Pathologist Dr. Gordon Johnson Studies COVID-19 While Also Working To Help His Community Healthcare Guardian

Pathologist Dr. Gordon Johnson Studies COVID-19 While Also Working To Help His Community
Healthcare Guardian

As a recipient of this year’s Palm Beach County Medical Society’s 2020 Heroes in Medicine Lifetime Achievement Award, Dr. Gordon Johnson of Wellington nowadays spends his time giving back to the community while also studying the COVID-19 virus.

A pathologist with deep ties to Wellington Regional Medical Center, Johnson retired early, nearly a decade ago, to devote all his energies to unpaid work for Wellington and the wider region. During the current pandemic, that includes research work into the COVID-19 virus.

“As a pathologist, a doctor who studies diseases, it is natural that I would be interested in COVID-19,” Johnson said. “It requires between one to three hours each day for me to do research and study of the literature of therapies being used to remain current on the state of the virus.”

Much of his volunteer time over the past several months has been assisting in studying COVID-19 treatments.

“I am working with the retired physicians of the Palm Beach County Medical Society to study COVID-19 convalescent plasma for people that have had the virus,” Johnson explained. “Currently, we don’t yet know for certain that a person who has had the virus develops immunity from contracting repeated infections. It is something that needs more study.”

Johnson is one of thousands of physicians currently engaged in this type of research.

“It is a lot of time and work to stay actively involved and stay on top of the virus situation,” Johnson said. “I follow what we are finding out about the disease, such as where the research is and what we know about the tests. Some data are anecdotal results of antibody tests. There is so much that we don’t yet know.”

As the community responds to the virus emergency, Johnson is doing some consulting on sports in the village and the possibility of normalizing the resumption of basketball in Wellington. They are discussing the measures needed for the players and coaches to make sure CDC recommendations and standards are being met relative to protection, social distancing, hygiene and cleanliness, and even how to take the participants’ temperatures.

Johnson stressed that returning to daily life will require a great uptick in testing. “Testing is the key. We’ve got to test, then trace connections, then isolate those exposed. That’s the method: test, trace, isolate,” he said. “It’s a big initiative to get all this out to the community. There is a lot to be done. We are sequestered, and you think you can’t do something, but with ingenuity and hard work, you can.”

In retirement, Johnson, who will be 70 on his next birthday, spends his time in service to others.

“I am running into men and women all the time who are afraid to retire,” said Johnson, referring to one of his pet causes. “Their job defines them, and they fear they will have no purpose once they retire. ‘What do you do all day?’ they ask.”

From picking up trash along the highway, to advocating for future citizens whose maladies mean they can’t pass a traditional citizenship test, to providing transportation for oncology appointments, to consulting on cancer and other diagnoses daily, to reporting up-to-date, frequent, expert presentations to spread awareness and knowledge on COVID-19 via Zoom meetings, Johnson is busy each and every day of his “quieter” years.

“I have plenty to keep me occupied as a husband, family patriarch, father and grandfather, but I would like to provide some insight beyond this,” Johnson said. “I have managed to have a very good life. I have had some very nice positions in medicine, and now I get to do fun things. I have spent the last 10 years giving back. I work just about every day, although no one pays me in money anymore, and that’s what it is all about.”

Married for 42 years to his wife Linda, they have three sons: Gordon, a molecular biologist; Grant, a certified financial planner; and Gareth, a concert violinist.

Born in El Reno, Oklahoma, about 30 miles northwest of Oklahoma City, Johnson attended St. Louis University for his medical degree and practiced in the St. Louis area for many years.

Moving to Wellington in 2001, Johnson worked closely with Wellington Regional Medical Center. He now serves on the hospital’s board of governors.

“I also chair the tissue review and blood component utilization committee and sit on the safety committee at the hospital. Wellington Regional has a very good record on treating COVID-19,” said Johnson, who also serves on the board of the Wellington Community Foundation and is a member of the Council of Dads.

A typical week may find him providing home repairs to help seniors age in place; activities, scholarships and clothing for less fortunate children; a variety of help for veterans; and more, plus assistance in raising money to fund these activities. “I am drinking from the saucer,” Johnson said jovially. “My cup is running over.”

Johnson is also a mentor to students in elementary through post graduate school and helps facilitate large disaster relief efforts, such as the recent pledge for $2 million worth of roofing material for the Bahamas, in addition to many airplane loads already delivered.

“Today, the mentoring is done by keeping in touch by telephone,” Johnson said. “Of course, many of my activities have been preempted by the virus and the social distancing rules. So, I’ve had to look for other avenues to stay involved.”

Johnson warned people against being defined by their job, to instead make a career of helping their community, and when they retire, help their community as both vocation and avocation.

“I am promoting a lifestyle of a life well lived,” Johnson said.

Johnson himself wants to be defined as a guardian of his community’s healthcare.

“I want to be remembered for helping local students, perpetuating science, fundraising and for my efforts beyond healthcare,” he explained.

He invited fellow residents to add meaning to the “quieter” time of their lives in community service. “Come join us, it’s a start,” said Johnson, inviting people to support the Wellington Community Foundation.

To learn more about the Wellington Community Foundation, visit www.wellingtoncommunityfoundation.org. As for Johnson’s lifetime achievement award, the awards ceremony in May was postponed. It is currently scheduled for October.

Facebookpinterestmail

Stories From Inside Wellington Regional Medical Center During The Global Pandemic Healthcare Heroes

Stories From Inside Wellington Regional Medical Center During The Global Pandemic
Healthcare Heroes

For most families, by the time they are expecting their second child, they are already experienced veterans with the whole delivery event. Since they are birth-experience veterans, parents are usually not as nervous because everyone knows what to expect. It is more or less routine. The father helps coach the mother and tries to keep her focused and calm; some dads even cut the umbilical cord as their first official parenting act. It happens regularly every day across the country — then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and healthcare was suddenly anything but routine.

