Heartland LIVING April & May 2022
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April & May 2022 3
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April & May 2022 5
Harley Rae Pryor The American 2022 By Linda Bernfeld and Bridgette Waldau
April & May 2022 Volume 11 Issue 2
Saving Old Florida By Christy Swift
Kayak Florida By Rebecca Maglischo
A Legacy of Love and Music By Christy Swift
66 April & May 2022 7
April & May 2022 Volume 11 Issue 2
The Best Easter Eggs on the Block By Christy Swift
Third Annual Champion for Children Youth Awards By Carissa Marine
FOOD & HEALTH 90
A Southern-Style Dinner Party to Celebrate Spring! By Cindy Sebring
10 Letter from the Publisher 14 Behind the Scenes 18 From our Readers
Heartland LIVING April & May 2022
COVER Saving Old Florida Florida Panther Family
Photography by Carlton Ward
Your Smile is our Passion! Cosmetic & General Dental Services Laser Treatment and Digital Imaging Orthodontics Invisalign ® Full-mouth Rehabilitation Same-day Crowns, Root Canals, Bridges & More Zoom! ® Whitening Sedation
April & May 2022 9
etter fromTHE PUBLISHER
is the time of year we associate with new growth and fresh starts. It’s a time when many of us find more energy and focus on self-improvement or try something different. For some of us this means spring cleaning, organizing or maybe painting with fresh colors. For others it’s time to let our creative juices flow outside. I’m truly inspired by the talented individuals featured in this issue and feel we bring you a little something for everyone. The weather is so nice now, and we are very fortunate to live in our beautiful Sunshine State. We share in this issue different ways to get outside and enjoy the weather—right in our backyards or take a little adventure to one of the Florida Springs. There are so many ways to enjoy family and friends with some sunshine.
Shout out to photographer and conservationist Carlton Ward, not only for his beautiful photo he captured of the Florida Panthers on our cover but all the amazing things he does with the Florida Wildlife Corridor. Christy has done a great job interviewing and explaining what the Corridor is in the story and how these areas are crucial habitats for Florida’s rich wildlife populations. Very interesting story! To all our rodeo sports fans, I know you are going to love reading how Harley Rae Pryor from Moore Haven, FL is living the dream of every breakaway roper in the country. I have personally been a friend with this family way back to my rodeo days and I’m honored to share this young lady’s story being the youngest qualifier at The American Rodeo. Congratulations Harley! As you can see on our “From Our Readers” page, Heartland LIVING has been making appearances in all kinds of locations throughout our Heartland Communities and beyond. In addition to the beautiful email I shared with you, I even received a phone call from a reader who is moving to the area and saw the magazine online. He asked if I would mail him a printed copy and also asked for information about our area. He is moving here, buying a house, and opening a new business. Of course, I was happy to share the magazine and our businesses with him and welcome him to the Heartland. I’m always happy to hear that not only are our articles widely read and enjoyed, but our advertisers are appreciated and utilized as well. We congratulate new businesses, and we wish them much success. Supporting local is appreciated, and our communities do an amazing job with this. I hope you feel energized this spring and find the time to express yourself creatively and learn something new. Share with me what you did for spring and what you found most interesting in this issue
Cindy Sebring Adams
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April & May 2022 11
Heartland LIVING April & May 2022
April & May 2022
Volume 11 Issue 2 CEO | Publisher Cindy Sebring Adams
Creative Director Bridgette Waldau
Editor Christy Swift
Photography Director Rafael Pacheco
Feature Writers Linda Bernfeld Rebecca Maglischo Carissa Marine Christy Swift
Cover Photographer Carlton Ward
Heartland Publications & Marketing, Inc.
Feature Photographers Jody Baton Caroline Maxcy Fox Jack Morton Carlton Ward Susan Harris
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In the Following Categories:
Best Overall Design
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Best Department Design (2) Best Feature Design (4) Cover Photo Illustration Best Traditional Illustration Best Self-Promotional Ad Best Table of Contents Best Department Design Best Photography Image (3) Best Overall Writing Best Custom Publication (2)
Florida Magazine Association
Heartland Living Magazine is published bi-monthly by Heartland Publications & Marketing, Inc. Copyright 2022, all rights reserved. Reproduction of contents in print or electronic transmission in whole or in part in any language or format must be by expressed written permission of the publisher.
All articles, descriptions and suggestions in this magazine are merely expression of opinions from contributors and advertisers and do not constitute the opinion of the publisher, editor or staff of Heartland Living Magazine, and under no circumstances constitutes assurances or guarantees concerning the quality of any service or product. Heartland Living Magazine specifically disclaims any liability related to these expressions and opinions. Heartland Living Magazine is not responsible for any unsolicited submissions. The advertiser agrees to hold harmless and indemnify the publishers from all liability.
April & May 2022 13
Behind the BEHIND THEScenes SCENES Creative Director
BRIDGETTE WALDAU has been
a graphic and fine artist for over 30 years. She received her A.A. from the Ft. Lauderdale Institute of Art and a Bachelor of Fine Art degree from Stetson University. She moved to Okeechobee in 1994 where she opened her art studio. Bridgette has been creative director for several publications, working with Heartland Publications & Marketing as art director since 2011, winning eleven Florida Magazine Charlie Awards (2015- 2021). She is Arts & Culture Alliance Director (17 years) for Okeechobee Main Street. Bridgette is married to James Waldau, a retired firefighter from the City of Hialeah.
Photography Director RAFAEL PACHECO I am a Pisces
and was born on the island of Puerto Rico. My dog thinks I am crazy for locking the door so many times in 10 seconds and my cats think I am made of catnip. Everything I wear is black, gray or blue. If I put on something colorful I must have been in a hurry. Photography is how I have let my artistic visions come to life since the early 90’s. Patience, kindness, sharing, sacrifice, love and not to judge- I saw my mother practice these and they stayed within me. We are collective energy and all from the same Source. I don’t see the world through my eyes. I see it through my soul.
"Every GREAT design begins with an even BETTER story."
