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8 Good News • Schools 9 Good People 28 Good News • Faith 10-11 ‘Tis the Season to Give
12-13 Baby Home for the Holidays a Local Family’s 60-Day Adoption Miracle Pamela Settle
Follow us on Twitter @GoodLiving_Mag Visit our website at GoodLivingMagazine.com To send us good news items, story ideas, event announcements or request magazine copies for your organization, send an email to email@example.com
15 A Note from the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County Dr. Marcie Biddleman
16 A Note from the Pinellas County Sheriff Sheriff Bob Gualtieri
18-19 The Benefits of Inter-Generational Relationships in Your Child’s Life Jennifer Chung
21 Digestive Enzymes The Perfect Accompaniment to Your Holiday Meals Brenda Watson
22-25 Good Adventures Holiday Travel Destinations in Florida Marisa Langford
26-27 The Magic of Christmas at Disney World
About the Cover The cover photo was shot on a local beach by natural light photographer, Julie Eﬀron. (914) 548-8008 JulieEﬀronPhotoVideo.com
29 My Story Briana
30 My Story Scott Halbach
Holiday Issue 2014
Wishing you love, laughter and togetherness! Enjoy the season and we’ll see you next year!
Volume 5 • Issue 6
Publisher Light Shine Media Group, LLC
Editor-in-Chief Pamela Settle
Design and Layout Marcie Kelliher
Contribu ng Writers Dr. Marcie Biddleman Jennifer Chung Bob Gualtieri Bob Halbach Marisa Langford Brenda Watson and Briana
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GoodLiving™ Magazine & GoodLivingMagazine.com P.O. Box 1795 Oldsmar, Florida 34677 (727) 776-3656 firstname.lastname@example.org GoodLiving® magazine is a publication of Light Shine Media Group, LLC and is available to readers by a paid annual subscription available at tampabaygoodliving.com. Promotional copies are distributed through establishments as a courtesy to their customers and clients. Additional copies are donated to local schools as a community service. To request copies, contact email@example.com. All photographs, artwork, design and editorial are the sole property of GoodLiving® magazine and Light Shine Media Group, LLC. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced in any form without written permission.
Letter from the Editor One thing that happens more dramatically when you’re a parent is the passage of time, especially during the holiday season. Simply hanging ornaments can be a nostalgic walk down memory lane as you look back on the “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments and realize it was 10 years ago. The handmade decorations, old family photos and memories of relatives who are no longer with us can bring more than a few tears to a momma’s eyes. But then the swirl of activity demands our time in the present: school performances, parties, shopping, wrapping, baking, decorating and making time for the special community events that are plentiful this time of year in Pinellas County. I’m a pretty sentimental person so the holidays are my favorite time of year to think about family and how important the family unit is to our survival. I look inward and treasure my precious family. I look outward and see what is around me. Watching happy families out enjoying the holiday events brings me so much joy. The new babies. The toddlers shyly approaching Santa Claus. The kids who are engrossed in the magic of the season, and the parents who relive that magic through them. Looking around I can also see the families that have needs. And the individuals who need families. I see the love of others who use this time of year to make a difference in their corner of the world or somewhere across the world. Family is the cornerstone of what GoodLiving® magazine is all about. And for this holiday issue we bring you a happy adoption story, some ideas for making gift giving more meaningful, a few examples of families volunteering in our community, some exciting travel destinations for your holiday vacation time and two personal stories out of the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranch that embody the hope and love of the season all year long. We have a new member to our magazine family this year to celebrate! Baby Joey was born in August to my dear friend, cele Marcie Kelliher, the talented graphic designer who has been M creating the pages of the magazine since the beginning. Join cre us in wishing her family a blessed season as they make their own ow “Baby’s First Christmas” memories. I gave her the same advice ad someone wise gave to me, “Don’t blink. Don’t wish away a the time. Enjoy every moment, every phase, because someday s you will look back and wonder where the time went so quickly.”
GoodLiving® magazine and Light Shine Media Group, LLC are not responsible for statements made by advertisers and writers for any consequences arising from omissions or errors. Readers should verify the advertising information of the advertisers and all specials are valid to the expiration date set by the advertiser. GoodLiving® magazine and Light Shine Media Group, LLC reserve the right to refuse any advertising for any reason. The views expressed in the publication are not necessarily those of the publisher. All rights reserved.
Enjoy the precious moments of the season. Blessings to all of you and accept our GOOD WISHES for a happy, healthy, prosperous and joyous 2015! Until next time,
news • SCHOOLS
Kindergarten Registration and Round-Ups Kick-Off Jan. 12 Families of children entering kindergarten can register their children soon with Pinellas County Schools for the upcoming school year. To kick-off kindergarten registration, Kindergarten Round-up open houses will be held at PCS elementary schools across the district Jan. 12-15. While at the school, families can register their child for kindergarten, explore a kindergarten classroom, speak with teachers and discuss expectations for the upcoming school year. Families can also learn about all the programs available at PCS elementary schools, such as art, music, gifted programs, STEM academies, physical education and other enrichment programs. Visit pcsb.org/KG for Kindergarten Round-up locations and times.
Dinner Program to Expand in January The Pinellas County School Board announced the sponsorship of the Afterschool Nutrition Program. This program is designed primarily to provide nutritious snacks and dinners to children in afterschool programs. Snacks and dinners are available at no charge to the children in afterschool programs at sites throughout the county. Right now 28 schools are participating. By adding 30 more schools to the list in January, there will be a total of 58 schools providing a hot dinner on campus. If your child is in after-school care, ask if your school is participating.
Photo courtesy of Pinellas County School District Communications Dept.
A Church Donation Helps Azalea Middle School Promote Positive Student Behavior
When a neighborhood church contacted Azalea Middle School about lending a helping hand, it was an offer the school’s principal Connie Kolosey could not turn down. Paradise Lutheran Church, located a few blocks away from the school in south Local School has Great Success St. Petersburg, recently held a fundraiser to benefit the school, raising $1,100. The school will use the money to bolster its at Food Drive Positive Behavior Support (PBS) Initiatives with students. The Clearwater Fundamental Middle School partnered with The Salvation Army for its Golden Can Food Drive. Over a two-week funds will be used to purchase items for the PBS store and underwrite activities that address student behavior. The donation period, members of the CFMS National Junior Honor Society will also help students adhere to the school’s modified dress code. raised awareness on the issue of hunger in the school’s community and asked their fellow students to help reach a goal of 2,500 canned The school will be able to provide students who do not comply with the dress code with the appropriate clothes purchased with goods. The CFMS Trailblazers not only reached the goal, but donation dollars. With the church’s generous assistance, these exceeded it with a total of 2,884 cans collected! Way to go! efforts combined will help foster a positive school environment.