For Zach and Amanda Threlkeld, they were excited about the impending arrival of their second son. Because of visitation restrictions due to COVID-19, they already knew that Zach could not be in the room during Amanda’s cesarean section. They were disappointed, but they understood that the restrictions were in place to protect patients and visitors, as well as the medical team.

“I was told about a week before my son’s delivery,” Amanda said. “I was upset because I wanted him to experience the birth as well. I knew the restrictions were in place for everyone’s protection, and I was able to mentally prepare for him not being in the room.”

However, that was when Wellington Regional Medical Center nurse anesthetist Robert Stroud had an idea. He would connect Amanda and Zach through FaceTime and hold the phone so Zach could be part of the birth process. Zach was thrilled, and Amanda felt relieved as well.

“It made me comfortable that Zach would not be left out,” Amanda said. “He could still talk to me and calm me down, which made me feel a lot better.”

William Case was born that day weighing 9 pounds, 13 ounces and has joined his big brother James Ryan, 2, to make the Threlkeld home just a little more crowded. However, with a new baby in the house, nobody in the Threlkeld family wants to miss any part of William’s milestones. And because of the quick thinking of Stroud, Zach did not miss William’s biggest milestone — his birth.

A Meaningful Life

Beth Eyestone was a giver. As a licensed mental health counselor who primarily specialized in sexual abuse, she was quick to smile and the first to raise her hand to volunteer. She was selfless with her time and always wanted to help people… and in the end, that is exactly what she did — help others.

Tragically, Beth died at WRMC on Memorial Day in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic after she suffered a significant stroke. Before her death, she had made her wishes to her husband clear. She wanted her last act to be the ultimate gift — she wanted to be an organ donor.

Allen Eyestone, her husband for 31 years, knew his wife was a hero, but what he found in those last few minutes of her life was that she was also surrounded by nursing heroes who were committed to honoring Beth for her generous gift. As the transport team arrived and was preparing her, a dozen or more nurses who had been involved in her care gathered in Beth’s room, and Allen was encouraged to tell them about her life.

And he did. He focused on how she had committed her life to helping others, and the donation was just one more selfless act in a lifetime of service to others. Eventually the donation preparations were complete, and the time had come.

“Everybody was crying, and all the nurses in her room came to attention as they began to take her from the ICU to the operating room,” Allen said. “As we walked down the hallway, another 10 to 15 nurses on the unit came out of the rooms and stood at attention as we passed. They all thanked us as we passed. It was very moving.”

During a devastating time, the nurses were a comfort.

“The nurses changed my life because I had no family there with me. But I realized I did have my family there, and they were the nurses at Wellington Regional,” Allen said. “Nobody could have acknowledged her the way they did. I felt so honored that I could say goodbye how I did because of the nurses.”

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, good could came from a terrible situation, as Beth eventually donated both her kidneys, her liver and her eyes so others could have a better life.

She was a hero, but Allen believes the Honor Walk and the way the nurses treated both Beth and himself at the end, made them heroes, too.

Protecting The Protectors

When thinking about healthcare heroes, it is easy to picture frontline caregivers, like physicians, nurses or respiratory therapists performing lifesaving medical procedures on critically ill patients. But there are other departments in the hospital that are vital in protecting direct patient caregivers and allowing them to safely focus on their critical duties.

Wellington Regional Medical Center uses an inventory method called Just in Time (JIT). The principle of the strategy is to keep a reduced amount of supplies stockpiled and replace them just as they are being used. That meant the hospital had about a week of supplies, like personal protective equipment (PPE), on hand when the full scope of the pandemic was understood.

Jim Watson, director of supply chain at WRMC, knew that there were only a few days of certain types of PPE stockpiled. The hospital needed to change its supply chain operations from JIT to stockpiling PPE. And it needed to do it quickly.

“The minute they announced the travel bans, we saw the writing on the wall and started to act,” Watson said. “We reached out to our home office and started the process of increasing our orders. Many of those items were backordered, so we began to activate local options while the national supply chains were opening. That local level of supplies secured us about a month of PPE, by then the national external support through the home office began to kick in. We also can’t underestimate the importance of private donations of homemade masks and shields to help protect our staff in the early phases of the pandemic.”

As part of the plan to protect PPE, WRMC sequestered the excess equipment, removed supply boxes from the floors and instituted a checkout system to reduce the amount of waste. Slowly, between the newly opened supply lines and the protection of existing PPE, the supplies began to increase. With increased PPE supplies came protection for the medical staff and patients.

“As a company, it was a combined logistical effort between each facility of Universal Health Services (UHS), the home office,” Watson said. “It was an insane amount of work and coordination with the home office and the hospital to find certain things and get them allocated to the units. I feel a lot more comfortable now than I did a few months ago.”

Heroes come in many shapes and sizes, but a crisis usually brings out the best in people. But one thing is for certain, the way the healthcare industry has responded to the worldwide pandemic has been inspirational. Putting their personal health and lives on the line each day to care for patients during the most vulnerable moments of a person’s life may be all in a day’s work for healthcare providers, but for the people who depend on them for their health, the commitment has been inspiring.

Facebookpinterestmail

When The Pandemic Shut Down Programs, Wellington’s Rec Department Sprang Into Action Virtual Recreation

As the world began locking down, the Village of Wellington immediately started brainstorming on how to continue serving the community — virtually.  Among the questions was how to continue the village’s award-winning recreation programs, despite mandated closures.

Through the new “Virtual Recreation Department,” Wellington’s Parks & Recreation Department found new ways to bring fun and educational activities to residents.