- Lorinda Mamo, designer
Editor | Writer
CHRISTY SWIFT has been a
freelance writer for over 13 years, working as an award-winning newspaper correspondent, magazine article writer, and web and social media content provider. She is also a soon-to-be published author of Young Adult and Adult fiction. You can find her at www.christyswift.com.
Writer REBECCA MAGLISCHO is a wife and mother of two boys. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and a Master's Degree in Human Movement with an emphasis on Corrective Modalities. She has completed a two year study in Full Body Systems through the Holistic Nutrition Lab and a certification in Functional Range Condition through the Functional Anatomy Systems.
Writer LINDA RODRIGUEZ BERNFELD
is a freelance writer with a background in radio, television and newspapers. She has spent more than 15 years writing Positive People stories for Community Newspapers in Miami – stories written about amazing teens. She’s worked as a book seller and is the former longtime Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for Florida, organizing writing conferences for people who write children's books. Now semi-retired, she has taken up a new hobby, nature photography..
April & Mary 2022 Photographer
CAROLINE MAXCY FOX was born and
raised in Central FL. She decided to be an artist at the age of five. After achieving her BSA from Florida State University, she practiced in the field of design for six years and then received a Masters in Graphic Design from NC State University. She honed her artistic craft and developed a "way of seeing" that fuels her work. Caroline is a full time photographer and lives with her husband in the heart of Sebring, FL. Together they run the day-today life at The Great Commission Bible Institute as the Site Coordinators and Dorm Parents. Naturally, adventure abounds.
SUSAN HARRIS of Moore Haven, FL. was born in Cherrypoint, NC and raised in Alva, FL. She has one son, Ashton Powers (wife Alyssa Powers) who is in the US Marine Corp. She enjoys photography, fishing and spending time on Fisheating Creek.
JACK MORTON has had a checkered
career as a small ship captain, mental health counselor, experiential educator, and occasional freelance photographer. Who knows what may come next?
Photographer CARLTON WARD JR is an eighth-
generation Floridian, National Geographic Explorer and uses photography to inspire conservation of Florida’s nature and culture. Carlton founded the Florida Wildlife Corridor campaign in 2010. He has trekked more than 2,000 miles through the corridor to showcase a statewide vision to protect Florida’s wild places. His expeditions produced award-winning books, PBS films and widespread outreach. Carlton photographs have been published widely, including in National Geographic and Smithsonian magazines. Carlton is currently seeking to encourage the habitat protection needed to expand the panther population and keep Florida wild.
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Heartland LIVING www.HeartlandLivingMagazine.com April & May 2022 15
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READERS Heartland LIVING
February & March 2022
February & March 2022
I have recently discovered your publication. It is heartfelt that I found this publication printed with the quality and size that it is. I was in the printing industry for forty three years, working for RR Donnelley & Sons. I had the good fortune to have worked in the glory days of printing. Your publication is truly a work of art that you and all of your staff and printer should be proud of. The quality of the printing and quality of the stock that was chosen for the magazine is not seen often for this size for this type of magazine. You have truly set yourself apart from others. I would like to wish you, your staff, and the printer the best of luck now and in the future. You truly put out a masterpiece with each publication. I hope you will share this note with the printer and your staff. -Carm Henderson
I love this magazine and look forward to each issue. -Trish Pat Lewis Meckstroth Great local magazine! - Patty Bird
Picked up the latest Heartland Living Magazine, checked out the great photos of Sebring Fire & Rescue team members and read the story featuring Rachel Smit and her journey of reaching the rank of Lieutenant plus insight on how SFD has achieved a gang of "young gun firefighters." I especially liked the photos of past Sebring Firemen getting together at the historic station in downtown Sebring. -Michael M E Waldron
Fire Department TEN YEARS LATER By Christy Swift Photography by Caroline Maxcy Fox
ur very first issue of Heartland Living Magazine featured the historic Sebring Fire Department’s Station 14 and the changes it had undergone since its inception in 1927. As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, we thought we’d circle back with our local heroes at the station and see what’s new!
Sebring Professional Firefighters Local 3210
Premier Issue Cover Photo by Rafael Pacheco 41
Gardening With Kids
Shout out Heartland Living Magazine for showcasing our Hometown Heroes! -Alisa Piper
Playing in Dirt isn't Just Fun – It's Healthy, Too!
I’ve often said you should be very proud of your hard work, Cindy! I make it a point to go out of my way to pick up a new copy. I’ve saved them all and share with visiting friends and family. -Penny Hanchey
By Kimberly Blaker
here's no question, playing in the dirt tops the list of fun for kids, particularly young children, despite the protests of many well-intended parents. If you happen to be one of those worried parents, you can put your fears aside. As it turns out, dirt is actually beneficial to the long-term health of kids. According to a Northwestern University article by Clare Milliken, "Germs at four, less inflammation at forty." Studies have found that early exposure to certain germs, like those found in dirt, actually helps kids' immune systems learn to regulate inflammation better. In turn, this exposure reduces kids' risk for many diseases throughout their lives. For that reason, a family garden is a perfect opportunity to build your kids' immune systems. Better still, gardening offers lots of other benefits to kids and families. Through gardening, kids learn to be responsible by caring for their own plants. It's also a great way to help kids learn about and develop an appreciation for science. Another health benefit is that gardening encourages healthier eating. Not to mention, it's an excellent activity for family bonding. So gather up your kids and gardening supplies, head outdoors, and get ready for some dirt-filled fun.
So proud of such a beautiful magazine you and the team produce! -Barbara Cochli
February & March 2022 77
If you would like to share your thoughts, please leave a post on our Facebook page or email us at Cindy@Heartland-Living.com 18
April & May 2022 19
The Villages of Highlands Ridge is home to 635 families that live in beautiful homes with beautiful views. There are
150 completely ready to build homesites available. All infrastructure is in place. This is a golf cart friendly community. Actually, it is a golf cart preferred community. A full-time event coordinator keeps everybody as busy as they can be. Not to mention, besides the golf courses, there is bocce ball, pickle ball, basketball, tennis, shuffleboard courts, and two swimming pools, two restaurants, two club houses and two pro shops. Lake Bonnet is adjacent to this property. There are two piers on Lake Bonnet, one is for watching beautiful sunsets; the second dock is next to the private boat ramp. Before we talk about the golf courses and the home sites, there are over 2 miles of natural hiking trails. You get a chance to step back in time and see where the Seminole Indians roamed and lived. There is wildlife galore. Florida Whitetail deer, Osceola turkeys with their big 8-inch beards, owls, hawks, eagles, ospreys and then of course you have your residence squirrels, possums, armadillos, raccoons, bobcats, and you might even get lucky and see a Florida panther. Five of our nature trails take you down a small hill to the creek bed where you can have a picnic at one of the picnic tables overlooking the creek. Go to www.highlandsridgenewhomes.com and watch the new video!
