The Local: Winter Garden — August 2023

Page 42


Entrepreneur Bisser Georgiev’s growing empire

Danykqua Faulk builds her family a bright future

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C⚫ ntents

cultivates a family legacy; recovery; the Power of the 16 Tails to Tell Annabelle the foal is a horse of a di erent color 36 Oh, Well! A mother daughter duo dive into the deep end to face their fears. 42 Eats + Drinks Hash House A Go Go goes big and goes home 50 Rhetoric An open letter to houseplants
Home Made How local volunteers helped Danykqua Faulk build bigger and better dreams HEATHER ANNE LEE 18 Personal Growth Bisser Georgiev’s passions bloom into a business empire HEATHER LUXEMBURG 26 ON THE COVER Owner and CEO of LiveTrends, Bisser Georgiev, found success on the road less traveled.
August 26, 2023
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The Lo’Down


In music,

ourishes are extra notes; notes that are not essential or necessary to the musical piece, but give it a little extra something, something beautiful.

This is also true of rhetorical ourishes—clever, colorful, sometimes comedic turns of phrase that are unnecessary, but improve the appeal of a story or lecture or conversation.

A plant that is healthy and blooming can be said to “ ourish,” and a business that is booming and raking in record pro t is “ ourishing.”

But what does it mean for a human being to ourish? The truth is, most of us nd this to be harder than it looks.I grew up pretty certain I knew what it took to be happy. A good job. People to love. I mean, that’s what Sigmund Freud said, “Work and love, love and work—that’s all there is.”

So you can imagine my surprise when I scored the job of my dreams, surrounded by family and friends I adored, and awash in the beauty of new love, only to realize that I was barely functioning, never mind ourishing. Instead, I’ve started to sense a direct connection between an overwhelmed schedule and an underwhelmed soul, tethered by other people’s wants, needs, and demands of my time, talent, and treasure. This issue, themed around the idea of ourishing, has motivated me to rediscover my own sense of wonder and ful llment and to make the changes necessary to live those values every day. Of course, it helps to be surrounded by so many stories of success right here in Winter Garden. Bisser Georgiev is certainly an inspiration, a man whose life and business are wrapped around the idea of ourishing, literally and guratively. And what’s not to love about Danykqua Faulk’s story, a single mom whose path to ourishing,spackled with heartache, health issues, and hard work, has bloomed into a beautiful new life (and home!) built on a foundation of faith and community.

Friends, I want you to ourish. More than anything. We’re so blessed to live in a community where ourishing is encouraged at every turn, whether that’s the beauty of a renewed Lake Apopka, a Healthy West Orange, a One Winter Garden, a thriving Saturday market, or a bustling downtown corridor. A bigger, better, more ourishing life is in nitely possible.Won’t you join me in


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Dr. Kim Dawson

Healthcare entrepreneur and owner of Pearle Vision in Ocoee and Hamlin. Kim has been passionate about health and wellness for over 20 years. She received her doctorate in Health Science at MUSC in South Carolina. Kim has lived in Winter Garden for 10 years and is inspired daily by her two children, Symone and Desiree. In her free time, Kim likes to cook, travel, and read novels.

Founder of Beacon Mortgage, setting the highest standards in the industry by putting people first. Prior to the mortgage industry Ralph played a key role in the startup of several businesses. Originally from Emerson, NJ, Ralph attended USF in Tampa and now resides in Winter Garden with his wife of 17 years, Sandi, and their two daughters Daniella and Avery. .

Bradford Owner of Winter Garden Senior Home Care. Becca is a second-generation Winter Garden resident, and her local roots run deep. She is the true embodiment of joy, and loves living the “bubble life,” where her golf cart is her primary mode of transportation. She has dedicated her life to tending to the special needs of our local senior adults.

Pam Thomas

Owner of Pammie’s Sammies, a “thoughtfully sourced, tastefully adventurous” restaurant in the heart of downtown. She is a passionate foodie with a degree in Wine, Spirits, and Beverage Management at the International Culinary School in Tampa. Pam is a staple of the Central Florida community, having operated in Universal Orlando, Dr. Phillips, and now Winter Garden.

Mark Schmidt

Mark has been a resident of Central Florida for 34 years. He spent over 30 years in the Radio and Television industry and currently works for Boyer Building Corp. as the New Business Development Manager. Interests include cheering on the Bu alo Bills, golf and enjoying the next great glass of wine. He is married to his wife, Gina, and has a “Morkie” named Finley!

August 2023 Vol. 2 No. 10


Jamie Ezra Mark Publisher 352-425-6400

Nicole Spooner Account Executive 407-595-4793


Heather Anne Lee Editor

Rheya Tanner Art Director

Josh Clark Designer

Wendy Mak Designer

Andrew Ontko Designer

Evan Miklosey Web

Fred Lopez Chief Photographer

Heather Luxemburg Writer

Mark McWaters Writer

Angie Layfield

Iliana Ramos

Tracey is a community advocate helping individuals, families and small business owners gain access to a ordable legal coverage with LegalShield, as well as help protect against identity theft through IDShield. She has been a resident of Horizon West since 2007 with her beautiful teenage girls, Averie and Bryce. Cofounder of Horizon West Professionals and founding member of the Rotary Club of Horizon West, Tracey believes lasting relationships start with community.

Local agent with State Farm Insurance. Bryan is a Central Florida native, Founding President of the Rotary Club of Horizon West, Horizon West Who’s Who Award Winner, and Team Captain for All-Pro Dad. He is married to his beautiful wife Angie and they have two wonderful children. Bryan is highly invested in making Horizon West the best place to work, live, and play.


Executive Director at Westminister, a senior living and memory care community in Winter Park. Angie has been in the senior housing industry for over 20 years and brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and insight to local seniors and their families. Though originally from Maryland, she has called Horizon West home since 2016. Angie and her family reside in Village F’s Watermark.

Jones Family, faith, and passion are the three major pillars of Iliana’s life. She and her brothers own Empire Finish Systems, of which she is the active CFO. A retired marathon runner, she has transitioned to the more tranquil pastime of acquiring house plants. When not working, she loves spending time with her amazing husband, Charlie, discovering new food, traveling and quiet evenings on Lake Apopka..

