Horsing Around

A Galloping Success Benefiting The Equestrian Aid Foundation

By Shannon Anastasio

The Jennifer Balcos Gallery in Palm Beach recently played host to a magnificent event — “Horsing Around,” a showcase of equestrian-inspired artwork that left attendees spellbound. The gallery served as the perfect backdrop for a gathering that was not only a celebration of artistic talent but also a heartfelt fundraiser for the Wellington-based Equestrian Aid Foundation (EAF).

During the opening night of Horsing Around on May 9, guests were treated to a visual feast as they roamed through the gallery, marveling at the stunning pieces on display.

From paintings capturing the adrenaline-fueled excitement of show jumping to serene depictions of the bond between horse and rider, every work of art was a testament to the beauty and grace of these majestic creatures.

Among the standout pieces was a mesmerizing portrayal by Kyle Lucks Fine Art featuring show jumper Nayel Nassar in action. The dynamic energy and harmony between horse and rider were palpable, leaving viewers in awe of the skillful artistry. Weatherly Stroh’s works also left a lasting impression, capturing the tranquil essence and natural elegance of horses with remarkable precision.

Beyond the visual delights, the event also served as a fundraiser for the EAF. By attending Horsing Around, guests not only fed their love for art and equestrianism but also contributed to a worthy cause, supporting individuals within the equestrian community in their times of need.

Adding to the ambiance were the mint juleps and Polo Girl Cabaret, creating an atmosphere of sophistication and conviviality. With 17 talented artists showcasing their work, including several local Palm Beachers, Horsing Around provided a platform for creativity to flourish while fostering a sense of community spirit.

The event’s success goes beyond the accolades of artistic achievement. It exemplifies the power of collaboration and generosity, bringing together art enthusiasts, equestrians and philanthropists alike in support of a wonderful cause. This legacy of inspiration and compassion will continue to resonate in the hearts of all who attended.

The EAF provides emergency financial grants to members of the equestrian community throughout the United States who are struggling to overcome catastrophic illness, injury or another unforeseen crisis.

For more information about the Equestrian Aid Foundation, or how you can become involved in helping, visit www.equestrianaidfoundation.org.


Flavors of Wellington A Success

Flavors of Wellington A Success 
Annual Chamber Event Celebrates Wellington Culinary Excellence

By Shannon Anastasio

The robust restaurant community in Wellington recently hosted the highly anticipated Flavors of Wellington event, presented Thursday, May 23 by the Greater Wellington Chamber of Commerce. This culinary extravaganza brought together local restaurants, cafés, bistros, country clubs and caterers to celebrate the best in food and drink.

This year’s 21st annual event was a resounding success and recognized several establishments for their exceptional contributions to the local culinary scene. The winners, who dazzled attendees with their culinary prowess, included Dos Amigos Tacos Wellington for Best Taste, Kickback Neighborhood Tavern for Best Cocktail, Candid Coffee/Anna Bakes for Best Dessert and Franco Italian Bistro for Best Stop.

Dos Amigos Tacos Wellington claimed the coveted Best Taste award, enchanting taste buds with authentic Mexican flavors. Known for innovative and delicious tacos, Dos Amigos has established itself as a must-try in the Wellington food scene. This victory is a testament to their commitment to quality ingredients and traditional recipes, which create an unforgettable dining experience.

Kickback Neighborhood Tavern took home the Best Cocktail award, impressing judges and attendees alike with a creative and expertly crafted beverage choice. Kickback’s cocktails, known for unique blends and vibrant flavors, have made the tavern a popular spot for locals seeking a refreshing and enjoyable drink. This award highlights Kickback’s dedication to mixology and the ability to create a welcoming atmosphere.

Candid Coffee/Anna Bakes won the Best Dessert category, delighting “sweet tooths” with their delectable treats. The desserts available, ranging from rich pastries to intricate cakes, showcase skill in baking and a passion for creating sweet masterpieces. This recognition underscores Candid Coffee/Anna Bakes as a beloved dessert destination in Wellington.