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By Christy Swift Photography by Carlton Ward
A hundred acres sounds like a lot of land, but when it comes to animal habitats and conservation, it’s just a drop in the proverbial bucket. Florida is growing (over 200,000 new residents joined our state from 2020 to 2021, according to census data), and it’s unlikely to stop. But how can we grow without losing what we love most about this state— our open spaces, our healthy waterways, our wildlife and their habitats, the “Old Florida” that’s so close to our hearts? According to photographer and conservationist Carlton Ward, Jr, we can start by preserving the Florida wildlife corridor.
April & May 2022 23
The Florida wildlife corridor is an interconnected network of green spaces spanning the state. It includes forests, wetlands, fields, pastures, timberlands and even fringes of the suburbs. These areas are crucial habitats for Florida’s rich wildlife populations, such as Florida panthers, black bears, alligators, otters and many species of birds. It’s not just about acreage, either. It’s about keeping these areas connected so that migrating species can move between them rather than allowing development to segment them into conservation “islands.” The limited biodiversity that occurs when this happens endangers these animals.
“Panthers used to live throughout the entire eastern United States,” Ward explains. “Through persecution and hunting and habitat loss over the previous century, they were wiped out everywhere east of the Mississippi River except on the southern tip of Florida because the Everglades were so wild and remote, nobody wanted to develop them. It was the last refuge for the panther.” “Since then, the panther numbers dropped down to only 20 or fewer in the 70s and 80s, and they were so inbred they were having problems. The males were infertile. They were having physical health abnormalities. Holes in their hearts. Kinked tails. That decreases health and is a fast track to local extinction. We’re trying to avoid that with other animals elsewhere. Turkey, deer, bobcat, bear, panther— they have to have enough territory to have enough numbers to be genetically viable,” Ward explains.
The concept of a Florida wildlife corridor was founded back in 2010 by a group of conservationminded partners from both government and private organizations, including the Nature Conservancy, Audubon of Florida, Defenders of Wildlife, Archbold Biological Station, and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. Ward and many others, including Florida Wildlife Corridor executive director and CEO Mallory Lykes Dimmitt worked hard to get the corridor concept in front of lawmakers, and last summer their work paid off. Legislation was passed formally recognizing the corridor, and the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act was signed by Governor Ron DeSantis on June 29th, 2021. Support for the Act was unanimous, something that’s difficult to achieve in our current polarized political climate. “The landmark passage of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act officially designated the Florida Wildlife Corridor as a priority area and shined a spotlight on its importance, and we will build on this momentum to continue conserving the Corridor,” Dimmitt said in a press release.
Carlton Ward, Jr,
While the Act itself did not have any dollars attached to it, the legislature also immediately allocated $300 million in federal economic stimulus funds to wildlife conservation in addition to the $100 million that was already in place via the Florida Forever conservation program. So far, as a result, six new conservation areas in the corridor have been established. Ward has visited almost all of them.
This privately owned 1,661-acre property is a tract of land in eastern Hardee County bordering the Highlands County Sun ‘n Lake Preserve. It contains a mix of flatwoods, hammock, and improved pasture with wetlands throughout, and houses a small cattle operation. “It’s cool because in eastern Hardee county, there’s been very little conservation easement activity on private land. This property is on the headwaters of Charlie Creek, part of the Peace River watershed, and supports a whole range of species,” Ward says.
This property, owned by Alico, Inc., is located in Hendry county and consists of two non-contiguous parcels totaling 1,638 acres. According to the legislative minutes, “Both the northern 896-acre parcel and the southern 742-acre parcel share the majority of its boundary with the Okaloacoochee Slough Wildlife Management Area and the Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest. Serving as a primary and secondary zone for the federally endangered Florida panther, numerous records of panther use, as well as other rare and threatened plants and animals, have been noted throughout the subject property.” 28
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April & May 2022 29
Coastal Headwaters Longleaf
This is a 2,115-acre piece of working pine forest adjacent to the Blackwater River State Forest in Santa Rosa county in the Florida panhandle. According to the minutes, preservation of this property will help restore longleaf forests, one of the most threatened and ecologically diverse ecosystems in the world; allow for more recreational opportunities; provide for better prescribed fire management; and protect the drinking water in Santa Rosa County. Ward notes that this conservation effort was achieved after a lot of hard work by the Conservation Fund working with the Department of Environmental Protection using resources from the U.S. Forest Service. “Sometimes it’s state and federal partnerships that get the job done,” he says.
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This parcel is 4,381 acres of the Corrigan Family ranch located in Okeechobee county and acts as an extension of the Kissimmee Prairie State Preserve. Ward says the Florida Conservation Group partnered with Common Ground Ecology to help make this happen. Ward also notes that this area is home to the Florida grasshopper sparrow, the most endangered bird in North America, which relies on rare dry prairie habitat.
Spanning Indian River and Okeechobee counties, this 6,665-acre parcel is part of Wedgeworth Farms, a working cattle ranch, located south of Yeehaw Junction. It is located within the Kissimmee-St. Johns River Connector Florida Forever project and represents the two biggest watersheds in the area. According to the cabinet minutes, “This area is important for the Florida grasshopper sparrow, sandhill crane, mottled duck, wood stork, crested caracara, and other imperiled wildlife species.”
