Category Archives: Feature Stories

Wellington The Magazine, LLC Featured Articles

Educating The Next Generation

Educating The Next Generation The Moorcroft Foundation Inspires Conservation And Preservation In Wellington And Beyond

Story By Jessica Brighenti  |  Photo by Georgie Hammond

Wellington is known for its renowned equestrians, close proximity to beaches and beautiful weather. But it is also home to some of the rarest and endangered animals in the world, serving as educational ambassadors for a foundation with a mission of conservation, preservation, inspiration and education.

The Moorcroft Conservation Foundation, founded by accomplished equestrian and trainer Charlie Moorcroft, and his personal collection of rare animals, introduces children and adults to important conservation, rescue and rehabilitation issues while inspiring them to make a difference. The foundation raises funds to support collaborative organizations around the country while also bringing awareness to the local community and beyond.

Born and raised in Connecticut, Moorcroft spent much of his time outdoors riding horses, fishing and spending time in nature. Growing up in a large family with a schoolteacher as his mother, Moorcroft learned early on the importance of giving back, communicating and educating.

Throughout his life, Moorcroft tried his hand at many different careers, but was always drawn back to what was intertwined in his DNA — equestrian sports, nature and being around animals.

He made the move down to Wellington about 17 years ago for the horses and to continue his passion for educating the sport’s youth.

Moorcroft is renowned for his exceptional ability to teach children not only how to ride and care for an animal, but how to be confident, independent and communicative in life outside of the arena.

“I tell my students, there’s always someone more experienced than you, and there’s always someone who needs to look up to you or wants to look up to you,” Moorcroft explained. “I try to impress that upon my students. We inspire kids to help kids. I want kids to know that they are role models, and they are inspiring the next group. I want the kids coming up to know that we were once them.”

Riding lessons with Moorcroft are far from conventional. He brings students out to a track around a 15-acre body of water, where riders get to learn about and see everything from alligators, to fish and birds, butterflies, turtles and snakes. “I use that as a real teaching opportunity to talk about life and nature,” Moorcroft said. “The journey it takes these riders on is fascinating to me. It leads to a lot of great conversation.”

Besides his genuine passion and appreciation for horses and teaching the younger generation, Moorcroft heads up an even bigger passion project, the Moorcroft Conservation Foundation.

Following his involvement in the United States Hunter Jumper Association Foundation, he was inspired to do something more than just house special pets. He wanted to tell an educational story. In November 2020, the Moorcroft Conservation Foundation was born.

“We started the foundation just as a way to bring awareness and real-life experiences to people within and beyond our niche community,” 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 at a local, national and global level.”

On the foundation, Moorcroft is assisted by notable equestrian Geoff Teall as executive director, and a board of directors that includes Louise Serio, Holly Caristo, Abby Blakenship and Susan Gordon. They look forward to continuing to share the foundation’s passion and initiatives while inspiring others in the Wellington community and beyond.

“The Moorcroft Conservation Foundation has been instrumental in introducing many people from the Wellington area, both young and old, to the importance of conservation issues,” Teall said. “This has included members of the equestrian community, as well as many year-round Wellington residents.”

Gordon said that the foundation offers an amazing experience to the groups of school children who visit.

“Having this hands-on learning opportunity with endangered animals right here in Wellington is surely an experience they remember for years to come,” Gordon said. “What a great way to inspire the next generation of conversation ambassadors!”

Blankenship has been impressed by Moorcroft’s ability to reach students on topics as varied as equestrian training and conservation.

“Everyone in the horse community knows about Charlie’s amazing gift of teaching children to ride,” she said. “With the foundation, the opportunity is available for people outside of the horse world to also experience his gift and his knowledge of conservation. Charlie’s charismatic method of teaching inspires people to want to learn more and do more. Wellington is fortunate to have a place like the Moorcroft Conservation Foundation. It’s a big museum education in a quaint and personal setting.”

Moorcroft also feels strongly about raising money for smaller, lesser-known, organizations, and he carefully vets and researches the ones his foundation gives to.

“I have a lot of crazy friends and a lot of crazy access to amazing ‘mom and pop’ sanctuaries and rescues that do rehabilitation, and a lot of organizations all over the country and the world that give back to animals in need on a real conservation and preservation level,” he explained.

Moorcroft’s own personal collection of animals is just a small piece of the puzzle to help drive the conversation about these unique species and the importance of conservation and preservation. “The animals and the foundation are very separate to me,” Moorcroft explained. “The animals themselves are owned, supported [and] taken care of by me.”

Although not a public facility, Moorcroft encourages people to come and visit, talk about and meet the animals, and understand conservation and the importance of helping these animals.

“I really enjoy merging my worlds by having some of my dear friends and even equestrian acquaintances come over to learn more,” Moorcroft said. “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.”

Since its inception, the Moorcroft Conservation Foundation has supported organizations such as Feline Conservation, the Pocono Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Center, the Turtle & Tortoise Preservation Group and McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary, to name a few.

“I am excited to see what the future holds and what we can do for organizations around the world,” Moorcroft said.

To learn more about the Moorcroft Conservation Foundation, or to get involved, visit them on the web at www.moorcroftconservationfoundation.org.

 

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THE SHOW MUST GO ON!

THE SHOW MUST GO ON! Wellington Schools Return To The Stage After A Two-Year Pause

For two years, the local fine arts and theater programs at schools across Wellington were on a pandemic pause. However, that all changed this spring when the local theater productions roared back to life to excited audiences at schools near you.

At the high school level, Palm Beach Central High School’s Bronco Players performed the classic musical Annie to sold-out crowds of theatergoers. Not to be outdone, Wellington High School’s theater department capped the school year with a fantastic performance of the ABBA musical Mamma Mia!

Disney shows were popular at local elementary schools, with Wellington Elementary School presenting Aladdin Kids and Binks Forest Elementary School performing Lion King Jr.

