Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Manatee County does Memorial Day right

Crosses marked The Gardens to remember deceased residents of the Parrish community. (provided photo)

From Lakewood Ranch to Sarasota National Cemetery and Bradenton, local residents remembered those who gave all in America's wars.

The Gardens in Parrish also holds a A Memorial Day luncheon and program annually.

The Gardens  honors the deceased veterans from the park by setting up a  display of crosses showing their names and branches of service. This year there were 93 

Our salute to The Gardens for caring and remembering.

Observing Memorial Day at The Gardens. (provided photo)
Observing Memorial Day at The Gardens. (provided photo)
Observing Memorial Day at The Gardens. (provided photo)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mustang statue unveiled at Lakewood Ranch High School

Tarp removed from Mustang sculpture (Photo James A. Jones Jr.)
New Mustang sculpture was revealed at Lakewood Ranch High School. (Photo James A. Jones Jr.)
The results of four months of work in crafting a 300-pound, nine-foot-tall sheet metal sculpture of a Mustang, the school mascot, were unveiled this morning in the courtyard at Lakewood Ranch High School.

The student-designed and constructed sculpture, which sits on a three-foot pedestal, features a rearing Mustang  with a flying mane.

"We drew it 800 times to get it right," said Shelby Gillam, one of  four students who collaborated on the design of the sculpture.

Another student, Chris Shorey, said he thought the artwork was lovely. "Now, that's what I call a sculpture," he said.

All Phases Welding & Fabrication of Ellenton, Quality Powder Coating and Air Gas contributed to the finished product.

For more, see Friday's Herald.


Students welded the new Mustang sculpture. (provided photo)       

Students welded the new Mustang sculpture. (provided photo)       

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Thumbs up to Walk-It

How early was the Walk-It Challenge at G.T. Bray Park this morning?

So early that the dew looked like fat diamonds on the flowers in my yard as we were leaving the house at 7:30.

Terrific event though with 184 walkers from Weight Watchers hoofing it for a healthier life.

Lots of positive energy out there, and this thumbs-up says it all.

By the way, if you haven't been to the county's recreation complex at G.T. Bray in awhile, there is a forest of oaks that is truly magnificent.

For the full story, see Monday's Herald.

For more photos, visit:



Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Vitale made it a lucky Friday the 13th for Imagine School

Dick Vitale at Imagine School. (photo provided)
 Friday the 13th failed to keep ESPN sportscaster Dick Vitale from venturing away from home.

Vitale was one of several community members visiting Imagine School, 10535 Portal Crossing, Lakewood Ranch, for Career Day.

 It's doubtful students have ever heard such enthusiastic and encouraging words, delivered as only Vitale can.

He urged them to chase their dreams and to never believe in the word, “can’t”.

Other presenters on Career Day included police officers, firefighters, a guidance counselor, a professional photographer, and a banker.

For more information on Vitale’s visit to Imagine School at Lakewood Ranch, visit his website:


For more information on Imagine School at Lakewood Ranch visit  http://www.imagineschoolslakewoodranch.com/.

Big losers at Braden River Elementary

 August 2010 (from left): Genny Knopf, Lisa Camuto and Kathy Keebler. Provided photo
May 2011 (from left): Kathy Keebler, Lisa Camuto, and Genny Knopf. Provided photo
Three co-workers at Braden River Elementary School are vying to be selected for a future marketing campaign by Medi Weight Loss.
"Even if we don't get selected, we are very proud of our results," said school receptionist Kathy Keebler.

The pride is justified. The trio lost a combined 146 pounds.
In July, Lisa Camuto, school secretary/bookkeeper,  began the Medi program at a weight of 202 pounds. She lost 60 pounds, exceeding her goal with a weight of 142.

A month later, Genny Knopf, school registrar, began the program at a weight of 196 pounds. Genny  lost 50.8 pounds, meeting  her first goal with a  weight of 145 pounds.

In September, Kathy Keebler began with a weight of 178 pounds, and lost 27 pounds. She is still working to meet her goal of 138 pounds. 

The dramatic changes -- take a look at the before and after photos -- have worked wonders for health, body image and lifestyle.

"The School Board of Manatee County also has played, and continues to play, an important role in our success due to its focus on wellness, preventive care, and healthy living," Keebler said.

Awesome achievement. Congratulations ladies!


Monday, May 16, 2011

Buchanan to lead small biz town hall at Ranch

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, will lead a town hall meeting from noon – 1 p.m. Friday at the 2011 Small Business Growth Conference at the State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota Small Business Development Center, 7131 Professional Pkwy. E., Lakewood Ranch.

The town hall meeting, a highlight of National Small Business Week, is an opportunity for small business owners to discuss issues impacting their businesses, is part of a free one-day conference from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. hosted by SCF.

The conference features seminars that address important topics for today’s small business owners, including “Certifications for Growth,” “Growing Globally,” “Growing Through Traditional and New Media Marketing Strategies,” and “Financing Growth.”

Speakers include certified business analysts Maria Yepes, Bill McKown, Jim Parrish, Marty Zients, Art Mahoney, Dave Noel, and Wayne Brass.

For information or to register, visit scf.edu/SBDC or call (941) 408-1412.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Don't you love Florida? Gators, love bugs, rain and all

Big rain on S.R. 70 at Lakewood Ranch Boulevard last week.
Who knows why a gator crosses the road?
Lovebug count diminishing?
Love bug season may be waning. Here's my collection from a round trip to Duette this morning.

Add to that a round trip to Myakka this afternoon, and there were enough bugs to warrant a good scrubbing as soon as we hit the driveway.

Take a look through my bug-smeared windshield and there's a little alligator I spotted crossing the road on State Road 64 near Myakka Head.