These 3,279 acres in Okeechobee County belong to the Larson family, who span 75 years and three generations of ranching in Florida. Rancher and naturalist Woody Larson purchased it primarily as conservation land, and secondarily to use as a working cattle ranch. It is part of the St. Lucie River Estuary basin and contains cypress swamps, mixed hardwood forests, and pastureland. Both of its creek systems empty into drainage canals that flow into the North St. Lucie River. Larson has seen many game species on the property, including white-tailed deer, wild hogs, turkey, and quail. He’s also seen wood storks, rose spoonbills and bald eagles. His son and co-owner of the property, Travis Barton, has captured footage of panthers on his game cameras. Some of their neighbors hope to earn conservation easements as well, Larson says, which will help to further insulate the corridor. “I’m really pleased that our legislature is looking at funding more conservation easements,” says Larson. “I think if Florida is going to remain what we remember and what we think of as Florida, we need to protect these areas.” Cow Creek Ranch
April & May 2022 33
Saving “Old” Florida seems to be one issue that transcends political ideology. No matter whom we vote for, most of us love this state and don’t want it to lose its natural, wild beauty. "Florida’s landscape is unique and diverse – we continue to put the puzzle pieces in place to conserve lands that protect our water and provide wildlife habitat and outdoor public recreation," said Department of Environmental Protection Director of State Lands Callie DeHaven in a press release. "We feel especially fortunate to be working with passionate and dedicated partners to make these important purchases and look forward to continuing our commitment - together." But there’s more work to be done. The Florida cabinet will be looking at adding more conservation easements to the list in their next meeting on March 29, 2022. Heartland Living will be following up to see what those will look like. In the meantime, to learn more about the Florida Wildlife Corridor and how you can help support it, visit floridawildlifecorridor.org.
April & May 2022 35
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The American 2022 By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld and Bridgette Waldau Photographers Susan Harris, Jody Baton and Christopher Thompson Thirteen-year-old Harley Rae Pryor is living the dream of every rodeo breakaway roper in the country. Harley was the youngest qualifier at the The American Rodeo on March 6, 2022 and competed against some of the best in the world in breakaway roping where she placed an impressive third place. The American is an annual legendary western weekend that is held each year at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas and represents the richest single-day event in all western sports. Over the course of the qualifier events across the country, competitors will all battle for what the biggest single-day paycheck of their careers could be. Owned by Teton Ridge, The American is a true open competition in format. The iconic event brings together top professional rodeo athletes and honest, hardworking cowboys and cowgirls in a winner-take-all showdown, meant to crown the finest talent the world has to offer.
April & May 2022 39
arley, from Moore Haven, Florida, handled herself with the composure of a veteran contender and champion throughout The American competition, and she has some powerful advice for young ropers who might find themselves intimidated by competing against their idols in competition. “I would tell anybody who wants to make The American, don’t be scared no matter who you have to rope against.” And her talent of breakaway roping at such a young age did not go unnoticed in the big arena. Breakaway roping is a variation of calf roping where a calf is roped, but not thrown and tied. It is a rodeo event that features a calf and a mounted rider. A light rope is fastened from the chute to the calf's neck, releasing once the calf is well away from the chute and releasing the barrier, which is used to ensure that the calf gets a head start. Once the barrier has released, the horse runs out of the box while the roper attempts to throw a rope around the neck of the calf. Once the rope is around the calf's neck, the roper signals the horse to stop suddenly. The rope is tied to the saddle horn with a string. When the calf hits the end of the rope, the rope is pulled tight and the string breaks. The breaking of the string marks the end of the run. The shortest time wins.
Harley with her parents, Leslie and Weston
eing a breakaway champion was almost inevitable for Harley. “She’s been on a horse all her life, even before she was born,” says Weston Pryor, her father and coach. “Harley comes from a long line of rodeo family on both sides, which includes my dad and my grandparents. She really didn’t have much of a choice. She didn’t know any different.” Harley’s grandparents, Janet and Byron Storey are fourthgeneration ranchers in Moore Haven. They live on their expansive family Florida ranch, which also hosts citrus and sugarcane. Harley comes from a unique generation of girls. Both her mother and grandmother competed in rodeos. “My mom breakawayed when she was in high school, junior high and college, and my dad bull dogged,” Harley said. “I’ve been into rodeo ever since I was born.”
Young Harley with her parents in 2012
Harley sat on her first horse at two or three-years-old. She started roping at six, and her first roping competition was when she was seven. Her accomplishments take a team. Weston says he’s just one of her coaches. “We have a team of people from all around the country. From mental to physical training, there have been people in her life that helped her to get where she’s at, including her mother and grandparents. She has one of the best support teams there is.”
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Harley and her Grandfather, Bryon Storey
arley has been a winner from the start. She competes in events around Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, and Las Vegas. Her mother Leslie Pryor says, “I’m amazed at her. She was 11 when she won a truck. She won the 15 and under breakaway and won a Dodge truck. She had won little things here and there, and it kind of went on from there. There are probably 20 saddles she has won and many belt buckles.” Harley competes in some form of roping every weekend in Florida, and then once a month in Texas. She also rides and ropes in the Florida Junior High Rodeo Association events.
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The American was a different tournament style than what Harley was used to. It was an open competition, which means anyone can enter. “She was the youngest one in the competition,” Leslie says. “They started out with over 500 competitors. They narrowed it down to the 10. The girls closest to her age were 18 and they were in college. Competition began Feb. 22. They roped two calves and the field was narrowed down to the top 30. There were 300 competitors but only four of those made it to the semi-final round. Harley was one of the four.”
April & May 2022 43
lot of her success may have to do with her special bond with her horse “Jewels.” Harley said, “Jewels tells me when to rope. She will run in the hole and paddle off, and that’s when I rope. We’ve been partners since day one. I don’t know what I would do without her.” The same weekend Harley was competing in The American, she was also participating in the Hooey Junior Patriot, where she won the 15 and under breakaway. All in all, she won $65,000 over the weekend. Both Leslie and Weston lost their voices by the end of the weekend from cheering so much and so loud. Leslie says she’s happy and proud at what Harley has achieved. Leslie says she’s not usually nervous when her daughter competes, but she was nervous for her that weekend. “It was a big milestone. It’s a thing only an elite few will get to experience. I just wanted her to do good.” Weston also felt the pressure for Harley. He said once Harley went into the arena, the coaching was over, and it was muscle memory that took over. “We’ve been out there since she was seven years old, and it paid off. This is her biggest accomplished so far.”