“During this difficult time, where our popular parks and recreational facilities remained closed for weeks, and our residents must practice social distancing, we wanted to provide virtual recreation opportunities for residents of all ages to stay active and healthy,” Parks & Recreation Director Eric Juckett explained. “Through a series of staff discussions, we decided the best way to continue offering our programming was to offer virtual classes using our current instructors.”

With recommendations and policy changes happening almost daily, the team knew that creating a virtual program platform was no simple task. Instructors had to be trained on new tools and technology, while simultaneously rethinking their methods for providing services.

“The greatest challenge that we came across was ensuring security to account for setting up these classes,” said Juckett, who noted that only authenticated users are able to join the online sessions. “I am proud of our Parks & Recreation staff, including Kristine Jarriel, Chris O’Connor, Branden Miller, as well as Jenifer Brito of the Community Services Department, for their hard work and dedication in getting our virtual programming off the ground.”

Participants can gain access to classes ranging from yoga and meditation to crafts and competitive cheerleading. Does your little one miss that tumbling class? Wellington has you covered. Been too shy to try a group class in Expressive Dance or Jazz Funk? Here is the chance to try something new from the comfort of your home. Wellington even offers virtual Zumba classes, including modified and chair options for participants with limitations.

All you need is a device capable of connecting to the internet using the popular Zoom app, such as a smart phone, laptop, tablet or desktop computer. “All of our programs are interesting and engaging. We have programs for all ages from toddlers to seniors. Our virtual bingo is one of our most highly requested programs. Our team had to employ very creative thinking to continue providing this popular program,” Juckett said.

The classes are all offered for free on a first-come, first-served basis, so participants are encouraged to sign up early before a class fills and the registration closes. Classes are often locked once they begin.

“The virtual programs have been very successful. Not only have we consistently seen a large number of people partake in these classes, we have also had participants from other states join in, as well as many new participants who are trying new activities for the first time,” Juckett said. “They will absolutely continue for the time being while we figure out how to adapt to future challenges.”

Since its launch in April, the Virtual Recreation Center has been so effective that the team continues to expand the menu of class offerings. Currently, residents can find a live session to fit their schedule and interests Monday through Saturday. The village also expects to keep offering a variety of classes during the summer months.

Wellington updates the schedule for virtual programs regularly through the village’s social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

While the virtual programs continue to evolve, village officials continue to monitor the changes in recommendations regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Like much of the country, Wellington is slowly beginning to open some of its in-person offerings.

“Our Aquatics Complex and Tennis Center are now open. The pool is open for lap swimming and every lane is available. The Tennis Center is open for singles and doubles play. Our fields are available for open play for groups of 10 or less at this time,” Juckett said in late May. “We are proud to offer a modified summer camp this summer during these difficult times. We continue to look to add services and programs as we navigate the future.”

The best place to find updates and information about future recreational programming, events and facility openings is www.wellingtonfl.gov/parks.

Wellington’s vision of a Virtual Recreation Center was made possible through sponsorships from various community partners, including Baptist Health South Florida, Wellington Regional Medical Center, Priority Towing, Healthy Partners, Dedicated Senior Medical Center, Florida Blue, the Area Agency on Aging Palm Beach/Treasure Coast, Harbor Chase of Wellington Crossing and Humana.

“We are grateful to our generous community partners for their continued support through these difficult times,” Juckett said. “These programs provide a fantastic service for the residents of Wellington and anyone else who wishes to participate. Many of these excellent programs are an extension of what we normally offer in person, and they have been well-received by our participants accessing them virtually.”

To learn more about Wellington’s virtual programs, e-mail Chris O’Connor at coconnor@wellingtonfl.gov or call (561) 612-6697. To access the Virtual Recreation Center, visit www.wellingtonfl.gov/virtualrec.

Facebookpinterestmail

Wellington’s Juliana Wandell Graduates From FAU With A Double Major At Age 17 College Grad

Wellington’s Juliana Wandell Graduates From FAU With A Double Major At Age 17 College Grad

Wellington teenager Juliana Wandell graduated last month from Florida Atlantic University with dual bachelor’s degrees in computer engineering and computer science. At age 17, she became FAU’s youngest student ever to accomplish this feat.

Wandell, who goes by the nickname “Jewels,” has been on her accelerated educational trajectory for a long time — since she was 24 months old, in fact.

“She started pre-kindergarten at St. Joseph’s Episcopal School when she was 2, and they bumped her into kindergarten,” recalled Rosie Wandell, her mother. “Headmaster Kay Johnson saw something in her.”

From there, it was elementary school, several years of home schooling, and then college credits that began accruing in the ninth grade.

“At FAU High School, you take high school courses, as well as some electives that count as college classes, like my Spanish and engineering classes,” Jewels said. “You then apply to FAU and, from 10th grade onward, take a full course load on campus.”

She didn’t start out with the goal of graduating from college at age 17. In fact, she initially tried to function at her own grade level.

“I got bored,” Jewels recalled. “If a school put me back in the grade I was supposed to be in for my age, I’d hate that I was repeating things. I’d wait until the last minute to do my assignments.”

When she was 11, Jewels tagged along with a friend — also home-schooled — who signed up for FAU High School’s Summer Engineering Camp. District Science Coordinator Allan Phipps took notice, urging her mother to get Jewels into the program.

Unfortunately, the fall term was due to start within days. Yet no mere schedule was going to interfere with their determination. Phipps introduced the family to Dr. Joel Herbst, superintendent of FAU Lab Schools District and FAU High School Associate Director David Kelly. The end result was that Jewels was admitted to the program.

“I was a lot more adult than those in my age range, and they wanted me to go directly into 10th grade, but I wanted a ninth grade ‘boot camp’ on campus first,” Jewels explained. “I wanted to enjoy myself, be a kid. On campus, I tried not to tell people how old I was most of the time, but you can only say ‘my parents drove me’ so many times before they started to ask, ‘What’s up with that?’”