Smiling students at all grade levels were excited to get back to the stage and perform for their peers and parents.

Palm Beach Central High School

The Palm Beach Central High School Bronco Players took to the stage, lighting it up as bright as the sun with the musical Annie.

The student-run show about the famous Depression-era orphan opened to a rousing audience of several hundred, as a cast and crew of 53 put on the musical over four performances held March 10-12.

“It has been a long road and journey to get back to this moment,” Artistic Director Gail Marshall said, adding that Annie was the perfect show for this year. “It has a great theme and lesson of being able to look beyond the troubles of today because tomorrow, being only a day away, can bring us so many possibilities.”

The show included surprise cameos from alumni and faculty, including Principal Darren Edgecomb. Twelve of the students were graduating seniors, including Marshall’s daughter, Amelia Marshall, who played Miss Hannigan.

Binks Forest Elementary School

Students from Binks Forest Elementary School performed The Lion King Jr. on March 4 to an appreciative crowd. The performance featured wonderful singing and amazing, intricate costumes.

The audience was singing along to the songs from the popular Disney classic featuring Simba and all his friends. Directors Niki Gilberti-Wheeler, Kathy Zangen, Claudine Ashley and Robin Peck did a fantastic job and thanked the Morrison family, Karen Epstein and Jennifer Roland for their support

Wellington High School

The Wellington High School theater department staged a fantastic performance of the popular musical Mamma Mia! from May 19 through May 21.

The musical featured the music of ABBA brought to life through the story of a young woman planning her wedding. A total of 30 cast members were in the high school production, including main stars Leora Zimmerman and Allie Alder. The cast and crew worked tirelessly to make the show happen.

Wellington Elementary School

The Wellington Elementary School Fine Arts Academy made its return when the musical theater group performed Aladdin Kids to a sold-out audience on May 19. Directed by Dave Morrison, the group was made up of mostly students who had little to no stage experience, but they did a fabulous job bringing the story of “street rat” Aladdin and his Princess Jasmine to life.

The faculty, staff and students got to enjoy the show at two morning performances. The students worked hard at after-school rehearsals, which included choreography, chorus practice, student actors and actresses rehearsing lines and songs, and much more.

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Two Decades Of Proven Success

Two Decades Of Proven Success Western Academy Charter School Will Begin The Academic Year In A New, Larger Facility

Story by Deborah Welky  |  Photos by Denise Fleischman

The upcoming school year is going to be an exciting one at the Western Academy Charter School. After many years of success using rented space in a shopping plaza, Western Academy is in the process of moving into its new home — a 62,400-square-foot building located at 12031 Southern Blvd. in Royal Palm Beach.

“We’re very excited about going into our new building and being able to offer more opportunities for both our existing students and for new students that we’re now able to serve from the surrounding community,” said Executive Director Linda Terranova, who founded the school nearly 20 years ago. “We’ll be able to help more children.”

Western Academy Charter School opened with 157 students in 2003 and expanded five times at its previous location. This fall, the new building will open with 575 students — and they’ll all be under one roof.

“We’ll have more control over the security and grounds,” Terranova said. “We won’t have to use a public park as our playground. We’ll have our own fenced-in basketball courts, a soccer field, an indoor gym room and a large multi-purpose room. We used to have two small cafeterias — now we can have 350 people in this multi-purpose room and use it for the cafeteria, for dances, graduations, after care and special events like Halloween night. We’ll have more classrooms, pull-out support rooms and special education offices, too.”

With students in kindergarten through eighth grade, Western Academy offers traditional education programs that adhere to state standards and curriculum, but it was initially created to serve a specific need.

“My oldest son has Asperger syndrome and was falling through the cracks in the Palm Beach County School District system,” Terranova recalled. “Back then, children like him were secluded out in portables. I wanted him to be mainstreamed into the regular education system. I wrote the charter, and we expanded from that. There was such a high need for something that was not a district school, and we were the only charter school out here for years.”

Terranova explained that Western Academy is set up as a nonprofit organization, unlike many other charter schools.

“Because we are a self-run nonprofit — not a for-profit charter — we don’t have to pay a management company, and the money can go into the programs,” she explained. “We also have some flexibility for what our students need. We don’t have to wait to get permission from the school board, where it can take a long time to get the support down to the kids. We can implement programs for the students we have that year. If they have problems with math or have reading issues, we can tailor-make our curriculum to correct that because we’re an independent school.”

Terranova, who has a master’s degree in educational leadership, served as the school’s principal for the first 16 years but recently handed the baton to Tsiri Miller, who took over as principal for the 2021-22 school year.

“In my new role as executive director, my focus was to find us a new location, get bonds to pay for the new facility, oversee the renovations and get us moved into the new building,” Terranova said.

With support from the Village of Royal Palm Beach, Western Academy was able to arrange for bond money through the Arizona Industrial Development Authority to take over and update the vacant building at the northwest corner of Southern and Crestwood boulevards. It was most recently the home of the Palms West Charter School.

Western Academy has been an A-rated school since 2006 and has also been designated a “School of Excellence” for being in the top 20 percent of all Florida schools. Its math program ranks in the top 5 percent across the state. Based on tests given to all students in grades 3 through 8 statewide, Western Academy has beat all the district schools in Royal Palm Beach and emerged as the No. 1 charter school in all of Palm Beach County.

Miller became the principal after serving Western Academy as one of its assistant principals, dean of students, ESE coordinator and a teacher. She said the school’s biggest challenge recently has been providing high-quality education during the pandemic while keeping students and staff safe and healthy.

“Even during the pandemic, our students thrived and succeeded,” Miller said. “We were one of only a few schools in the county who opted-in for an A school grade in 2021 and remain the No. 1 charter school in Palm Beach County. I’m really proud of our students, staff and parents for working together and supporting each other during those difficult times. I am excited to be moving into our new building where we will be able to serve more students in our community.”

