Category Archives: Feature Stories

Wellington The Magazine, LLC Featured Articles

WELLINGTON’S WINNING MOVES The Village Has Taken Home Its Third Let’s Move Championship From The Palm Health Foundation

The Village Has Taken Home Its Third Let’s Move
Championship From The Palm Health Foundation

By Melanie Otero

Not even a global pandemic could stop Wellington residents from winning their third Let’s Move challenge, besting 378 teams from across Palm Beach County in the highly competitive countywide competition by logging an impressive 26 million minutes of physical activity during March 2021.

Presented by the Palm Health Foundation and Digital Vibez Inc., Let’s Move invites residents to form teams and commit to exercising at least 30 minutes a day during the month of March. The highly competitive campaign has teams from municipalities, county organizations and other groups all vying for top prizes, which were awarded at a ceremony on April 16.

Hosted by the KVJ Show’s Virginia Sinicki at a live presentation at the South Florida Science Center & Aquarium, the Village of Wellington was named the winning 2021 Let’s Move team with the highest number of physical activity minutes. Wellington residents logged more than 40 percent of the total 59,472,053 minutes logged for the entire county — a record for the highest number of physical activity minutes in Let’s Move’s nine-year history.

Wellington is no stranger to winning Let’s Move, taking home the championship title in 2018 and 2019. What’s even more remarkable is that the number of minutes in 2021 were more than twice the number of minutes logged in either of the previous years.

“It took the whole community to win the award,” said Michelle Garvey, the village’s assistant director of community services. “To have so many people come together shows how important our residents believe it is to have a healthy community. We really appreciate them.”

Building a culture of health was exactly the idea behind Let’s Move when it was first launched in 2012 by the Palm Health Foundation, Palm Beach County’s leading community foundation for issues relating to health. Inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2010 Let’s Move national program to decrease childhood obesity, the foundation created the local challenge for adults and children to improve a variety of health issues through regular physical activity. The challenge promotes daily exercise as a way to combat illnesses like diabetes and heart disease, and strengthen brain health and life expectancy, among other benefits.

“Let’s Move is about taking charge of our health as a community by integrating physical activity, nutrition and healthy behaviors into our daily lives, and having fun while doing it,” said Patrick McNamara, president and CEO of the Palm Health Foundation.

“This is the campaign’s ninth year, and we could not be prouder of the amazing results,” added Wilford Romelus, founder of Digital Vibez. “This past year was full of unexpected challenges for everyone, but we came back stronger than ever.”

With the pandemic limiting in-person events, Garvey and her team under the direction of Community Services Director Paulette Edwards had to get creative to get — and keep — people motivated. The village’s instructors offered free classes, including aerobics, Zumba and dance classes through Zoom, giving everyone the ability to participate, from Wellington’s own 300 employees to seniors and youth.

Community organizations and businesses from sports teams to private schools to LA Fitness joined in to rally members and contribute. For kids, the village partnered with the Neil S. Hirsch Family Boys & Girls Club of Wellington to introduce new activities like Frisbee and teach football and soccer. A huge March Madness basketball competition brought kids out to the courts, and a dance club brought to the Wellington Amphitheater by Digital Vibez kept kids moving to the latest beat.

To get as many young residents as possible participating in Let’s Move, Garvey’s team knew they couldn’t just wait for the kids to come to them. They needed to take fun activities out into the neighborhoods. Program coordinators Ian Williams and Gus Ponce were just the guys to do it through their “Super Fridays” program.

Super Fridays began about three years ago as a way for Wellington to connect with youth by bringing activities to kids in their own neighborhoods.

“When Ian and Gus show up, it’s time to come out of the house, put the electronics down and have fun,” Garvey said.

For Let’s Move, it was a way to be sure all kids had access to the campaign and to continue opening doors to create relationships.

This lets them understand youth needs that the village could fulfill, such as tutoring, mentorships and scholarships to participate in programming.

“We make an impact on the kids, and the kids make an impact on us,” Williams said. “Some of the youth we reach are caring for younger siblings and just need to know we’re there for them. That’s what it’s all about, giving them something to look forward to every day.”

Another way the village cares for the community contributed to the Let’s Move championship. Every Tuesday during the month of March, 25 volunteers gathered at the Mall at Wellington Green to give away food to those in need, working with Feeding South Florida. The activity required quite a bit of physical activity, with volunteers running bags of groceries to more than 800 cars for the food distribution drive-through each week. “Between athletic programs and community service, we try our best to deliver on our health and wellness goals for village residents,” Garvey said.

Giving the credit to residents for bringing home the Let’s Move trophy, Williams added, “We really want to thank the community for being so willing.”

The 2021 Let’s Move campaign was sponsored by the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Health Specialty Center, Valley Bank, Wisehaupt, Bray Asset Management and the Quantum Foundation. For more info., visit


EVERY SECOND COUNTS Wellington Regional’s Emergency Department Stands Ready To React At A Moment’s Notice

Wellington Regional’s Emergency Department
Stands Ready To React At A Moment’s Notice

Dr. Adam Bromberg, medical director of the Wellington Regional Medical Center Emergency Department, stood outside of the hospital’s emergency room and watched as an emergency medical services (EMS) truck approached with its siren blaring and its lights rapidly flashing in an effort to clear the road and shave a few more precious seconds from the hospital arrival time of a critical patient.