Kirsten Harrington

Kirsten is a freelance magazine writer who just returned to Winter Garden after two years of living in China. She loves to travel and explore new places, especially where food is concerned. You can often find her out on the bike trail, in the kitchen with her family, or checking out the local food scene and sharing her finds on Instagram, @ wintergardenfoodie.

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Super Blooms

When O.F. Nelson started tilling the soil in 1955, little did he know he was planting a four-generation rose-colored legacy.

Nestled in the heart of Winter Garden lies Nelson’s Florida Roses, where the love for plants has been blossoming since 1955. This enduring legacy was cultivated by O.F. Nelson and his sons, B.P. and Earl Nelson.

Today, the thriving nursery is carried forward by the fourth generation of Nelsons—Anne and Clay Nelson—and long-time employee-turned-co-owner Ramon Diaz. Together, this dynamic team tackles the daily operations, overseeing everything from shipping and o ce management to the delicate art of plant care.

Although the trio has a deep-rooted love for the

nursery, none of them envisioned that they would one day own the company. Anne made her return in 2014 after pursuing a career in photography. “I came into the nursery thinking I would help my parents out a little, which quickly turned into becoming full-time to help my mom step back a little bit in the o ce,” she says.

Clay, too, found his way back to the farm after brie y pursuing other careers. “It was surreal to become an owner—I grew up here. When I got in trouble as a kid, I pulled weeds. I’ve always loved it, but it wasn’t what I saw for my future until I started working in it,” Clay says.

Since he joined the Nelsons at the age of 14, Ramon has been honing his craft in the green world. He quickly earned the trust and mentorship of Mark Nelson, Anne and Clay’s father, and in 2023 was moved from manager to co-owner. “Working for Mr. Nelson was a joy in itself—he was a person to look up to. He always took care of his family rst, no matter what,” Ramon says.

As anyone who aspires to rose garden bliss knows, building a Florida-hearty rose is a feat unto itself. “My dad and grandpa tested di erent rootstocks, and Fortuniana just surpassed all the other ones,” Anne

Dennis On The Mend

Five fractures to the hip, ribs, and collarbone and one surgery kept our favorite local cyclist, Dennis Jones, at Orlando Health Orlando Regional Medical Center for a few days in June. But if you know Dennis, you know you can’t keep a good man down. All considered, he’s feeling pretty good, and continues to heal. “I’ll be back soon!” he promises. Meanwhile, swing by your favorite Wheelworks location, or visit his Facebook page, and leave him your best get well soon wishes.

explains. “In Florida, we have nematodes, which basically get into the roots and suck the sugars out and it’ll kill your plants. And they love roses, but they don’t like Fortuniana. It’s nematode resistant, it’s heat tolerant—the roses will bloom all year round.”

Of course, running a nursery presents its own unique challenges. From dealing with diseases and pests to maintaining the perfect plant conditions and meeting shipment deadlines, it’s de nitely not a walk in the park. But as Ramon would say, the rewards of their hard work are so worth it. When customers express their satisfaction and appreciation for the nursery’s products, it’s like a little slice of heaven. “When you see a customer happy when they’re smelling the rose, I mean, that’s when it pays o . That’s when you know it’s worth doing.”

AUGUST 2023 11

A Paws Cause

Cats aren’t often known for their love of walks— especially on a leash. But then again, not all cats are Andrew The Fearless. This spectacular bespectacled puss is Winter Garden’s uno icial cat ambassador, bringing smiles of delight everywhere he sashays downtown. But now, he needs our help. Diagnosed with non-identified abdominal cancer, Andrew spends his glory days undergoing tests and treatments, racking up a human-sized healthcare bill along the way. Care to help? Visit @andrewthefearless on Instagram! Get well soon, Andrew!

Nautical Pallet

This arty duo has found their niche.

Shannon and Lisa Arnold, the creative minds behind Nautical Pallet, have mastered the art of repurposing discarded pallets into stunning works of art. With their rustic designs and a deep love for the ocean, they have captured the hearts of many market-goers with their unique creations. Shannon and Lisa’s venture began with a simple desire to have artwork above their TV on the patio. Breaking apart discarded wooden pallets, Shannon stenciled the shape of a shark. After quickly gaining encouragement on social media, the Arnolds decided to further the endeavor into a small business.

By repurposing materials from various sources, such as Lowe’s, their workplaces, and other businesses, they make the most of every piece, often getting two artworks from a single pallet. Through various trials and errors, the couple discovered their distinctive style: rustic designs with a nautical touch. “My dad owned a boat business growing up, so that’s our bread and butter, the nautical stu ,” Shannon says. Although their main focus re-

volves around ocean-themed artwork, they also create pieces featuring sports teams and other custom requests. Their versatility and dedication to delivering personalized pieces have earned them a reputation as skilled artisans. Shannon says, “It’s a unique look, and people are drawn to that.”

With Shannon’s passion, and with Lisa’s artistic touch, they are a formidable team. Their daughter, a talented painter herself, contributed to many of their creations. Now, Shannon and Lisa’s son helps with priming the wood, completing the family a air. To maximize e ciency, they developed a system where Shannon cuts multiple pieces at once, while Lisa paints them at her own pace, nding solace and joy in the creative process.

Nautical Pallet has been bringing people together, with their art serving as a conversation starter and a source of joy. Lisa agrees, “We love to give this joy to others. When we create something for our own intrinsic motivation, it just isn’t as ful lling. Art brings people together.”

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Times…they are a changin’. Our dear friend Tanja Gerhartz, Economic Development Director for the City of Winter Garden, has announced her retirement after serving in that positon for more than 13 years. Her steady voice and leadership will sorely be missed. Lately, we’ve been hitting play on not one, but two fantastic podcasts.

MissLabeled, a podcast for women about women by Jessica Villegas

Shweta Patel. That Rock ( by Brant Menswar and compelling thoughts shared with a rockstar guest that have changed the course of people’s lives. Tune in and you may just hear our fearless editor on a future episode. Shout out to our Local month! Inspired by the Ice Bucket Challenge, O’Neill and The Hangry Bison raise critical funds for ALS. Last, but not least, food!! Rumor has it that Texas powerhouse cos (@torchystacos)

Village in 2024. Fingers crossed! Also slated next year is Brooklyn Water Bagel lynwaterbagel_). Meanwhile, in things to do now, Chick’nCone

Hamlin #socluckinggood as did Biscuit Company

Biscuits and brunch anyone?