Terranova is delighted to see how the school has grown over the past two decades.

“The climate of our school is special because it’s like a family,” Terranova said. “We’ve been around for so long. Some families have multiple children going through our school. We care about the safety, security and academics of our children. It’s a family atmosphere in an all-inclusion school with regular programs, advanced/honors programs at the middle school level and programs for those who are academically challenged.”

Western Academy has closed its enrollment period for the coming school year with all spaces filled, a waiting list and a lottery already conducted. Call (561) 792-4123 to ask to be put on the waiting list in case a space opens up. In the meantime, enrollment opens for the 2023-24 school year on Sept. 1.

For more information about Western Academy Charter School, visit www.westernacademycharter.com.

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The Future Of Sports Instruction

The Future Of Sports Instruction
Star Athletes Aim To Breathe New Life Into An Old Wellington Park

By Mike May

While Wellington is firmly established as the premier destination for equestrian sports, it’s likely that Wellington will also soon become home to one of the finest training and instructional destinations for sports such as football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball and cheerleading.

The business entity pushing this new idea is Wellington Athletics LLC. It’s being spearheaded by three local athletes who went on to the big leagues: Jon Bostic, Devon Travis and Pat O’Donnell.

Bostic, a current NFL linebacker, has played in the NFL since 2013 for Chicago, New England, Detroit, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Washington. Travis is a former Major League Baseball player with the Detroit Tigers and the Toronto Blue Jays who is currently coaching for the Atlanta Braves organization. O’Donnell, meanwhile, is currently the punter for the NFL’s Green Bay Packers.

All three of these sports stars are also graduates of Wellington’s Palm Beach Central High School, and all three are committed to giving area residents, especially young athletes, the chance to get first-class coaching right here in Wellington, rather than travel far away to receive this high-level instruction.

Bostic, Travis and O’Donnell readily admit that they were fortunate, as they benefited from great coaches and mentors in their amateur athletic careers. Now, they want to extend that same option to other up-and-coming athletes in central Palm Beach County. Wellington Athletics is looking to fill a void.

“The mission is to close that gap by providing young athletes with a holistic approach to achieving their goals — on the field, in the classroom and at home,” explained Bostic in his proposal letter to the Village of Wellington.

The mission of Wellington Athletics is to transform the currently underutilized Wellington Community Park, located at 3401 South Shore Blvd., into a 91,784-square-foot multi-purpose sports training and coaching complex, as well as a youth sports academy. In order to build this complex and turn their sports training and coaching dreams into a reality, they need some assistance from the village.

Wellington Community Park was originally built as the home of the Wellington Boys & Girls Club in the 1980s and has not had major updates since that time. The club left in 2013 for a brand-new facility across town. Since then, the only structure at the park, the old club building, has been used for storage, and the fields are in poor shape.

The Wellington Athletics plan would knock down the current building and replace it with a state-of-art sports training facility. Meanwhile, the fields would get a major upgrade.

How is this new idea going to be financed? Enter the Village of Wellington. After putting out a request for proposals seeking a new use for the old park last year, the village has been working with Wellington Athletics to figure out how to make the finances work for the benefit of both Wellington residents and Wellington Athletics through a public-private partnership.

Wellington Village Manager Jim Barnes said that this public-private partnership is getting closer to reality, but it’s going to take some time for it to be finalized.

“When you are dealing with funds from the Village of Wellington, it just takes time to get matters approved,” Barnes said.

For a project of this magnitude, there is one big number to consider: $36 million. That is what it will cost to build the headquarters for Wellington Athletics, upgrade the fields and get the program underway. And that doesn’t include the initial $1.5 million required to dismantle the former Boys & Girls Club building.

Once the current structure is demolished, it’s going to take $36 million to build the new home of Wellington Athletics. This site will contain indoor baseball/softball batting cages, at least six indoor basketball courts, an indoor cheerleading training area, a fitness center/gym, and rooms to house a chiropractor and physical therapist, among others.

Outside, there will be state-of-the art lighted baseball and softball fields with dugouts and a large multi-purpose field, which will be big enough for a full-sized football, soccer or lacrosse field.

To get access to the coaches, instructors and sports specialists at Wellington Athletics, families will have to pay an annual membership fee. The fitness center/gym facility will have a separate pricing structure, which might be ideal for parents who can drop off their child for coaching and then visit the fitness center for a workout.

“The gym will be a huge revenue source for us,” Bostic predicted.

There will be many benefits for Wellington residents. They include access to at least one basketball court for use by local teams from 6 to 10 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays, access to the outdoor baseball and softball fields every Saturday from 1 p.m. to sundown, and access to the outdoor multi-purpose field at all times, unless Wellington Athletics needs to use it for clients. And since Palm Beach Central High School does not have lighted fields for its baseball and softball teams, those squads will be able to use the lighted fields for home games.

According to Barnes, the Village of Wellington will use money from a bond to finance $33 million, while Wellington Athletics will contribute the remaining $3 million to the overall project. The timetable for making payments to the Village of Wellington to reimburse the village for its $33 million investment has yet to be determined, but the proforma business model for Wellington Athletics indicates that this concept will not be profitable until its third year of its operation.

However the final numbers work out, the $33 million will be returned to the Village of Wellington based on the terms of a 30-year lease. The agreement will also give Wellington Athletics the option to accept two additional 25-year leases after the initial 30-year lease has expired.

According to Assistant Village Manager Ed De La Vega, the Village of Wellington will always remain in control of the land. “We never relinquish ownership of the property,” he said.

If, for some reason, the business model for Wellington Athletics fails, then the Village of Wellington would take control of the project.

Based on comments from Barnes, the Wellington Village Council has at least three more meetings to fully discuss and approve all actions needed to officially start the process.

