Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bust that stress, and check out a few others things, too

They will check your feet, your veins, your spine and more at the Lakewood Ranch Activities Health and Wellness Expo.

The expo, which has been around as long as Lakewood Ranch Medical Center — seven years — returns 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. Saturday.

It’s always a magnet for folks wanting the tips on health and fitness, free screenings, freebies in general, and a dab or two of advice.

About 50 tables will be staffed by local healthcare and fitness providers in the main lobby of the hospital and admission is free of charge, said Lori Basilone, community activities manager.

For the first time, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office will be taking part to accept expired or unneeded prescription medication — pills or tablets only.

In addition, at the next table the pharmacy school from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine will offer advice on how to properly dispose of pharmaceuticals, Basilone said.

Expo attendees might also want to take the opportunity to get a stress-busting massage, have their blood pressure checked, or get a flu shot.

For more, see Thursday's Lakewood Ranch Herald.

Because they are so darn cute . . .

Second graders Zoe Polivchak (left) and Haley Dragon. (provided photo)
Preschoolers Jordon Hutson (left) and Drew Franks. (provided photo)

Here are photos from the recent Braden River Elementary School sock hop which rewarded good citizenship.

They made us smile, and we thought they might brighten your day, too.

Pre-k student  Alyssa Youssef. (provided photo)
Third graders Samantha Pondillo (front) and (back) Krystal Troha and Kyla Swales. Provided photo)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Super Bowl champion Ryan Nece plans Ranch appearance

Ryan Nece (56) during his playing days with the Tampa Bay Bucs. (Herald file photo)
The Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance will be hosting Ryan Nece, member of the Super bowl XXXVII champion Tampa Bay Bucs, at their Breakfast of Champion Series 7:30-9 a.m. Oct. 12 at the Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club.

Nece was a four-year starter on defense and  special teams contributor as well. 

Nece founded the Ryan Nece Foundation and has helped to develop foundation programs that strive to promote volunteerism, health and wellness and character development among young people.

The cost of this breakfast event is $20 for members, $30 for non-members. Networking is set for 7:30-8 a.m. prior to the program.

Register at or contact Amanda Vercheski at 941-757-1671.

For more about Ryan Nece, check out his website:


Pittsburgh Pirates step up to bat for Payton Wright

Payton Wright at age 4.
The Pittsburgh Pirates will host a “Make a Difference” Celebrity/Corporate Softball Challenge and Family Fun Day on Nov. 19 at PirateCity, 1701 27th Street E., Bradenton.

The all-day event will raise funds and support for The Payton Wright Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting pediatric brain cancer. All local companies are invited to participate, with corporate sponsorships ranging from $2,000 to $3,000 for a team of 12 to 15 players.

The 18-team, round-robin softball tournament will include celebrities and baseball ringers who will be announced at a later date and will be assigned to play with each of the teams.

Families can get involved and support this cause by attending the softball tournament and participating in Family Fun Day activities for $25 per adult, free for kids 12 and under.

Family Fun Day passes include food and beverages, face painting, a Pirates fun house and fast pitch, Mixon Fruit Farm’s hitting inflatable and the opportunity to get autographs of Pittsburgh Pirates players. The Family Fun Day takes place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with softball games starting at 8:30 a.m.

Companies can name their team and design their own baseball jersey. The Pirates will provide hats for each team, along with gift bags and free food and beverage passes for each player. Sign up your team at, or contact Holly Wright at or 941-228-4886.

The Payton Wright Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 2008 by Patrick and Holly Wright in memory of their daughter, Payton, who passed away at the age of 5 from brain cancer.

Headquartered in Lakewood Ranch,  The Payton Wright Foundation is committed to raising awareness and funds for pediatric brain cancer research, helping families who have a child with brain cancer, and supporting organizations tied to cancer research and care. For more information, visit

Monday, September 26, 2011

New to Lakewood Ranch?

An orientation for new residents of Lakewood Ranch is set for 4-6 p.m. Oct. 12 at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall.

The informational program is designed to educate residents regarding the roles and responsibilities of Lakewood Ranch Town Hall to include the Inter-District Authority, the community development districts, and the homeowners’ associations. Residents will learn about their local governmental structure and how each of these agencies work together.

Attendance is open to any Lakewood Ranch resident interested in the program but seating is limited. RSVP by 5 p.m.  Oct. 5 to Kay DePaolo at (941) 907-0202 or via e-mail at

Friday, September 23, 2011

Any damage out your way?

Large trees were felled by high winds at Christian Retreat today. (Herald photo by Jim Jones)

High winds hit Christian Retreat about 5:05 p.m. Thursday, knocking down numerous trees, including one that fell on a mobile home.

The wind also ripped off a roof awning over a second-story patio space at the Christian Retreat hotel.

Volunteers were at work this morning with chainsaws cleaning up the debris at Christian Retreat, 1200 Glory Way Blvd., off Upper Manatee River Road.