Bay Point Middle School to Receive Major Grant for Community Technology Lab Students at St. Petersburg’s Bay Point Middle School will soon have a unique STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) classroom and after-school technology lab with support from a major grant. It is one of only 80 public schools across the entire country -- and four in Florida -- to receive a grant this year as part of Verizon’s investment to help provide teachers with the resources they need to use technology more innovatively and effectively to engage students in science, technology, engineering and math. This one-of-a-kind program at Bay Point Middle School, to be called The Falcon Fab Lab, will help create a safe and exciting place for students and their families to explore, Photo courtesy of Pinellas County School District Communications Dept. create and learn using state-of-the-art technology.
Holiday Issue 2014
PEOPLE Around Pinellas County, families give of their time, talents and treasures to help those less fortunate during the holiday. For some families, the volunteer time has become a family tradition. We celebrate these families and all the others who find ways to focus on giving to others during the holiday season.
Peter Schorsch and Michelle Todd are starting early with their daughter Ella Joyce by helping Metropolitan Ministries on an annual basis. The Brickfield Family rings bells for The Salvation Army Fourteen years ago when their son Travis was six years old, Neil Brickfield took him along as he volunteered to ring a bell for The Salvation Army. Their other son, Shaun, who was three at the time was very upset that he didn’t get to go, that the next year in 2001, Neil brought both boys to ring the bell. That began their family tradition of ringing bells. In 2002 it became a full family annual event for Neil and his wife Kelley, and their children Travis, Shaun and Erin. It is their family “rule” that they do not put up any Christmas decorations until they have officially kicked off the Christmas season by completing their annual Christmas family volunteering commitment. Pictured here is the Brickfield family ringing in 2014’s Christmas season.
Jeff and Patricia Castellano donate bikes to families served by The Kind Mouse. Founder of The Kind Mouse, Gina Wilkins says friends like Jeff and Patricia Castellano are a product of the “The Magic of The Mouse because just as you wish for something for our families, the magic just happens.” This is exactly the scenario last Christmas. Two little boys in a family The Kind Mouse was serving needed new bikes. Gina was just thinking how fun it would be to surprise the parents when in came SimplyVerde
Says Michelle, “For our family, the most important tradition is instilling the importance of giving back to our community. To that end, we make giving a key part of both our Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday traditions. For Thanksgiving, we spend the same amount of money we spend on our own meal (including food, wine, and flower arrangements) on turkeys to donate to Metropolitan Ministries. At Christmas, we take our daughter to pick out at least 20 toys that we donate to Metropolitan Ministries. We think it is important to take our daughter to the holiday tent, so she can see so many members of the community volunteering their time to give back to the community and so she can see the families who are benefitting from that generosity. Often times, we end up making three separate trips to the holiday tent because we feel called to do more for our community.”
landscape architect, Patricia Castellano with bundles of food and announcing her husband Jeff would be by shortly with two boy’s bikes. “It was like Christmas for us!” said Gina. The thrill of knowing someone so giving was heartwarming. Needless to say, the parents were ecstatic and the boys were elated. Since then thankfully the family has gotten back on their feet, and once again the Castellanos’s (now lifer Mice!) will be donating bikes again this year. Gina and All The Mice would like to thank all of the wonderful people of our community for the love and support you show The Kind Mouse. Happy Holidays to all. Ho! Ho! Mouse Kisses!
Holiday Issue 2014
‘Tis the Season
too Give Instead of a holiday gift guide this year, we are focusing on gifts that go beyond paper-shredding frenzies and gift accumulation. From tots to teens, there are gifts to and from families that can carry more meaning during the holidays and beyond.
The Gift of Art The lives of children of all ages are enhanced by art, music and culture. With schools cutting back, families can make good use of gifts that encourage arts at home or in the community. Options that involve the whole family will have a secondary value of quality together time. The gifts may need to be gift certificates or money with a dedicated purpose. Private art or music lessons or classes for toddlers on up to teenagers. Remember to check local recreation centers for classes, too. This can be an excellent way for grandparents to invest in their grandchildren and then later reap the rewards when the child learns a new skill for life. Tickets to an upcoming show at a local theater. Children love quality time with adults other than parents. Encourage a favorite aunt to purchase two tickets, one for her and one for the child so they can spend some memorable time together. Tickets to a local museum. Whether art, history, science or transportation, kids do and will enjoy quality time learning about new things at a museum. Many museums have traveling exhibits or curriculum designed for younger patrons. While we have fantastic museum options locally, don’t be afraid to explore beyond Tampa Bay. Investigate museum options in Sarasota, Orlando or Miami and make it a weekend excursion. A family night to one of the DIY pottery or painting studios that are popping up all over. Learn to paint? It’s easy when an instructor leads a small group through a class where everyone learns to paint a specific picture. Excellent gift idea for a pre-teen “date night” with a parent or other relative.
Holiday Issue 2014
The Gift of Education School alone isn’t enough anymore to help a child reach his or her potential. Consider a gift of tutoring for a student who needs or wants to increase knowledge in a subject. If money is an object, then ask adult relatives to give certificates for homework assistance help. Sometimes working with another adult can overcome barriers. Research shows that one hour a week as a mentor can make a big difference in a child’s life. Start a 529 account or help make payments toward Florida Prepaid. Kids today need all the help they can get obtaining a higher education without debt.
The Gift of Interaction The greatest gift we can give our children is TIME. Consider we have only 6,570 days to raise a child from birth to 18. We must use the time wisely and intentionally to make sure we fit it all in, so finding ways to combine gift giving with memory making can be a wise move. Simply take a moment and really think about a child’s interest areas and find ways to create experiences. That time together will create memories that last well beyond the life of the latest fad toy. Traveling as family can be a real treat. It can be a major vacation overseas, a cruise, a one-night hotel stay into Sarasota or a bed and breakfast in the country. Parents with young children may not be willing to splurge on travel, so giving them a gift of a weekend getaway will give them a much-needed change of scenery. Also for parents, give them certificates for free babysitting so they can spend some guilt-free time away from kids to stay connected to each other. That time may be a walk on the beach or a night with some friends. Whatever it is, free babysitting will be a lifesaver!
Kids love to interact with peers and other adults in different settings. Make that possible by giving children and pre-teens restaurant gift certificates with explicit instructions for the young person to use it to either take friends from school out for lunch or family members out to dinner. Until they have jobs, they won’t know what it’s like to treat someone else to a dinner out by paying the bill. Share a skill or help to develop a hobby. Adults can give certificates to a child for lessons for golf, fishing, woodworking, painting, cooking, sewing or other hobbies. Broaden their horizons beyond the digital with hands-on skills. Real life -- there isn’t an app for that!
The Gift of Giving At some point we all have enough stuff or simply decide to be generous with our holiday gift giving to strangers. The community is full of options for helping others, from being a Secret Santa to an elderly neighbor to collecting money to help a third world village. International aid organizations like Samaritan’s Purse and World Relief have an extensive list of items that can be purchased to help developing third world countries. Purchase a bee hive and give a villager an opportunity to sell honey. Purchase a livestock animal or many other items through their online catalogs.
