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Alec Domb Enjoys Being Active In The Wellington Community

Alec Domb Enjoys Being Active In The Wellington Community

Alec Domb is a lawyer by trade, but he has also been a community leader in Wellington for many years who continues to run his law practice locally and seek ways to stay involved in the Wellington community.

The Law Office of Alexander L. Domb P.A. is focused on real estate, guardianship, probate, estate planning and the litigations associated with those areas of law practice. “In Florida, there are more guardianships for adults than there are for children,” Domb explained. “The guardianship revolves around their mental capacity, whether it involves dementia or Alzheimer’s. Can they manage their own affairs? Do they need a private guardian or a professional guardian? Can one of their relatives do it, or does it have to be a professional?”

Domb said he believes that there is a great importance to work with a practiced lawyer when it comes to personal assets in life.

“There is a set of documents that every Florida resident, citizen should have, including a will, a durable family power of attorney, a healthcare surrogate designation, which covers HIPAA issues, and a living will. You need these four documents,” he said. “These are the essential elements, and, of course, the higher up you are in years, the more urgent it is that you have these documents, because something could happen to you.”

Domb works to protect people’s liberties when he manages a guardianship case.

“My job is to make certain that their rights are protected in that proceeding, and that the person who is petitioning to be the guardian is actually qualified… and it is in the best interest of the allegedly incapacitated person for that person be their guardian,” Domb said.

Born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens, N.Y., Domb made his way to South Florida, where he attended the University of Miami and earned his law degree at Nova Southeastern Law Center. He initially started his firm with a partner and took any case that came to the office.

“My law practice has evolved over the years,” Domb said. “I started out as a litigator and went into private practice from school with a partner. We practiced ‘door law,’ which is anything that walks in the door, and we went from there.”

Domb was involved in real estate up until the downturn in that market 10 years ago. He still owns a title company and continues to help homeowners with their documentation.

“There isn’t a title problem I haven’t seen or had to work through over the last 31 years,” he said. “I’ve seen them all. I’ve worked them all. I’ve fixed them all.”

He has lived in Wellington with his wife, Melody, since 2005. He enjoys what the village has to offer socially and continues to look for new ways to be involved. He particularly enjoys the equestrian aspect.

“I’ve lived in a few places, and I like it here. I like the people. I like the community. I’ve met a lot of really nice people,” Domb said. “I’ve gotten involved to do what I think is right and help people to accomplish what I think is right. There are an awful lot of people who have never been west of 120th Avenue, who have no idea what goes on out there. It’s all fabulous, the horse show, the dressage arena, [the International Polo Club] and all of the ancillary places that feed all of that.”

Being a former president of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, Domb believes there are many benefits and experiences that come from involvement in village life.

“You can get nothing out of the chamber, or you can get a whole lot out of the chamber. It depends on how much you choose to involve yourself. I ran the total immersion program,” Domb said.

Since his term as a board member with the chamber came to an end, he has remained active in community organizations, helping develop Wellington Cares, a nonprofit organization that helps seniors in the community.

“I did the 501(c)(3), the tax exemption status and all that for them,” Domb said. “I joined the Palms West Hospital Board of Trustees because I knew a few people on it, and they asked me, and I think I can do some good and help people. I’m happy to do that.”

Along with continuing his law practice in Wellington, Domb plans to continue to involve himself as an active member of the Wellington community.

“I’m going to continue to be involved in some way because I feel it’s important that if you live in the community and work in the community, you should be involved in the community,” Domb said.

The Law Office of Alexander L. Domb P.A. is located at 11199 Polo Club Road, Suite 1. For more information, call (561) 578-8900.


Laurie Cohen Brings A Unique Perspective To Her Role As The Village’s Legal Advisor

Laurie Cohen Brings A Unique Perspective To Her Role As The Village’s Legal Advisor

After four years on the job, Village Attorney Laurie Cohen signed a contract for another two years in the post last month. That means she will continue to bring her unique perspective to her position as Wellington’s in-house attorney.

Cohen has worn multiple hats during her almost two decades in Wellington. She started off as a wife, mother, neighbor and friend when she moved to Wellington with her family in March 1998, when her oldest son, Stuart, was not quite one year old.

“I was looking for a community that felt like home and a place where my children could actually grow up and have the same feeling about where they grew up that I had about where I grew up,” she said.

Cohen grew up in Maryland, attended the University of Maryland for her undergraduate degree and worked in New York for almost 10 years before attending law school at Nova Southeastern University, graduating in 1995. Within a few years, Cohen was looking for a place to settle down.

“I wanted a place that had good schools, I wanted a place that had great family neighborhoods and I wanted a place that felt safe,” she recalled. “When I drove into Wellington, I immediately knew that this was the place that we needed to be.”

The Wellington of 1998, however, was quite different from the Wellington of today.

“At the time, there was no mall. It was very much still a small town. You didn’t have any of the stores and restaurants and things that you have now,” she said. “The equestrians were here, but it wasn’t as noticeable as I think we have now. There has been a tremendous amount of growth since I moved here.”

Between her work as an attorney and raising a young family, Cohen didn’t have much free time. However, when a seat become vacant on the Wellington Village Council in 2003, she put her name in for appointment. She was elected to a full four-year term on the council in 2004, serving until 2008.

Cohen has utilized her relationships, connections and experience gained as a councilwoman with her work as village attorney, a title she has held since 2013.