“The best-case scenario is that the old Boys & Girls Club building gets removed starting in the first half of 2023 and that construction of the new building will be finished about 14 months later,” Barnes said.

To ensure that the Village of Wellington is making a financially sound decision, it has consulted with an outside source with experience in dealing with sports groups like Wellington Athletics. That expert is Don Schumacher of DSA Sports. Schumacher, who has extensive experience in working with sports facilities, will assist in a comprehensive market analysis.

“We are in the process of evaluating all of the hard work Wellington Athletics has put into this project,” Schumacher told the council in June. “I don’t have any information in front of me that says this is a bad idea.”

While Bostic, Travis and O’Donnell are the face of Wellington Athletics, they will not be running the day-to-day affairs of the operation. That is expected to be delegated to Clearwater-based Sports Facilities Companies, which has years of experience in running operations similar to Wellington Athletics. Sports Facilities Companies’ Jim Arnold is very optimistic that Wellington Athletics will be a success.

“I’m very bullish that a complex like this will be successful,” Arnold told the council in June. “This [facility] is a one-of-a-kind along the east coast of Florida.”

The economic impact of the presence of Wellington Athletics being operational could be as much as $6.4 million in its first year. It could be as high as $10 million by the fifth year.

“This is the new wave of sports,” Bostic said. “This is something which has taken countless hours to piece together. This is a lot more than athletics.”

Time will tell if Bostic, Travis and O’Donnell are right. But the Village of Wellington appears willing to make that initial first investment.

 

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A Focus On Community Service

A Focus On Community Service
New Wellington Rotary Club President Tiffany Rodriguez Aims To Get More People Involved In The Well-Known Service Organization

By Mike May

While Wellington is firmly established as the premier destination for equestrian sports, it’s likely that Wellington will also soon become home to one of the finest training and instructional destinations for sports such as football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball and cheerleading.

The business entity pushing this new idea is Wellington Athletics LLC. It’s being spearheaded by three local athletes who went on to the big leagues: Jon Bostic, Devon Travis and Pat O’Donnell.

Bostic, a current NFL linebacker, has played in the NFL since 2013 for Chicago, New England, Detroit, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Washington. Travis is a former Major League Baseball player with the Detroit Tigers and the Toronto Blue Jays who is currently coaching for the Atlanta Braves organization. O’Donnell, meanwhile, is currently the punter for the NFL’s Green Bay Packers.

All three of these sports stars are also graduates of Wellington’s Palm Beach Central High School, and all three are committed to giving area residents, especially young athletes, the chance to get first-class coaching right here in Wellington, rather than travel far away to receive this high-level instruction.

Bostic, Travis and O’Donnell readily admit that they were fortunate, as they benefited from great coaches and mentors in their amateur athletic careers. Now, they want to extend that same option to other up-and-coming athletes in central Palm Beach County. Wellington Athletics is looking to fill a void.

“The mission is to close that gap by providing young athletes with a holistic approach to achieving their goals — on the field, in the classroom and at home,” explained Bostic in his proposal letter to the Village of Wellington.

The mission of Wellington Athletics is to transform the currently underutilized Wellington Community Park, located at 3401 South Shore Blvd., into a 91,784-square-foot multi-purpose sports training and coaching complex, as well as a youth sports academy. In order to build this complex and turn their sports training and coaching dreams into a reality, they need some assistance from the village.

Wellington Community Park was originally built as the home of the Wellington Boys & Girls Club in the 1980s and has not had major updates since that time. The club left in 2013 for a brand-new facility across town. Since then, the only structure at the park, the old club building, has been used for storage, and the fields are in poor shape.

The Wellington Athletics plan would knock down the current building and replace it with a state-of-art sports training facility. Meanwhile, the fields would get a major upgrade.

How is this new idea going to be financed? Enter the Village of Wellington. After putting out a request for proposals seeking a new use for the old park last year, the village has been working with Wellington Athletics to figure out how to make the finances work for the benefit of both Wellington residents and Wellington Athletics through a public-private partnership.

Wellington Village Manager Jim Barnes said that this public-private partnership is getting closer to reality, but it’s going to take some time for it to be finalized.

“When you are dealing with funds from the Village of Wellington, it just takes time to get matters approved,” Barnes said.

For a project of this magnitude, there is one big number to consider: $36 million. That is what it will cost to build the headquarters for Wellington Athletics, upgrade the fields and get the program underway. And that doesn’t include the initial $1.5 million required to dismantle the former Boys & Girls Club building.

Once the current structure is demolished, it’s going to take $36 million to build the new home of Wellington Athletics. This site will contain indoor baseball/softball batting cages, at least six indoor basketball courts, an indoor cheerleading training area, a fitness center/gym, and rooms to house a chiropractor and physical therapist, among others.

Outside, there will be state-of-the art lighted baseball and softball fields with dugouts and a large multi-purpose field, which will be big enough for a full-sized football, soccer or lacrosse field.

To get access to the coaches, instructors and sports specialists at Wellington Athletics, families will have to pay an annual membership fee. The fitness center/gym facility will have a separate pricing structure, which might be ideal for parents who can drop off their child for coaching and then visit the fitness center for a workout.

“The gym will be a huge revenue source for us,” Bostic predicted.

There will be many benefits for Wellington residents. They include access to at least one basketball court for use by local teams from 6 to 10 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays, access to the outdoor baseball and softball fields every Saturday from 1 p.m. to sundown, and access to the outdoor multi-purpose field at all times, unless Wellington Athletics needs to use it for clients. And since Palm Beach Central High School does not have lighted fields for its baseball and softball teams, those squads will be able to use the lighted fields for home games.