Like a red blur, the truck pulled into the ambulance bay as first responders spilled out of the truck and shuttled the patient through the doors to the waiting ER team inside. The hospital is full of specialized equipment and staff to provide emergent care for nearly any patient who arrives at the ER, but that is often the key word… arrives.

Emergency care extends to the site of the patient, and EMS crews are seen as an extension of a hospital’s ER by extending lifesaving care from the doors and hallways of Wellington Regional Medical Center to the actual location of a critically sick or injured patient. These emergency providers walk into potentially dangerous situations with a singular mission in mind — quickly find the patient, start lifesaving treatments and swiftly transfer the patient to the ER.

Time. In an emergency, it is perhaps the most critical element. There is an ER expression, “time is brain.” The shorter the time from incident to medical intervention, the better the chance of a positive outcome. According to the American Heart Association, 1.9 million neurons can die per minute when a patient is having a stroke. That is 32,000 brain cells per second.

Irreversible damage to heart muscle can start as quickly as 30 minutes from the blockage of blood flow. Cells and tissue lost due to stroke can’t be replaced and do not recover.

“Wellington Regional cares for emergency patients with a team approach,” Bromberg said. “It begins with the EMS team notifying the hospital of a life-threatening emergency patient en route, so our multidisciplinary team can assemble and be ready from the moment the patient enters the ER. Working collaboratively allows our medical team to be prepared for any circumstance and react rapidly to provide appropriate care for the patient. The faster we can begin appropriate treatment, the better the outcome for patients.”

The announcement blares three times over the internal public address system: “Stroke Alert Emergency Room Via Rescue.” Translation? There is an ambulance on its way with a suspected stoke patient. When the announcement goes out, staff from multiple specialties inside Wellington Regional, which was recently named a Comprehensive Stroke Center, immediately rush to the ER and await the patient. Since time can be so critical, the goal is to confirm the diagnosis as quickly as possible and transfer the patient to the appropriate unit inside the hospital for specialized care.

“Our goal is to verify the stroke through a medical assessment, CT scan and an evaluation by neurology with the objective of beginning treatment as fast as possible,” Bromberg said. “It is critical to have the team waiting for the patient’s arrival, so we can begin the evaluation immediately and time is not lost.”

One of the last thoughts Lucille Arcano remembered is moving to return a serve in one of her standing Thursday doubles tennis matches. Suddenly, it felt like the racket was pulled from her hand, and then blackness as she crashed down on the court. She vaguely remembers one of her playing partners asking if she was OK, but she could not respond. Still unable to see her friends, she recalls one of them saying, “I think she had a stroke.”

But Arcano remained silent. She had not been feeling very well for several days leading up to the doubles match. In fact, just the day before, her vision was a little impaired and she was dizzy, but she blamed it on something else.

“I had been experiencing double vision the day before and was dizzy,” Arcano said. “I thought something was wrong with my sunglasses and that was causing the vision problems. I thought the dizziness was caused by my paroxysmal vertigo.”

Arcano, who recently turned 74, said she still felt a little off on the day of her tennis match, but her vision had returned to normal. Because she was no longer seeing double, she decided to keep the tennis appointment with her friends. The avid athlete warmed up with no issues and then set up in her part of the court. The first ball of the match headed her way toward her forehand.

Her memory is spotty after that… the brown color of her friend’s tennis outfit… an EMT asking her name… the Wellington Regional Interventional Radiology (IR) team getting her ready for her procedure… someone taking off her earrings in preparation for surgery.

“The next thing I remember was when I woke up and saw that beautiful Dr. [Emilio] Lopez with his mask on and his twinkling eyes looking down on me,” Arcano said through tears. “I will never forget that face and those eyes.”

Arcano had suffered a stroke. Specifically, she had a blockage of the left middle cerebral artery, the vessel that is primarily responsible for delivering blood to the left side of the brain. A clot in this area of the brain is potentially devastating. After the blockage was confirmed, she was sent to IR, where she had the clot removed by Lopez through a minimally invasive procedure. She was discharged from the hospital a few days later.

“Her exceptional response has been remarkable,” Lopez said. “To go from a possibly debilitating stroke to playing tennis is phenomenal. It was a team effort, from the ER, IR, post-op and her care on the floor — everyone played a part in her outcome.”

Since going home, Arcano has completed a few weeks of rehab to strengthen her right arm and leg and to work on her balance. After a loop recorder was installed to monitor her heart activity for atrial fibrillation, she was released with no restrictions. In fact, she returned to the tennis court about two months after her stroke and is actively playing tennis again, as well as playing golf, walking and working out in the gym.

Arcano admits that she was a little nervous in her first tennis match after her stroke, but that is to be expected. She lost that match, but honestly, the outcome was irrelevant. Her return to the courts was enough of a victory for a woman who not that long before had lost her vision and could not respond to questions while lying on those very same courts. Her life is almost totally back to normal with the exception some difficulty writing, but she is practicing it every day, and her handwriting is getting better.