“Although that experience is helpful to me as the attorney, I try very hard to keep my role as the village attorney separate from my prior service as a councilwoman,” she said.

Her current role, she said, is now advisory for both the council and the village. “I advise council when questions arise on matters that are coming before them. I try to help them navigate the rules of ethics and the Sunshine Law. I try to give them my best legal advice without injecting my own, personal opinion as a resident,” Cohen said. “I try to help them understand all of the nuances of the various matters that come before them, because it is so varied. It could be contractual, it could be land use, or zoning, and some of these things can be quite complex… I spend a fair amount of time talking with them about applications that come through and really just trying to be an advisor to the council and to the various departments.”

Cohen deals with many issues while advising Wellington’s various departments, be it purchasing, engineering, platting, human resources, code enforcement, bid protests, ethics, land use and more.

“You have to know a little bit about a wide variety of issues that come before you, because it is extremely varied,” she said. “All of these things come before you, and you’re just constantly dealing with one issue after another.”

With a background in commercial litigation, where litigation focuses on a wide variety of matters that attorneys often have to learn about as they are litigated, and cases are worked on from start to finish, municipal law is different, but similar.

“What is extremely different is the pace at which you have to be able to think and react,” she said, likening municipal law to being a general practitioner.

In her role as village attorney, Cohen addresses issues that come up in the course of doing the daily work of the village and constantly shifts gears to focus on an issue, provide advice, and then return her focus to what she was working on previously.

Cohen’s time on the council, and longevity in the community, have served her well. She was already familiar with many of the major issues of the community, the parties for pending lawsuits and many of the lawyers who come before her regarding various matters.

Even as Wellington has grown, it still retains the small-town feel that drew Cohen here in the first place.

“I love the fact that I can go to the grocery store and see people I know and see my kids’ teachers and all of that. I love that about this town,” she said.

Over the years, just as Wellington has grown, so has Cohen’s family. Stuart is now 20, and her younger son, Eric, is 17. Family friend Joshua, 19, is also living with the Cohens. Between the three boys and her husband, Irwin, Cohen finds herself surrounded by men, she joked, although the family dog and cat are both female.

Cohen was honored to have her contract as village attorney renewed for another two years.

“This is a wonderful job,” she said. “I love my job. I’m very pleased to be working with the village, and I’m excited about the next two years. I think there are some interesting things that the council will be dealing with. It’s exciting to be involved in those issues and to be advising the council and the departments.”

As Wellington evolves, Cohen sees the community continuing to be a great place for families to raise their children.

“There will probably need to be some redevelopment of various areas within the community, but that’s not unexpected. We are getting to be an older community now, and many of the neighborhoods have existed prior to incorporation,” she said. “I think there will be opportunities for redevelopment, and those will be interesting and exciting things for the council to consider. I hope that we continue to have great schools and great neighborhoods like we’ve always had.”

Part of what makes her role as village attorney so special is her team and colleagues.

“I work with great people,” Cohen said. “I feel extremely honored and proud to be working with these people who are so well qualified for the jobs that they’re doing. It’s not often that you actually wake up looking forward to going to work, and I have that feeling every day. I really do love the work that I’m doing and the people that I’m working with. I have a great respect for all of them. It’s such a privilege and a pleasure to come to work every day.”


Women Of Wellington Reach Out To Help Animals, Children And More

Women Of Wellington Reach Out To  Help Animals, Children And More

The Wellington Chamber of Commerce added its WOW factor — the Women of Wellington committee — back in 2013 to help women connect with each other and share new business opportunities. But, as so often happens when women get together, the group soon began reaching out to help others.

The group has helped a number of nonprofits over the past several years, and in March, WOW conducted a highly successful adopt-a-thon in conjunction with Palm Beach County Animal Care & Control.

“Twenty amazing women came out to film segments with an adoption-available dog or cat at Animal Care & Control,” said Michela Green, executive director of the chamber. “Elizabeth Harfmann, community outreach manager at Animal Care & Control, made this all possible. She met with our group daily and provided us with a dog or cat to showcase.”

Harfmann provided all the pertinent information, such as the pet’s breed, age and personality, and then a WOW member filmed the video, introducing herself and the pet she was showcasing.

The initiative began on March 1, with a new video posted each day on the chamber’s web site. In addition, the pets’ photos and bios were distributed through social media and an e-mail blast to chamber members.

Green set the goal at 31 pets, hoping to have one pet adopted for each of the 31 days in March. By the end of the month, WOW had successfully found homes for 26 — but no one was stopping there. Calls continue to come in.

“This was a new initiative, never before done by our group,” Green said. “Last June, I adopted a beautiful 5-year-old dog, Flower, from Animal Care & Control and was able to see how many incredible dogs and cats were available, and how fantastic the volunteers are and how hard they work to get the dogs and cats adopted.”

As it turned out, seeing photos of adorable furballs in need made quite an impact among Wellington’s business professionals. “I think this affected every person who received the videos and photos — not only those who got to be part of the initiative,” Green said. “We received numerous phone calls and e-mails from members who shared an interest in pet rescue and wanted to help.”

And let’s not forget about the 26 success stories, each with its own tug at the heartstrings.

“There was one that I was able to personally witness,” Green said. “I was speaking about the program at a local restaurant, and a staff person overheard me talking about what we were doing and actually met me the next day. She and her husband adopted a dog! It was amazing to see the process and how much they loved him at first sight.”