WG Water Tower

If you’ve ever visited downtown Winter Garden, chances are you’ve seen the grand 80-foot-high water tower that rises over the city. But Winter Garden did not even see “city” water until 1912, when its very first wooden water tank was built—a structure that would come to symbolize the city’s evolving needs and aspirations. The first tower stood tall for eight years until it was rebuilt by the Chicago Bridge and Iron Works in 1920. Fun fact: the siren for the Fire Department was located atop the water tower, ensuring swift response in case of



sta only rendered that much more love, guidance, and support to see me through. If not for Sara and the wonderful sta at HOH, I would’ve died before the age of 18.

“Upon completing the HOH program, I graduated high school with high honors. After graduation, I joined the United States Air Force and proudly served my country. I enrolled at the University of South Florida and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a double major in psychology and criminology.

“HOH’s foundation has been built on integrity and love for others, and they’ve been instrumental in my journey of life.” GET




Tails to Tell

The Mane Event

Annabelle the “Warmblood” Foal, 2 months

Hay there! I’m Annabelle, but Mom calls me her “miracle filly.” Life threw me a wild twist when I su ered a brain injury as a wee one. I couldn’t walk straight, my vision dimmed, and I was in a topsy-turvy world. Mom told me not to have a long face, and that I would get better soon, even though the doctors disagreed. And guess what? She was right! I defied the odds,

and now I’m totally stable—not one whinny out of me! I’ve reclaimed my rightful place as the princess of the farm, and it feels fantastic! There’s nothing quite like the freedom of galloping through the lush fields, my hooves dancing across the earth. I prance around, playing with the big horses, and between you and me, I have way more horsepower than

them. They can’t keep up with me! Oh, and when I want attention, I’ll run circles around you. Life’s a joyful ride, and I’m savoring every moment. So, let’s embrace the adventure and make every hoofbeat count!

Does your pet have a tail to tell?


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Family First: Danykqua Faulk at home with her daughters, Ailani (6) and Journei (4).

Home made

It took Danykqua Faulk nine months to build her home with Habitat for Humanity, but what she discovered along the way was priceless.


AUGUST 2023 19

Since its founding in 1976, Habitat for Humanity has helped 46 million people achieve strength, stability and independence through safe, decent and a ordable shelter.That dream of homeownership became reality for Danykqua Faulk and her two daughters, setting the stage for a ourishing new life. This is her experience.

electrical issues, plumbing issues, and mold.”

It took nearly nine months of perseverance, perspiration, and patience,but watching the house take shape was worth every moment. “Words can’t describe that feeling...

Danykqua Faulk and her two daughters are still unpacking boxes in the new home they moved into in April. Taking it slow is a purposeful decision, allowing Danykqua to savor the process. “It’s going to take time,”she says. “But I’m not rushing it by any means. I want to enjoy every minute.”

As well she should, for achieving this dream of home ownership has been a lifetime in the making. When she originally moved to the Orlando area in 2012, Danykqua was living in Pine Hills. The single mom had her fair share of challenges, navigating health issues with both of her pregnancies and kidney failure, which led to a kidney transplant in 2020.

But with the new kidney came a renewed determination to thrive in all areas of her life. She applied for a community administrative assistant position through Orange County and was placed at the Maxey Community Center. Yet what she found in Winter Garden was so much more

than a job; it was a sense of home. “I love this community, and I’m going to raise my girls here. It’s been such a blessing,” she says .

She signed her partnership agreement with West Orange Habitat for Humanity in July 2022 and nally closed on her house in April 2023. As a second-generation Habitat for Humanity homeowner, Danykqua knew rsthand the hard work and dedication it took to achieve home ownership by watching her mom go through the process in South Florida.

While she was familiar with the process and came into the program exceeding the minimum requirements, she says she didn’t know much about the closing process and that there still were some shortages or delays with supplies and building materials. “I just had to be patient and wait!” she says. “I had to persevere, not give up or get discouraged, even though my previous living space was continuing to deteriorate with

There are so many emotions packed into the process. I still get overwhelmed when I think about it,” she says Challenges and delays aside, Danykqua spent every day on site alongside a team of more than 300 West Orange Habitat volunteers, helping build her home. “People I never knew put their love into building my home. It’s so humbling,” says Danykqua. Each day, she took the time to meet the volunteers and read every message written on the plywood, two-by-four, drywall and stairs. In fact, she still has those endearing messages captured in her phone.”It was so special. It still is,” Danykqua says. “I had never felt so much love from friends and strangers alike. What a blessing,” she says. In addition to working on her house, Danykqua participated in West Orange Habitat for Humanity’s education program for homeowners. “They taught us how to caulk, how to change the AC lter, how to shut o the water main, how to cut the grass and keep the

“People I never knew put their love into building my home. More than 300 volunteers touched this house. What a blessing.”

It Takes A Village: More than 300 West Orange Habitat for Humanity volunteers worked tirelessly on Danykqua’s home during the construction process. “People I never knew put their love into building my home. It’s so humbling,” says Danykqua.

AUGUST 2023 21

wood oors,” Danykqua recalls. “The nancial literacy program is great, too. It was tailored to help individuals with budgeting.”

Danykqua says she can’t say enough good things about the incredible team at West Orange Habitat for Humanity. “Gayle and Marilyn are phenomenal. Organized, dedicated, and ready to help,” she says. They kept open communication with her throughout the long process and fostered a loving and friendly environment. Dankyqua also continues to have a great relationship with her mentors, Wes Beacham and Crystal Davidson, as well as her home sponsors Charlie Roper and his sister, Becky Roper.

With her house now complete, Danykqua has set her sights on paying it forward. “Now it’s my turn to help other people. I’m going to keep volunteering and helping other families. Whether that’s through my work at the Maxey Center, through West Orange Habitat for Humanity, or through my new role as president of One Winter Garden, I’m ready and willing to continue to be involved.”

Indeed, what began as a dream to build a safe haven for her family has evolved into a greater mission. Still, the pleasure she nds every day simply living in her beautiful new home,

Message Boards: Volunteers left handwritten messages of hope and encouragement throughout the home, all of which Danykqua saved.

It was almost nine months of perseverance, perspiration, and patience.”

For Life

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unpacked boxes and all, is intangible. “I love my house so much,” Danykqua says. “But seeing my girls excited as well, that means the most.”