Remember that big rainfall last week? That proved to be lovebug antidote for exactly an afternoon.

For more on love bugs, see our recent story:



Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Monty Python and the state Envirothon, too

Manatee High School Envirothon "Team Who Says Ni" with their recognition medals for performance in the forestry section (from left)  Nic Algozzine, Matthew Sanchez, Patrick Facheris, Kristopher Green, Heather Parker, and Advisor Pat Zalo. ( Photo by  Dawn Miller-Walker)
Manatee High School’s "Team Who Says Ni,"  a name apparently chosen as a tribute to the comedy film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, recently returned from the State Envirothon held at Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Martin County.

The team placed sixth overall among 20 teams.

The Manatee High School team scored well in forestry section, aquatics, the current topic and wildlife categories.

The State Envirothon is an outdoor environmental team competition for high school students, testing their knowledge of aquatics, forestry, soils, wildlife.

This year’s current topic focused on fresh and saltwater estuaries.

A team from Jupiter High School won the overall competition and will represent Florida in the Canon National Envirothon to be held in New Brunswick, Canada.

Oh, and the Monty Python reference?

"The Knights Who Say Ni" are cult favorite for the fearsome manner in which they say  the word "ni."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Ranch faculty advisor inspires students to 'Leave a Legacy' with blood donations

Since 2007, Coach Dave Moates, the Lakewood Ranch High School faculty advisor and a 75-gallon blood and platelet donor, has challenged the senior class to “Leave A Legacy” for the underclassman.

Specifically, to surpass the donations given by the previous seniors at their final blood drive in service to their community.

Donations have steadily grown from 61 in 2007 to 147 in 2011 with a goal of 175.

Lakewood Ranch High School will host its final blood drive of the school year with Florida Blood Services 8 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

The high school is located at 5500 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., just north of State Road 70.

Friends and family members of Lakewood Ranch High School students are invited to attend and join in this lifesaving blood drive.

Grilled hot dogs, snacks and beverages will be served. In addition, all donors will receive a T-shirt and wellness check up of blood pressure, pulse, temperature and iron count, plus a cholesterol screening.

Generally, healthy people, age 16 (with parental permission) or older, who weigh at least 110 pounds can be blood donors. Specific eligibility questions can be asked by calling 1-800-68 BLOOD (25663).

Blood donations from this “Leave A Legacy” campaign will help save the lives of patients receiving blood at Blake Medical Center, as well as local veterans who go to Bay Pines V.A. Healthcare System, ill newborns of Manatee county parents who are cared for at All Children’s Hospital, Lakewood Ranch residents and others receiving treatment at Tampa General Hospital’s emergency rooms, burn center and organ transplant ward, as well as Manatee county citizens fighting their battle against cancer at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Well, hello again, Julianna Ballard

Julianna in 2002
Julianna Ballard (left) with Lisa Hertensen and Deelayna Scarbrough. (Photo Jim Jones)
My, how time flies.

I was reminded of that at the Manatee County Commission workshop in Myakka City Thursday night. One of the ladies behind the serving line (the hospitable Myakkans fed the residents and commissioners who turned out), Deelayna Scarbrough, stopped me as I squeezed through the crowd and thanked me for an article I wrote years ago.

It was 2002, and her daughter, Julianna Ballard, was a broken-hearted little girl who had lost the pig she planned to sell at the Manatee County Fair. Back then Julianna was a Bashaw Elementary School student.

There have been hundreds, maybe thousands of stories written since then, but I still remembered the story, if not Julianna's name.

Not that I would have recognized her. She's now a Braden River High School student.

See the then and now photos yourself. And if you want to revisit the original article, here's a link:



Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Spending, jobs, the economy, and Bin Laden

Vern Buchanan (Herald file photo)
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, announced today that he will hold a town hall meeting on spending, jobs, and the economy in Lakewood Ranch Saturday.

Although it's not among the topics listed for discussion, can't imagine that the news of the week -- or maybe the year -- Osama Bin Laden's death doesn't come up.

“Jobs and the economy are the most important issues,” said Buchanan in a press release. “Congress needs to rein in spending and put Americans back to work. I want to listen to the people and get their feedback, ideas and suggestions.”
The town hall meeting will be held at 11 a.m. at State College of Florida, 7131 Professional Pkwy. E., Lakewood Ranch. Doors open at 10 a.m.

If you haven't been to the SCF Lakewood Ranch campus, take University Parkway east to Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and go south to Professional Parkway. The campus is located at the intersection of Professional Parkway and Communications Parkway.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Soccer parents, get your kids out to tryouts!

The United States Soccer Federation Development Academy tryouts are set for Wednesday, May 4, at  the Premier Sports Campus of Lakewood Ranch.

Tryouts are for two teams — an under 18 (for teens born 1993-1994) and an under 16 team (for players born 1995-1996) –  are set for 6 - 8:30 p.m.

“This is the highest level of youth soccer in America,” Tim Mulqueen, Lakewood Ranch’s director of sports, said in a press release. “They will be looking for 22-24 players for each of the two teams tomorrow night and we expect players from all over the state to show up. The tryouts are open to the public.”

“Being a part of the U.S. Soccer Academy means you are one step away to being on the national team,” said Rob O’Nan, president of the Clearwater Chargers.

Tryouts for the club's competitive teams are set for May 31-June 6 for ages 4-19, and sign-up for the recreational league will begin in August.

The Clearwater Chargers are also looking for an administrative staff, coaches and assistant coaches for their Premier Sports Campus program. For more information, visit www.chargerdevelopmentacademy.com or www.clearwaterchargers.com

For club information e-mail chargerssoccerinfo@gmail.com.