Jewels was 15 when she graduated from FAU High School in May 2018, and 17 when she graduated from the university itself in May 2020 with a grade point average of 3.797.

“The academics weren’t easy all the time, but I liked being in the classes I was in,” she said. “My senior design project took a year, but I created virtual reality gloves with haptic feedback. Typical sensors don’t go over your hand, nor do they engage all your fingers. They may be able to grab an object, but mine can be integrated with games and tools and bend 0 to 90 degrees.”

Still, it’s not like there weren’t challenges along the way. “A lot of 20-year-olds don’t want to hang out with a 12-year-old, which I understand, but it took me a while to figure out that some of the students who were saying they were going to be my friend, were only going to be my friend until we were through with the course,” Jewels said. “They only wanted me to tutor them!”

So, although Jewels had plenty of “acquaintances” who would smile and wave if they passed her on campus, she didn’t make any true friends until later on in her educational career.

“It wasn’t the worst thing in the world,” she said. “People were nice. I always had someone to sit with and talk to — and I had kept some of my high school friends — but it wasn’t until I joined a sorority and a bunch of honor societies that I was able to build real friendships.”

Her parents Rosie and Eric Wandell said they never treated Jewels like a child; they treated her like an equal.

“My husband and I supported Jewels together. If it wasn’t for that, we wouldn’t have been able to do everything we did. He was a fireman, and I had a physical therapy practice. Jewels did her robotics things all over the state, and on the weekend was Stetson Young Scholars for high-achieving students,” Rosie recalled. “One or the other of us would drive her to the middle of the state Friday after school and drive her back on Saturday or Sunday — for three years. She would learn about history or rocket science from Stetson professors, and it wasn’t arranged by age groups. She would be 6 or 7 years old in with 10- and 11-year-olds making bottle rockets.”

“It was very challenging,” Eric added. “But we’ve got a fighter. She stands up for herself, and we are very family-oriented.”

One of her favorite pastimes came from her father.

“When I was really young, instead of bedtime stories, my dad would tell me stories surrounded around this character and let me make decisions for the character,” Jewels said. “It was Dungeons & Dragons — a very nerdy game — and I was his only player, but I loved it.”

At Jewels’ graduation from FAU, it would have been easy to find her in the crowd. Where some kids paint “Hi, Mom” or flowers on their mortarboards, Jewels was sporting the one with a high resolution 64×64 LED matrix flashing 50-plus tiny videos. She had used a USB-based microcontroller development system called a Teensy, her soldering skills, her cable management skills and her ability to edit programming using computer code to entertain onlookers with her own mini version of a sports arena Jumbotron — on her head.

At 17, she’s already sizing up Pratt & Whitney, NASA, Northrop Grumman, Blue Origin and SpaceX of the aerospace industry in an effort to advance her interests in additive manufacturing (the reverse of using a lathe, which removes something to create an object) but is hoping to stay in South Florida, at least for now.

When not engaged in her studies, Jewels enjoys video games, Dungeons & Dragons and painting with watercolors, as well as hanging out with her teacup poodle Princess and her boyfriend, Ryan Scupt.

“She’s an only child,” Rosie said. “Otherwise, I don’t know what we would’ve done. I like to say, ‘God only gives you what you can handle.’”

Facebookpinterestmail

Bright Students Lead The Way At Wellington-Area High Schools Young Leaders

Bright Students Lead The Way At Wellington-Area High Schools  Young Leaders

Showing endurance, flexibility, perseverance and a sense of decorum few others have been called upon to muster in their young academic careers, the Class of 2020 has made history. The two public high schools serving the Wellington community graduated a combined 1,334 students in this pandemic-altered year filled with unique challenges.

Principal Cara Hayden at Wellington High School said that the school is incredibly proud of its 635 members in the Class of 2020. While the traditional graduation ceremony at the South Florida Fairgrounds was canceled, a virtual ceremony was held online Monday, June 1, featuring speeches from valedictorian Max LeGates and salutatorian Hersh Prakash.

“Our seniors were instrumental in our transition to remote learning,” Hayden said. “Their focus and maturity helped our teachers maintain continuity in the classroom. They responded to the loss of several senior traditions with kindness and promoted the most innovating ideas. Max and Hersh are wonderful representatives of the grace and maturity demonstrated by our senior class.”

Principal Darren Edgecomb at Palm Beach Central High School said that his 699 graduates rose to the occasion. “Of course, it has been an unprecedented year, and our seniors have led the way,” he said. “It is due to their endurance, tenacity, intelligence and confidence that we were able to persevere.”

Palm Beach Central’s class was led by valedictorian Jacob Fingeret and salutatorian Ian Mutschler. “Jacob and Ian are extremely popular, and they helped to lead the way in the Class of 2020,” Edgecomb said. “The class as a whole rose to the occasion, and these two phenomenal young men were truly leaders.”

Wellington High School
Valedictorian Max LeGates

Max LeGates lives with his parents and has two older brothers. The oldest one graduated from Roanoke College two years ago, and the middle brother just graduated from Franklin & Marshall College. LeGates starts in the fall at the University of Florida, studying environmental science.

LeGates decided to strive for valedictorian when he discovered that he was ranked first after his freshman year.

“I wanted to keep up my hard work and keep my position,” he said. “There were no defining moments because I never knew if I would stay valedictorian, but I worked harder and harder every year to keep my position.”

LeGates graduated with a grade point average of 4.0 and an honors point average of 5.40. In the time before the virus hit, he ran varsity cross country since his sophomore year and participated in the Leadership Grow program. “I was also junior and senior class treasurer and involved heavily in student government,” LeGates added.