For her two young daughters, Ailani (6) and Journei (4), the best part is the stairs. “My kids love stairs,” Danykqua laughs. “They’re always in trou-

ble playing on the stairs. It’s their favorite thing. I promise you.”

Danykqua sits with that thought for a moment, a smile lingering on her face. “Home means a future. Now that we have a stable home, we can begin to look ahead to where we want to go,” she says. “Home is the base where everything

begins.” With plans to host Thanksgiving this year for her entire family, and the promise of a real Christmas tree, the memories are already being planted. Indeed, for the Faulk family, this house is so much more than four walls and a roof . “Home is a feeling. A feeling of accomplishment that when I walk through

the door, it’s mine. There’s no greater feeling!”

And that feeling has her excited for the future. “God is purposefully moving me in great directions, especially with community involvement and community engagement,” she says. “There aren’t enough words other than the fact that I’m just so blessed.”

Becoming a homeowner will bring the kind of peace and security that will change my life and my daughters' lives forever.”

Bisser Georgiev’s passions planted the seeds for LiveTrends, which has bloomed into an international phenomenon.

Personal Growth

Every success story begins with a dream and the courage to pursue it. For Bisser Georgiev, that passion took root in the art and plant industry, and blossomed into ourishing lifestyle business. Yet Bisser’s path to success was anything but conventional.

AUGUST 2023 27

Born in Bulgaria, Bisser embarked on a journey at age 19 that took him across continents to pursue his aspirations. Initially, his sights were set on a career in veterinary medicine, but life had other plans. “I was in Iowa when I rst realized that I didn’t want to be a vet. So I was like, ‘I’m done, I’m going home.’ But I had a buddy living in Florida, working for a company in the plant industry called Engelmann Greenhouses. He asked me to help him for a couple weeks, so I decided, why not? It was greenhouse work, nothing special, but I liked it.”

It was this serendipitous turn of events that would shape his future and ignite his entrepreneurial spirit. “I just fell in love. I shifted gears, got my rst degree in business, my second bachelor’s in marketing, and then my MBA. Afterward, I followed up with a lot of postgraduate work in entrepreneurship and leadership. I made my way up with the company, starting as an intern, and after 15 years, I became their president. That kind of gave me a taste of the beauty of this industry—there’s so much creativity. I can’t sell insurance or software, but I can sell beautiful nature all day long.”

Even from a young age, beauty was not lost on Bisser. “My passion always

has been art. I used to paint, do photography—a variety of things. I wasn’t an artist by any means, but I was always inspired by literature, by writing, by creating stu with my hands. I always craved to turn this into a business of some sorts, and I also wanted to make a piece of art that’s accessible to everybody.”

As a child, he immersed himself in the world of literature, nding inspiration in classic American stories that depicted startups, resilience during hardship,

and the adventurous spirit of the Wild West. “I always wanted to become the guy that changes the world in a tiny way. I dreamed of making a company where people come rst—not pro t. It’s not about the money, it’s about the art. It’s about the design. But most importantly, it’s about the people that I wanted to have around me. I wanted to make a company that I could call home, to wake up and feel good about going to work.”

In 2013, Bisser made the decision to embark on his

own adventure, fueled by a long-held dream. “I wanted to become an entrepreneur since I was a child, but in a very special way.”

This bold mindset propelled Bisser to take the biggest risk he had ever encountered: he left his old company behind and ventured into the unknown, even though his wife, Lenka, was at home with their two young sons, 1-year-old Max, and 6-yearold Alex. Re ecting on those daring moments, Bisser muses, “We had to cash out every penny, savings, and investments we had. We started the craziness without any investors; nobody wanted to work with us. I don’t know who was crazier, me or my wife.”

Armed with immense courage and profound support from his wife, Bisser fearlessly launched LiveTrends, a dream he had nurtured for years. He expresses,“The LiveTrends concept of fusing nature and art was the idea that was with me since I came into this industry. I wanted to make an art company rst, and specialize with life/nature second. I wanted to play with the product; I wanted to see how people reacted to it. I wanted to experiment with new ideas in my backyard.”

However, Bisser is quick to acknowledge his wife’s essential role in this jour-

Planting the seeds for success, first in Bulgaria with his greatest inspiration, his grandfather (below), and then with his wife, Lenka in Winter Garden (right).
AUGUST 2023 29
“We started the craziness without any investors; nobody wanted to work with us. I don’ t know who was crazier, me or my wife.”

ney. “She was the original designer in the company. Then we hired a lot of professional designers, and she realized, ‘OK, you can do this without me.’ I begged her to stay. I thought the whole thing would crash and burn without her leadership. She told me I’d be ne.”

True to her words, the business thrived, and Bisser recognizes that even amidst the demands of entrepreneurship, it was possible to maintain a strong family bond. “I’m currently running three companies. But you must have a good partner. Without her, we wouldn’t be here right now.”

His mission merged artistry and nature into designs that would resonate with people from all walks of life. From the start, Bisser recognized the untapped potential in the market—the need for a ordable, artful creations that bridged the gap between inspiration and accessibility. Today, LiveTrends currently reaches more 300,000 homes in North America every single week, and operates in Europe, Australia and just last month, in South Korea.

It was only after achieving national distribution at more than 16,000 retail locations that Bisser broached the idea of a retail store. After exploring different locations in Florida,

Bisser found Winter Garden to be the ideal setting for his rst experimental boutique. “I fell in love with this vibrant community, the central location, and the close-knit atmosphere,” Bisser reminisces. Participating in local events and connecting with fellow business owners and residents became a source of motivation for his pursuits. Winter Garden, with its perfect blend of natural beauty and urban charm, provided the backdrop for Bisser’s dreams to unfold.

With a burning desire to experiment, observe reactions, and interact with the local community, he transformed his store into

a hub of fresh, ever-changing design. His inspiration? Conversations and observations cultivated during the weekly Winter Garden Farmers’ Market. Bisser gained valuable insights into customer preferences, leading to innovative ideas and the creation of captivating narratives for each product. “The idea was to bring fresh, new things every couple of weeks, and continue to change them. And observe how people react with them, how they bite, how they shop.”