Following the success of the Adopt-a-thon, WOW is turning its eyes toward children in May. The women are taking part in National Foster Care Awareness Month by supporting Place of Hope, a state-licensed children’s organization providing family-style foster care, family outreach and intervention, maternity care, safety for victims of sex trafficking, transitional housing and support services, foster care recruitment and support, as well as hope and healing opportunities for children and families who have been traumatized by abuse and neglect.

“Throughout the month, we will be utilizing social media to grab the attention of people with the posting of statistics, ways to get involved, and how people within our community are making a difference,” said Brittany Russell, co-chair of WOW. “Then, in mid-May, we will have a luncheon coordinated by the WOW committee and hosted by Place of Hope.”

The mission of the luncheon is to invite local women to the Place of Hope campus, allowing them to see firsthand the outreach and services offered there.

“The guests will tour the campus and learn about the various programs that are making a difference within our community,” Russell said. “Then we will create a call to action in order to facilitate and encourage engagement in whichever way best fits their abilities to get involved.”

Over the summer, the WOW members will meet to develop outreach plans for next season.

“We have exciting summer socials and idea-sharing initiatives planned to help prepare for the launch of our 2017-18 agenda,” Russell said. “We love to get together with other like-minded women throughout the impact, as well as gain new insights and stay relevant.”

Next season’s kickoff will take place in August, the beginning of a new series of networking opportunities that go far beyond the chamber.

“We are going to be very intentional in creating a call to action for each cause we work alongside in bringing awareness to their mission,” Russell said. “Our goal is to really focus on being a liaison, to connect women with organizations that spark their interest and to help them follow through in any way they are able to help — whether it is by volunteering, raising awareness or donating.”

The Wellington Chamber of Commerce itself presents a golf tournament each October, Winterfest in December, the ColorFest community to plan out our goals… This allows us to bond as a strong council of women eager to make a positive

5K run in February and the Flavors Food + Wine Festival in April. New on this year’s agenda is a fashion show, slated for September.

And if you’re thinking about adding a furry family member, Green is standing by to help out.

“Adopt, don’t shop!” she said. “I will personally meet anyone who is interested in adopting a pet at Animal Care & Control.”

For more information about the Wellington Chamber of Commerce or the Women of Wellington, call (561) 792-6525 or visit www.wellingtonchamber.com.


Gay Polo: The Best Party In Town: Annual International GPL Tournament Returns This Month

Gay Polo: The Best Party In Town:

Annual International GPL
Tournament Returns This Month

When the Gay Polo League first arrived in Wellington in 2010, it brought a new dimension to the polo match and tailgate concept. Traditional tailgating at polo entails a bunch of polo players and fans clad in jeans and T-shirts sitting in the back of a flatbed truck, polo team logos adding the only touch of glamour to their attire.

GPL tournament tailgates involve months of planning, inventive and colorful décor and costumes, and a spirited passion for enjoying polo while cheering at the GPL polo matches that draw gay and straight polo players and fans alike for a rousing day of fun in the Florida sun. In 2017, the GPL is stepping up its game once again by adding a philanthropic aspect to the best party in Wellington.

According to Chip McKenney, GPL’s founder and president, there are now GPL members in nine countries, making the polo club truly international. This year’s event will take place April 7-9 and features the traditional GPL Polotini Party at the Wanderers Club on Friday, April 7. Saturday, April 8 will be the highlight day of polo matches and tailgating revelry on the exclusive Isla Carroll field at the International Polo Club of Palm Beach.

Participants who are still standing after the full day of tailgating and polo will wind up the weekend with IPC’s luxurious Sunday brunch at the Mallet Grill with front-row seats at the U.S. Open matches at IPC.

The GPL recently added raising money for charity to its organizational mission. The league has obtained 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, and all proceeds from this year’s tournament after costs will be donated to selected charities that advance the cause of aiding at-risk LGBTQ youth and support the inclusive acceptance of all people regardless of sexual identity — a key component of the GPL’s mission statement.

“The first seven years we worked to build a great event within the LGBTQ community,” McKenney explained. “Now that the tournament is established, thanks to phenomenal support from our corporate and private partners, the next step is to make a difference in the lives of our community, especially LGBTQ youth.”

GPL members are big fans of the unique tournament. “I love the crowds, the tailgates, and I love the energy of the people on the field,” three-time participant Tiffany Busch said.

A professional player and one of the highest-rated women playing polo, Busch won the 2016 Women Championship Tournament last April, and recently was on top of the podium at the Tabebuia Cup at the Port Mayaca Polo Club in February.

“It makes me feel part of something big to play in the GPL. On a personal note, what Chip McKenney and Mason Phelps have put together here is amazing because is allows people like me to take a stand and be who we are, whether that is gay, straight or transgendered,” Busch said.

Busch is excited that the GPL tournament will be contributing funds to charity this year. “Charity-related events are one of the best ways to showcase polo and give back,” Busch said.

Now that the GPL has obtained its nonprofit status, the league will have another tool to spread the message of acceptance and empowerment, McKenney said. He explained that the league’s charitable efforts will have a dual focus on alleviating homelessness among LGBTQ youth and providing scholarships for higher education.

Meanwhile, GPL members will be leveraging the international aspect of the league into additional opportunities to raise awareness and pride for people of LBGTQ identity to a worldwide audience.