Pastor Phil Derstine said there were no injuries.

Several persons saw what they believed to be a tornado approaching from over the Manatee River and watched it pick up lawn chairs in front of the hotel, Derstine said.

"They saw them go twirling up into the air, and decided they need to get away from the plate glass window where they were standing," he said.

Call us if you saw any damage from high winds out your way at (941) 745-7021.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

'Super' news from East Manatee

Just in case you missed them, there's 'super' news at and in the Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch Herald.

No. 1, a super-sized church in Branson, Mo., has bought up $6.2 million worth of property in Lakewood Ranch.

Here's the link:


No. 2, there's a Walmart supercenter coming to East Manatee with a 2012 opening. It's expected to add 300 jobs. The link:


Monday, September 19, 2011

Air Force Association members gather at Lakewood Ranch

Three generations of Air Force experience gathered to celebrate the Air Force's 64th Anniversary: (left to right) retired Senior Master Sgt. Hal Millett, who was a ball turret gunner in B-17s during WW II, retired Col. Mike Richardson, a Vietnam-era weapons system officer in the B-57G and OV-10A, and Col. Dave Pavey, a veteran of the Iraqi campaign who flys KC-135s as the commander of the 927th Air Refueling Wing at MacDill AFB. (provided photo)
Mike Richardson reports that the Air Force Association met at Lakewood Ranch on Sunday at the Polo Grill and Bar to celebrate the 64th anniversary of the United States Air Force. 

It was the initial gathering of members of a proposed Sarasota – Manatee chapter of the Air Force Association. 

 “The Air Force Association has over 330 members in the two-county area.  Today’s event was our first attempt to bring them together to organize a local chapter and the turnout was more than I had hoped,”  Richardson said in a press release.

Col. David Pavey, commander of the 927 Air Refueling Wing – a unit of the Air Force Reserve at MacDill Air Force Base -- dropped in to the meeting after completing his unit’s training weekend to show his support for the start up chapter. 

In response to a request from the group, he discussed the mission of his organization, the increasingly important role the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard play in Air Force operations and emphasized how local support from groups like the AFA is critical to the Air Force. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Position opening on Ranch supervisors board

LAKEWOOD RANCH – Résumés are now being accepted from interested residents who live in Country Club or Edgewater villages for a vacancy on Lakewood Ranch Community Development District 2 Board of Supervisors.

The position is coming open with the resignation Thursday of long-time district supervisor Don O’Leary. O’Leary is leaving the post to accept an appointment as fire commissioner for East Manatee Fire Rescue District.

O’Leary’s resignation becomes effective Oct. 1.

All résumés will become public record. Candidates must be a resident of District 2. If selected to serve as a member of the District 2 Board of Supervisors, the successful candidate will be obligated to follow applicable laws regarding Government-in-the-Sunshine, Code of Ethics for Public Officers, and Public Records disclosure.

The deadline for submitting a résumé for this vacancy is 5 p.m., Oct. 12. Résumés may be mailed or hand delivered to Lakewood Ranch Town Hall, Attn.: Eva M. Rey, executive director, 8175 Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, Lakewood Ranch, FL 34202.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A new job for 'unofficial mayor of Lakewood Ranch

Don O'Leary is also known for his support for seniors and feeding the hungry. (Herald file photo)
 Toward the end of Thursday’s Community Development District 2 meeting, Don O’Leary,  handed chairman Bob Stepleman a letter in a white envelope and announced he will resign from his position as a district supervisor.

O’Leary, often called the “unofficial mayor of Lakewood Ranch, is a long-time supervisor for the district serving  Country Club-Edgewater. His last day in that capacity will be Oct. 1.

He is trading that job for one as commissioner for the East Manatee Fire Rescue District later this month.
“I was appointed Monday night,” O’Leary said. “It’s a good move for me. I wanted this position and it’s time for change.”

O’Leary said that new faces on the community development district will be beneficial. 

“It’s time for new faces and changes,” he said. “I’ve been on the CDD board for eight years.”

O’Leary is filling the position of Glenn Davis who died in August at 63 after a long illness at Blake Medical Center.

For more, see Friday's Lakewood Ranch Herald.

-- Paradise Afshar

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A river runs through it

The Braden River. (Herald file photo)

East Manatee residents are particular about their rivers. The Manatee River, Braden River and the Myakka River make this river country, for sure.

The Old Braden River Historical Society has a day planned to cleanup the Braden River, a meandering waterway that shares its names with schools, churches and more, 9 a.m. - noon Sept. 24.

Registration will be at 8:30 a.m. at Linger Lodge. Boats will launch from Linger Lodge to clean the upper river and then return to Linger Lodge for lunch.

In past years, the launch site was nearby Jiggs Landing.

Participants are invited to bring their own kayak or canoe. There are a few available for loan.