Treat a child to a special outing. Going to a concert, shopping, a movie, a ballgame or a show will create a special memory.
Invite friends to a holiday party and ask them to bring toiletries that can be used to make kits for the local homeless made from zip top bags containing soap, toothbrush, mouthwash, razor, wash cloth, comb and granola bars.
Create a certificate to host a family game night for friends. This will not only be a welcome gathering, but it will be incentive to finally have those friends over.
As a family, identify a lonely neighbor, coworker, church member or store clerk and create a holiday gift basket to brighten his or her day. Stay anonymous if you like and be a Secret Santa.
For a relative who lives alone or in an adult community of any type, a gift that is a promise to spend time will be better than any store bought gift. Certificates might include a monthly time for walking, looking through photo albums or doing a craft together.
Get your friends together, dress in holiday pajamas and go Christmas shopping together to buy toys for needy children.
Kids can make a Gratitude Jar to give to mom and dad. Create a special day each week to drop in a slip of paper that expresses gratitude for something that happened that week. Then the following year, go through the jar and remember all the GOOD things!
The Gift of Health When it comes to priorities, our health should be at the top. However since so many people sacrifice their own wellness and prevention, a gift of health can be a welcome necessity. For adults who need a little push, give the gift of a fitness center membership, personal training sessions or classes that involve movement like yoga or ballroom dance. For the runners on your list, pay their entry fees to a big race in 2015. Supplements may seem like an odd gift, but in the right circumstance could be a life saver for someone who cannot afford to take their supplements regularly. For grandparents, set them up on an auto ship or give them a gift certificate to a vitamin store. Give the gift of healthy food. Choose from several different produce delivery services or coops in the area for organic produce, dairy or meat. Shop a seasoning store for MSGfree seasonings to encourage more healthful, but flavorful, cooking with whole foods. Switch someone from table salt to healthier Himalayan sea salt. Hit the local farmer’s markets for organic tea and honey. Help a family reduce toxins in their home by giving them nontoxic cleaners that you can buy from various direct marketing companies like Young Living, Celadon Road or Melaleuca.
To teach giving to smaller children, adopt “Kindness Elves” and use them to suggest kind acts to be done as a family, recognize kind or helpful behavior among the family members, or model good behavior by fixing a broken toy or picking up someone’s mess. An inexpensive toy elf is all that is needed, along with larger gift tags or small note cards for the elf ’s messages.
Baby Home for the Holidays A LOCAL FAMILY’S 60-DAY ADOPTION MIRACLE
by Editor PAMELA SETTLE
In addition to media support, she also needed her Congressman, the newly elected David Jolly to work the policy and politics part It was on September 29th that Dunedin mom Andrea Stewart contacted me and said, “I have a story for GoodLiving® magazine.” of the equation on their behalf. It was complicated. The mountain they needed to move seemed too daunting. Would he be willing The reason? She needed to get her story into the media to put and able to help her in time? Contacts were made and by October pressure on the government of the Democratic Republic of the 2nd, the political wheels were turning. Their Congressman Congo (DRC) to release her adopted son Cruz. Andrea and stepped in immediately and assigned staff to work this case. He her husband Chris went through all proper channels to legally adopt this baby. The adoption was final August 8, 2014, however verbally told the family he would do everything he could. That was about 60 days ago and a lot can change in 60 days in September of 2013, the government of the DRC had put a freeze on all exit letters, leaving hundreds of adopted children in when there is a strong will to get there. limbo. This included those with serious medical issues, like Cruz, As a community of family and friends, the will came in the form who needs treatment and possibly surgery for a severe respiratory of sheer strength, determination and prayer. For David Jolly, it defect and an enlarged heart. was personal and political will to not take no for an answer. He “We have to get him out of there and to the doctors we have here ready to help him,” Andrea told me. Her tone was as desperate as a mom’s could be. “We don’t have a lot of time. It’s a matter of life and death.”
said, “At one point, I told U.S. Ambassador James Swan that Congress adjourns on Dec. 11 and, if Cruz isn’t home by Dec. 11, then I’m on a plane to the Congo and I’ll come sit in the lobby with Chris and Andrea until we get Cruz home.” Part of the strategy was to have Andrea in the Congo, working on that end to push the necessary paperwork. She arrived on October 26th for three weeks of lobbying, bonding with Cruz and monitoring his medical condition. Pictured above: Chris and Andrea Stewart celebrate with friends and family at Tampa’s International Airport. Pictured left: Representative David Jolly joined Chris and Andrea at the airport to welcome home baby Cruz. Also pictured are the Stewart’s other children, Avery, Emma, and Camden. Photos courtesy of Corey Conroy.Photography.
Holiday Issue 2014
Andrea’s Facebook posts tell some of the story: October 30: And 3rd day is a break through....... We have SMILES!!!! Not many, and I have to work hard for them, but he keeps on opening up to me. My heart could explode with JOY in seeing his sweet face smile. Xoxo November 19: Update..... We are down to the wire, there is NOTHING any if us can do but be on our face in prayer..... I have to leave Saturday night to go back to my 3 bio kids and husband. If we don’t get an exit letter by Thursday night I will have no choice but to leave our precious son here... Pray for my mama heart as I feel like I’ve failed him somewhere, and I struggle with what else I could have done to fight for him. My heart is raw...”
When asked what she thought about on the long flight home Andrea said her thoughts were consumed by the 11 other critically ill children that still need exit letters. “Going back to my room at the guest house with that signed letter and facing the other parents and saying we got ours and were going home was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I cried with them and vowed not to be done fighting until every one if them is home.”
Facebook was quiet for a couple days after that. Was no news good news? Yes it was. At the moment Andrea and Cruz were safely in the air on November 21st, Congressman Jolly’s office released a statement that the exit letter was signed and the family would be reunited in time for Thanksgiving. “It truly was a miracle,” said Andrea. “It was a frustrating situation being pushed against a wall of political red tape that we couldn’t get through. Congressman Jolly stepped in and started communicating with our ambassador who then directly advocated for us to the man who signs the exit letters. It happened fast. We are shocked and humbled... However, as thankful and respectful as we are to Rep. Jolly, we know that it was only by God’s grace that he was used as an instrument for those mountains to be moved.” The long journey to bring Cruz home ended months after it began, and now the journey to care for his medical issues begins. The Stewarts have several doctors at All Children’s Hospital ready to begin testing immediately after the Thanksgiving holiday.
A smiling and happy Cruz, with his mom Andrea Stewart, safe with his new family in his new country. Photo courtesy of Corey Conroy.Photography.
a note from
Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County Investing in Children. Strengthening our Community.