For example, the GPL hosted its first-ever tournament outside the United States in December, in Argentina. The teams of Phelps Media, Cedar Crest and RSM journeyed to El Remanso Polo Club and Bautista Heguy’s Chapa Uno Polo Club, where they had the experience of playing with four-time Argentine Open champion Eduardo Heguy and several other professional polo players.

When they were not playing polo, the GPL members went into Buenos Aires to watch the Argentine Open matches live at the “cathedral” in Palermo.

Mark Bennett, a Realtor from Palm Beach, loved the trip to Argentina. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and experience,” he said. “For someone like me, who is not a billionaire, to get to play with players from one of the top polo families in the world is incredible. Being part of the GPL opens up amazing opportunities.”

Bennett also complimented his Argentine hosts.

“Eduardo Heguy, his wife and his family were extremely welcoming, warm and friendly,” he said, relating how Heguy invited the GPL members to visit the private team tents at the Argentine Open in Palermo, and then took the time, despite the stresses of competing, to make sure that the GPL players were having a good experience at Palermo.

“Eduardo went out of his way to introduce us to people at the Argentine Open,” Bennett said. “For my first trip to Argentina, I could not have done it in a better way.”

After experiencing the success of the GPL’s trip to Argentina, McKenney is open to creating other GPL events around the world and is evaluating the next opportunity for an overseas event.

Tickets for the 2017 International Gay Polo Tournament events are available at the league’s official web site. The GPL’s new nonprofit status means that donations to the GPL are tax-deductible within the guidelines of U.S. law.

Information on joining the GPL or getting tickets to this month’s tournament can be found at www.gaypolo.com.


Giving Back To The Community Is Important To The Corbin Real Estate Team

Giving Back To The Community Is Important To The Corbin Real Estate Team

Jim Corbin is proud of his real estate career in Wellington, but just as proud of how he and his team have given back to the community.

Corbin started in the real estate business in Kansas City, Mo., at age 20, then brought his expertise to Wellington long before it was incorporated as a village.

“I’ve been selling real estate in Wellington for 39 years,” he said. “It’s hard to believe that the time has gone by so fast.”

Back in 1978, there was but a handful of agents serving the area, and most of those were having trouble locating anything west of Florida’s Turnpike. However, there’s much more competition now.

“Last time I checked, there were 18,000 Realtors in the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches, and 700 of those were in the 33414 ZIP code,” Corbin said.

David Corbin, Jim’s Realtor brother, is part of the Corbin team at Illustrated Properties, as are Nic Corbin and Miranda Culbert.

“We’re the ‘Four Cs.’ Although her last name isn’t Corbin, Miranda has been putting up with me for 17 years now,” Jim Corbin said. “We’ve been together longer than many people have been married.”

Active in community fundraisers and events since arriving in Florida, Corbin also bears another distinction.

“I think I can very safely say that I was the first equestrian Realtor in Wellington. My brother and I had an equestrian background and upbringing. We used to ride and show up north, and that’s part of the reason I moved here,” he said. “I even loaned one of my horses for the Munich Olympics — a lifetime ago — in 1972. In 1978, Bill Ylvisaker was bringing polo to Wellington, and then the horse shows started.”

At first, local officials seemed to be overlooking the potential of those in the equestrian industry, Corbin said.

“I begged the village to pay some attention to these horse-show people,” he continued. “Especially the hunters and jumpers — people did not pay much attention to them.”

Yet even as Corbin was breaking new ground with his expertise in equestrian real estate, he never made that his sole focus.

“All properties are important, and you need to cover all bases,” he said.

That has never been more true than today, with many people still skittish about purchasing a home. Fortunately for Corbin, his many contacts and open-minded philosophy have kept his business at the front of the pack.

“A friend of mine in Chukker Cove decided to sell her house in Palm Beach for $6 million,” Corbin said. “Little things can turn into big things.”

Sometimes friends, former clients or people he meets have properties outside the area, but they still want Corbin to handle the sale.

“They didn’t want to start over with someone else,” he explained. “It means more homework for me if I’m unfamiliar with the area, but I’ve lived in a hotel while I sold a home up in Hutchinson Island and down in Delray Beach. I’ve sold a condo on the ocean in Singer Island as well as a $3.75 million farm right here in Saddle Trail Park.”

Combining his equestrian and real estate interests has had another result: sponsorships.

“Illustrated Properties was one of the real estate sponsors at the Winter Equestrian Festival this year,” Corbin said, pointing out that this involved about a dozen agents in his office. “This division sponsorship included a jump with our name on it, banners and three months’ issues of magazines featuring all the properties we had for sale placed throughout the venues in boxes. We gave thermal mugs with our logo to each week’s riders, then presented the trophies and ribbons.”

Jim and David Corbin also sponsored a jump with their names and logo at the Ridge Farm horse shows at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center.

“That’s a county facility with a covered arena and a new 13-week horse show series for people getting young horses started,” Jim Corbin said.

At the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, Corbin and Illustrated Properties participated in some presentations. At Deeridge Farms, he also had a presence with a tent in which to showcase properties at the Palm Beach Masters and the Hunter Derby this season. He has also donated to a number of different organizations through Illustrated Properties Charities, the company’s charity division.

Meanwhile, the Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center was a beneficiary of Corbin’s experience during the 12 years he served on its board. “Then it was time for new, fresh thinkers with new, fresh ideas,” he laughed.