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s for Harley, she says she’s just a 13-year-old living every girl’s dream. She’s happy she placed so well, but at the same time, it was just another day of roping. “The crowd was a lot bigger, but I just had to do my job and I did,” she says. “The AT&T (stadium) had a lot more people. You’re standing in the tunnel and there are champions back there. It was a good experience.” The way things are going, Leslie sees Harley making a career out of competing in rodeos. “It’s a growing sport, that you can now make a living at.” she says. “I see her doing it for as long as she wants to, for years to come.”
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Weston is fine with that, but he says there is only one thing that’s more important: “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what we win, it’s the quality of the person that we’re trying to raise. That’s our end goal for me and her mother.” It's amazing that Harley participated as the youngest qualifier to this year’s The American, but what's even more amazing is the way she approached it with such confidence. The Florida cowgirl backing into the box for The American Finals Breakaway Roping Short Go, walked away a third-place winner. She is amazing and her proud Florida hometown will see her for many years competing and earning rodeo win after win.
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t the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what we win, it’s the quality of the person that we’re trying to raise. That’s our end goal for me and her mother. -Weston Pryor
Harley Pryor and “Nammer” (2012) - Photography by Rafael Pacheco
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By Rebecca Maglischo Photos Courtesy of the Florida Springs
s the temperature rises, Floridians turn to the water for a bit of a reprieve. While a day at the beach might be the first idea that enters the mind, Florida is blessed with an abundance of waterways from sparkling lakes and spring runs to blackwater rivers and more. These beautiful waterways are quilted into the landscape, creating opportunity for an abundance of other outdoor water adventures. Canoers and kayakers can choose from easy floats with the family to multi-day expeditions requiring advanced skills and specialized boats and gear. Rather than simply languish beside the water, paddlers have a unique opportunity to explore Florida from the other side of the shoreline; to engage with the water! A quiet observant paddler can enjoy excellent wildlife viewing, explore interesting fishing nooks, or simply log miles of exercise in a breathtaking setting.
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he waterways of Florida are as sprawling as they are connected. These pathways carry the history and stories of long-ago extinct creatures and ancient tribes. The porous limestone that underlies the Florida peninsula, sometimes thousands of feet thick, is the Floridan aquifer. The Florida landmass emerged from the sea tens of thousands of years ago and the lime rock "trapped" the sea water. Over the centuries, the rains and freshwater began to form tunnels and cavities. These underground distributions of water collected into what would become a giant reservoir. In some areas, where the crust is thin, this water bubbles to the surface, resulting in more than 600 freshwater springs. Some are small – barely noticeable, really – while others are large enough to pump out millions of gallons of water a day, enough to feed a major river. Ancient Floridians would have relied on these for fresh water, as well as transportation and food.
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he Florida waterways were the original highways and even as recently as the early 1900s, the southern interior was a vast and foreboding swampland, largely inaccessible except with a paddle. Early humans gathered by the springs where they fed on mastodon, mammoth, ground sloth, giant armadillo and beaver. They transported goods to new sites in dugout cypress canoes. The footpaths along the rivers connected villages and even formed the original network on which many modern-day roads were built. Today, divers sometimes find bones and teeth, as well as stone-age tools, from this forgotten age.
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Efforts to tame the watery landscape took many twists and turns, guided by the needs and capabilities of the day. As Florida and the other southern states began to grow, there were very few railroads to transport passengers and freight from local enterprises to salt water ports where they could be shipped to northern markets. This made Florida rivers a logical and important way to connect the state to the rest of the world. Today, the waters of Florida that once served as highways are more like lazy country roads. Here you can escape the hustle and bustle, find tranquility, and enjoy encounters with the wildlife. Florida is a paddler’s paradise with the largest concentration of springs in the world. The inlets, bays, mangrove forests and coastline offer even more options! The first Florida paddling trails were designated in the early 1970s, and trails have been added to the list ever since. Total mileage for the state-designated trails is now more than 4,000 miles! The Florida Office of Greenways and Trails (OGT) coordinates the designated trails and works with or seeks to identify local and regional managers. The Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail (commonly referred to as the CT) is a 1,515-mile sea kayaking paradise that includes every Florida coastal habitat type. Numerous historical sites and points of interest are accessible by kayak along with colorful fishing communities and urban centers.
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he Florida Department of Environmental Protection manages an informative website with maps, tips and links for more information: “Local outfitters, paddling clubs and the non-profit Florida Paddling Trails Association are good sources for learning about the numerous non-designated paddling trails.” The website also suggests that “taking a guided trip with a group such as Paddle Florida is a great way to break into multi-day adventures on the water.” The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provides further information encouraging paddlers to take part in conservation. By becoming a Citizen Scientist, you can “help expand our knowledge of Florida’s fish and wildlife and assist the FWC with research and management efforts."
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Weeki Wachee Springs
f hitting the water sounds like the perfect adventure, these are a few well-known spots in Central Florida: Chassahowitzka Springs, Homosassa Springs, Kings Bay Springs, Rainbow Springs, or Weeki Wachee Springs. An outfitter can provide basic equipment like the kayak or canoe, paddles and life jacket. But you'll still want to do a little preparation yourself. Be sure to wear sunscreen, and a hat is great additional sun protection. Purchase a dry bag to transport your phone, keys, ID, and food. Pack plenty of water, a first aid kit and a whistle, and be sure to have a buddy. Take all the photos you want, but don't interact with the wildlife. And finally, leave the waterways pristine by removing all food scraps and trash. A day on the water in Florida is certain to be memorable. Nowhere else on Earth supports such diversity of habitat that is so accessible for personal adventure. The history of this landscape began with water and the lives of Floridians have ebbed and flowed through this aquatic connection. To traverse the waterways is to simultaneously link oneself to the past and propel oneself forward. It is the story of water. It is the story of humans.