As a former dialysis nurse in Brooklyn, N.Y., Arcano has had quite the life — a life that was saved by the multi-disciplinary team at Wellington Regional and the EMS crew who worked frantically to deliver her from the tennis court to the ER. Once she arrived at the hospital, her care team was made up of several medical specialties working together with the singular goal of saving Arcano’s life.

“Dr. [Christopher] Hawk, one of the doctors involved in implanting the loop recorder, said, ‘My hat’s off to Dr. Lopez. I can save a heart, but he saved your soul,’” Arcano added.

Learn more about emergency services available at Wellington Regional Medical Center by visiting


Cancer Care In Palm Beach County JUST GOT BETTER

Cancer Care In Palm Beach County

The Lynn Cancer Institute and the Miami Cancer Institute are integrating programs as the key element of a further expansion of Baptist Health South Florida’s cancer care services. Joining forces, the combined program creates one of the largest cancer programs in South Florida.

Together, both organizations make a powerful team, offering patients personalized treatment options with a multidisciplinary approach based on physicians’ clinical expertise, advanced technology and innovative clinical trials.

The Lynn Cancer Institute is the largest provider of cancer care in Palm Beach County and one of the largest in Florida. The Miami Cancer Institute is Baptist Health’s cancer care anchor, offering a full array of services, and is Florida’s only member of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance — an alliance that encompasses collaboration in clinical trials and standards of care.

The integration of the Lynn Cancer Institute and the Miami Cancer Institute will also allow for greater support of the planned expansion of the Lynn Cancer Institute, including new technology and the recent addition of cancer services at Bethesda Health City in Boynton Beach.

With this expansion of services, Baptist Health is paving the way for new and better treatments that can help even more patients conquer and survive cancer. Cancer does not stop for COVID-19, and for that reason, the Lynn Cancer Institute and the Miami Cancer Institute encourage patients to stay up to date with their cancer screenings.

The new integrated programing is just one of Baptist Health South Florida’s recent expansions in services for cancer patients.

The Lynn Cancer Institute also recently announced the opening of its newest outpatient radiation oncology location in Bethesda Health City. From the moment a patient receives a cancer diagnosis, Baptist Health South Florida experts are by your side, treating you with compassionate, individualized care. The team of physicians at Lynn Cancer Institute Radiation Oncology at Health City have more than 54 years of collective experience and will develop a targeted treatment plan that is best for you.

The Boynton Beach location now offers many of the same radiation oncology services and treatments found at other Baptist Health South Florida cancer care locations, including: IMRT/IGRT, 3D conformational therapy with RapidArc, CT stimulation, diagnostic imaging including PET and CT scans, electron therapy, high-dose rate brachytherapy, lung screening, nutrition and psychosocial services, and stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT).

The Lynn Cancer Institute has several conveniently located radiation oncology centers, including at the Sandler Pavilion in Boca Raton at 701 NW 13th Street, Boca Raton (561-955-5966); Radiation Oncology at Delray Beach at 16313 S. Military Trail, Delray Beach (561-955-7200); and the new Lynn Cancer Institute Radiation Oncology at Health City in Boynton Beach at 10301 Hagen Ranch Road, Suite A-960, Boynton Beach (561-374-5440).

Learn more about the Lynn Cancer Institute at


PROTECTING YOUR DIGESTION Cleveland Clinic Florida Offers Specialized Care For Your Digestive System’s Health

Cleveland Clinic Florida Offers
Specialized Care For Your Digestive System’s Health

Digestive health relies on a large, complex system of organs, including the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas, to turn the food we eat into the nutrients and energy our bodies need to survive.

“When any one element of this intricate system fails, it can have major health consequences,” explained Dr. Conrad H. Simpfendorfer, director of liver and pancreas surgery at Cleveland Clinic Florida.

These three organs are key accessories to digestive health. The liver, gallbladder and pancreas do not move food through our bodies, yet their role in digestion is vital.

The liver takes the raw materials absorbed by the intestine to make chemicals the body needs to function and detoxify potentially harmful chemicals that are ingested.

The gallbladder stores bile produced by the liver and then releases it through bile ducts into the small intestine to help process fats.

The pancreas secretes juices used to break down protein, fats and carbohydrates, as well as hormones to regulate blood sugar.

Some of the most common digestive disorders involve this organ trio.

More than four million Americans are diagnosed each year with liver disease, including cirrhosis and viral hepatitis. Another 20 million are affected by gallstones and other biliary diseases.

Meanwhile, pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest cancers, will claim an estimated 47,000 lives in the United States this year.

“Because of their tremendous impact on overall health, liver, biliary and pancreatic diseases require immediate and expert medical care,” Simpfendorfer cautioned.

This is where the experts at Cleveland Clinic Florida come in.

The digestive health specialists at Cleveland Clinic Florida are highly skilled in treating a full range of common to complex liver, pancreatic and biliary diseases. This expertise recently earned Cleveland Clinic Florida the Center of Excellence designation from the National Pancreas Foundation for the care of patients with pancreatic cancer, a high standard of care met by only four centers statewide.

“We have a multidisciplinary team of specialists at Cleveland Clinic focused on treating the whole patient,” said Dr. Mayank Roy, a board-certified general surgeon specializing in liver and pancreas surgery. “Our tumor board, for example, brings together experts from a number of specialties to collaborate on treatment plans for patients with cancer designed to achieve the best outcomes.”