Corbin is quick to point out that he is hardly alone with his giving, whether it’s a sponsorship, money or time.

“The equestrian community out here is hugely important to this community, and a lot of people don’t understand that. It’s global giving,” he said. “The foreign exhibitors just love it over here, especially when they’re preparing for the Olympics. Last year there were 27 different countries represented here. Wellington is a real international destination. And this community helps others.”

To reach any of the “Four Cs” — Jim, David, Nic or Miranda — call (561) 798-2224 or visit www.jimcorbin.com.


Horses Healing Hearts Vaulting Team Rises Above Challenge

Horses Healing Hearts Vaulting Team  Rises Above Challenge

The sport of vaulting works to combine the joy of riding a horse and the freedom of flying with the satisfaction of athleticism and teamwork. Horses Healing Hearts (HHH), the nonprofit organization that uses horses to help children of alcoholics and addicts, is incorporating vaulting into its program to empower participants to work together as a team and learn to believe in their own abilities.

Vaulting is often described as gymnastics on horseback and has origins that can be traced back thousands of years. The discipline can be practiced as either competitive or therapeutic, and is open to men and women equally. A vaulting team usually includes seven individuals and one horse, although many teams use a wooden horse to learn fundamental skills.

Led by coach Maria Bernal, the HHH vaulting team meets once a week before the regular HHH program session to learn drills and put together routines. Bernal has been volunteering her coaching time at HHH for four years, and has seen the team grow and change as its members become more comfortable with their abilities.

“The first things I want to accomplish through vaulting are self-esteem, discipline and teamwork. If we can accomplish those three things, it’s not only teaching them vaulting and horseback riding, it is also teaching them skills for life,” she explained.

Many children who come to HHH are suffering due to a volatile family situation beyond their control. Because the clients of HHH are children of parents who struggle with alcoholism and addiction, they often arrive wary of adults. Many are uncomfortable communicating openly and are protective of their privacy.

Bernal is used to this behavior and uses it to her advantage. “When children come to HHH, they don’t trust us,” she said. “When I first start to teach them, they won’t say hello to me. They don’t want to have contact, because they do not trust that I will be a consistent presence in their lives. It is a relationship that we have to actively create at every step.”

The team currently consists of four members, all of whom have been together for at least a year. The personalities of the group vary; some participants are outspoken and assertive, while others are more introverted. Bernal treats each child equally and makes sure everyone is following her instruction attentively.

Bernal begins her lessons by leading the group in various stretching exercises to help loosen them up physically and to focus them. After stretching, the girls head out to the wooden barrel horse, which is outfitted with a pad and surcingle.

One of the girls brings over a trampoline, and Bernal leads the team in drills to mount the barrel, just as they would a real horse. One by one, each girl successfully mounts the barrel, while her teammates look on. It doesn’t take long for the girls to begin work through other movements while mounted, like making a complete clockwise rotation or coming up to a pose on their knees and eventually their feet.

“My favorite trick to do is a front flip,” said 9-year-old Victoria Campbell, who has been with HHH for four years. “It was scary when I first saw it, but it’s really fun once I learned to do it.”

Once all the team members have completed their movements, Bernal instructs them to start mounting the barrel one after the other. Laughter abounds as the girls work to find their footing and help one another assume their place on the barrel. In short order, the girls are all standing on the barrel and posed with arms outstretched and full smiles on their faces.

Bernal continues to instruct them — ever diligent that each pose is as correct as possible. Once she is satisfied, the girls are instructed to dismount one by one.

The team agrees that the next skill they’d like to conquer in their training is to add a real horse to their routine and start to find competitions to participate in.

Samantha Lee Wills, who has been with HHH for almost eight years, believes that a horse will make practices easier.

“On a real horse it’s simpler because their gait makes it easier to get into positions like flag and scissors, or dismounting,” she said.

For Bernal, giving the HHH kids the opportunity to compete is the No. 1 priority.

“Having a real horse to practice on is so important to the program. It brings the real purpose of competition,” she said. “It’s like having two hearts and one mind — they have to be very focused on what they are doing and to connect with the horse.”

Part of the challenge that faces the HHH team moving forward is the lack of popularity of the sport in the southeastern United States. They are one of the few teams that want to compete in vaulting in this region. Finding a horse is difficult, and raising the money to purchase the horse is a daunting task. However, Bernal feels certain that if the obstacles are approached in the correct way, there is a solution.

“Our goal now is to grow our team to a total of eight riders,” she said. “Once we accomplish that goal, we can compete in a few barrel competitions, and then work on finding the appropriate horse. But we can do it, and I have a lot of faith in our program.”

Alexis Manger, who has been with HHH for four years and on the vaulting team for two, described the program best.

“HHH makes our lives much better, because horses are brilliant and so fun to ride, and they really know what you are feeling, no matter what,” she said.

To learn more about Horse Healing Hearts and its programs for children and young adults, visit www.hhhusa.org. If you are interested in donating to the nonprofit organization or have information regarding a horse that may be appropriate for the program, call Lizabeth Olszewski at (561) 713-6133.


7-Goaler Santi Torres Is Always Working And Training ToBecome A Better Polo Player

7-Goaler Santi Torres Is Always Working And Training ToBecome A Better Polo Player

For polo player Santiago “Santi” Torres, the sport and the culture of polo were part of his upbringing and made him who he is today. Everyone in his immediate family rode and played the “sport of kings” at some point in their lives, and polo continues to be the lifestyle Torres chooses to lead.