LeGates found virtual schooling to be challenging. “Transitioning to online learning was quite difficult for me. I’m not used to learning online. The hardest thing for me was trying to stay awake for first period while still lying in my bed! A typical day is very much like real school, except lonely and more boring, but I got used to it and still tried to succeed.”

LeGates is optimistic about the future. “I know the world is going through a tough time right now, but we are all working together, and we will come out stronger,” he said. “I’m excited to start my four years at UF.”

He urged his fellow graduates to never stop chasing their dreams. “If you work hard and keep your eye on the prize, you can accomplish anything,” LeGates said. “My advice for future seniors is to focus on school but also ensure that you have a good time as well. Don’t get caught up in being the best or else you’ll lose yourself in the process.”

 

Wellington High School
Salutatorian Hersh Prakash

Hersh Prakash completed his high school career with a 3.93 grade point average and an honors point average of 5.55. He lives with his parents and his sister, who is two years older.

It was while attending his sister’s graduation when he was a sophomore that he decided to try for valedictorian or salutatorian.

“I was sitting in the auditorium with maybe 4,000 people and 600 kids who had all worked extremely hard to get through school and graduate,” Prakash remembered. “I saw the salutatorian give a speech, and I got chills. I knew I would be salutatorian or valedictorian because I wanted to leave my mark at Wellington High School.”

Last year, Prakash played soccer. He is a member of the National Honor Society and a math tutor. He works part time as a loan processor and will soon get his real estate license.

During the virtual school era, a typical day began at 8 a.m. “I join the Google meets for my classes. In the afternoon, I go for a run and study for the real estate exam. I go to sleep around 11 p.m.,” he said.

Prakash will be attending the University of Florida where he will major in business and real estate.

“I am extremely optimistic about the future because the country is never going to stop,” Prakash said. “Kids, such as myself, want to see the world be a better place. I recommend trying to have a positive mindset as a whole. That way, current events won’t affect us so much.”

Prakash is also excited to be voting for the first time this year. “I am extremely excited to have a voice and experience being in a voting booth,” he said. “It is one vote, but one vote matters.”

Palm Beach Central High School
Valedictorian Jacob Fingeret

Jacob Fingeret has a 15-year-old brother and a sister who just turned 11. He graduates with a grade point average of 4.0 and an honors point average of 5.5. He has been rated at the top of his class since he was a freshman.

“When I learned that, I thought, ‘Maybe if I try, I can maintain this,’” remembered Fingeret, who will be attending the University of Florida as a pre-med major.

Before the virus hit, he played soccer and water polo, and he served as treasurer of the National Honor Society and a member of the history, environmental and social studies honor societies. Along the way, he also found time to work at Wawa.

The challenge Fingeret noticed most with the switch to online schooling was the workload.

“It was an interesting change,” he said. “I felt like we started doing more work. Maybe it was because the teachers gave assignments, and you didn’t have any time at school, but definitely adjusting to keep your schedule and to keep up with everything was challenging.”

To his fellow seniors, Fingeret suggested that they “expect the unexpected.”

“Not everything is going to go your way. Assess the situation and adapt to it. So long as you have air in your lungs, you are probably doing pretty good,” he said.

A typical home-schooling day for Fingeret included a lot of learning.

“I get up at 8:30 a.m. and do Google meets for my classes,” he said. “I learn calculus that I may or may not understand. The computer doesn’t bother me much. I take college classes that were online before corona. At 3 p.m. I exercise, then do homework until 9 p.m. From 9 p.m. to midnight it is free time for family time or Netflix, then bedtime.”

As for next year’s seniors, Fingeret’s advice is: “Always work as hard on schoolwork as you can but remember that friends are most important. It all ends pretty fast.”

Palm Beach Central High School
Salutatorian Ian Mutschler

Ian Mutschler lives with his parents and has two sisters — an older sister attending college in Jacksonville and a 15-year-old younger sister at home. He will be attending Florida State University, where he plans to major in meteorology.

Mutschler graduated with a 3.9474 grade point average and a 5.3662 honors point average.

“After my sophomore year, I saw I had a shot and thought it would be pretty cool. I wanted to go for it,” explained Mutschler about being named salutatorian.

Of course, he also got some parental encouragement during his academic journey. “My mom pushed me along the way,” he said.

Mutschler was a member of the National Honor Society, active in the Student Government Association and works as a lifeguard at the Wellington Aquatics Complex.

One of the challenges of switching to online schooling was the “bizarre transition of trying to learn calculus over a computer screen. It is not easy. I’m more of a face-to-face person,” Mutschler said.

Mutschler remains optimistic about the future. “I’m confident that there will be a vaccine or some kind of herd immunity,” he said. “I am already seeing signs of re-opening, and that gives me hope. I think that maybe in a few months or a year, things will be back to normal.”

Mutschler offered some advice to his fellow graduates. “Having a high number is great, but don’t forget your friends and the people you meet,” he said. “They are much more important than a number. It is cool to be able to speak at graduation or to have a bunch of cords, but don’t forget your friends. They are more important than your GPA — and enjoy things while they last because, as we have seen, it can all be pulled away at any time.”

To those who will be seniors next year, Mutschler suggested that they may not want to follow his exact example. “Don’t kill yourself like I did,” he said. “I’m not saying it wasn’t worth it; but focus on relationships. That is going to be what builds your character more than anything.”

Facebookpinterestmail

PARTY LIKE A ROCKSTAR CLASS OF 2020

PARTY LIKE A ROCKSTAR CLASS OF 2020

Wellington The Magazine set out on a mission to do something special for our graduating seniors during these unprecedented times — something no one else was doing and would be meaningful for years to come. This goal led to the amazing fashion pictorial that spreads over the pages of this month’s magazine.