As a high-volume center for minimally invasive hepato-pancreato-biliary surgeries, the fellowship-trained surgeons at Cleveland Clinic Florida have tremendous experience in advanced surgical techniques.

“Today we can perform many challenging surgeries laparoscopically, using small incisions instead of traditional open surgery, which greatly benefits our patients,” explained Roy, who works closely with colleagues at Cleveland Clinic Martin Health and Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital to offer Treasure Coast patients access to this innovative care. “And we are one of the few centers in the state using robotic-assisted surgery to treat digestive diseases.”

Cleveland Clinic is a leader in fluorescence-guided surgery, using a fluorescent dye during procedures to better see anatomic structures.

“This advanced imaging technique allows surgeons to remove diseased tissue more precisely and preserve healthy tissue,” Simpfendorfer said. “It can dramatically reduce the risk of complications associated with minimally invasive gallbladder removal, one of the most common surgeries performed in the United States.”

Cleveland Clinic Florida has an office in Wellington at 2789 S. State Road 7. To schedule an appointment with a digestive health specialist at Cleveland Clinic Florida, including Dr. Mayank Roy, who sees patients in Palm Beach County, call (877) 463-2010 or visit


JUST KEEP SWIMMING Wellington Master’s Swim Team Provides Opportunity For Adults To Gather And Thrive

Wellington Master’s Swim Team Provides
Opportunity For Adults To Gather And Thrive

by Lenore Phillips

One of the perks of living in Florida is the ability to be outside and active all 12 months of the year. Activities range from lounging at the beach to being an athlete at any age. Many residents of Wellington are members of a local running club, cycling club, softball teams and volleyball teams. Another team that is lesser known, but equally thriving for adult participants is the Wellington Swim Club (WSC), home of the Wellington Marlins Master’s Swim Team. This team of swimmers of varying abilities and goals is representative of the power of fitness to create a strong community with outstanding opportunities.

The Wellington Master’s Swim team has been a part of the Wellington Aquatics Complex since 2015. The program was established as an affiliate of the United States Masters Swimming Association and is geared toward the adult swimmer. The Wellington Marlins are just one of hundreds of such programs across the United States, with two teams in Palm Beach County alone.

While the word “masters” may sound intimidating, it should not. Many of these groups, WSC included, offer introductory programs for adults who are learning to swim for the first time, as well as swimmers who have been competing at a high level from childhood. The program offers coached workouts six days a week from head coach Lina Bot, and an array of assistant coaches.

Over the years, the Wellington Swim Club has gone through several iterations. The Marlins team was organized in 2019 by coach Patrick Billingsley. With the motto “Show Up, Swim, Have Fun,” WSC built its community with a strong mixture of top competitive swimmers, triathletes, open water swimmers and non-swimmers looking for a way to expand their fitness horizons.

“I had been a swim and triathlon coach for the better part of a decade when I decided to start a master’s team in Wellington,” said Billingsley, now the team’s former head coach. “I knew that we had some very competitive swimmers in the area, and we had a top-notch facility at the Wellington Aquatics Complex, so I decided to establish a team and see what would happen.”

Almost immediately, it became a vibrant program. The team would practice from 5 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. Tuesday through Friday, and eventually added a weekend practice day, as well as lunchtime practices for those not interested in being up before the sun. The team continued its steady growth and morphed into a recognizable player in the local athletic community, as well as a force to be reckoned with on the state and national competitive scenes.

During the COVD-19 pandemic, the program was forced to hit the pause button. The swimmers stayed in touch with one another on a private Facebook group dedicated to the team and even shared exercise plans so that collectively, they could stay in shape until the pool could safely re-open.

Through hard work by the coaching staff and the strict safety measures put in place by the Village of Wellington and the management of the aquatics complex, swimmers were able to return to the pool deck in May 2020.

The strength of the return came as a surprise to many on the team as new faces emerged in their community. After the forced confinement due to the pandemic, many people were looking for a safe, outdoor activity that also allowed them to be around other people.

“Swimming is a unique sport because you are always competing against yourself first and your teammates second, but you also act as a team because you are working out closely with people who are similar in speed and stamina to you,” Billingsley said. “The camaraderie that emerges in a swim team is so special because everyone feels like they are struggling in training and succeeding in improving their fitness together. It creates a completely unique and very tight bond. The pandemic only strengthened that in our team. It was really uplifting, considering the stress everyone was experiencing at the time.”

Besides the changes as a result of the new normal created by the pandemic, there were also changes in the coaching staff. Billingsley decided to step back from the program so that he could focus more time on his growing family, and Bot took over the role as head coach. She has spent the better part of the last 16 years teaching the fundamentals of swimming to age group swimmers as part of the Wellington Aquatics Complex staff and has been teaching competitive swimming for the last two years. Assuming the role of head coach of the master’s program was a change of pace for her professionally but one that she was eager to grow into.

“I love being a part of the swimmers’ progress and helping them to reach their individual goals,” Bot said. “What drew me to working with the master’s team is how inclusive it is. The team acts as a family, and everyone is so positive in how they push one another. This support system is especially meaningful during COVID-19 times. It also makes coming to the pool deck every day very positive and inspiring.”