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A LEGACY OF and
By Christy Swift Photography by Jack Morton If you pass by the Lake Wales Arts Center in the summer months, you might get to hear magic happening. That’s because the MusicGirls camp is in session, and girls from Polk County and beyond have come to learn to play folk music. The camp lasts a week, with a session for younger and a session for older girls. All skill levels are welcome. The goal? To inspire girls ages six to 19 to develop music skills, creativity, and self-esteem.
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he camp started out as a scholarship program, founder Steve Morrison explains. “My wife Sandy Greer passed away in 2014, and people started asking me how they could remember her. I came up with the idea of creating a music scholarship with the donations because Sandy was a really gifted singer and guitar player, and that was her life— her life was playing music.” The couple played professionally together in rock ‘n roll bands and at folk music festivals, so it naturally followed to remember Sandy through music. “We call it Sandy’s MusicGirls or MusicGirls. It’s been so rewarding,” Morrison says. The folk music community rallied around Morrison to help him launch the endeavor. Dr. Jim Robertson, retired college administrator and musician, helped to organize it. His wife Melanie Robertson taught banjo and helped with administration. They invited other female musicians to serve as instructors. “We use all women instructors. That’s part of our thing. We want girls to see women role models as musicians,” says Morrison.
Steve and Sandy Greer Morrison
Marissa Peters with Steve Morrison
Instructor Hannah Eckstein with student
irls can take classes in guitar, ukulele, violin, cello, dulcimer, banjo, songwriting, and singing. There are also classes in clogging and rhythms. Cindy Bear has been teaching guitar and songwriting at the camp since 2016. “The girls are so fun and fresh and so talented, they don’t even know it,” she says. The camp is completely free, paid for by donations. Instruments are also donated. Even lunch is provided. “There are a lot of girls that can’t afford a musical instrument or lessons, per se,” says Bear. “Sandy’s MusicGirls gives them an opportunity. There’s been a lot of donated instruments, and we’re always seeking new instruments,” she adds. People can also donate money, food for lunches, even their time hefting instruments, serving food, etc.
“The girls are wonderful. They’re magnificent. It helps me feel young. I want to do this as long as I can. My life is so much more enriched just by knowing them,” Bear says.
We use all women instructors. That’s part of our thing. We want girls to see women role models as musicians. - Steve Morrison
Kricket Moros - Fiddle (Violin) Instructor
hebe Sager has been able to experience the camp from both sides— as a camper and as an instructor. The 19-year-old is currently a student at Southeastern University in Lakeland, double-majoring in music performance and music education. Sager began attending Sandy’s MusicGirls camp at age 14 and came back each summer until graduation. As a classically trained cellist, Sager hadn’t been exposed to folk music before the camp, or to certain instruments, such as the dulcimer (a stringed lap instrument in the zither family). But lack of experience shouldn’t deter girls from attending the camp, she urges. “Everyone is very welcoming and wants you to learn and grow and try and see what kind of noise you can make on your instrument,” says Sager. “It was very squeaky the first couple of days,” she recalls. At the end of the week, the camp puts on a concert for the families featuring songs written by campers. Even beginners can perform on the ukulele or dulcimer after just five days of camp. “The girls perform in groups. We try to make performing low stress, low anxiety, and make it fun. Some that really excel might perform solo,” Morrison explains. During camp, the girls also get a chance to “jam” with local folk musicians. For Sager, her best memories have to do with the friends she made. “We were all there to learn new things and we also were just having fun making music. We would mess up and then just laugh together. I’m still in contact with a lot of the girls I met at MusicGirls. We still get together and have jam sessions.” Sager used to play gigs as the Three Strings Trio with her sister Catherine, now 18, and brother Eddie, 16, and she says Sandy’s MusicGirls had a huge influence on that. Now that Sager’s in college, the siblings don’t get to play together as much, but the trio has videos on Youtube. “Without Mr. Steve, I wouldn’t know how to play folk music on the cello. I probably wouldn’t be pursuing music as a degree,” she adds. Morrison invited Sager to become an instructor last summer and Sager agreed. She taught beginning and advanced cello, and was surprised at how diligent her students were. “They kept surprising me each day. They would take the cellos home and practice. I didn’t expect that." Her favorite part of being an instructor was seeing the girls’ progression and how quickly they picked up what she was teaching them. “They’d say, ‘oh, I get this now,’ and be able to play a whole song through. They looked so proud and excited that they could do that.”
April & May 2022 73
irls can “check out” instruments that they’re interested in so they can practice and learn at home, even outside of camp. Bear says that Sandy’s MusicGirls offers classes and learning opportunities throughout the year. The donated instruments they receive always go to good use, with volunteers tuning them and making them serviceable.
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There is no charge for campers, and the next camp dates are June 8 – 10 for girls ages 6 through 9 and June 13 – 17 for girls ages 10 through 19. It’s a full day for the older girls and a half day for the juniors. Camp is held at the Lake Wales Arts Center. Morrison said the biggest group they’ve had pre-Covid was 60 girls, and as the dates get closer they’ll decide what their capacity will be for this summer. Families travel from as far as Highlands, Hardee, and DeSoto counties to participate.
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For Morrison, it’s hard to put into words what Sandy’s MusicGirls means to him. “Sandy was such an inspiration to a lot of girls when she performed, and to a lot of adults, for that matter. She had this incredible gift. It’s been an amazing experience for me to try to help girls achieve their potential with music.”
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Everyone is very welcoming and wants you to learn and grow and try and see what kind of noise you can make on your instrument. -Phebe Sager
Lake Wales Arts Center
For more information, to donate, or to register for Sandy’s MusicGirls summer camp, visit www.sandysmusicgirls.org or contact Steve Morrison at email@example.com or by phone, 863-443-4716.