Throughout his journey, Bisser’s strong sense of community played a vital role. Whether it was his deep connection to Winter

Garden or the relationships he forged with fellow business owners, he recognized the power of collaboration and support. “Winter Garden and Oakland has been my home for the last 15 years. The community itself is beautiful. It’s nice to walk down the street and say hello to everyone. I know all the business owners, all the restaurant owners, and it’s just fun.”

However, Bisser’s admiration for dynamic individuals reaches beyond his immediate surroundings. His inspiration extends to an array of people who have made a signi cant impact on the world.“I have a wall of black and white framed photographs—about 20 frames—that displays all the people that have inspired me, at one point of my life. From actors to writers, musicians to presidents. There are so many people who have done the impossible, like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, that have done amazing work of changing their industries.”

Bisser’s perspective on success goes beyond conventional measures. For him, success is an ongoing battle that transcends individual achievements.

“Success is never a xed point. Success to me is walking into a meeting with a big customer, and seeing their eyes sparkling

I fell in love with this vibrant community, the central location, and the close-knit atmosphere.”


“It’s not about the money, it’s about the art. It’s about the design. But most importantly, it’s about the people that I wanted to have around me. I wanted to make a company that I could call home, to wake up and feel good about going to work.”

with excitement. Success is when people are growing and learning. I have a lot of young people working with me across all ve companies. So watching them get their dreams achieved— that’s a giant success for me. Success is overcoming impossible moments. Success should come as your happiness. And success is just changing the world in a small way to make it more beautiful.”

As Bisser continues on his journey, he has come to realize that personal growth is just as important as the success of his companies. He expresses, “As I’m getting older, I’m realizing that it’s not so much about the success of the company, but about how I become better myself. A better father, a better husband, a better leader. How do I focus more on becoming a better person?”

To start, Bisser holds rm to his core values of adventure and family. “If you look at my Facebook or Instagram feed, you’ll see a lot of adventures. Any free weekends, every possibility to go anywhere, we take it. We travel internationally at least two times a year. I have two boys, almost 18 and 13. My biggest goal in life is to make them fearless, and to make them adventurers. And I think we’ve managed to accomplish that so far.”

It’s evident that this feat is one Bisser values even more than his entrepreneurial successes. Even so, his triumph with LiveTrends is a testament to his unwavering determination, artistic vision, and willingness to take risks. “We’ve changed the industry. Nobody else was merging plants with art before LiveTrends. We launched in 2013 with

just two people. Now we have about 500. Now, we are the nation’s third-largest company for the indoor industry—it has been a whirlwind of growth.” His journey inspires aspiring entrepreneurs to pursue their passions fearlessly.

As LiveTrends continues to ourish under his leadership, Bisser’s story serves as a reminder that

extraordinary achievements are possible when one dares to dream and turns those dreams into reality. “I would encourage everybody to really try to do something they passionately love. Don’t do it for the money. Don’t do it because somebody else is doing it. Dig deep and nd out really what is important to you, and chase that passion.”

The Georgiev family: Lenka, Alex, Bisser and Max.
Because transparency matters. At Schwab, we take time to give you straightforward answers to your toughest questions. What are our fees? We’ll tell you. How about fully explaining our services? You got it. If you live in Clermont, go ahead. Ask Michael anything. He’ll always give you a transparent answer. Get started at © 2022 Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (“Schwab”) Member SIPC. All rights reserved. (1120-0JP6) SCH6700-10 (6/22) When it comes to your toughest questions, we’re an open book. Michael Wytiaz, CFP® Branch Leader 1600 Hancock Road, Suite D, Clermont, FL 34711 352-404-5238 MON CLOSED I TUES-THU 4PM-9PM I FRI 4PM-11PM I SAT 11AM-11PM I SUN 11AM-9PM 352-394-7777 I WWW.THESOUTHERNON8TH.COM 801 W. MONTROSE ST., CLERMONT, FL 34711 HAPPY HOUR WEEKDAYS, 4-6pm WEEKENDS, 3-6pm BRUNCH WEEKENDS, 11-3pm HOURS CHANGE Sat 11-11 CHEF-DRIVEN CONTEMPORARY SOUTHERN SCRATCH KITCHEN & BOURBON BAR
When you are home, we are care. 407-347-2050 / For more than 15 years, we have helped seniors continue to live independently while receiving the support they need. • Personalized Care Plans • 24/7 Availability • O erings include • Meal preparation, special diets • Light housekeeping & laundry • Daily activity assistance (showering, toileting, grooming, dressing, etc.) I’m home for the memories
Oh Well! Water 36 The Local WINTER GARDEN

Darlene Vance took her first swimming lesson at age 57. She’s now an avid swimmer, inspiring her 19-year-old daughter, Taylor, along the way.

Water Works

Darlene Vance’s rst 57 years had been solely landbased. The Winter Garden resident was active in other ways, raising a family, spending time with her grandchildren, volunteering. None of this required full submersion in water, which suited her just ne.

For Darlene, the thought of going underwater had always terri ed her. What if no one noticed she needed help? On top of that, she had been in several car accidents. “The rst accident

left me without feeling in both legs. Rehabilitation took a long time, and I was nally at 80% after several surgeries.” Just as Darlene had conquered getting behind the wheel again, she got hit yet again while waiting at a stoplight. “Recovering from this accident took its toll on me. With age, the challenges proved to be greater and more involved with even more rehabilitation. I had rotator cu surgery on my right arm and couldn’t use it for three years. In addition,

during this time, I also lost part of my left leg.”

And yet, even as Darlene fought her way through recovery, she kept encouraging her daughter, Taylor, to swim. Taylor, however, refused. “It’s not that I didn’t want to learn to swim, but I wanted to do it with my mom,” the 19-year-old says. “I was not going to learn without her, period. Plus I had other activities going on during that time, like dancing, singing, and being in the Girl Scouts.”

But Darlene was determined that both of them would take the plunge. “This is the year we learn to swim—no excuses. That’s what I said to Taylor.And thanks to the Roper YMCA, we made it happen,” she says with a smile.

She also credits her physical therapy for igniting her passion to swim. “I was doing aquatic therapy at the National Training Center for Physical Therapy. I wasn’t swimming, but I enjoyed the feeling of the water. My injuries

AUGUST 2023 37

make exercise challenging, but in the pool, I am weightless. I can do so much more. When therapy ended, I started looking for places closer to home, that Taylor and I could both go to, and the Y was at the top of the list. I had

already signed us up before I told Taylor we were doing it,” she laughs.