Information: Bill Halstead at (941) 920-0884. More information:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Nathan Carr honored as Ranch Rotarian of the year

Nathan Carr (provided photo)
This past year, Nathan Carr spearheaded the Lakewood Ranch Rotary Club's playground project at Manatee Glens, delivered full food barrels to the Food Bank of Manatee in August, and  volunteered to use his truck to pull the Rotary float in the Memorial Day Parade. 
For all that, he was recently named the club's Rotarian of the Year.
He is a project manager for Willis A. Smith Construction, Inc.
The award  was presented by the club’s immediate past chair, Toni Milholland.

“Nathan is an outstanding young man. He is an excellent director, who is supportive and goes beyond what is expected. The most wonderful part about Nathan is that he always does whatever is needed with a smile,” said Milholland in a press release.
Carr is in his third year as a Rotarian.

Lakewood Ranch districts seek to have lawsuit tossed

Supervisors at Lakewood Ranch are continuing to deal with the fallout of a lawsuit alleging a Sunshine Law violation that threw a monkey wrench into the bid process for a landscape maintenance contract.

Last month, supervisors agreed to throw out all the bids for a three-year contract and start over after Garden Leaders, the company that currently has the contract, filed the lawsuit.

The Garden Leaders’ complaint revolves around Town Hall staff members who ranked bids prior to presentation to supervisors.

Tuesday, during an agenda workshop meeting at Town Hall, Inter-District Authority attorney Scott Rudacille advised that a motion has been filed to dismiss the Garden Leaders lawsuit.

He offered no forecast on when a ruling might be forthcoming on the motion.

For more, see Wednesday's Lakewood Ranch Herald.

For previous coverage, see:


Monday, September 12, 2011

4 sports, one big old field of green

LAKEWOOD RANCH — The Premier Sports Campus will be hosting soccer, rugby, Frisbee and football this weekend.

The U.S. National U17 boys soccer team will play two exhibition games against the Clearwater Chargers on Saturday.

 “These are the best young soccer players in America,” said Tim Mulqueen, Lakewood Ranch’s director of sports, in a press release from Schroeder-Manatee Ranch.

There are about 40 players on the U.S. National team, from all over the country. They will split up to play two games — one at 10 a.m. on Saturday against the Clearwater Chargers U16 team and one at noon on Saturday against the Chargers U18 team.  These games are free and open to the public.

Three other sports will take place simultaneously this weekend.  A rugby 10’s tournament will start on Saturday and continue on Sunday. This world cup rugby event, hosted by the Sarasota Saracens rugby team, will bring in 20-30 elite rugby teams from around the state to compete and will run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days.

The Ultimate Frisbee world championships will also take place Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and the YMCA football league will be playing regular league games all weekend as well.

The last major event at the campus was the Labor Day soccer tournament, which brought in approximately 19,000 amateur athletes and fans, generating more than $8 million in economic impact to the region.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Growing up after 9/11

Herald reporter Paradise Afshar
People always talk about the big moments from their childhood that made them feel like an adult.

For me, that happened when I was in the eighth grade in Weston, Fla., during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. I was only 12 years old, and  looking back that was the day that made me grow up quickly.

Being of Iranian descent, I had to quickly become an expert on the Middle East to answer all the questions I was getting from other students following the attacks. I had to know about Islam and its teachings, when I was still learning myself.

I remember I was asked everything from "why did this happen?" as if I knew, to "do you think they will send you to an interment camp?"

I never realized  how much the event impacted my life until today. I was reporting on a  luncheon for first responders at R. Dan Nolan Middle School in Lakewood Ranch and it hit me, a decade ago I was about the same age and grade as these students.

Nolan history teacher Diane Blevins-Vestrand told me that back in 2001 she had her eighth-graders write down their emotions in a journal entry. She was nice enough to invite me to her classroom to look at the letters.

As I read them, all the emotions I experienced then came pouring back. The journal entries expressed every ounce of  fear, anger and confusion students felt  when they first heard of the attacks.

"All that was going through my mind was 'oh my gosh we're going to die," said one student in her entry. She went on to write how she wanted justice for the victims.Yet, you could sense her feeling of helplessness. She wanted results, she wanted an end to terrorism, something we all want today.

When class started, Blevins-Vestrand read that entry to her eighth-graders, and began to explain to them what happened on 9/11. Since I covered another 9/11 event this week, I recounted to them the story of a man who was in a stairwell on the 10th floor of the South Tower when it was struck. I explained how in the chaos a maintenance worker held the door open for him and others as they walked out of the building, an example of  the unity people felt that day.

Blevins-Vestrand and I also explained how great the firefighters, law enforcement officers and even the journalists were that day, going about their business to save lives and to capture the moment.

The students were asked to write down their emotions on the 10th anniversary of the attacks. I have no idea what they wrote or how the day hit them, but I hope whatever they wrote will be filled with less fear and uncertainty than the entries Blevins-Vestrand's students or I would have written a decade ago.

-- Paradise Afshar