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ON THE BLOCK
By Christy Swift
Easter eggs in other households when I was growing up involved a Paas kit, a white crayon, and stickers. But in our house, with my mother’s Ukrainian heritage, Easter eggs weren’t just for fun. They were art. And they were our heritage.
hen Ash Wednesday arrived each spring in our Catholic household, the Easter egg supplies came out. My mom, Lucia Paul (nee Shewchuck), would order the little packets of dye in colors like Yellow, Orange, Brick, Red, Green, Navy Blue, and Black. She’d lay out the kitskies, or styluses, with the stained wooden handles and metal tips that we would use to draw on the eggs with beeswax. Some had a thinner hole at the tip for more precision work, while beginners did better with a wider hole. She even had a thick, homemade “stylus for little hands” fashioned by her father, my grandfather, Joseph Shewchuk.
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We usually started with a plain white chicken egg at room temperature, although theoretically you could use any egg. My mother would buy medium or large eggs rather than extra-large as the smaller ones had thicker shells and were less likely to crack. My brother Jimmy and I would page through her pysanka books (pysanka or pysanky is the official name of the art), choosing our designs. Every symbol had meaning, giving the eggs a chance to tell a story or offer a wish or blessing. The books also helped us maintain the authentic look of pysanka by matching the Eastern European styles. Heating the metal tip of my stylus, we’d melt beeswax into the hole at the back of the stylus’ head and carefully draw flowers, dots, nets, trees, crosses, a stalk of wheat, or animals onto the white shell. Melted wax would flow out of the tip as we dragged it across the surface of the egg. Once the wax touched the eggshell, forevermore what was underneath that wax would remain white. If you made a mistake, scraping the wax off didn’t work. There were no take-backs. Ukrainian Easter eggmaking was a lesson in patience, care, adaptability, and occasional heartbreak. Once you were done drawing everything that you wanted to stay white on your egg, you’d place it on a soup spoon and carefully lower it into the lightest color dye you planned to use (usually yellow). After several minutes, the same spoon would retrieve a bright, golden-colored egg. Whatever designs you drew on the egg at this point would remain yellow. You’d repeat this process for one or two more dye colors. Once the final dye color was dry, you’d grab a roll of paper towel and gently hold the egg up to a candle flame. As the heat re-melted the beeswax, you’d wipe it off with the paper towel, revealing the colorful, intricate designs underneath. Lastly we’d blow out the contents (that’s a whole article in itself) and my mother would varnish them and lay them to dry on a wooden board studded with nails (also made by my grandfather). Viola! The best Easter eggs on the block.
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t’s pretty amazing that a tradition that has existed in the eastern Mediterranean nations since 5,000 to 3,000 years before Christ is still alive today. Originally a pagan ritual object, the eggs were absorbed into Easter traditions as Christianity spread. It is thought that one of the reasons the Ukrainian egg tradition remained so strong was because the country was less accessible to new cultural influences than its neighbors. The art form went into decline due to religious repression during the twentieth Century, but survived in small villages, particularly in western Ukraine. Of course, Ukrainians in free parts of the world, like my mother’s family, also kept it alive. My mom still remembers the little drop leaf table that my grandfather made, where she and her sisters would make eggs at Easter time. My grandfather would raise the leaf, my grandmother would supervise and direct, and the rest of the family would ooh and ahh over the eggs at Easter dinner. Making our Easter eggs was always a highlight of the Easter season for my brother and me. We learned a few things the hard way: always keep a towel under your egg for the inevitable moments when it slipped out of your hand; don’t be greedy and overfill your stylus or you were sure to get a big blob of wax right in the middle of your design; and to make a straight line, hold your stylus still and turn the egg. It’s amazing that even children can learn these simple tips and create beautiful eggs, as my daughters have. Every spring, as they head to Baba’s house to create their eggs, she reminds them of the folk legend she was taught— that every year someone had to make pysanky to keep the evil at bay. Between my mom and my Aunt Sandy, they always made sure someone was on the case!
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Making eggs this year has been more somber in light of what the people of Ukraine are enduring. Easter eggs are meant to symbolize new beginnings and rebirth. Each egg we craft carries with it a hope and a prayer that this war will end, and soon. God bless the Ukrainian people. - Christy Swift
Want to help the people of Ukraine? Reach out to UNICEF, the CARE Ukrainian Crisis Fund, Voices of Children, the International Committee of the Red Cross, or another reputable organization. 87
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By Cindy Adams Spring is here! Why not pick a free weekend on your calendar and invite friends to your home patio (or a nearby picnic spot) for an outdoor dinner party? Warmer temps have arrived, and it is a good time of the year to eat as many meals outside as possible. The season’s most colorful bounty provides endless options for a tabletop dining inspired by nature. Southern entertaining is all about easy sophistication. Breezy linens, colorful flowers, and big platters of seasonal food set the stage for a memorable meal. In keeping with the graciousness that defines a Southern host, I try to think about what details will make my guests feel comfortable, taken care of and well-fed. For a casual weekend dinner party, I always serve food family-style. There’s nothing like having guests pass around abundant platters of food to get them mingling and enjoy friendship with dinner.
Baby Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese and Strawberries Braised Chicken Thighs with Olives, Lemon, & Thyme Honey Roasted Carrots with Herbed Boursin Cheese Roasted Wild Salmon with Citrus, Chiles, & Herbs Biscuits with Honey Butter
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Southern-Style Dinner Party
Baby Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese and Strawberries This salad is almost too easy for a recipe! It calls for just 5 main ingredients.
Mixed baby lettuces Sliced strawberries Almonds or walnuts Goat cheese crumbles Sliced mint 92
Drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic, plus a sprinkle of flaky salt, and you’ve got spring’s simplest salad!
Braised Chicken Thighs with Olives, Lemon, & Thyme Ingredients
6 – 8 bone in, skin on chick thighs Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper Olive oil 8 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled ½ cup pitted green olives 2 lemons, cut into wheels, plus more for garnish
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high, coat bottom of pan with oil, and then add chicken skin side down. Cook for about 5 minutes until browned on one side and skin will release easily from pan, then flip. Add chicken stock, garlic, olives, lemon, and 8 sprigs of thyme. Transfer skillet to oven, and roast until chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes. Let rest tented with foil for a few minutes, then garnish with fresh thyme sprigs and more lemon wheels 93
Roasted Wild Salmon with Citrus, Chiles and Herbs Ingredients
1 2-lb. skinless salmon fillet, bones removed Extra-virgin olive oil 2 blood oranges, divided 2 Meyer lemons (or regular lemons), divided 1 Fresno chile, thinly sliced Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 bunch fresh dill
Preheat the oven to 350˚. Place the salmon on a foil-lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, then top with zest and juice from 1 orange and 1 lemon. Scatter the chile slices over the salmon and season with salt and pepper. Roast until salmon is just cooked through, about 22 minutes. Carefully transfer the salmon to a serving platter, pouring any remaining oil from the roasting pan over the top of the salmon. Thinly slice the remaining orange and lemon, and scatter over and around the salmon, then garnish with dill sprigs. Serve!