For both Taylor and Darlene, the innovative approach at the YMCA made the process virtually seamless.

“We had a few instructors, and they each o ered


When it comes to cooling o , swimming might be top of mind, but don’t forget the other kind of water… the one you drink! When temperatures begin to swell, it can be challenging to gauge just how much fluid your body is losing. Staying adequately hydrated is essential to the cooling process, so now’s the time to double up on your water intake. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Instead, carry a water bottle and try to drink at least 8 ounces every hour. A gallon a day is a great target! And no, iced co ee or soda doesn’t count. Plain water is best, but hydration multipliers are great additions, as are hydrating foods likes watermelon and cantaloupe.

So how can you tell if you’re becoming dehydrated, or at risk for heat stroke? Symptoms include extreme thirst, dry mouth, dry skin, headache, dizziness when moving from sitting to standing, less frequent urination and dark yellow urine when you do urinate, fatigue, and confusion or irritability. Find a cool place to rest, preferably inside, and wrap a cold, wet towel around your neck. If symptoms persist, seek medical help.


1 in 5

Americans can’t swim.


54% of all Americans either can’t swim or don’t have all 5 of the basic swimming skills.


3,500 to 4k

The average number of people in the US who drown per year. That’s an average of 10 fatal drownings per day.

SOURCE: National Drowning Prevention Alliance

8,080 nonfatal drownings annually. Nonfatal drownings can cause serious health problems, including brain damage and disabilities.


a di erent perspective on swimming, which was helpful for both of us. I appreciated their encouragement and positive reinforcement; I felt like I had a whole cheer team! And watching Taylor take to swimming … that was probably the best part for me.”

Taylor adds: “Our instructors were so patient, and I learned how to swim in just ve days! I still have a ways to go, but I can oat, which is incredible. And now I’m working on breathing.”

Progress for Darlene is a little slower with her physical challenges, but with every lesson, her determination and strength only continue to grow.

“I will keep working on paddling, and I know as I strengthen my legs, I’ll be able to improve faster.

Makenna, who heads the

Oh Well! 38 The Local WINTER GARDEN

Notice how there’s always a pill for this? A pill for that?

Pills for heart disease, diabetes, dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, IBS, eczema, cancer, depression, etc. But what Big Pharma would rather you didn’t know is that the root cause of many illnesses is Chronic Inflammation, which can be controlled and/or cured by making one or more changes in lifestyle.

We specialize in getting patients off the pill mill and into healthier lifestyles. Want to reduce or eliminate all those meds you take? Want to feel better, live better, be better? And save money doing it? Call us.

1327 Winter Garden Vineland Rd, Suite 130, Winter Garden 321-214-8860
Are the pills you take getting tough to swallow?

Aquatic Dept., is phenomenal! She is a godsend, and it is in her encouragement that I continue to work on my strength. She has been a true support, and I am grateful to be surrounded by people who genuinely care.”

Taylor agrees, “We had the best time getting to

know other people who had similar journeys or experiences that led them to the Y. Truly, you are never too old or young to learn how to swim.”

“One lady in my class had two knee replacements, and before the end of our course, she was like

Safety First

Why are water safety and swimming instruction so important? With pools, lakes, and beaches surrounding us, it’s no surprise that Florida leads the country in drowningrelated deaths of children ages 1 to 4. Kids are naturally drawn to water, and it is critical that they are introduced to the proper water safety concepts and skills. These devastating statistics have worsened during the pandemic all across our community, especially for children in marginalized and under-served neighborhoods. The good news is that drowning is preventable, and the Y is committed to helping keep kids—and adults!—safe in and around water.

a sh—beautiful!” says Darlene. “She inspires me to keep strengthening my left leg so I can eventually swim to a deeper part of the pool. I feel so good about myself and

the community of people at the YMCA. When we began, we just wanted to learn to swim. Now we’ve accomplished that, and in the process, we’ve made lifelong friends.”

Why should adults learn to swim? Simply put: It is a life skill. Swimming is the only sport that can save your life. Conversely, not knowing how to swim is detrimental. According to the CDC, there are 3,960 drownings every year. That’s an average of 11 deaths per day. If you’re Black or live in a low-income community, the statistics are much higher. It is not unusual for an adult to not know how to swim or to seek out swim lessons, even later in life, because they recognize the necessity of this life-saving skill. Starting something new as an adult is always challenging, but swimming also happens to be fun. Having this skill set in your back pocket opens you to the adventures life has to o er without living in fear.

How is it di erent teaching an adult to swim vs. a child? Teaching an adult to swim is di erent in several ways. The approach involves more open communication and discussion, understanding their fears, concerns, and motivations, and adapting the teaching methods to suit their individual needs and learning styles. Physically assisting adults in the water also requires di erent techniques and considerations due to their larger size and di erent body mechanics compared to children.

There is still time to register, so if you know of a family that can benefit, please contact the Roper YMCA at (407) 656-8816.

Oh Well! 40 The Local WINTER GARDEN


After three decades spent restoring movement to thousands of bodies, Dr. Richard Smith is a true master of his craft. His head-to-toe experience treating musculoskeletal conditions equips him and his team with skills that repair limbs, lifestyles, and lives. It’s what a Smith does.

Also offering expert services on IMEs, CMEs, QTCs, and Medical Reviews. 30 + years performing IMEs 1500 + IMEs performed Deposed/Testified 100 + time Expert Medical Advisor (EMA) June 1998 – present Special Expert Witness (State of Florida)

6200 Metrowest Blvd, Suite 104-105, Orlando, FL 32835 407-292-2156 /

Wake Me Up Before You GO GO

How big is too big? Jen Dixon bellies up to find out.

Abanana apjack as round as a pizza. A tower of chicken and wa es nearly a foot high. A Bloody Mary lling enough to be a meal. No, I wasn’t dreaming. Hash House A Go Go is basically foodie heaven on Earth.

Did I know that ahead of time? Not really. You wouldn’t expect paradise to come with a huge tractor in the lobby and farm signs on the wall. And yet there’s something comforting in the vibe, with its quirky blend of contemporary and rustic elements.

What I also didn’t know was that I should have packed an extra stomach.