Graduating seniors were not going to have the opportunity to attend their senior prom, a milestone event of the high school experience that many had been planning for all year long, including choosing the perfect dress or selecting a stylish tuxedo or suit. The idea for our pictorial came as we were scrolling through Instagram and read the hashtag #alldressedupandnopromtoattend featuring a young lady polishing her nails in a full face of makeup and her beautiful prom dress hanging behind her. At that moment, the idea was born to give these partygoers the opportunity to show off their “prom looks” in this special “Celebrating Our Seniors” pictorial.

This photo shoot was done in collaboration with our community partner La Casa Hermosa. Iva Ivanova and her team were once again simply amazing to work with. From our initial inquiry, to teaming up during the shoot for hair and makeup, to styling assistance, the team at La Casa Hermosa were exceptional.

Participating seniors had the chance to coordinate appointments with their friends and perhaps bring their prom date to be included in the photo session. It was a moment in time captured for a lifetime of memories, and we know it brought many smiles to their faces. Along with a small swag bag gift, each of the new graduates will also receive high resolution photography to keep and share with family and friends, compliments of Wellington The Magazine.

Facebookpinterestmail

Former Mayors Kathy Foster And Tom Wenham Added To Founder’s Plaque

Kathy Foster and Tom Wenham, both former mayors of Wellington and members of the inaugural Wellington Village Council, will soon have their names added to the Wellington Founder’s Plaque — a special honor reserved for those instrumental in making Wellington the community it is today.
Foster and Wenham are integral parts of village history and, for many residents, household names. They have held a variety of leadership roles since their arrival here, both in elected and volunteer capacities, improving their neighbors’ lives and setting the bar high for like-minded community activists.
The current council voted to add Foster’s name to the plaque on Tuesday, March 10.
Foster moved to Wellington with her husband and two young sons in 1979 because the boys, Jeremiah and Christian, were experiencing health issues up north. In 1980, she organized other mothers to go to the Palm Beach County School Board to ask for schools to be built in Wellington and, as a result, Wellington Elementary School opened in January 1981.
“That’s when I learned that people could make a difference,” Foster said.
Yet 15 months after relocating to Wellington, Christian passed away from spinal meningitis, turning her life upside down. “Everything I thought I knew was up for analysis,” she recalled.
As Foster started to find her “ground legs” again, little Adam Walsh went missing from Fort Lauderdale. When police discovered his body, beheaded, it hit her hard.
“I wrote to his parents, John and Reve, that my son died in my arms, loved and cared for,” she said. “It was hard to imagine what they were going through. A year and a half later, when they started the Adam Walsh Children’s Fund, I offered to help them with fundraisers.”
For the next 20 years, working with the Walshes gave Foster a focus to help other children in Christian’s memory. She also put her design degree to work by opening K. Foster Designs in the Town Square shopping center in 1983. A nearby restauranteur, Dennis Witkowski, wanted to start a chamber of commerce, and Foster was in.
It was a short leap from that first business-related involvement to government.
“In 1989, it was mandated that elections for the Acme Improvement District board [Wellington’s pre-incorporation government] be opened to residents. Until then, the board was comprised of real estate developers, major utility companies and law firms who do land development — there was no local representation.”
There were also no women.
“Father Walter Dockerill [pastor of St. Rita Catholic Church] and Buz Spooner [principal of Wellington Elementary School] talked me into running,” Foster recalled. “They wanted a representative who had young children to maintain a hometown feel centered on faith and families.”
Foster was convinced. “When I spoke, I said I lived here, worked here, owned a business here and had a fair understanding of what the people who lived here wanted. I also said I had no outside agenda — and no experience— but promised a common-sense approach,” Foster said. “I also thought it was important to have a balance of representation from men and women because we think differently.”
Foster was the only woman in 23 candidates and won with 48 percent of the vote. She was elected president of the Acme board in 1992.
“That’s when we started to pursue whether incorporation was a good idea for us,” Foster said. “At the time, Palm Beach County was receiving $7 million in taxes from the Wellington area and investing less than $700,000 back into our community. It was all going east of I-95. We also wanted self-rule. We wanted parks and certain amenities that we couldn’t create because we had limited authority — the widening of Forest Hill Blvd., for example. A committee was formed with Ken Adams, Mark Miles, Dick Palenschat and others to explore the ramifications of incorporation.”
The measure failed the first time it was proposed, but it was modified and passed in 1995 — by just 121 votes.
“We officially became the Village of Wellington on Dec. 31, 1995,” Foster said. “In March of 1996, elections were held for first council. Mike McDonough, Paul Adams, Tom Wenham, Carmine Priore and myself were elected, and again I won with a majority of the vote. So, based on number of votes, I became mayor.”
Foster stayed in elected office until 2000, when she left to become executive director of the Adam Walsh Children’s Fund. When the organization merged with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and moved to Washington, D.C., Foster stayed in Wellington, going on to become executive director of Junior Achievement, founding Wellington Cares, which helps seniors age in place, and, at age 65, adopting her grandson Jack when his parents were unable to care for him.
“When we moved here in 1979, no one could have envisioned what a wonderful community Wellington would become,” she marveled. “It’s so diverse in its population, international in its flavor, thanks to the horse industry. Every school is an A-rated school, and there are wonderful sports programs for our youth, but that’s thanks to the hard work and investment of time and energy of young families who have moved here and given that to this village. For me, it has been a privilege and a joy to have had a small hand in making Wellington what it is today.”
The council added Wenham’s name to the plaque on Tuesday, Feb. 25.
Also a member of the inaugural council, Wenham became the village’s appointed mayor in 2000, and when the charter was changed to call for a directly elected mayor, he put his name on the ballot, becoming Wellington’s first elected mayor.
“I didn’t want him to run. He ran anyway,” Wenham’s wife Regis recalled. “Tom worked as assistant property appraiser for Palm Beach County, so he’d always been around town. He has always been involved in government no matter where we lived. He has worked for municipalities of different sizes. I guess it was inevitable.”
Wenham was on the board of the community activist group Residents of Wellington (ROW) early on and became its president in 1988, taking over from Dick Nethercote.
“From there, I was appointed to chair a committee of the Acme Improvement District, the Utility Review Committee, where residents would come to us with whatever problem they were having, and we would try to solve it for them,” he said.
That interaction with members of the community, that ability to help, made Wenham want to do more. In 1994, he ran for a seat on the Acme board and was elected. He also became involved with the quest for incorporation.
“A big part of the reason incorporation passed that second time was that Wycliffe opted out,” Regis explained. “If they had stayed in, and their votes against incorporation had been counted, it would have failed again.”
By 2000, Wenham was serving as mayor of Wellington, holding that position until 2008. Since then, he has remained active in the community. He is currently chair of the Wellington Community Foundation and sits on the village’s Architectural Review Board.
Yet, he was surprised when he heard that his name would be added to the Founder’s Plaque.
“I was speechless when they made the motion to discuss it,” Wenham said. “Regis was there with me, and we both shed a tear. We are 39-year residents of this community but that they were going to bring my name up? I hadn’t even thought about it. I was greatly and pleasantly surprised.”
A veteran of the Korean War, Wenham has always taken his role as a citizen quite seriously.
“It’s quite an honor to be recognized by your hometown,” Wenham said. “I’ve always said that everybody has to give something back to their country and their community. You can’t just keep taking, you’ve got to give something back. It’s why I first joined ROW. What greater honor could be bestowed upon a resident of Wellington than to be considered a founder of the community? To my mind, it’s the premier community in the county and in the state. I’m proud of it. I’m proud of those who have served on our councils, and I’m proud of the staff.”
The Founder’s Plaque is on display in the lobby of the Wellington Municipal Complex at 12300 W. Forest Hill Blvd.