“I grew up in the sport. Both my parents played. So, I was born right into it. My big brother plays. I started from there,” Torres recalled.

Torres was born in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he would go to school for half of the year, and then he spent the other half in Palm Springs, Calif.

After playing for the Valiente team last year, Torres is a free agent this season, but returned to Wellington for the winter with his horses to train and seek out new opportunities. “I’m still young. These past few years have been great,” Torres said, before adding that this season has not gone as smoothly as he hoped. “In anyone’s life, there will be ups and downs to go through, so I’m trying not to freak out about it.”

But even when he is not playing on the high-goal teams, he still keeps to his regimen. “Even if I don’t have anything, I still have to work and try my hardest to get the next opportunity,” he said.

The 2017 season did bring some unexpected opportunities outside of the high-goal tournaments.

As a Team USPA member, Torres played on a USPA-sponsored team at the $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament staged at the Grand Champions Polo Club in March. Team USPA is a United States Polo Association program designed to enhance and grow the sport by identifying young, talented American polo players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities.

Torres also is involved in the new Gladiator Polo program, which has been highly recognized in the local polo community and across the country. He plays on Team Crixus with Matias Magrini and Mike Azzaro in the new arena polo league.

“Luckily, Gladiator Polo started, and luckily I have this $50K [tournament] to play in. I was hoping to get more opportunities, but I haven’t yet,” he said.

Currently swinging his mallet at a 7-goal handicap, Torres has been playing professionally since he was 10 years old. His love for the game and his ability started with and are centered on family. His parents never wavered, Torres said, as he grew up, always showing enthusiasm and dedication for the game.

“That’s what I grew up around, and there was never a doubt that is what I wanted to do,” Torres said. “All the kids who are born into polo, if their parents play, they always bring them on the horse with them or buy a little horse for them to have fun with and start learning to ride.”

That is how it started for him. His parents, Kelita and Miguel Torres, were riders and played polo. “My parents would ride all day, every day. My dad would ride more. He would ride 10 to 15 horses a day. That’s what he knew how to do, and that’s what he liked,” Torres said. “That was his passion.”

Torres’ father put both of his children up on horses early and often. “He saw that we liked it, and I would be riding every day,” Torres said. “It was just something that everyone enjoyed.”

Their love for the game quickly translated into Santi’s life as it had for his older brother, Miguel, who plays professionally based in Houston, Texas.

“When were younger, we played together,” Torres said.

Growing up as an athlete, Torres said his parents were always dedicated to him and his drive to get better and better as a polo player. “They didn’t take polo away from me ever. They knew I wanted to do that,” he said. “I would just be thinking about getting out of school and going to the barn.”

As there are obstacles to face during a match, there are obstacles that people face in their personal lives, and the Torres family faced one when Miguel Sr. lost his battle with brain cancer in 2007.

Riding through adversity, Torres continued to hone his craft as a player during this time. He and his mother and brother are together during the winter season in Wellington every year.

“It has gotten a lot better these past couple of years,” he said. “We always help each other and are there for each other.”

Some years, like this one, returning to Wellington is more of an act of faith.

“It’s like an investment coming out here with horses, feeding them, laying them up and getting them ready for if an opportunity comes up, instead of having something secure for a season,” Torres said.

He continues to work hard every day so that he can continue to perform at a high level of play.

“I’m just taking the season one week at a time, you can’t stop working, or let it get to you, and you can’t stop trying,” Torres said. “I wake up, go to the barn. Lately, I’ve been working more at the barn, exercising horses, taking care of them, playing practices around Wellington with everybody, getting the horses fit for any new opportunities.”

With some extra time, Torres finds contentment in the areas he can improve off the field. “I’m trying to be better as a person at communicating with people, just in general and in the sport, and trying to be a bigger person,” Torres said. “I’m really hard on myself. Even if someone doesn’t get mad at me, I’m going to get mad at myself for not playing good one day or messing up.”

As the season in Wellington winds down, Torres has much to look forward to. The summer greets him with an opportunity to play in Sheridan, Wyo., where he will continue to gain more experience as a professional rider.

“I have a job for the summer, so I’m happy about that,” Torres said. “Anyone who doesn’t have a job is obviously going to worry about it because they have their life to take care of and their animals to feed.”

Torres finds strength in himself when he plays the game, and he also loves his surroundings off the field.

“I always try to give my best and play the hardest I can for the team and for myself,” he said. “You need to let people see that this is what you want. Even in the down times, you’re working on it. Just being there, waking up, going to the barn, being with the horses, seeing the horses, and seeing the people there who work for you and the horses.”



Wellington Community Foundation Marks One Year Helping Residents In Need

Wellington Community Foundation Marks One Year Helping Residents In Need

The Wellington Community Foundation is celebrating its first anniversary of helping those in need in the community.

“The board of directors is very dedicated,” Wellington Community Foundation Chairman Tom Wenham said. “It’s a privilege and an honor to serve on a foundation that looks after the people of the community that you live in.”

The foundation, once a little-used nonprofit entity controlled by the Village of Wellington, was re-imagined a year ago as an independent organization with a mission to support a wide array of community projects.