According to Barnes, the Village of Wellington will use money from a bond to finance $33 million, while Wellington Athletics will contribute the remaining $3 million to the overall project. The timetable for making payments to the Village of Wellington to reimburse the village for its $33 million investment has yet to be determined, but the proforma business model for Wellington Athletics indicates that this concept will not be profitable until its third year of its operation.

However the final numbers work out, the $33 million will be returned to the Village of Wellington based on the terms of a 30-year lease. The agreement will also give Wellington Athletics the option to accept two additional 25-year leases after the initial 30-year lease has expired.

According to Assistant Village Manager Ed De La Vega, the Village of Wellington will always remain in control of the land. “We never relinquish ownership of the property,” he said.

If, for some reason, the business model for Wellington Athletics fails, then the Village of Wellington would take control of the project.

Based on comments from Barnes, the Wellington Village Council has at least three more meetings to fully discuss and approve all actions needed to officially start the process.

“The best-case scenario is that the old Boys & Girls Club building gets removed starting in the first half of 2023 and that construction of the new building will be finished about 14 months later,” Barnes said.

To ensure that the Village of Wellington is making a financially sound decision, it has consulted with an outside source with experience in dealing with sports groups like Wellington Athletics. That expert is Don Schumacher of DSA Sports. Schumacher, who has extensive experience in working with sports facilities, will assist in a comprehensive market analysis.

“We are in the process of evaluating all of the hard work Wellington Athletics has put into this project,” Schumacher told the council in June. “I don’t have any information in front of me that says this is a bad idea.”

While Bostic, Travis and O’Donnell are the face of Wellington Athletics, they will not be running the day-to-day affairs of the operation. That is expected to be delegated to Clearwater-based Sports Facilities Companies, which has years of experience in running operations similar to Wellington Athletics. Sports Facilities Companies’ Jim Arnold is very optimistic that Wellington Athletics will be a success.

“I’m very bullish that a complex like this will be successful,” Arnold told the council in June. “This [facility] is a one-of-a-kind along the east coast of Florida.”

The economic impact of the presence of Wellington Athletics being operational could be as much as $6.4 million in its first year. It could be as high as $10 million by the fifth year.

“This is the new wave of sports,” Bostic said. “This is something which has taken countless hours to piece together. This is a lot more than athletics.”

Time will tell if Bostic, Travis and O’Donnell are right. But the Village of Wellington appears willing to make that initial first investment.

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Every Day Brings Something New Tree’s Wings

Every Day Brings Something New Tree’s Wings General Manager Erin Townsend Enjoys The Challenge Of Keeping The Popular Local Restaurant And Bar Running Smoothly

Story By Deborah Welky | Photos By Denise Fleischman

Erin Townsend had three children, all under age four, when she went looking for a part-time job in 2008. Little did she know, that part-time job would change her life.

“I just wanted to work a couple of evenings a week, just to maintain my sanity,” she recalled.

Townsend approached Andy and Linda Maynard, co-owners of Tree’s Wings & Ribs, a popular restaurant at the south end of Royal Palm Blvd. She asked to be hired as a delivery driver. Unfortunately, no delivery positions were open, but the Maynards asked if she would like to try her hand as a server instead.

“I had never served before, but I said I’d give it a try,” Townsend said. “I loved it. I loved interacting with different people every day, having different conversations. It still tickles me.”

The job soon pivoted into a full-time position, and before too long, the Maynards approached Townsend about becoming the restaurant’s general manager.

“I was hesitant,” Townsend said. “I had absolutely no experience managing a restaurant. But they needed some help, and I do love a challenge. It was trial by fire, sink or swim. I accepted the job, and very quickly realized that I was in over my head.”

But the Maynards wanted Townsend to succeed. They sent her to Philadelphia to attend a restaurant management seminar headed up by John Taffer, star of the TV show “Bar Rescue.”

“It was really cool,” Townsend recalled. “Unlike his TV persona, John is a really sweet guy. When he found out I was from Tree’s Wings, he shouted it out to the whole banquet hall and said, ‘They have the best ribs!’ Turns out he was local then and had our ribs delivered all the time.”

Townsend is still learning every day, but that’s part of what makes the job fun. Designing menus, writing advertisements and creating signage was all new to her, but she embraced the tasks.

“I had to learn things as I went along,” Townsend said. “It was a crash course but, to me, even that was fun.”

Tree’s Wings has been a fixture in the western communities for 27 years. Townsend’s children are now 17, 16 and almost 15. Her eldest daughter is now a server at Tree’s Wings, following in mom’s footsteps.

“We serve typical American food — wings, ribs, mahi, salads, hamburgers and a ton of good appetizers,” Townsend said. “We stick to what we know, and we do it right.”

Located in the Royal Plaza just north of Southern Blvd., Tree’s Wings features a main dining room and two full bar areas. They also offer take-out, delivery and catering services.

“We’ve seen a shift in habits since the pandemic,” Townsend said. “It used to be 60 percent dine-in customers, and 40 percent split between delivery and take-out. These days, our take-out is closer to 60 percent, while dine-in is 30 percent and delivery is 10 percent.”

Townsend noted that Tree’s Wings has a sizable delivery area, including all of Royal Palm Beach and Wellington, parts of Loxahatchee and parts of West Palm Beach. And they make ordering catered platters as easy as they can.

“We have a whole menu of easy-to-order party trays,” Townsend said. “You can just call up and say, ‘Give me 100 wings, four racks of ribs and all the sides.’ When the Dave Matthews Band is in town each year, that’s just what they do. They call and say, ‘We’ve got 60 people. Be ready.’ Many of the fairgrounds performers stay at the Royal Inn across the street, and we become part of their tradition.”

Tree’s Wings also has its cast of regulars.

“Some people have been coming in for years,” Townsend said. “If we don’t know them by name, we certainly know them by their order.”

Townsend prides herself on giving customers what they want, even if it’s only the flat side of the wing or chicken that has been fried twice to achieve the crispiness they desire.