Facebookpinterestmail

Dance Your Way To Health And Happiness At Fred Astaire Dance Studio In Wellington

The world-renowned Fred Astaire Dance Studio has a new home in Wellington. The studio opened in October 2019 and has already snagged the top spot in the 2020 Best of Palm Beach County Awards for dance studios. Part of this success stems from the fact that the new site offers a variety of dance genres for all ages, styles and abilities.
When Fred Astaire Dance Studio (FADS) Wellington owner Doreen Scheinpflug Fortman first started as a dance instructor, she never envisioned the career and opportunities that lay ahead.
“I am originally from Germany. I started dancing when I was five,” Scheinpflug said. “In 2006, I moved to the United States because they were looking for experienced European dancers to come here and teach. I actually came just to have a year or two of a fun experience before getting into the real adult world.”
Scheinpflug studied marketing and graphic design in college and was intrigued by an ad in a dance magazine that ended up bringing her to Connecticut. She was impressed by the structure and unexpected career opportunities that FADS had to offer.
“Fred Astaire Dance Studios is a big corporation. The school was developed by Fred Astaire himself, who opened the first studio in 1947 in New York City,” Scheinpflug explained. “The feel inside the studio is that we are carrying on his legend, his steps and techniques. I ended up really liking it. I enjoy working with people. I like to see how they feel when they are seeing progress.”
FADS has nearly 170 studios spread across the country, giving a unique structure to the schools and extensive resources to its clients.
“Being from Germany, I like to have structure — to have plans. Fred Astaire has a unique trophy system. There is a foundation level, bronze, silver and gold. Each level gives you a program of what steps to be learning and what the techniques are, so we can show the clients their progress.”
This trophy system also means participants can take their training to any FADS location in the country and stay on track without losing a step.
But often clients walk through the studio doors with a specific purpose in mind.
“Sometimes people come in for their wedding dance or something very specific, like they are going on a cruise. We also get lots of couples that just want to have a date night. This is one sport where people can do it together because you don’t compete,” Scheinpflug said. “You play tennis — who is going to win? Any type of game or sport is about competition, but dancing is about working with each other leading and following.”
FADS Wellington begins adults with a special introductory experience — two private lessons for a flat rate. This can be an individual or a couple and gives the instructor a chance to connect with the student before offering advice on which classes to take. Children ages five to nine receive their first group class free as well.
“Couples see it is a great way to spend time together and reconnect. For those without a significant other, they can come and meet people in a friendly, social environment and build a new group of friends,” Scheinpflug said. “Also, it’s a great exercise. Some people don’t necessarily like to go to the gym, but they want to stay fit and active.”
FADS Wellington offers regular social events, participates in local community events and even has a special showcase where students perform for the public. Scheinpflug’s studio also works with local organizations in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.
“Not only do you have to remember steps, but you’ve got to coordinate those steps with music and movement,” she said. “We are there to enrich lives from the mental health, physical health and social life aspects, because dancing has huge benefits.”
Here in South Florida, Latin dances like the salsa and cha-cha are very popular, and FADS Wellington has experienced staff in place to bring the best instruction to its students. Studio managers Michael and Tanya Chaves, along with the rest of the team, hail from around the globe and bring with them a diverse repertoire.
“There is no college to be a dance teacher. Most of the time you have a dancer who’s decided to become a teacher, but there is so much more to be a good instructor,” Scheinpflug said. “If you are familiar with Dancing with the Stars, Tony Dovolani is the national dance director for FADS. He is in charge of making sure the dance quality is top notch. Our teachers are tested every six months to ensure the instruction remains top level.”
This depth gives FADS Wellington the ability to recommend dances for students or tailor lessons to fit their strengths and interests.
After running a successful location in West Palm Beach for 12 years, Scheinpflug is thrilled to bring the talent to Wellington, where she lives with her husband and is happily raising her baby daughter, Anya.
“The Wellington community — it has been amazing to see how supportive the community is. I ran a business in the West Palm Beach area, and it grew to one of the top studios in the country, but here I’ve really experienced support,” she said. “The goal was always to have a location in Wellington because I love the community.”
The Fred Astaire Dance Studio Wellington is located at 157 S. State Road 7, Suite 103. To make an appointment, or learn more about classes, call the studio at (561) 812-3825 or visit www.fredastaire.com/wellington. Questions can also be e-mailed to wellington@fredastaire.com.

