of the U.S. armed forces serving overseas.

The program starts today and runs until April 15.

Tampa Bay General Motors franchises and schools are competing for a chance to win a free in-school concert by the country band Steel Magnolia.

But more importantly, your donation can help bring a little bit of home to a defender of our freedoms serving far away.