I should point out that I can eat. I can eat big portions. I can eat fast. And I can eat spicy. So after glancing at the menu, I chose to rely on my server

for suggestions. He recommended Andy’s Sage Fried Chicken Benedict and Andy’s World Famous Sage Fried Chicken & Wa es. So I did what any real food lover would do—I ordered both.

When Andy’s Sage Fried Chicken Benedict arrived at the table, I second-guessed my judgment. It’s a monstrous-sized dish of layered awesomeness. We’re talking Grand Canyon on a plate. Served open-faced, you’ve got mashed potatoes, a split biscuit, fresh spinach and tomatoes, bacon, sage fried chicken,

and scrambled eggs with a blanket of cheese and Chipotle cream sauce on top, held perilously together with a steak knife and a rosemary sprig. It’s a challenge to eat because of its sheer size, but the combination of avors transported this comfort food fanatic into a state of euphoric bliss. I was equally impressed with the Ei el-Towersized chicken & wa es. Two sage fried chicken breasts piled high on

top of a hickory smoked bacon wa e tower with hot syrup reduction and fried leeks, the dish was undeniably decadent.

Still, there was no nishing these two plates. I cried ‘uncle’ and asked for takeout boxes after just a few bites. And yet, delightfully, my family snacked on the leftovers for several more days.


As for cocktails, don’t pass up the Tractor Bar! The B.L.T. Bloody, made with an in-house mix, was amazing. Served with a tomato wedge and a lettuce leaf, plus a slice of toast on the side for dipping, the drink is perhaps a meal in itself. It had a kick but was not overly spicy.

Upon leaving, I stopped to chat up Tyson Bray, general manager, and learned that the new Winter Garden location stays open later in the evening than the I-Drive location. A true

bene t for those of us who are also theme park passholders. “We want to accommodate families who stay at the theme park to watch the evening reworks and decide to grab a quick bite on their way home,” says Tyson.

You bet I’ll return, with hungry friends and family providing the extra stomachs needed to share such ginormous deliciousness.

AUGUST 2023 43

Best Bette

This Michelin star chef shines bright at ette hotel’s Salt & The Cellar

Akira Back is the Michelin-starred executive chef of the ette hotel and his “star” is on a blazing, upward trajectory. Always in search of the next challenge, Akira spent seven years on the pro-snowboarding circuit before he discovered that he felt the same thrill in the kitchen as he did on his board. He quit the pro circuit to pursue a full-time culinary career, and the accolades have not stopped—including earning his first Michelin star at his innovative restaurant concept DOSA in Seoul, South Korea.

In the succeeding two decades, he’s opened 22 di erent restaurants (and counting) all over the world, from Dubai, Toronto, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and now Orlando. New venues in London, Paris,

Dallas, Houston, Delray Beach, Marrakech, and Riyadh are expected to come online within the next two years.

Chef Back has appeared on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America,” NBC’s “The Today Show,” Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate,” among others. Now, Orlando diners have the rare chance to taste what all the excitement is about. Akira’s cuisine is known for its unique blend of Japanese, Korean, and American flavors, as well as its use of fresh and high-quality ingredients.

Salt & The Cellar is Chef Back’s restaurant at the luxury ette hotel in Kissimmee. True to his reputation, he pushes culinary boundaries here with his fusion of modern Asian and Mediterranean cuisines. A prime example is Akira’s 24-karat gold,

32-ounce Tomahawk Steak. Presented with five salt selections curated by a “salt sommelier”—Persian Blue Salt, Hawaiian Black Salt, Espresso Salt, White Tru le Salt, and Purple Salt— customers are encouraged to try a di erent salt with every bite.

From the Hot Oil Dover Sole prepared with scallions, yuzu soy, and crispy garlic, to Wagyu tacos, Kimchi Brussels, Grilled King Crab, Jidori Chicken, and other innovative sensations, every selection on the Salt & The Cellar menu becomes an adventure in fine dining.

The ette hotel is the brainchild of owner and visionary Alex Ekbatani. “ette” stands for Earthy, True, Timeless, Elegant, and Alex has based everything inside and out of his extraordinary

hotel upon those four concept pillars. The decor evokes minimalist modern throughout. Its rooms reflect a striking, luxurious European elegance. The vibe at the ette hotel is one of relaxed elegance. From the rooms, to the exquisite cuisine, to the world class SPA at the ette with its curated selection of treatments, facials, and healing massages, the goal is for guests to leave refreshed, rejuvenated, and replenished after their star-worthy stay.

Kissimmee, FL 34747 407-288-1900

AUGUST 2023 45

Caribbean Sunshine Bakery

16112 Marsh Rd #417, Winter Garden / 407-654-6625 /

Want to take a trip to the islands tonight for dinner? You absolutely can, because Karen Daley’s bakery and restaurant is just around the corner. She and her husband, Peter, have been at that same location for 15 years, serving truly authentic Jamaican food. The island’s famous beef patties, jerked chicken, oxtail, curried goat, and brown stew chicken are all on the menu here. All of it scrumptious, home-cooked comfort food with island flavor.

Stop in. Grab a beef patty, an ice-cold Ting grapefruit soda, and head for the islands … You’ll thank us when you get there.

Cariera’s Fresh Italian

1041 S. Dillard St., Winter Garden / 407-554-3622

HOURS Mon 11am-6pm Tue-Thu 11am-8pm Fri 11am-8:30pm Sat 10:30am-8:30pm SELECT

If there’s two things most people can agree on, it’s that a hearty plate of pasta is always a good choice, and the best place to get that fix is Cariera’s. Heavy with Italian tradition, Cariera’s features timeless favorites, such as spaghetti and meatballs to chicken Saltembocca, white Cacciatore to Eggplant Parmigiana. There’s even a lite menu featuring Keto versions of your Italian favorites! Whether celebrating a special occasion or simply feeding the family, Cariera’s strives to make every guest feel comfortable enough to laugh out loud, reminisce, and indulge.


Mon-Sat 11am-9pm Sun 11am-8pm


Tue-Thu 3-10pm

Fri-Sat 11:30am-12am

Sun 11am-10pm


Wed & Thu 3-6pm




Clermont Brewing Co.

750 W. Desoto St, Clermont / 321-430-BEER (2337)

It’s a brewery. It’s an eatery. It’s home to a rotating selection of handcrafted and seasonal brews for every taste. It’s where artisanal dining creations from sushi to smoked brisket to pizza tantalize a wide variety of passionate palates. But more than any of that, Clermont Brewing Co. — CBC to its fans — is proudest of being the place where the community comes together.