In 2021, the team is focused on expanding its membership to include more swimmers and returning to competition. Through Bot’s directive, the team has expanded the number of coached workouts and opportunities for competition in Florida. There is hope that with Olympic competition coverage set to begin this month, the triumphs in the pool on the international stage will inspire even more new swimmers to follow the team’s guiding principles of “Show Up, Swim, Have Fun!”

If you are interested in becoming involved with the Wellington Marlins Master’s Swim Team, visit


It Starts With A Conversation The Moorcroft Conservation Foundation Is Bridging An Educational Gap In Wellington

The Moorcroft Conservation Foundation
Is Bridging An Educational Gap In Wellington

Story and Photos By Georgie Hammond

When Charlie Moorcroft arrives home from his job as an equestrian trainer, his work for the day is not over. As he swings open the gate to his beautiful backyard, Moorcroft is greeted by the sounds of animals meowing, chirping, squealing and the low hum of temperature regulating lights. To visitors, the sight of the massive animal enclosures set upon his lush grass is enough to make your jaw drop, but for Moorcroft, it’s just another day of doing what he loves from the comfort of his home — all right in the heart of Wellington.

Moorcroft’s journey with animals began as a child, growing up riding at a local stable where he learned the ins and outs of taking care of and riding horses. Beyond horses, his innate interest in all animals was apparent from the start, often visiting local livestock shows as a child. He would pick out ducks, geese, pheasants, rabbits and other animals to keep at his neighbor’s farm, where he worked for them to live because of his mother’s “no-animals-in-the-house” policy. However, Moorcroft never imagined that his love for animals would one day be echoed across the world with the help of his own nonprofit organization, the Moorcroft Conservation Foundation.

“I have had animals on and off my entire life. But being in the equestrian industry, my job never let me be in one place long enough to really give them the life they deserve. In 2006, my business changed in a way that allowed me to move to Wellington full time, and so I was able to start slowly, adding more animals back into my life,” Moorcroft said. “Today, I have more than 16 species of turtles, tortoises, skunks, birds, maras, cats and rabbits, all in my backyard as a part of my own collection of exotic, critically endangered and protected species.”

Moorcroft’s wide array of animals that once only fulfilled his personal passion are now gaining even more importance under his care, serving as educational ambassadors for the Moorcroft Conservation Foundation.

Established in November 2020 with a mission of introducing children and adults to global conservation issues, the nonprofit organization is inspiring people, many of whom have had the pleasure of meeting Moorcroft’s animals, to make a difference and assist in raising funds to support collaborative organizations.

“We started the foundation just as a way to bring awareness and real-life experiences to people within and beyond our community here in Wellington,” Moorcroft said. “Our goal is really to bridge the gap between kids and education, and also bring funds to other organizations that we trust so that they can also provide opportunities for kids to be involved on a local, national and global level.”

As an extension of the foundation, Moorcroft’s diverse collection of animals provides people the opportunity to learn more about the meaning and importance of conservation through hands-on experiences and Moorcroft’s knowledge. Four large, outdoor enclosures, set within the confines of his spacious backyard, make for the perfect up-close encounter with larger animals, such as the cherry head red-footed tortoise, which loves to be fed bananas and hibiscus flowers.

In a temperature-regulated room off the house, Moorcroft keeps a variety of turtles and tortoises in environments that best suit their needs, and there’s even an incubation system for the eggs they lay. As children and adults interact with and hold each animal, Moorcroft rattles off his knowledge of the species, never missing a detail and keeping his audience engaged as they watch and learn from both the animals and Moorcroft.

“We really like when people come and visit, talk about the animals, meet them and talk about conservation. We want people to understand that these animals need our help,” Moorcroft said. “We work full time, and this is our home, so it’s not a public facility and there is no admission, but we do accept donations for the foundation and other organizations that we work closely with. But whenever possible, we love having people over to meet the animals and create conversation.”

Through Moorcroft and the foundation’s two other Wellington-based board members, Louise Serio and Holly Caristo, and Executive Director Geoff Teall, the Moorcroft Conservation Foundation has raised and donated funds to conservation organizations around the world, such as the TurtleRoom, the Cloud Foundation, Refuge des Tortues, the Equus Survival Trust, the Wolf Conservation Center and Florida Skunk Rescue, fulfilling the foundation’s mission on a global scale, while Moorcroft continues to love, care for and share his animals with those who visit his home.

“It all starts with a conversation. If you can’t talk about it, then you can’t do anything about it. So, my hope is to really just get the conversation started about conservation,” Moorcroft said. “Whether you come and meet my animals, or if you simply hear about us online, my wish is that it inspires you to dig deeper, do some research and see how you can help animals in your local community and beyond.”

To learn more about the Moorcroft Conservation Foundation, visit


BUSINESS IS BLOOMING Award-Winning Wellington Florist Celebrates 30 Years In The Community

Award-Winning Wellington Florist
Celebrates 30 Years In The Community

By M. Dennis Taylor

J.P. Varvarigos was born and raised in the floral business. As an adult, he runs Wellington Florist, recently voted the best florist in Palm Beach County. The third generation in the business, his grandfather was a florist in Queens, N.Y. His parents, Dean and Melinda Varvarigos, met as young adults in Fort Lauderdale while working for Buning the Florist. After their marriage, they ran their own shop for a decade before moving up to Palm Beach County.