Facebookpinterestmail

Wellington-Based Bluman Equestrian Reaches Great Heights In Its First Decade

Established in 2010, Bluman Equestrian is celebrating a decade of exponential growth in 2020. As the family-run team heads into what could prove to be one of its most memorable years yet, the dichotomy of its early days in Wellington to winning records around the globe is an astounding feat.
Since establishing a permanent base in the “Winter Horse Capital of the World” in 2013, the five cousins of Daniel, Steven, Ilan, Mark and Joseph Bluman that make up the enterprise have increasingly made known the name and abilities of Bluman Equestrian, which is now synonymous with excellence in and out of the show ring.
With all of the family members still under the age of 35, the future of Bluman Equestrian is bright as the family enters the new decade with lofty goals and the talent to achieve them.
“Wellington has been instrumental for the Blumans. We started our professional careers here, and we own a farm here. This is the one time of year we can spend a few months together and train and compete as a family,” Daniel said. “We have so many great memories here. All of the Blumans have been at the top of the leaderboard at some point in this town, and achieving those goals together is particularly gratifying.”
A haven for the Bluman clan, Wellington is the one location where all five of the Bluman riders and their families converge each winter, unlike the remainder of the year, when the team may be separated by state or national borders. Thanks to their communal presence in Wellington for the winter equestrian season, the members of Bluman Equestrian are able to more effectively implement their combined specialties to produce success for themselves and their clients.
The main rider in internationally rated competitions, Daniel is the go-to source for high stakes classes and spends part of his summer in Europe, while Ilan uses his skills to provide training to customers, in addition to managing his own competition schedule across the United States.
A gifted catch rider, Mark spearheads showing most of the sale horses that the team has produced, and Steven splits his time between riding, training clients and operating his company, Equo, often described as “Uber for horses.” An amateur equestrian, Joseph spends the majority of his time in their native Colombia, managing the non-equestrian side of the business to allow his brothers and cousins to focus on equine matters.
“When we were just boys, we already knew that we wanted to end up riding and competing in Wellington and at the highest level of the sport. I remember when we first moved to the area as kids, we would sell shirts so that we could meet the riders and get in front of them while funding some of our training,” Steven recalled. “Now that some of us have kids, we have the new generation of Bluman Equestrian. It feels a little like things have come full circle.”
Though Wellington has served a pivotal role in Bluman Equestrian’s development, in 2020 the team has its sights set on another location: Tokyo. As the Olympic Games in Japan draw near, the Bluman squad has been diligently preparing for the competition, during which Daniel will ride for Team Israel, as the country makes its first appearance as a nation represented in Olympic show jumping.
From the humble beginnings to 2020, which will showcase Daniel’s third Olympic efforts, the five horsemen of Bluman Equestrian have relied on principles instilled in them by their parents.
“We are competitive by nature. From our early days, we wanted to better each other in every game or sport there is,” Ilan said. “Our parents taught us to be honest and persistent. They taught us to work with integrity and resilience. Without that education, none of this would have been possible. All of us took these lessons to heart and have been able to put them to good use, which has resulted in a successful business and proper horsemen.”
A unified front in everything they do, Daniel, Steven, Ilan, Mark and Joseph have each worked for years for the betterment of the group, always putting the achievements of the team ahead of the individual. Thanks to this facet, Bluman Equestrian has reached the pinnacle of the sport in a relatively quick timeframe and, with all of the members still early in their careers, set them up for continued success.
“Our success is based on teamwork,” Mark explained. “As individuals, we are all very capable and talented for different things, and as a team, we respect each other, and we support each other. I don’t think many families can work together the way we do.”
Having grown from mere spectators in Wellington to winners of key Grand Prix events at the Winter Equestrian Festival, Bluman Equestrian has managed to solidify itself as a fixture in Wellington while still remaining committed to its family values. With a quintet of hardworking cousins at its core, it is a safe bet that the Bluman name will continue to impress for years to come.
Visit www.blumanequestrian.com to learn more.

Facebookpinterestmail

Inspired Perfection One-Of-A-Kind Fashion Wear That Looks And Flows Beautifully On All Body Types

Founder Kiki Simon credits divine inspiration for her clothing line Lovely Salt, which she named after a verse from the Bible, “You are the salt of the earth.” (Matthew 5:13)
“I followed my faith and vision and decided to leave my career of 11 years to follow my passion,” Simon explained. “My creative gift has inspired me to design fashion wear that looks and flows beautifully on all body types. My pieces are one of a kind and hand-detailed to perfection.”
Simon said that once clients try on Lovely Salt, they feel confident and beautiful and step out of their normal fashion comfort zone. “It truly is an inspiration for me to keep designing more styles as I listen to their comments,” she said. “I also enjoy assisting clients on accessorizing their new fashion look to individualize the piece to make it uniquely theirs.”
Simon said that she is following her dream and doing what she loves to do. “I am blessed to have clients who are friends and friends that became clients,” she said. “Life is not to be taken for granted, and I am grateful daily to be able to follow my dream. The smiles on my customers’ faces are priceless.”
Find Lovely Salt at Resilient Fitness Boutique, located inside Resilient Fitness at 11596 Pierson Road, Building M, in Wellington. Call (561) 596-4296 or visit www.lovelysalt.com for more info.

Facebookpinterestmail

Bringing You The Best Of Wellington Since 2004