A former Wellington mayor, Wenham leads the board, which includes attorney Mickey Smith, community activist Maria Becker, Wellington Regional Medical Center CEO Robbin Lee, Town-Crier Publisher Barry Manning, former Palm Beach County Commissioner Ken Adams, local businesswomen Karen Cavanagh and Maggie Zeller, and retired WPTV news anchor Jim Sackett.

“I am so pleased with the cohesiveness of our board of directors,” Manning said. “We’ve been operating for one year, but it seems like the team has been together for decades. It is a pleasure working with them.”

The foundation team has been working to better the lives of those most in need in the community, in particular, seniors and children.

“What the foundation does not want to be is just a ‘check-writing’ agency,” Sackett said. “We, as a board, want to be hands-on, identify the needs, and actively work to see that those needs are met.”

The board members were personally recruited by Wenham to join the organization, including Adams, who has been integral to Wellington’s development since before the community even incorporated as a village.

“This organization really cares about Wellington. It cares about everyone in Wellington,” Adams said. “The board members live and breathe the Village of Wellington.”

Becker was honored to host the first fundraiser for the foundation at her home last June. The event, a stellar success, raised money to help provide students with backpacks and school supplies. “I can’t tell you how honored I am to serve on this board,” Becker said. “I was humbled that Tom had even considered me to serve on this worthy and noble endeavor.”

Over the summer, the foundation provided scholarships to send children to Wellington’s Parks & Recreation Department summer camp.

“I know what a difference it can make for a child to have a place to go to have fun, and what it means for a parent to know their child is in a safe and nurturing environment that they wouldn’t have had access to without help,” Becker said.

School supplies and more than 200 backpacks purchased with funds raised at the June fundraiser were distributed Aug. 6 at Wellington’s summer block party at Tiger Shark Cove Park.

“People don’t realize that there are many families in this community who are in need. Our foundation has been helping them,” Zeller said. “I loved handing out the backpacks at the back-to-school event… Seeing the looks of the children’s faces when they got to get a backpack to take home, filled with school supplies, was amazing.”

On Aug. 10, the foundation presented Back to Basics with a check that contributed toward supplying 400 school uniforms to local Wellington children.

“Things are hard enough for kids today. They should not have to worry about having clothes to wear to school,” said Smith, a resident of Wellington for more than 25 years.

The foundation met on Oct. 22 for its first quarterly Adopt-A-Street Clean Up Day in front of the Wellington branch library. The foundation adopted the east and west roadways along Forest Hill Blvd. from South Shore Blvd. to Stribling Way.

Then, on Nov. 11, the foundation produced an event called Red, White & Blue Jeans: A Nostalgic Salute to Our Veterans at the Wanderers Club. Veterans were honored at the special evening of dinner and dancing, which will return this year on Friday, Nov. 10 at the Wellington National Golf Club.

Red, White & Blue Jeans was a favorite for Lee. “I think a lot of people got exposure to the foundation that they wouldn’t have gotten in another way,” she said. “It had a patriotic theme. It was right around the time of the elections, and people needed to feel more connected to our country. I think it was fun for all of us to get to review the things we had already accomplished.”

The foundation has been active thus far in 2017, already hosting a Dusty Art Live painting and wine party put together by Cavanagh at the Wellington National Golf Club on Feb. 9.

“I never knew that there were such needy people, seniors and children, in the community,” Cavanagh said. “I really wanted to do something to help them, to help people. We’ve done a lot of really good things so far, and I’m really excited about it.”

The foundation, in partnership with Wellington Cares, is currently working on a new program to bring smiles to seniors called “Celebrating Our Seniors.”

In cooperation with Wellington Florist, the Mall at Wellington Green, Gabriel’s Café and Chick-fil-A, the Wellington Community Foundation will have a beautiful bouquet of flowers and gifts cards delivered with a special birthday card greeting to Wellington Cares participants on their birthday.

Wellington seniors are a vital part of our community, and remembering them on their special day is a way that the foundation has chosen to let them know how important they are. “I think this brings special recognition to our seniors who are alone in this community,” Zeller said.

Through the foundation’s “Our Schools” initiative, some elementary schools in Wellington are receiving grants totaling $8,150 to help further the education of local students.

To learn more about the foundation, or to donate, call (561) 333-9843 or visit www.wellingtoncommunityfoundation.org.


Young Barrel Racer Lexi HeckerHas Big Plans For The Future

Young Barrel Racer Lexi HeckerHas Big Plans For The Future

From the moment Lexi Hecker received her first horse at age 10, she knew she wanted to compete in barrel racing — a sport in which riders navigate three carefully positioned barrels in a cloverleaf pattern as fast as they can.

“The girl we bought the horse from had been doing it, and she started teaching me the basics,” recalled Lexi, who will turn 14 in June. “My mother also barrel raced when she was younger. I tried reining, but it didn’t give me the adrenaline rush that barrel racing does. Barrel racing is faster. It’s a lot more thrilling, and the crowds make everything better, which can make a lot of difference on the road. They make a lot of noise, and it’s very exhilarating.”

Lexi competes in the Open class (all ages) as well as the Youth class (ages 18 and under) in competitions throughout Florida and Georgia, although she plans to travel farther away in the near future. The barrel racing circuit takes place in local arenas across the nation and throughout the world.