“We try to be accommodating,” she said. “We want people to be happy with their order. Our primary customer base is made up of hardworking, local people. They’re very loyal.”

Even without a culinary background, Townsend learned a lot growing up in The Acreage. “My mother, Mary Jo, is an amazing cook. I’m the middle of nine children and, on any given day, there could be 20 for dinner,” she said. “We’re super close-knit and every meal cooked is enough to feed an army.”

That said, her parents were slightly surprised at the turn Townsend’s life has taken.

“Managing a restaurant was never one of my goals. I wanted to be a teacher or something to do with nature,” Townsend said. “I was volunteering at the Grassy Waters nature preserve, planting trees. I think one of the reasons this place feels like home to me is that Andy and Linda are tremendously community minded. When we were short-staffed during the pandemic, I sometimes had to step in as a server, even though I was earning a salary as general manager. I told the Maynards that it didn’t seem fair, so I was going to donate my tips to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. They matched me, dollar for dollar.”

Townsend said interacting with people is her favorite part of the job.

“I particularly like when they try to guess the secret recipe for our house dressing,” she said. “Our customers call it ‘the green stuff.’ It’s iconic. In addition to what we serve our customers, we sell it by the pint — 150 pints a week! We produce it every day, and it just flies out the door.”

While working at Tree’s Wings was once something to get Townsend out of the house, nowadays she can’t see her life without it. “I’m hoping to stay here until the day I retire,” she said.

To learn more about Tree’s Wings & Ribs, visit www.treeswingsandribs.com.

 

 

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A New Approach To Education

A New Approach To Education
Mandala World Academy Is Making Waves In The United States Teaching System

Story And Photos By Cassidy Klein

Making waves in today’s online and interactive learning systems, the Mandala World Academy is on a mission to provide students an advanced education and create a paradigm shift from the current educational teaching system in the United States.

Establishing roots in Wellington with the purchase of an equestrian center on Indian Mound Road several years ago, the Mandala World team is motivated to make a difference in the community to enrich today’s youth by providing higher education to students inside and out of the equestrian community.

Mandala World’s integrated curricula are customized and precisely crafted around extensive research conducted by Johns Hopkins University on “Brain Targeted Teaching” fueled by neuroscience, cognitive and psychological sciences, the science of learning and education to instill long-term retention.

As an institution, Mandala World Academy is transforming the process of teaching and learning to offer students the opportunity to embark on a new path in their educational careers to elevate their academic achievements.

Dr. George Hutchinson, the founder and CEO of Mandala World Academy, believes that “together, we can transmit the Mandala World Academy advanced educational system of methodologies and philosophies to all students throughout the nation and the world to achieve excellence for all our children.”

Mandala World Academy believes in a humanitarian approach to online learning. With its academic institutions focusing on the training of students in various subjects, Mandala’s experts offer students the opportunity to steer a more effective and rewarding life through education.

Driven by the brain-focused teaching model of Dr. Mariale Hardiman, Mandala World Academy addresses and emphasizes the offline and online teaching systems, including economic and environmental stability, development of advanced building architecture, cutting-edge online technologies and ongoing research relative to educational changes within the global society.

With a focus on building successful generations to come, the Brain Targeted Teaching model has all grade level core classes available, interactive environments and even an equestrian-based curriculum, making the Mandala World Academy the future of education.

The Mandala World Equestrian Academy uses an educational program that is unique and advanced, designed to utilize notable teaching and learning methods, allowing the students to neurologically utilize all aspects of their cognitive ability. This learning method is presented in relation to an environment that is melodic with nature.

The Wellington equestrian center, updated with all the latest, top-tier improvements for horse enthusiasts and equipped with a fully functional learning center on site, is ready to welcome community members. Its advanced educational program offers students a well-rounded curriculum built upon Brain Targeted Teaching to take into consideration the emotional aspect of a student.

The Mandala World Equestrian Academy has an online curriculum and in-person innovative programs designed to teach students the basic skills needed for their equines, all the way up to riders embarking on professional careers in the industry.

Courses range from Riding & Horsemanship, Equine Management, Hoof Anatomy & Maintenance, Mental Skills and Contemporary Equestrian Learning; all the way to Management of an Equine Business & Marketing, Training Courses, Equine History and Course Design within the Industry.

In company to learning the ins and outs of horses, the courses allow students to develop necessary life skills such as care-taking, understanding sport psychology, decision-making, intricate training techniques, business and communication skills, critical thinking and dedication.

In addition to learning all about the equine industry, students will be presented hands-on opportunities for learning with the equestrian academy horses.

Students will be responsible for the nutrition, fitness and all-around well-being of the horses while receiving a high level of instruction during riding lessons. The staff at the equestrian academy is able to teach and inspire students from those who are new to equestrian sports, all the way up to athletes competing on the highest level looking to make a career out of their lifelong dedication.

Mandala World’s commitment to the community and the younger generation has continued to aid in its growth over the last 10 years with an unwavering commitment to methodological Brain Targeted Teaching, setting it apart from other competing institutions throughout the world.

“Together, we can overcome the challenges of today’s school environments and prepare our children for greater opportunities now, for their future success,” Dr. Hutchinson said.

For more information about the Mandala World Academy, visit www.mandalaworldacademy.com or www.mandalaworldequestrian.com.

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Mother Grateful For Son’s Expert NICU Care

Mother Grateful For Son’s Expert NICU Care Young Connor Is Now Thriving After Six Months At Wellington Regional Medical Center

Story by Allen Poston  |  Photos by Ryan Merrill

When Brianne Sater thinks about her son’s premature birth and subsequent stay at Wellington Regional Medical Center’s Kevin DiLallo Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, she can’t help getting emotional with gratitude. Born at 27 weeks in September 2019, her son Connor spent six months in the hospital’s NICU.