The couple opened a small shop in Wellington 30 years ago, and Wellington Florist has since grown into a community institution.

“We moved to Wellington when there were still cows in open fields,” Melinda recalled. “When my husband came up to look at the property, he saw someone ride their horse up to the Burger King to get lunch.”

They were excited to learn more about the fledging community. “We knew immediately that this was where we wanted to be,” she said. “It has grown so much over the years.”

Melinda, who has earned the highest accreditation a florist can achieve from the American Institute of Floral Designers, is semi-retired nowadays and chooses to work only during very busy rush periods. Dean, one of the founders of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, passed away in 2017.

Yet that small floral business they established has continued to grow.

“We have doubled in size and volume about every five years,” said J.P. Varvarigos, who has been running the shop for the last decade. “Today, we have more square footage devoted to coolers than the entire size of that first shop.”

Those coolers hold the supplies of favorites and exotic flowers the shop has standing orders for each week, replenishing and maintaining an extensive and reliable inventory.

With meticulous care given to the reception and handling of the stable inventory, they also expect to accommodate large, last-minute orders and can fill them with incredibly short notice. What might take a smaller competitor days to source, Wellington Florist is likely to have in stock.

“We take the temperature of all the flowers when they are received to ensure they have not been mishandled and gotten hot, and we are known for rejecting and sending back any substandard flowers,” Varvarigos said. “Our vendors appreciate that we have standing orders all year round, so we get their best supplies first. They know they can’t get away with sending us anything but the best. In last year’s shortage of flowers, we were not even affected. The vendors supplied us first.”

Varvarigos said that the freshest inventory is handled by an expert staff with “can-do attitudes,” as the business offers great careers with a positive work/life balance — not just jobs to its 14 employees. “You get what you pay for. We ‘share the wealth’ so to speak, even for entry level positions… Our personnel are happy and not looking for something else. That equals retention,” he explained.

The thing that really sets Wellington Florist apart is its seven-day guarantee.

“There are no questions asked, no chiding that you must not have changed the water, or queries about how close to the sunlight the arrangement was placed. Just zero liability, never any buyer’s remorse,” Varvarigos said. “Even if they were surprised that they didn’t like the smell or the yellow wasn’t the shade they were expecting. The staff loves it because all they have to do is say, ‘We are sending a replacement.’ And it is a policy that is so worth it for customer and employee satisfaction.”

Nevertheless, the number of replacements going out represent just a tiny fraction of orders.

The business has always been active with charitable donations and supportive of area seniors. “We like to give back to the community with birthday arrangements and donations,” Varvarigos said.

The business has corporate standing orders for funeral homes, law firms, doctor’s offices and well-heeled, sometimes celebrity clients. It takes a special pride in every floral arrangement the designers create. “Every arrangement — even a standard order — has a premium flower in it that sets it off,” Varvarigos said.

Varvarigos added that now that the pandemic has waned, he expects to be doing many events that were canceled last year. “We took the time to completely revamp our web presence and to upgrade our storefront online,” he said. “We try to have a huge selection of up to 200 products available online for same day delivery.”

The excellent products, reliable service and unswerving dedication to customer satisfaction all blend to explain why Wellington Florist recently earned the business of the year award in the floral niche by the readers of the Palm Beach Post. “We are constantly sourcing flowers, getting better all the time,” Varvarigos said.

With future plans to expand the size of the facility, Varvarigos is also working to get a liquor license so their arrangements can include a bottle of champagne.

Wellington Florist is located at 13889 Wellington Trace in the Wellington Marketplace shopping plaza. For more info., call (561) 333-4441 or visit



A PAINTING WITH A HEART Local Artist Nancy Tilles Honors Beloved Heart Surgeon With Commissioned Portrait

Local Artist Nancy Tilles Honors
Beloved Heart Surgeon With Commissioned Portrait

The late Dr. Malcolm Dorman, a beloved cardiac surgeon, was honored last month at a special reception at JFK Medical Center in Atlantis. Local artist Nancy Tilles was commissioned to paint a portrait of Dorman, which was unveiled at the event on June 15.

Dorman was a world-renowned heart surgeon, adored by his peers and patients alike. As the medical director of cardiac surgery, he founded and directed the Valvular Heart Institute at JFK Medical Center. He was known for his research and pioneering work in repairing mitral valves using minimally invasive techniques.

Besides his innovative techniques and educational dedication, Dorman also was recognized for his compassion for his patients and earned numerous awards and accolades over the years. Dorman considered the Patient’s Choice Awards in 2012, 2013 and 2014, as well as the Compassionate Doctor Recognition Award in 2013 and 2014, to be among his greatest achievements.

Dorman, who passed away March 26, was dedicated to ensuring that his patients received the best care possible, often staying in a patient’s room long after performing an exhausting surgery, in case he was needed. Despite his incredible talent for saving lives, he remained a humble man who said that it was God who used his hands to work medical miracles.