Pinellas County citizens have a rich history of making children a top priority and investing in their futures. In fact, in 1945 they were the first in the nation to collectively say all children matter by creating the Juvenile Welfare Board ( JWB). As parents, you understand the gift of living in a community where children are valued and families are supported. That’s why it’s also important you understand that JWB, our Board of Directors and our funded partner agencies are committed to ensuring Pinellas County’s children have futures of more successful and satisfying lives. As we look at our fiscal year in review and approach the New Year, we ask you to consider making a few resolutions to join JWB and be part of the solution: Get to know JWB. Learn how our efforts are making a difference and help us spread the word to your family, friends and neighbors. Know some simple facts about JWB, like our investments served over 54,000 Pinellas County children and parents last year, focusing on three main areas: school readiness, school success and the prevention of child abuse and neglect. Get involved with JWB. Volunteer with JWB or one of our funded partner agencies. Learn more about our three Community Councils which serve as a bridge between JWB and communities in north-, mid- and south-Pinellas County. Get connected with JWB. Visit JWB’s website (JWBPinellas.org) or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube (@JWBPinellas). Contact us to join our mailing list, or connect with us around one of our four Collective Initiatives addressing complex issues for Pinellas children: Preventable Child Deaths; Childhood Hunger; Student Achievement; and Grade Level Reading. For nearly 70 years, the work of JWB has been dedicated to the healthy development of our county’s youngest residents and to the overall vitality of our community. Although we’ve changed through the years to meet the dynamic strengths and needs of children and families, one thing has remained constant: our commitment to being a catalyst and staunch advocate that strengthens the lives of Pinellas County children, families and the community.
JWB BY THE NUMBERS FISCAL YEAR 2013-14 $45,660,874 INVESTED IN CHILDREN’S SERVICES
54,079 Children & Parents STRENGTHENED BY JWB’S INVESTMENTS
36 Agencies & 60 Programs FUNDED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH JWB
11-Member Board of Directors GOVERNING & GUIDING JWB
8 Neighborhood Family Centers COMMUNTIY HUBS FOR FAMILIES
3 Community Councils BRIDGE TO MID-, NORTH-, SOUTH-PINELLAS COUNTY
3 Areas of Focus - SCHOOL READINESS - SCHOOL SUCCESS - PREVENTION OF CHILD ABUSE & NEGLECT - PREVENTION OF CHILD ABUSE & NEGLECT
Last year, we embarked on a rebranding effort, adopting a new JWB logo and tagline: Investing in our children. Strengthening our community. Look for our new logo across Pinellas County. You might be surprised by the depth and breadth of our impact in the Pinellas community, and, as you get to know us better, I hope you’ll understand why we’ve titled our column in GoodLiving magazine: ALL KIDS MATTER!
Dr. Marcie Biddleman, DM JWB Executive Director
Holiday Issue 2014
a note from the
Pinellas County Sheriff A 32-year-old woman and her 5-year- and 6-month-old children were struck by a car and transported to the hospital in critical condition after crossing Missouri Avenue in Largo last month. The mother, with her children in a stroller, was not in the crosswalk.
areas. Deputies throughout Florida have been spending time out of their cars and on the streets distributing materials and educating residents about pedestrian safety this fall. The first step you can take toward obeying the pedestrian laws is knowing them:
A glimpse to the left and right before you cross the street is not enough. Especially for Floridians, who are strolling the streets of what some analysts believe is one of the most dangerous states in America for pedestrians. According to a May 2014 study by the National Complete Streets Coalition of Smart Growth America, Florida is not only one of the most dangerous states for pedestrians, but it is also home to the top four most dangerous cities (Orlando, Tampa, Miami, and Jacksonville) for walkers.
FSS 316.130 (2):
It is important to remember that pedestrian safety is not solely motorists’ responsibility. In fact, statistics show that less than 40 percent of crashes involving pedestrians occur in crosswalks, which, when they are available, are where pedestrians are legally required to cross streets.
FSS 316.130 (11):
To combat this significant statewide issue, the Florida Sheriffs Task Force is fighting back with Operation: Safe Steps. This initiative aims to reduce crash-induced pedestrian injuries and deaths via proactive traffic education and enforcement in traditionally pedestrian-dense
Pedestrians must obey traffic signals (WALK/DON’T walk).
FSS 316.130 (3): Pedestrians must walk on sidewalk, not the roadway.
FSS 316.130 (7): When no traffic lights exist at a marked crosswalk, vehicles shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in the crosswalk. Where signals are in operation, pedestrians shall not cross at any other place than at a crosswalk. Please make your family’s safety a priority. Be alert, and take those few extra steps to the crosswalk. Sincerely, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri
Did You Know? Florida is one of the most dangerous states for pedestrians.
Florida is home to the top four most dangerous cities (Orlando, Tampa, Miami, and Jacksonville) for walkers. Operation: Safe Steps aims to reduce crash-induced pedestrian injuries and deaths via proactive traffic education and enforcement in traditionally pedestrian-dense areas. Pedestrian safety is not just about motorists – pedestrians must also comply with the state laws. Expect the unexpected – walk defensively!
Holiday Issue 2014
The Benefits of Inter-Generational Relationships
in Your Child’s Life By JENNIFER CHUNG
Inter-generational relationships are a great way for children to get a sense of history, context, and perspective. Often, adults, other than a parent, can connect with your child in ways a parent simply cannot, especially adults of an older generation. More than ever, families are living in communities without relatives nearby, so creating an environment where your child is consistently interacting with other adults can be challenging. While it may be difficult, it is important. For example, relationships with older adults are beneficial for both kids and older adults. Studies have proven that seniors who interact with young children are more invigorated and energized. Interacting with the younger generation also wards off depression in our aging society. Many older folks don’t have family around to stop by and visit, so spending time with an older friend can bring rewards to both parties. Inter-generational relationships have positive health benefits for children, in addition to enhanced social skills, better academic grades, lower risk of drug use and an increased sense of stability. Despite all the benefits, inter-generational relationships on the decline, leaving parents with the responsibility to be intentional about finding older friends for their children through senior centers, retirement communities, nursing homes, churches or by befriending an elderly neighbor. Once a connection is made, a parent can cultivate activities that promote that inter-generational When was the last time you played checkers or Monopoly? Kids relationship. Here are a few ideas: love to play games, but in today’s busy society, parents don’t always have the time to sit and play. Befriending an elderly person who has time to invest can provide entertainment for young and old Arrange time to hear about an older person’s life growing up. Because alike. Playing games helps keep the brain active and engaged for life is so different now, this can be a fascinating experience for children. the elderly and it helps teach kids about taking turns, following Stories of living through a different era can take history out of a text rules and good sportsmanship. book and make it a real-life event that touches their lives.
Playing Board Games
Get a Pen Pal Old fashioned letter writing is a lost art. Many aging people don’t use a computer for email. Writing to an older relative or friend can help children learn to appreciate the anticipation of waiting for a letter in the mail. Many kids only receive birthday cards in the mail or none at all. Taking time to write out a letter by hand helps a child practice penmanship and grammar skills.
Gardening Learning how to grow and harvest vegetables is a valuable life skill
that connects children with the earth. Sharing time in a garden is an excellent way for kids to spend time with an older friend. It provides a non-threatening environment that might open the door to sharing problems or discussing topics that children might not be ready to share with their parents.