Her pregnancy had proceeded normally until about a week before Connor’s birth, when Sater said she felt as if her water broke. Contractions began, but she thought they were Braxton Hicks contractions, also known as false labor. Sater became concerned when the contractions began to arrive closer together.

“I called my mom, and she told me that I was in labor and to get to the hospital. My boyfriend picked me up, and we went to Wellington Regional Medical Center,” Sater recalled.

When she arrived, Sater was immediately taken to labor and delivery.

“I was hooked up to monitors, and the doctor came in and told me they could see my baby’s bottom. In minutes, Connor was born breech, weighing just 2 pounds, 1 ounce, and he was 13.5 inches long,” Sater said. “The doctor let me quickly see him, but then they took him to the NICU, telling me they were going to take the best care of him there.”

Wellington Regional’s 25-bed NICU provides care for a full range of newborn conditions, from the most critically ill babies to those born with the lowest birth weights, or newborns in need of just a few days of support. As the only Level III NICU in the region, the hospital’s unit specializes in the tiniest and sickest newborns — babies like Connor.

It took doctors a while to stabilize Connor because his lungs were not fully developed, and he had swallowed meconium, a substance that lines a baby’s intestines during pregnancy. He was given antibiotics for possible infection and put on a ventilator to help him breathe.

“The doctor told my boyfriend there were a lot of uncertainties,” Sater said. “We did not know what to expect when they told us we could finally see him. It was heartbreaking. He had wires, tubes and IVs connected to him, and he was not yet stable enough for skin-to-skin contact. I did not get to hold him for three weeks.”

Sater started pumping breast milk, but things remained stressful for months.

“Connor would get better, then get worse, then better. It was like a roller coaster,” she said. “But the NICU nurses were there for us every step of the way. They did not let us down, and they did not let Connor down.”

At one point, they were preparing for discharge, but Connor continued to have issues with his oxygen and blood pressure levels. When the pandemic hit, COVID-19 meant visitation was more difficult. But Sater said they worked through all of it, and with the support of his nurses, they were able to manage. “The nurses felt strongly they could stabilize him. And they were right — his oxygen was finally regulated,” she said.

When it was finally time to take Connor home, Sater and her boyfriend stayed in the NICU for two weeks so nurses could show them how to properly care for him in a home environment.

“They let us take care of Connor while they supervised. We were very nervous when it came time to actually go home. We were so concerned we would mess something up. But we had all of the doctors’ and nurses’ numbers in case there was an issue,” Sater said. “They were all amazing and such a huge help. It was definitely emotional having to say goodbye to the NICU team.”

Today, Connor is catching up to other children his age developmentally and is very active. He started walking a little late, but once he learned, there was no slowing him down. He goes to therapy twice a week to work on speech and feeding. He is also monitored by a pediatric pulmonologist and was recently cleared by a pediatric cardiologist for hypertension.

Despite being hospitalized twice over the winter for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), Sater said physicians have told her that Conner should be through with surgeries, and she could not be happier. “Overall, we are very lucky,” she added.

Sater said if a family is going through something like this, never give up hope.

“These babies are fighters, and they work hard to not give up — they become resilient,” she said. “It has made us stronger and better parents. The NICU staff at Wellington Regional does an incredible job in supporting parents in their journey with caring for their child. We really can’t say enough good things about the great patient experience we had with Wellington Regional and its NICU. If I ever have another baby, I am going to have it at Wellington Regional, because I know they are going to take the best care of us.”

Wellington Regional Medical Center is a 235-bed acute care hospital celebrating more than 35 years of treating residents in Wellington and the surrounding community. WRMC offers a wide range of services, including comprehensive stroke care, a comprehensive lung program, minimally invasive services, cardiac services, a birthing center and Level III NICU, a comprehensive women’s center, hepatobiliary surgical procedures, intraoperative radiation therapy, interventional procedures, and a wellness and weight loss center.

To learn more about the hospital, visit www.wellingtonregional.com.

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Donor Involvement Fuels Community Support

Donor Involvement Fuels Community Support Philanthropy From Wellington Supports Exceptional Care At Bethesda Hospital West

Serving patients in Palm Beach County since 1959, Bethesda Hospital has been at the forefront of healthcare in an area that has expanded rapidly over the past six decades. In 2013, the hospital opened the doors of its second campus, Bethesda Hospital West, to meet the needs of a growing population in western Boynton Beach.

Bethesda Hospital West is an 80-bed, state-of-the-art, medical/surgical and ICU community hospital, with a 24-hour emergency department for adults and children. The facility provides general medical, surgical and intensive care services, as well as diagnostic imaging and rehabilitation. It offers all private rooms; a 10-bed intensive care unit; advanced cardiac CT imaging; and an advanced endovascular and interventional surgical suite for minimally invasive cardiovascular procedures.

“We are very proud of the range of services we provide at Bethesda West,” said Nelson Lazo, CEO of Bethesda Hospital. “But it’s the personal, compassionate care we give our patients that makes this hospital such a valued part of the community.”

Bethesda Hospital West is part of Baptist Health South Florida, the largest healthcare organization in the region, with 12 hospitals, 25,000 employees, more than 4,000 physicians, and more than 150 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties. A not-for-profit organization supported by philanthropy and committed to its faith-based charitable mission of medical excellence, Baptist Health has been recognized by Fortune as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work for in America and by Ethisphere as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies.

From its inception, Bethesda Hospital West has been designed for growth, and the hospital can eventually expand to become a 400-bed facility in the future. This expansion will help support the wide-ranging healthcare needs of the county’s growing western suburbs in Boynton Beach, Lake Worth, Wellington, Royal Palm Beach and beyond.

Philanthropy has always played an essential role at Bethesda Hospital. Donors have supported the development of new facilities, state-of-the-art equipment for minimally invasive cardiac procedures, COVID-19 emergency response needs, education programs at the Bethesda College of Health Sciences and much more.