Tilles, a longtime member of the Wellington Art Society, presented her commissioned oil painting of Dorman at the June reception hosted by the hospital. “I enjoyed painting Dr. Dorman,” she said. “His kind spirit is what I most wanted to capture.”

Tilles took care to present Dorman in a way that showed his unique personality.

“The original picture I received was a group shot taken in an operating room with the large industrial lights behind them,” Tilles said. “The photograph was chosen by his coworkers for the way it highlighted his personality. I isolated him and painted a light blue background reminiscent of the sky with hints of gold to create glow. I am honored that the painting will hang at the cardiac wing of the hospital.”

Tilles is known for her oils and portraits, which hang in public and private collections throughout the country. She exhibits her work in nationally recognized art shows across Florida. Along with her portrait work, Tilles has created bodies of work representing flowers, underwater scenes and tropical art in mural-sized triptychs.

“I learned how to draw and paint by watching my father sketch,” she said. “I have always had a need to create a likeness of a person at their best. Besides painting people, I am presently deciphering patterns in nature and playing with the idea of how we see human form in so many different subjects.”

Tilles is presently teaching painting to adults at Easel Art Supply and will be teaching at the City of Palm Beach Gardens in the future. She is passionate about sharing her love of painting.

Tilles is also an active member of the Wellington Art Society, whose members consist of dedicated professional artists, up and coming artists, art lovers and supporters. The nonprofit charitable organization is open to artists of all mediums and patrons of the arts, allowing both local and regional artists to display their artwork in local galleries, interact with other artists and serve the community through their art.

Learn more about Nancy Tilles at For more information on the Wellington Art Society, visit



Working With HomeSafe, Verdex Construction Is Helping Build A Better Community

Working With HomeSafe, Verdex Construction Is Helping Build A Better Community

When the nonprofit HomeSafe recently celebrated its new facility, Verdex Construction — the general contractor overseeing the Sylvester Family West Campus — did more than just show up to cut the ribbon and make sure the lights worked. The company presented a check for more than $125,000 back to the local charity.

Now in its seventh year of business, Verdex Construction considers the role it plays in supporting the community one of its core values.

“I’ve been involved in HomeSafe a long time, so everybody in the company knows I’m pretty passionate about the organization and what they do,” explained Wellington resident Rex Kirby Jr., founder and president of Verdex. “I insisted that it be a competitive bid. It wasn’t about making a profit for us, so we discussed ways we could cut costs from the beginning.”

HomeSafe protects the community’s most vulnerable residents — victims of child abuse and domestic violence. The new campus, located on Lyons Road just east of Wellington, was dedicated at a ceremony on April 6 and provides a safe home for 12 children.

“This donation from Verdex will help fund significant upgrades that we have planned for our Lake Worth and Boca Raton campuses,” HomeSafe CEO Matt Ladika said. “Our goal is for each client to have their own room, so major renovations will be made to the layout and square footage of our existing group homes. This next year and a half will truly be a transformative time for the agency.”

Kirby and Verdex employed a number of methods to save money on the Lyons Road project, which led to the large donation to HomeSafe.

One such method for saving money after the project began was as simple as painting the fence. They worked with painters to donate the equipment, and Verdex purchased the paint.

“It saved thousands of dollars. Staff volunteered their time to do it on the weekend. We made it a fun event and bought shirts that said, ‘Volunteers for HomeSafe.’ We had a huge turnout; probably 30 of us out there painting and helping,” Kirby recalled. “We wanted to make sure that HomeSafe was aware that we really weren’t interested in this being a profiteering job, so we decided to donate the profits.”

Verdex also applied savings from subcontractors and vendors, like MR Drywall Services, to the cost savings throughout the building process without cutting back on the quality of work. All the small decisions and man hours put into finding these savings added up to more than just a check to refill HomeSafe’s coffers. Giving back is more than just part of the company culture.

“We are definitely involved in other things in the community. We’ve had a group that gave their time to Habitat for Humanity. We have given time and money to the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County. We try to give back to the communities we work in,” Kirby said.

He put together a list of core values before launching the company. One of those pillars is, “We value our communities.”

A Florida native, Kirby is very proud of the growth and quality of the people and projects that Verdex Construction is involved with. Kirby has worked in the industry for 40 years and brought more than just experience to his new company.

“Honestly, after working and growing other companies, being able to start my own company makes me proud. When I started Verdex, it was more than a tagline of ‘Building Something Better.’ I wanted to build a better company throughout,” Kirby explained. “We’ll grow again this year. It is consistent growth because we don’t just grab bodies to fill a slot. We are very particular about the people we bring on board and build the company around people who fit that culture.”

Taking care to adapt intelligently during a pandemic has also been an important part of Verdex’s success.

“We were incredibly fortunate that construction was deemed an essential business, and we incorporated a lot of different practices to make sure we didn’t take it for granted,” Kirby said.

From temperature checks and mandatory face masks to increased wash stations and distancing as feasible, Verdex continued to operate as safely as possible.

“We quit having packed meetings and became very good at Zoom,” he said. “We spent money on enhanced video equipment and project management software, and we accommodated those who wanted or needed to work from home.”

Keeping a solid reputation with both clients and subcontractors is pivotal to Kirby’s success.