Scrapbooking Learn New Skills Getting kids involved in scrapbooking with an elderly friend or When I was a kid, I used to spend part of my summers with my grandparents. My grandmother had a friend who was 98 and could barely walk, but part of her mission in life was to teach me how to make lace doilies. What kind of skills do your kids want to learn? Recruiting an older friend or relative who has a passion for fishing or painting might provide an opportunity for your child to experience a new hobby and make a new friend at the same time.
Holiday Issue 2014
family member creates an organic environment to touch on lots of different topics from aging, dealing with illness and death/ dying and grieving. Kids often have questions about these topics, but aren’t sure how to bring it up. Real life situations can easily be addressed as you walk through the story of someone’s life through pictures. Scrapbooking is also a wonderful way to keep family records of family stories and history alive.
Tutoring Tutoring is an excellent gateway to build a more meaningful
Want to Know More About Your Family’s Origin or Preserve Memories for the Future?
connection, especially if it is with an older family member who can bring a new perspective, along with some added patience.
Preparing a Meal Nothing brings people together like food. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t make my grandmother’s recipes the way she could. Sharing time in the kitchen making old family recipes can be an excellent way to pass down family stories from one generation to the next. Learning about one’s roots has a profound effect on helping a child feel a sense of belonging and being loved. Nothing thrills an older person’s heart more than when they hear the words, “remember when you told me…” Building a legacy that will be passed on gives seniors a tremendous sense of purpose and satisfaction. You’ve heard the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, it’s true. Even though the nuclear family has had a face lift since the 1950s, it still takes inter-generational relationships to raise well-rounded kids. If you don’t have much family to lean on or the one you have is scattered all over the country, you still need to build your own village to help with raising your kids.
How about telling your loved one who they are and where they came from this year? People interested in genetic genealogy are using DNA tests to find out about their ancestors and heritage. Family Tree DNA has packages as low as $99 to find out some pretty fascinating details about your family’s family. You can search paternal or maternal lineage in more detail. Your results might surprise you. That’s a pretty unique gift idea. Prices start at only $99, with Christmas specials running through the end of December. FamilyTreeDNA.com
How you ask? Lean on your friends! While your friends with kids of similar age are great for playdates, don’t forget the ones who may have teenagers or older relatives who can befriend and mentor your younger children. I have friends who have grown up celebrating milestones and holidays with other families who would now say those people have become closer than relatives. Incorporate families from church into your village. Many nursery workers are older and love spending time with little ones. Get to know someone outside of your generational group and reap the many benefits that come with their wisdom and experience. Some of my most valued friendships are with women who are older and willing to share life’s lessons with me which, in turn, makes me a better parent. Having children interact with adults other than their parents and teachers can help encourage social ease and confidence. And this can pay off in many ways. It allows your child to get exposed to and learn from a broader range of people. It also helps build an appreciation for the past. Our culture has never been as age segregated as it is today which has led to fewer interactions between generations. As children grow into adolescence, exposure to multi-generational relationships now opens them up to cultivating new ones in their future. As parents, we can continue to model respect and admiration for older adults in your children’s life. Leading by example will demonstrate the value of having relationships with people from multiple age groups. Ultimately, it is important for kids to respect, trust and learn from all kinds of adults so start incorporating inter-generational relationships early. As soon as we accept that we, as parents, cannot be all things to our children, the better. Introducing them to a variety of cultures, adults, insights and opinions will develop strong, confident, well-adjusted children and, eventually, adults.
Families today have generations of memories preserved on slides, Super 8, VHS, photos, negatives, audio cassettes and even Betamax! A company called Legacybox will take any format of tape, film, photo or audio and transfer them to digital files and DVD. You order a box from Legacybox and fill it with your old media to send in. In a few weeks it comes back to you digitized. They return your original materials in the keepsake box. Different size boxes have different prices ranging from $75 to $500. A wonderful project to work on as a family! Legacybox.com
Paren ng Expert and mom-of-one, Jennifer Chung is the co-founder of Kinsights.com - part paren ng community, part online health record. Kinsights provides parents with a safe place to answer their ques ons while also helping them track their child’s health informa on. Organize your child’s growth and developmental milestones, immuniza ons, medica ons, allergies, and more.
Holiday Issue 2014
Digestive Enzymes The Perfect Accompaniment to Your Holiday Meals Brenda Watson, C.N.C. President, ReNew Life Formulas Digestive Care Expert New York Times Best-Selling Author Public Television Health Educator Here come the holidays with all those traditional foods that aren’t always the healthiest choices—and lots of them! This year when planning your holiday menus, try to limit sugary pastries and some of the starchy carbohydrate dishes that convert to sugar in the digestive tract. Try to include plenty of lightly steamed vegetables, lean meats flavored with rich herbs, fruit and vegetable platters, crunchy raw nuts, and healthy fats like avocado, and olive and coconut oils. In addition to healthy food choices, taking a plant-based, digestive enzyme supplement with every meal is an easy way to help promote digestive health.* Dairy products, proteins, or vegetables like broccoli and beans can be difficult to digest. A digestive enzyme can help breakdown problematic foods to make them easier to digest and help prevent occasional gas and bloating and general discomfort caused by occasional indigestion.* Plus, by breaking down food into smaller, absorbable nutrients, digestive enzymes help support healthy energy levels and optimize nutrient availability.*
How to Choose a Digestive Enzyme • Look for an enzyme supplement that contains a full-spectrum of enzymes that help break down foods in all major food groups: protein, carbohydrates, fat, and fiber* • It should feature targeted-delivery vegetable capsules to shield the enzymes from stomach acid and ensure delivery to the intestines* •Make sure it’s third-party tested for guaranteed potency and purity When the holidays are here, keep in mind that making healthier menu choices for your family is an important gift they’ll grow to appreciate. And for better digestion, invite the adults on your list to take a potent, full-spectrum digestive enzyme with every meal— during the holidays and throughout the New Year!* For more details about high-potency digestive enzymes, visit renewlife.com or contact a ReNew Life Product Specialist at 1-800-830-1800. *These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administra on. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Holiday Issue 2014
Holiday Travel Destinations in Florida by MARISA LANGFORD, GoodLiving’s Travel Contributor and writer for Trekaroo® You might not find a white chilly Christmas in Florida, but the Sunshine State might just be the perfect place to spend the holidays for its residents. For those staying closer to home this year, choose from our list of favorites to create your own extra special family day trip or quick getaways during the holiday break from school. People fly here from all over the world to enjoy our events. So don’t stay home, get on the road and enjoy the festive holiday season with family and friends!
SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration Have a wonderful time exploring SeaWorld after hours with lights decorations and shows that will have you excited the holiday season has officially arrived. The beloved holiday classic, Polar Express, comes to life as you hop aboard a real Polar Express that transports you to the North Pole. Watch your little ones smile as the Sesame Street characters in Elmo’s Christmas Wish entertain them. Ice skaters dazzle and delight in an ice skating extravaganza called Winter Wonderland on Ice. Families will enjoy this Christmas Celebration each year. A child admission is free (each ticket does include the SeaWorld Christmas Celebration) with one full paid adult ticket ($95) now through December 31st. Seaworldparks.com
The Venice Theatre Head to Sarasota and take in some Christmas theater at the famed Venice Theatre which has three shows to choose from this season. The theatre’s original musical adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol takes to the main stage December 18-21 with evening and matinee show times. Tickets for the show are $17 for adults, $13 for college students and $10 for children and teens through 12th grade. The adult crowd may enjoy some risqué humor at The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical that runs through December 21st. Close the season with the Sounds of Christmas, December 21st and 22nd. This show features a variety of Venice Theatre’s most talented singers performing both sacred and secular traditional favorites with just enough new songs to spice things up a bit. Audiences will be invited to sing along during a few numbers. Tickets for all shows are on sale now by calling (941) 488-1115 or online at Venicestage.com.
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North Pole Express at the Florida Railroad Museum Book a trip to the North Pole via the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish. Travel on a nighttime train ride 13 miles north to a mock North Pole, a fun overall experience for kids to enjoy. Once at the North Pole, enjoy time to roast marshmallows, sip hot chocolate and eat cookies while listening to great Christmas tales in the storytelling area. Christmas comes to life at the Florida Railroad Museum with this magical train ride to see Santa at the North Pole. Advance tickets start at $24 for children and $29 for adults. First class seats are available. Book early, as tickets tend to sell out. frrm.org
Grinchmas at Universal Studios Have you always wanted to be in New York City during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? Visit Universal Studios Florida to see the larger than life balloons float by just as they do in real life! Head to Universal’s Islands of Adventure to enjoy the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss through Grinchmas. Based on the Dr. Seuss story, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, watch the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular where all your favorite characters come to life and Dr. Seuss’ Landing becomes alive with the holiday spirit being spread by all the Whos from Who-ville, and yes, even the Grinch himself ! Universalorlando.com
ICE! At The Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando Visit the Gaylord Palms for the an evening or a weekend to escape the heat and fall into a cozy winter evening with shows, lights, and lots of ICE! The Gaylord Palms is known for their annual Christmas tradition of 2-million pounds of carefully crafted ice. This year’s theme, The Nutcracker, also carries over to the beautiful performance that blends scenes from The Nutcracker by the Orlando Ballet, with aerialists swinging to the gorgeous music of Luminescence. Inside the ICE! palace, it’s 9 degrees and borrowed parkas are in order. Slide down ice slides and marvel at the hand-carved ice sculptures. Take a tube down one of eight snow slides. Tickets to the nightly performances in the atrium are complimentary, but valet parking is $27. ICE! will require a separate ticket and gingerbread cookie decorating and pictures with Santa are extra. ICE! Tickets start at $29 for adults and $15 online and in advance. Florida residents save an additional $4 per ticket for advance tickets and save $3 on regular ticket sales. Use promo code FLR14 when you book your tickets to save! Marriott.com/hotels
Now Snowing at Celebration Just outside of Orlando, in the town of Celebration, it is Now Snowing every night in December at three different times! Take a ride around this picturesque town on a horse drawn carriage or by train. Ice skate, even if it’s 80 degrees, because the rink is the only synthetic ice rink in central Florida. Enjoy dinner at one of the wonderful restaurants on Main Street. Make a night of it at and celebrate the holidays in Celebration $10 for a 30 minute minimum skate (skate rental included) 4 -10 p.m. daily. Horse and Carriage Rides are $25 for the first 2 passengers, $10 each additional person. Train Rides are $5 at the gate or $4 in advance if purchased at Confetti, Market Street Gallery, Sweet Escape, or Sanrio Surprises. Celebrationtowncenter.com
Selby Gardens Lights in Bloom The magic of the Gardens comes alive for 10 fun-filled nights as fantastic, botanically-themed holiday lights transform all of Selby Gardens into a tropical wonderland. This annual event is a treasured holiday tradition that delights all ages – you won’t want to miss the fun! Drinks and food available for purchase. $17 non-members,$14 members, $17 members’ guests. Children 11 and under are free of charge. Selby.org
Holiday Issue 2014
Mt. Dora’s City of Lights
Nights of Shimmering Lights
Mount Dora is transformed into a “City of Light” with the illumination of over 3 million lights throughout Old Mount Dora. Visit this Old Florida town, just an hour away from Orlando, and you’ll fall in love with the small town Christmas of yesterday. Train rides to the North Pole via the Cannonball Christmas Express happen each weekend throughout December. Set sail aboard the Rusty Anchor Christmas Lights on the Lake Tour, where you’ll cruise around Lake Dora and sip hot cider and enjoy this 100 year old historic town and all its charm.
Over 1,000,000 lights within 1,500 displays for miles of family enjoyment as the nights of shimmering lights take place all month long in Dover, which is in Hillsborough County. Explore the Christmas Village afterwards with hot chocolate and donuts while a classic holiday movie is played. Holiday crafts and activities will have the whole family entertained for a night of fun. Tickets can be purchased in advance and are sold per car and vary weekend ($20) to weekday ($15). Nightsofshimmeringlights.com
Cannonball Christmas Express tickets can be purchased in advance starting at $20 for kids (two and under are free). Reservations are suggested. Boat tours leave nightly from the 4th Avenue city docks. $15 for kids five and over. $25 for adults.Light Walking Tours are $5 for children, $10 for adults and start at the Historic Lakeside Inn. Reservations available at mountdorachristmas.com
Marisa Langford is a contribu ng writer to GoodLiving Magazine and is also a writer and Florida Des na on Specialist for Trekaoo. com, the travel site for family travel news, ps and deals. Marisa calls Tampa home and is typically found pushing away the screen and on the go with four kids in tow. Visit Trekaroo.com for more details on all these hotels and how to book.