“Philanthropic support is absolutely vital for us,” said Barbara James, vice president of development and development support at the Baptist Health Foundation. “As more people move to the county, there is a growing need for premium healthcare. Fortunately, we’ve been able to expand our donor base over the past several years, for which we are very grateful.”

This dedicated community of donors includes Marie and Steve Bedner of Wellington, who are among South Florida’s leading vegetable growers. They are owners of an 80-acre farm that produces about 50 different types of vegetables, as well as three Palm Beach County farmer’s markets.

The couple, who have been supporting Bethesda Hospital West since 2011, were part of the hospital’s initial building campaign.

Marie is a former foundation board member and a current hospital trustee who is an enthusiastic advocate for her community.

“Few things matter more than the health of our loved ones and friends, along with the well-being of the community where we live,” she said. “That’s what prompted us to step forward and fully support Bethesda Hospital West. We need to keep nurturing this first-rate facility and continue to support its mission.”

As any business owner knows, a company’s success is largely based on the dedication of its employees. Marie has been impressed with how Bethesda Hospital West has been able to recruit and retain its exceptional staff.

“In my first year as a trustee, I was asked to give out the five-year pins at the employee appreciation party,” she recalled. “They didn’t warn me ahead of time not to wear heels — I stood there for so long! There were so many team members who had been there five years and longer. It says a lot about an organization that people want to stay, and that they’re well taken care of.”

The Bedners are also helping support the hospital’s caregivers with vegetable giveaway days, which began during the early days of the pandemic and are still greatly appreciated.

Marie believes that the involvement of donors like herself and Steve is having a positive impact on philanthropic support for Bethesda Hospital West, which will continue to build in the future. “It puts a face on the hospital, and people in the community respect that,” she said. “Therefore, they’re happy to lend their support — and that makes a big difference.”

For more information about the Baptist Health Foundation and supporting Bethesda Hospital West, visit www.baptisthealth.net/giving, e-mail giving@baptisthealth.net or call (561) 737-7733, ext. 84445.

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No Child Or Family Left Behind

No Child Or Family Left Behind Local Nonprofit Polo For Life Teams With Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital To Support Families Battling Cancer

Brandon Phillips and PJ Rizvi both know firsthand the trauma of childhood cancer, the hardships it causes, and the impact on families whose sole focus becomes how to save a life.

Phillips, founder and president of the Wellington-based nonprofit Polo for Life, was diagnosed with Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 14 and underwent months of grueling treatment. Rizvi, a member of Polo for Life’s board, helped her sister, Penny, battle leukemia before her sibling succumbed to the disease.

Both carry the scars of their childhood experiences to this day but use those memories to fuel a philanthropic spirit aimed to ensure that others don’t suffer as their families once did.

That’s what recently brought the two, along with Polo for Life Executive Director Barbara Bell Cook, to the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Health Specialty Center in Wellington. Armed with an oversized check for $100,000, representing some of the proceeds from the nonprofit’s “Polo for a Purpose” fundraiser, the group was all smiles making the contribution to the patient and family assistance fund at the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Foundation. The money will go to families of oncology patients requiring financial help during their child’s treatment.

“When a child is diagnosed with cancer, it’s a life-changing event for the family, and not just in the medical sense,” said Don Eachus, director of development at the foundation. “At least one parent becomes a full-time caregiver, and that loss of income means that there may not be enough money to pay mortgages or rent, electric or phone bills. That’s where our assistance fund comes in to, at least temporarily, cover those costs.”

The financial struggles her family endured while her sister was in treatment are ones Rizvi would not wish on anyone. “We would drive four and a half hours a day to visit my sister, and after a while it was just too long to drive home, so we slept in the car because we couldn’t afford a hotel room,” she recalled. “My mom wanted to spend every waking moment and every sleeping moment with my sister.”

While most people are empathetic to the plight of a family coping with cancer, and the time and energy it takes to help a child survive, Rizvi said it’s the behind-the-scenes devastation many aren’t aware of. “My mom quit working, and even though my dad worked two jobs, we fell behind on the day to day-to-day bills,” she said. “I don’t want to see that happen anymore.”

When she was older, Rizvi would donate anonymously to cancer research. That all changed nine years ago after conversations with Phillips, when it was decided a more public philanthropic approach would yield better results.

Phillips founded Polo for Life about that time, and the organization has donated more than $2 million to charitable causes since then. Given his history with cancer, it was important for him to find programs that would help kids and families in the same situation he once was.

“We did our research a few years ago, started to find beneficiaries, and made some determinations about who we wanted to help,” said Phillips, a professional polo player. “Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital really popped out as one of the top pediatric facilities in the country, and it’s right here in our backyard, so we wanted to be a part of what they were doing. They have some great programs, and we really like what is happening here, so it was a no-brainer for us to get involved and keep this relationship going.”

While the oncology and hematology teams at “Joe D.” handle the clinical aspects of a child’s cancer treatment, it’s the role of the hospital’s nonprofit foundation to identify and assist those in need, as Rizvi’s family once was. Now, thanks to Polo for Life and its generous donation, there will be at least one less thing that already overwhelmed families will have to worry about. This leaves more time and energy for what’s most important: making sure the patient can get back to being a kid again.

Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital is one of the nation’s leading pediatric hospitals, offering a comprehensive scope of healthcare services and programs in a caring, compassionate setting designed specifically for children. A level one trauma center, it combines advanced technology, the expertise of board-certified specialists, and a patient and family-centered approach to heal the body, mind and spirit of those it touches.

The hospital’s nonprofit foundation focuses on philanthropy to positively impact patients, families, and underwrite programs, facilities and equipment that support the facility’s mission.

To learn more, or make a donation, visit www.jdch.com/give.

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