Gochi Japanese Kitchen

14195 W. Colonial Dr., Winter Garden / 407-877-0050


Tue-Thu 12pm-9pm Fri-Sat 12pm-10pm



Mon-Sat 11:30AM-7:30PM



Since 2007, Gochi Japanese Kitchen has been providing Winter Garden with the highest-quality Japanese favorites. Raw a la carte options like nigiri, sashimi, and rolls, plus uniquely crafted noodles, yakiniku and yakiyasai bbq grill options. Need space for a special event? Ask about our private dining room and catering options!

Poke by Gochi

13770 W. Colonial Dr., Winter Garden / 407-347-5091

Poke (pronounced poh-kay) is the bowl of the moment, and no one does it better than Gochi. This fast casual concept by the owners of Gochi Japanese Kitchen uses all the same, high quality ingredients as its sister location, only in a one-bowl concept. Choose from chef crafted options or customize your own with a variety of colorful sauces, piles of crunchy toppings, and a white rice, brown rice, or lettuce base. Always fresh, always your way.


Pammie’s Sammies

121 S. Boyd St / 407-730-3212 /

Feed the Soul. Craft with Love. Serve from the Heart. That’s the record-setting recipe behind Pammie’s Sammies, a fun sandwich space with funk woven into its atmosphere and baked into every dish. With food that is thoughtfully sourced, earth-friendly, and tastefully adventurous, our menu pairs old family recipes with tasty trends, all to the soundtrack of classic tunes and conversation among friends.

STK Steakhouse

ORLANDO 1580 Buena Vista Drive / 407-917-7440

STK is “not your daddy’s steakhouse”—it’s high-energy dining, combining the quality of a traditional steakhouse with a Vibe Dining atmosphere. Delectable cuisine and upscale cocktails meet chic décor and an in-house DJ to create a memorable fine dining experience. The menu features reimagined classic American cuisine for lunch, brunch and dinner, with traceable, ethically sourced beef that produces the highest quality craveable steaks.

Thai Blossom

99 W. Plant St. Winter Garden / 407-905-9917 /

Your love of Thai will blossom among fragrant curries, silky noodles, stir fries, and grilled meats. Authentic, flavorful and always cooked to order Thai Blossom o ers some of the tastiest cuisine in central Florida, right on Plant Street. And plenty of options for vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free meals make it the perfect choice for workday lunch, dinner dates, and special celebrations.


Mon-Fri 11am-3pm DINNER Sun-Thu 3pm-10:45pm Fri & Sat 3pm-11:15pm

Sat 10am-7pm
Foodie Award Critic’s Choice Orlando Sentinel Reader’s Choice Dining Award Orlando Magazine
HOURS Mon-Fri 11am-3pm & 5-9pm Sat 11am-9pm

The Silence of the Plants

An open letter—and an open threat.

Dear houseplants,

It didn’t have to come to this. I tried to be nice. I tried to get to know you, gure you out. I tried to do this the easy way.

But you don’t like doing things the easy way, do you? No. You like to be coy. You like to play games. You like to have care instructions that are equal parts excessively precise—“needs four hours and eight minutes of indirect sunlight delivered at a 68-degree angle from a north-northwest-facing window”—and cryptically vague—“water when soil is maybe sort of dry-ish.”

You watch me try so hard to meet your persnickety Goldilocks demands. And then, when I throw my hands up in frustration, you get all hu y and die. Honestly, pretty toxic behavior.

And I’m not giving you a free pass just because you “don’t have a mouth” or you’re “biologically incapable of communication.”

I’ve heard it all before, and I

don’t buy a word of it. You’re clearly talking, since each of you comes with a little care card that somebody had to have written.

Let me tell you a story: Once upon a time, there was a plant. A vibrant Song of India, perched regally in a royal blue owerpot that made her playful yellow hues shimmer like sunlight o the ocean.

From the moment I laid eyes on her, I knew it was love.I brought her home. I named her Tilly. I ran my ngers through her slender, leafy leaves and told her every day how excited I was for the life we had ahead of us.

Then, things changed. It was subtle at rst—a twinge of brittleness at the tips of her highest leaves. But then it spread, day by day like frostbite on a limb. I scoured generic plant wikis and obscure 2005-era gardening forums on a modern-day internet Odyssey searching for the source of Tilly’s su ering.

One site said it was from too much water. Another, from too little water. Too much sun. Too little sun. Pot too big. Pot too small. Pretty much the only consensus is that it was an obvious solution and it was my fault for not knowing how to x it.

How? Why? How do these people know what I don’t know? Unless their plants were telling them.

I turned to Tilly and told her I was sorry for letting her down. I told her I’d do anything for her and asked her, just this once, to help me understand. And her only answer was silence.

So here’s the deal. I’m gonna buy another plant. I’m gonna name her Tilly. I’m gonna put her in that same beautiful, blue pot the

original Tilly died in. I’m gonna place her on the windowsill. I’m gonna watch her die, slowly, agonizingly. I’m gonna let her sit withered and dead for weeks, both to symbolize my anguish and because I keep forgetting to take out the trash. And then I’m gonna waltz back into Lowe’s with a smile on my face and get a new one—maybe another Song of India, but maybe not. As long as she ts in the pot, she’s Tilly.

Do you want to be Tilly?

I imagine you don’t. And really, it’s the easiest thing in the world to prevent. All I want, all I’ve ever wanted, are some answers.

I eagerly await your reply. Otherwise, I’ll see you in the pot.

Rhetoric Rheya Tanner muses on life as a local
Rockin’ Good Food 121 S Boyd St Winter Garden 407-730-3212 The home of
Pammie Parody of The Beatles’ Abbey Road album
She’ll grow up outside our walls, so why would we only focus on her health when she’s inside them? We’re just as dedicated to making an impact where kids live, learn and play through programs that change lives and foster healthy futures. And while we’re reimagining a whole new approach to children’s health, we’re always focusing on the critical care kids need right now. Visit to see how we’re creating a healthier future. Tomorrow is in her sights. Her future is in ours. ©️2023. The Nemours Foundation. Nemours Children’s Health®️ is a registered trademark of The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.

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