Best Holiday Hotels for Kids and Families Looking for a true ‘long winter nap’, like the one in the Christmas classic? Head to the Gaylord Palms Resort as the live holiday stage show combines a holiday concert with an acrobatic and light show and you’ll instantly get in the holiday mood. Marriott.com/hotels The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort has families mingling with Santa, lighting the tree with Mrs. Claus, and even getting tucked in by one of Santa’s elves. SwanDolphin.com Stay at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando and enjoy Santa’s Teddy Bear Tea or the JW Marriott Orlando and make Gingerbread Houses. GrandeLakes.com Visit the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort and dine at Capas for the most amazing view of the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom fireworks display. The next day, explore their grand lobby draped in festive decor and then head outside with the kids to the five–acre Explorer Island that includes a winding lazy river complete with a rapids section, two water slides and an interactive splash zone with water cannons. Welcome to Winter, Florida-style! Fourseasons.com Travel “up north” this season to the beautiful barrier island of Amelia Island where the Omni Amelia Island Plantation’s Winter Wonderland is perfect for families wanting to escape the cold and make holiday memories complete with sunshine! Little ones will love Santa’s Workshop that include gingerbread decorating, hot cocoa bar and animal encounters! On Friday and Saturday nights, come visit with Santa, enjoy live entertainment, activities and play in the snow! Don’t forget the milk and cookies turn down service too! Omnihotels.com Get cozy by the fire and relax with the family making s’mores or wake up and have breakfast with Santa at the Omni Orlando Resort at Champions Gate. Omnihotels.com
Holiday Issue 2014
The Magic of Christmas Editor’s Review by PAMELA SETTLE
at Disney World
Tourists pour into Florida to get sun, surf and sand 365 days a year. When coming from cold and snowy climates, the balmy December is a treat for our northern neighbors, however for locals, that warm weather makes it a little more difficult to get into the Next stop is Hollywood Studios to experience the Osborne Christmas spirit, especially for those who grew up elsewhere. Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights show. The Osborne family is We’re one of those families and so to get in the spirit we make our a real family from Arkansas who had these lights at their home. They now light up the old city streets at Hollywood Studios to annual migration each December to Disneyworld to experience the point that you can completely lose yourself in the moment their one-of-a-kind magic, Christmas style. We start with the and be carried back in time. The lights are set to music and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom. We dance above and around you with life of their own. The streets know what to expect, but it doesn’t matter. Anticipation bubbles are packed with families, which actually adds to the atmosphere. as we walk through gates to be swept away by the decorations, Grandparents smile as memories are rekindled and tots riding on lights and music along Main Street USA. We take a collective, dads’ shoulders point here and there with wonder in their eyes. body-relaxing deep breath, we shed the stress of end-of-year demands and we begin our journey into the magic of Christmas.
Trumpeter for the candlelight processional. Photo courtesy of Walt Disneyworld.
Last but certainly not least is Epcot. Touring The World Showcase’s Holidays Around the World is an extra special treat as The highlight for me is just past sunset when someone ceremonially lights Cinderella’s Castle, causing it to sparkle in crystal-looking each country shares its holiday traditions. Stop by to visit Father Christmas in England, listen to Helga in Germany as she tells a lights that will take your breath away. This year, the someone story of the first Christmas tree and spend time in Norway with doing the lighting is Elsa who uses her powers to freeze the Sigrid to learn about Julenissen, the Christmas Gnome. The castle with help from Anna, Kristoff and Olaf from the movie Frozen. These favorites also have their own floats in the Mickey’s countries have unique gift selections in their shops, and of course Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, which appears twice during food and music add to the immersive experience. the party. At 9 p.m., the castle again becomes the center of The absolute number one we are officially in the Christmas attention when it becomes the screen for a projection show that season moment happens at the Candlelight Processional, held comes alive with animation of favorite characters and unique at the America Gardens Theater across from Liberty Square. holiday designs, all set to the music of the season. A themed Costumed trumpeters announce the entry of the choir with fireworks show immediately follows. In between the festivities, fanfare and pageantry. Hundreds of robed choir members file partygoers can snack on complimentary hot cocoa and cookies, on stage, comprised of Disney’s own cast members and private ride rides, dance with characters or shop along Main Street. The choirs that travel to participate. The choir is joined by a celebrity event requires special tickets, which are limited so it recomguest reader who reads the Christmas story from scripture in mended to buy them in advance. between songs that complete the story. If the Biblical Christmas
Holiday Issue 2014
Osborne Family light show.
story represents your origin of Christmas, then this needs to be on your â€œmust seeâ€? list as there are so few opportunities anymore to experience such a genuine, heartfelt and grand show with magnificent voices, talented readers, professional musicians and exquisite settings. There are two shows a night and typically people are lined up an hour or more before show time. The park offers the opportunity to purchase guaranteed VIP seating by purchasing a dinner/show combo package in advance. For all the holiday fun at Disney parks, show times and park hours will vary. Fortunately the Disneyworld website is straight forward and easy to use. Simply choose the park and go to events. Staying on property to enjoy all parks for a long weekend is not only convenient, but the hotels also decorate and hold events to complete your Magical Christmas Family Vacation.
news • FAITH Celebrating the Reason for the Season December is a great month to reconnect with your faith. Christmas Eve services are available at many churches and some even cater to specific group, such as those families with small children. Call your local church office for availability and times. In addition to Christmas Eve services, many churches hold special performances or are hosting live nativities. Please call to confirm all dates and times. Here are a few events to check out! Live Nativity at St Petersburg Community Church, St. Petersburg December 13th - 14th from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Florida BoyChoir Christmas Concert and Amahl and the Night Visitors Enjoy angelic voices as they perform holiday choir arrangements and the one-act opera about a special visit of the wise men. December 15th at the Mahaffey and December 17th at the Straz. Performances at 7:30 p.m. Tickets required. All is Bright - Generations Christian Church, Trinity December 23rd and 24th / Various Times Get away from the craziness, and feel the joy of Christmas through music, a special message, and even surprises for the kids, you’ll connect powerfully with the amazing God who gave us the gift of His Son! Bringing Christmas Home Lakeview Baptist Church, Clearwater December 19th at 7 p.m. and December 20th and 21st at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. (Tickets: $10) The spirit of Christmas will come alive during this two act musical drama complete with a 14 foot Christmas tree filled with live singers. This is an event for the whole family to come together to experience the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas Eve at the Mahaffey Bridgeport Church, St. Petersburg December 24th at 4 p.m. or 6 p.m. - ticket required (free) Join in an unforgettable Christmas Eve experience with live music, an inspiring message of hope, and a joyful celebration at the beautiful Mahaffey Theater. Three Gifts Christmas Production Northside Baptist Church, St. Petersburg December 24th at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Enjoy the reason for the season during this holiday musical event. The Song of Christmas - First Baptist Church of New Port Richey December 12th at 7 p.m., December 13th at 3 p.m. and December 14th at 6 p.m. (Tickets: $5 donation). You’ll experience the enjoyment of songs of the season and a touching drama about an extended family celebrating Christmas, while their loved one is away serving in the military.