Honey Roasted Carrots with Herbed Boursin Cheese
1.5 pounds carrots, peeled and halved long-ways (smaller carrots with green tops still on preferred!) 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle 2 tablespoons honey, plus extra to drizzle Salt and pepper 1 package Boursin Cheese 4 cups Greek yogurt Zest of 1 lemon 1 bunch tarragon, chopped
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, toss carrots with extra virgin olive oil, honey, salt and pepper. Spread on parchment-lined baking sheet, and roast for about 20 minutes, until carrots are tender and start to caramelize. While carrots are roasting, whisk together Boursin Cheese and Greek yogurt. When fully combined, use spoon to spread in a thin layer on bottom of serving dish to the corners. Drizzle with honey. Right before serving, pile roasted carrots on top of cheese spread, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Garnish with lemon zest, tarragon, salt and pepper.
Honey Butter Biscuits Ingredients
2 cups of all-purpose flour 4 teaspoons baking powder 1⁄2 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons sugar 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1⁄2 cup vegetable shortening 2⁄3 cup whole milk 1⁄4 cup butter, melted 1⁄3 cup honey
Preheat oven to 450°F. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Place flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, cream of tartar in a mixing bowl. Work in the shortening with a fork or pastry blender until the mixture resembles and feels like cornmeal. Pour milk into the flour mixture and mix well. Knead the dough about 12 to 15 times.
Break the dough into 1/4 to 1/3 cup size balls. Roll or pat out dough balls to 1/2-inch thickness. Place the dough pieces on a baking sheet and brush them with melted butter. Bake at 450°F for 10 to 12 minutes. While the biscuits are baking, pour the honey into the remainder of the butter and bring it to a boil. Remove the honey butter from the heat and set aside. When biscuits are done, remove them from the oven and immediately brush the tops with honey butter.
By Carissa Marine Photography by Caroline Maxcy Fox
Highlands County honored seven servant-hearted students at the 3rd Annual Champion for Children Awards. Presented by the School Board and Champion for Children Foundation of Highlands County, the purpose of the Youth Awards is to highlight and celebrate local youth who have taken action to help address needs around them.
Champion for Children Youth Award Recipient—Miguel Arceo.
total of 23 students were nominated this year from across Highlands County, with a screening committee of community members narrowing nominees down to the seven Finalists. Miguel Arceo, Robbie Celaya, Meghan Cochlin, Madison Cornell, Baxley Hines, Heather Stewart, and Katherine Summers were all recognized on stage at the Champion for Children Circle Theatre in downtown Sebring. John Varady, Coordinator of Communications and Special Projects with the School Board of Highlands County explains, “Each year we have had nominees share that they are motivated from within to serve others, and that they don't seek the recognition. However, they have added that it was rewarding to know that adults in the community have noticed their dedication. This is a significant point, because not only are the eyes of adults on them, but so too are the eyes of younger children. They are exemplary models for the next generation, and in lifting them up we are hoping that the annual Youth Awards has an even longer lasting positive impact on our community.”
Finalists Miguel Arceo, Robbie Celaya, Meghan Cochlin, Madison Cornell, Baxley Hines, Heather Stewart and Katherine Summers
he Circle Theatre was elegantly decorated with bright floral arrangements by Hobby Hill Florist, and a fancy buffet dinner was provided by Pink Pineapple Catering. Honored guests included county leaders, school principals, Youth Award Finalists and their families. The evening began with the invocation led by Highlands County Commissioner and Founder of the Champion for Children Foundation, Kevin Roberts. The Avon Park School Air Force JROTC presented the colors, Cadet Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Mojica of Lake Placid High School Army JROTC led the Pledge of Allegiance, and Avon Park High School Chorus students sang the National Anthem. Circle Theatre Manager, Harry Havery, also performed a special song dedicated to the Finalists. The 3rd Annual Champion for Children Youth Awards were sponsored by AdventHealth, Alan Jay Automotive Network, Duke Energy, Duncan Family Foundation, the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office, the Highlands News-Sun, MidFlorida Credit Union, Nucor Steel Florida, John and Jan Shoop, and Souther Signs. The 2020 Champion for Children Youth Award Recipient, Arieli Montalvo, was present in the audience along with the 2021 Champion for Children Youth Award Recipient, Jamesa Blackstock, who shared her gratitude and words of encouragement to fellow students. The 2021 Judge Clifton M. Kelly Champion for Children Award Recipient, Lisa Lovett, announced this year’s Champion for Children Youth Award Recipient—Miguel Arceo. Miguel was honored for his active encouragement to peers at school, including starting a scholarship program, and positive service throughout the community at large. The awards ceremony ended with inspirational remarks from Dr. Brenda Longshore, Highlands County Superintendent of Schools, and a closing song by the Sebring High School Chorus student ensemble. April & May 2022 101
Third Annual Champion for Children Youth Awards sponsors: AdventHealth, Alan Jay Automotive Network, Duke Energy, Duncan Family Foundation, the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office, the Highlands News-Sun, MidFlorida Credit Union, Nucor Steel Florida, John and Jan Shoop, and Souther Signs.
Carissa Marine Heartland LIVINGMagazine.com
Dr. Brenda Longshore and Kevin Roberts
It is our desire to demonstrate the community’s gratitude and encourage local youth to keep on serving and leading from their hearts through the Annual Champion for Children Youth Awards . -Carissa Marine, CEO of the Champion for Children Foundation.
For more information, visit www.ChampionforChildren.org.
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