The National Barrel Horse Association (NBHA) Youth World Championships bills itself as the largest barrel race in the world and showcases horses and riders from 36 states, Canada, Italy, Panama, Brazil, France, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Australia. Riders must qualify on a local level by competing at NBHA-sanctioned shows, NBHA national shows, super shows or state show events before becoming eligible for the championships. The National Finals Rodeo (NFR) also hosts barrel racing events and will take place in Las Vegas this December. Riders and horses from around the globe will compete.

Lexi’s horses are Nonstop Nick and B.B. Dreamer, although she has nicknamed them Clutch and Superman, respectively.

“After we bought them about a year ago, the names Superman and Clutch seemed to fit them better, but it’s really bad luck to change the names after you buy the horses,” she said.

The Hecker family owns a number of horses, but not all of the horses do barrel racing. “We have eight in total,” Lexi said. “Two are prospects, one is in training, there are the two that I race, and the others are for fun.”

Lexi, who attends Western Pines Middle School, said most of her non-racing peers don’t get it. “My friends don’t understand the hard work and practice,” she said. “My horses and I spend many hours a week practicing, and a couple weekends a month competing. It’s what I love to do, and if you and your horses don’t have the correct bond, you will never make a good team. My family supports me and makes huge sacrifices to support my passion. My friends are more interested in football, etc… They don’t understand why I can’t hang out with them.”

Lexi is nonetheless grateful that she is able to attend a school that offers a unique pre-med program. At Western Pines, she is in her third year of the program, which gains her one high school credit. Her long-term goals include earning a degree in equestrian veterinary medicine in order to continue helping the animals she loves.

School and its accompanying homework inevitably take their toll on practice time, but Lexi finds herself practicing at home and at local arenas. Some youth competitions are also held at night.

“Before the race begins, there are exhibitions, and they do those with plastic barrels, because some horses like to shoulder in and hit the barrels, so the plastic is better for the rider’s knees,” Lexi explained. “But, when the race starts, it’s metal barrels. Metal hurts more.”

But like any good athlete, pain is secondary for Lexi. “My dream is to make it to the National Finals Rodeo and compete with the best women in the world in the sport of barrel racing,” she said.


Show Jumper Nicole Loochtan Makes A Career Move To Wellington

Show Jumper Nicole Loochtan
Makes A Career Move To Wellington

Wellington holds a special place in the heart of many equestrians. Every winter, its doors swing open to welcome athletes to its annual competitions. Every spring, many head home until next year. However, this season, the Wellington community will say goodbye to one fewer competitor, because Nicole Loochtan intends to stay in Wellington.

“It’s the place to be if you want to be successful in the horse world,” Loochtan said. “You have endless opportunities here.”

The Lincolnshire, Ill., native is one of the newest additions to the Wellington community. She established herself in South Florida for the chance to train with legendary horsemen Ronnie Beard and Michael Dorman of Wyndmont Farm. They were introduced through Grand Prix jumper and trainer Candice King. After the initial meeting, Loochtan flew to Tryon, N.C., in August 2015 to compete under the guidance of the Wyndmont team and never left.

Since joining the renowned competition barn, the 19-year-old has improved her riding and has an entire new roster of horses. She credits her trainers, as much as the Wellington community, for her growth.

“When I first started with Ronnie and Michael, I was competing in the junior jumpers, and I didn’t necessarily have the correct horses for me,” she explained. “Now, I have completely different horses that suit me very well, and I just competed in my first U-25 on the grass field.”

Loochtan enjoys the competition available in Wellington.

“Being able to watch the best of the best and feel the competitive atmosphere around you, pushes you to want to be better,” she said. “When you do well, it’s more encouraging, because the competition in Wellington is so fierce. Many divisions have more than 90 people in each class, so if you place at all, you feel like you belong here.”

The first-generation equestrian, who was once terrified to canter in a western saddle, is now soaring over jumps measuring 1.40 meters. Her string of horses includes Carla de Kalvarie Z, Quarterman 5 and Cuchica. Beard and Dorman, who have mastered the art of matching horse and rider, found all three mounts for her.

Loochtan has experienced success aboard all three horses. Some of her most recent finishes include two second-place ribbons in the $10,000 High Junior/Amateur-Owner class and three of the summer series at the Tryon International Equestrian Center atop Carla de Kalvarie Z; a sixth-place finish in the $15,000 1.45m SJHOF High A/O Classic during week five of the Winter Equestrian Festival with Quarterman; and 12th in the $2,000 1.30m during week six of WEF aboard Cuchica.

Each of her horses plays an intricate role in Loochtan’s plan to move up the ranks in the equestrian industry — a path that has become more clear since moving to Wellington and training with Beard and Dorman.

“Chicago is very competitive; however, the atmosphere is different here,” Loochtan said. “Before, I knew I wanted to pursue this as a career, but I didn’t know it was a realistic thing. When I arrived, and started training with Michael and Ronnie, the big question was, ‘Can I really do this?’ Now, I know I can. In Chicago, it was just a dream. Since I came to Wellington, it’s more of a reality.”

Although Loochtan dedicates the majority of her efforts to riding, she finds time to enjoy everything the community has to offer.

“I think my favorite part about being in Wellington is that it’s so close to the beach,” Loochtan said. “When you’re not riding, you get to hang out with your friends and enjoy the weather. It’s such a horse community that you get to meet so many different people who share a passion for horses. Honestly, just going out to dinner or walking around the mall is nice. Wellington is a great place to be.”