“We have a group of subcontractors and design professionals working with us, and we approach it as at the end of the day, it’s our job to make sure everybody is successful,” Kirby said. “We are not successful at someone else’s expense, and we approach the business that way. Some simple principles we put in place since the beginning — like we pay our subcontractors promptly and treat them with respect — then you get a good following and the better pricing because they know you are going to do business the right way.”

Verdex Construction works on a variety of projects, including multi-family housing and hotels to government buildings. Some recent projects include the Town Southern luxury apartments in Royal Palm Beach and the Canopy Hotel in West Palm Beach.

“We won our first Palm Beach County school; a remodel/update for Banyan Creek Elementary,” Kirby said. “And we won a Palm Beach County project for the mosquito control compound. We have a lot of projects from Miami and Fort Lauderdale, up to this area, and over to Tampa as well.”

Despite finding success, new challenges remain.

“Right now, the market is booming, but it is one of those plus-minus things. Material costs are also soaring,” Kirby said. “We have an incredible amount of opportunity on our plate, but we are spending a lot of time navigating through the material increases and working with our clients to keep these projects within a budget they can afford.”

To learn more about Verdex Construction, visit or call (561) 440-1600. For more information about HomeSafe, visit


A Tribute to Mason Phelps Honoring The Life Of An Innovative Leader

A Tribute to Mason Phelps Honoring The Life Of  An Innovative Leader

By Lenore Rees Phillips

They say it is difficult to shop for the person who has everything. This aptly relates the sentiment one feels when composing a tribute to a man of as many words and lives as Mason Phelps Jr. As an athlete, philanthropist, entrepreneur, businessman, event manager and personality, Mason was never singularly defined by one role he played.

After his untimely passing in May, social media was flooded with tributes bearing one thing in common — how profound and unique they are to the individual and their relationship with Mason. After spending hours lost in the scrolling recounts of days gone by, it is clear that Mason curated his life to be involved in things that he was passionate about and people he found interesting. The culmination of those curiosities was a life fully lived and one that will not be easily forgotten.

As a young man, Mason Phelps was captivated by horses, and that fascination, combined with a competitive streak, led him to earn international-level acclaim as an equestrian athlete. At just 16, Mason took part in his first United States Equestrian Team (USET) clinic. By 1968, he was named to the equestrian team that was representing the United States at the Mexico City Olympics, and the same year he was Rider of the Year of the U.S. Combined Training Association. While still in his 20s, Mason expanded his horizons from eventing, into the hunter and jumper disciplines.

Never one to shy away from an event, Mason easily combined sport and social interests to create one-of-a-kind horse shows. Early in his career, Mason founded and produced the AA Rated Christmas Show in San Antonio, Texas. Later, he raised the bar on his ability to curate something truly world class and created the International Jumping Derby that took place in Newport, Rhode Island. He is also widely recognized for creating the New England Horsemen’s Association Hunt Seat Medal, among other signature classes and charity events held across the United States.

The event that captivated Mason’s interest the longest and for which he is most well-known is the National Horse Show. He held the role of president for a decade and later chairman of the board of directors of the National Horse Show and worked tirelessly to make sure that the historic horse show survived a transition from Madison Square Garden in New York City to Wellington, with the legendary Gene Mische, and eventually helping it find a permanent home at the Kentucky Horse Park. Mason deeply respected the event for its place in the cultural heritage of equestrian sports in the United States and campaigned to ensure the event retained that heritage while also having it evolve to meet the ever-growing demands of modern equestrian sport on a global stage.

All of the work Mason did around the horse shows and around the world also helped him to amass a list of connections that rivaled even the most-worldly professionals. Never one to let an opportunity go by, Mason decided to harness the power of his connections and use them to the advantage of the projects that he was personally involved with. This led to his flagship professional enterprise, Phelps Media Group. Founded in 2002 in Wellington, Phelps Media Group immediately became a pioneer in equestrian marketing and the go-to company to produce and manage high-profile events. Based on the success of the business, Mason was named to the Wellington Chamber of Commerce President’s Circle for “building America’s most progressive and successful equestrian public relations firm.” With the resources being built through Phelps Media Group, Mason helped organize many successful sporting events, nonprofit fundraisers and unforgettable social experiences.

Aside from his professional persona, Mason was larger than life. He was always the life of a party, and if there was no party, then he would make sure that one was put together in short order. He was fiercely loyal to his friends and always had many friends that he had known for many years, no matter where he roamed. In his later years, Mason found the most comfort at his retreat on the Canadian side of Michigan, Campement d’Ours. While he would never miss a winter season in Wellington and the chance to be social with the scene that molded him, he craved the time he spent on the water in Canada, in an arguably simpler life.

Although the stories about Mason and his triumphs abound, his legacy will ultimately be defined by the people whose lives he changed by simply giving them a chance to succeed. His uncanny ability to see the best in people, encouraging their strengths while carefully adapting their weakness, led him to be the launch point for many who now have prominent careers in the equestrian industry and beyond.

When considering his legacy at the time of his passing, the following words seem to resonate the most — a provocative innovator whose tenacity of spirit and vivacious personality will live on in the hearts of all who were fortunate enough to be in his orbit.