Holiday Issue 2014
What a Glorious Night - Palm Harbor United Methodist Church December 21st at 8:15 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. A Christmas Festival of praise in a blended worship service. Latin Christmas Concert - Bolero & More at Iglesia Plenitud de Vida December 20th at 8 p.m. QLËN Events Presents: Bolero, Columbian, Andina, & more, Los Ruiseñores, will be in concert; featuring popular latin classics as well as favorite Christmas songs. Come out and support this classic sound and amazing talent and enjoy an the season. 14414 N Florida Ave in Tampa. (813) 501-2160 Impact Christmas at Impact Church Through December 28th from 6 p.m. - 10 p.m. A 300,000 Christmas light display & live nativity to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Included with the walk-thru display is a Christmas Story tent, life size ginger bread and candy house and 15’ reindeer. Come and bring the family for a Christmas night out. 1201 Burns Ave Lake Wales. (863) 676-1221
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My case manager quickly took me into her car and brought me to the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranch in Safety Harbor. I was so scared, mad and hurt as I was walking into Egan Cottage. The aroma of spaghetti and sauce hit me as I walked in. All the other kids in the cottage were sitting at the dining room table, laughing and talking. I hesitantly walked in with my case manager, and I met Ms. Jenna, and Mr. Patrick, the cottage parents. They hugged me as if they’ve know me forever; suddenly, a weight was lifted off my shoulders and I knew I would be okay because I felt loved. Ms. Jenna and Mr. Patrick walked me back to my new room, and I met my roommate. I sat on the floor and the cottage dog, Tucker, came running and immediately sat on my lap, comforting me. My cottage parents were so surprised; Tucker never lets anyone pick him up, he usually growls! That’s when I knew that this Ranch was where I belong. The sadness and anger slowly dissipated. I learned that I am beautiful and smart, completely opposite from what I had been told my entire life. I learned that people do indeed care about me. This was the turning point; I started to earn better grades; I was a B & C student, but lately my grades were all A’s! I made the cheerleading team and won a contest at the Summer STEM program for entrepreneurship, but the biggest prize of all was that I had a family! I loved the Ranch; Mr. Scott, Mr. Chuck, my cottage parents, the other staff, my therapist, my roommate, my house-mates, and my friends at the Ranch and at school along with my sisters and other family had made me feel so loved. No one at the Ranch ever tried to bring me down; they always brought my self-esteem and self-worth higher than I had ever thought possible.
MY STORY by BRIANA I was thirteen years old when I came to the Ranch. When my two sisters and I were not even three years old, we were removed from my mom’s custody and my father was incarcerated. We lived with my aunt, her husband and two sons. She became my legal guardian and I lived with her for 11 years. I don’t remember much about that time, but I remember that I was the “bad child.” I was never allowed to go visit friends or even go out to eat. I was always home with my aunt, who tormented me, calling me names like “fat” and “ugly,” and saying that I would “end up on the streets just like my mom.” I was blamed for everything; nothing good came from my existence. My family would try to stick up for me, but eventually they stopped. I never showed any emotion except hatred and anger. I believed everything my aunt had said about me; I stopped eating so I wouldn’t be “fat,” and even tried wearing makeup, but nothing could change her hurtful words that stuck in my head. To me, I would always be fat and ugly. One day, I found out I was going into foster care. I had no one on my side at court. My aunt had a very angry demeanor, but I refused to cry, I refused to let her win. After court, I finally cried and my aunt said, “See, that’s what you get!” and walked away. I never even got to say goodbye to my sisters.
Now, I am a better person, I love helping others around me. When other youth complain about the rules, I tell them the main reason why I love it here – because I’m cared about and no one is trying to bring me down. I no longer think about the bad parts of my past, and I point out to the others that they should concentrate on the positives, trust in them and believe things will get better. Never give up proving wrong the people who doubted you; show them you are better than they say, and that you can do anything you put your mind to. My hope is that my story will give hope to others during this Christmas season.
at can ories th t s e s t s o e n c c rida Editor ’s ne of many su f the Flo o k r o o w Briana is ed to the good y Harbor. ut hat fet be a rib uth Ranch in Sa heir eﬀorts so t d re gt Yo Sheriﬀs sider suppor n na can be nurtu n ia o r c le like B Please t. ng peop ng environmen u o y e r mo r o p g, sup in a carin hes.org nc YouthRa
Holiday Issue 2014
MY STORY by SCOTT HALBACH of the Sheriﬀs Youth Ranch
Christmas Day in 2012 is a day I will never forget. It was a day in which tears of sadness turned to tears of joy. It was a day of laughter, and squeals of delight…a day in which several hopeless lives were given hope. 2012 had been quite an eventful year at the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranch in Safety Harbor, Florida. Over the course of the year, this program had changed from being a voluntary program for at-risk teens to a program serving primarily sibling groups -children as young as age three, having lost their parents, or being pulled from their homes for reasons beyond their control. One of our primary missions is to keep some semblance of the family together. Most of the children come to the ranch against their will, not trusting the adults who would immediately become their caregivers. Understandably. Why should they? After all, in many cases, the adults in their lives had given them plenty of reason not to trust. From what I have experienced, in the time I have been in Safety Harbor, it does not take long for the children to “let their guards down.” The campus houses up to 30 children who live in three cottages that are supervised by married couples who care for the children. The Ranch provides structure that most of the children have never experienced. The four cornerstones of the program are work, study, pray, play. Under this paradigm, a strong emphasis is placed on establishing a healthy work ethic, learning good study habits, placing academics as a high priority, developing children spiritually, and providing alternatives to passive entertainment. The children are well cared for by a total of 30 adults who make up the Youth Ranch family, including therapists and nurses. Despite the healthy, home environment, children still have heartaches, and so the holidays can be an extremely difficult time. Going back to Christmas of 2012. Our third cottage had just opened in December. I did not have all the staff in place, but we chose to fill those ten vacant beds with new children immediately, because we could not allow those children to spend Christmas in a shelter. The right thing to do is not always the most convenient thing to do!
As Christmas 2012, drew closer, I braced myself for the first Christmas that 30 children of varying ages would spend together without their parents. The average age on the campus at that time was age 7. Our oldest youth were in their mid-teens, a prime age for taking on the responsibility of oldest child and assuming a more parental role. For male teens, this can be accompanied by a sense of entitlement and the tendency to put on the tough guy mask and act as if nothing is going to bother him. The community came through for these children that Christmas and I’m so grateful for their support. Their generosity provided gifts for every child. That Christmas morning, as children were opening gifts, my fears of the older children feeling entitled were squelched by the spirit of gratefulness. Our toughest young man, 15 years old, oldest of three with his tough guy shell, shook his head after opening three presents in a row. After those three gifts (he had several more to go), he put his head in his hands and said, “I can’t believe people who don’t even know me bought me these things.” I walked out on the playground that day and found all 30 kids outside playing; they were flying kites, riding bikes/scooters/big wheels, and playing with various other gifts. Many had on new clothes and new shoes. I’ll never forget their squeals of delight! All of them had smiles on their faces, except one. It took several months, but we were able to change that exponentially! Extra love, a Christmas love, surrounded them that day and brought them the simple joys of the season. This is one Christmas that I will never forget and it is memories like this that keep me doing what I do.
Children at the Sheriffs Youth Ranch in Safety Harbor are in continuous need of support from the community. For information on how to be a mentor or other ways to support the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranch in Safety Harbor, please call (727) 725-4761, or visit the web site at youthranches.org. Tours of the Safety Harbor Ranch are available to learn more. The Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches also has two other residential programs, one near Live Oak for boys and one near Bartow for girls.
Holiday Issue 2014
P.O. Box 1795 Oldsmar, Florida 34677