Franco Italian Bistro earned the Best Stop award, being recognized for its overall excellence in food, service and ambiance. This bistro, which offers a blend of classic and contemporary Italian dishes, has long been a favorite dining spot for many in Wellington. The award celebrates Franco’s ability to provide an exceptional dining experience that keeps customers coming back.

Events such as these would not happen without many sponsors and exhibitors. This year, Flavors of Wellington was made possible by the generous support of its sponsors and a host of exhibitors who showcased their culinary delights and services. Presenting sponsors included FPL, K&E Travel and Celebrity Cruises. The host venue was Wellington National Golf Club. The event featured luxury buses sponsored by local businesses, ensuring that attendees could travel to and from the host venue with ease and comfort.

Other featured exhibitors included Mole Cantina Mexicana, the Polo Club at NPC, Masala Mantra Indian Cuisine, Stonewood Grill & Tavern Wellington, Village Music and Café Wellington, Scout & Cellar Wines, the Poké Company Wellington, the Fresh Pita Club, Keke’s Breakfast Café Wellington, Starbucks at the Mall at Wellington Green, Pura Vida Wellington and Maxwell’s Plum.

Now that you’ve had time to digest all of the scrumptious dishes, get a glimpse into the future as the Greater Wellington Chamber of Commerce has already set sights on the next installment, promising an even more spectacular experience in 2025.

Stay tuned for updates and get set to mark your calendars for next year’s event. For additional information, visit www.wellingtonchamber.com.


A Teamwork Approach To Patient Care

A Teamwork Approach To Patient Care
The Wellington Orthopedic Institute Provides Expert Treatment For A Wide Range Of Conditions

Story by Mike May  |  Photos by Denise Fleischman

If you have an orthopedic issue involving your neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, ankles or feet, you don’t have to travel far to find medical help. For more than 20 years, the Wellington Orthopedic Institute has been ready to provide patients with professional care, advice, guidance and surgical assistance, if necessary.

Located on the campus of Wellington Regional Medical Center, the Wellington Orthopedic Institute team is led by Dr. Michael Mikolajczak, known as Dr. Mike. For more than 12 years, he has been assisted by certified physician assistant Leah Saporito. They are a dynamic duo of orthopedic care and surgical procedures.

Dr. Mike’s roots in Wellington go all the way back to the 1980s, back when the intersection of Forest Hill Blvd. and State Road 7 had a flashing red light.

With each patient who enters the Wellington Orthopedic Institute office, the ability to efficiently communicate is the key to a successful experience.

“If you speak with the patient, ask questions and listen, they will often tell you what the real problem is,” said Dr. Mike, whose practice deals with patients who range in age from adolescent teenagers to those more than 100 years old. “We are now treating three generations of people within the same family.”

“On occasion, a patient presents having back pain, but it is often traced to the hips,” Saporito added.

A major strength of the practice is its teamwork approach.

“I have a dedicated team here,” Dr. Mike said. “My office manager has been with me for 23 years, my X-ray technician has been with me for 13 or 14 years, and Leah has been working here for 12 years or so.”

Strong customer service is another strength of the Wellington Orthopedic Institute. “We are a boutique orthopedic group. Every patient has different needs,” Saporito said. “We make sure that every phone call to the office gets answered by a person in the office.”

While the business hours for the Wellington Orthopedic Institute are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Dr. Mike is available at any time if a patient really needs help.

“I’m available 24/7 for my patients,” he said. “If they need me, I’m available to help.”

While he is an experienced, proven and talented surgeon, surgery is always his last and least preferred course of action.

“We take great pride in a course of action where patients have control over their care,” Dr. Mike said. “We give each patient the best evaluation based on a physical exam and a conservative approach to their care. Surgery is the last option for most patients when exhaustive, conservative care fails.”

When Dr. Mike enters the operating room — either in the hospital or at his surgery center — he is usually assisted by Saporito. She is impressed by his attention to detail. “He’s very meticulous in every operation,” she said.

The atmosphere in the operating room, while sterile, is serious and upbeat.

“During surgery, I like to listen to music that patients usually select,” Dr. Mike noted. “The music is a background tranquilizer for the patient.”

Successful orthopedic practices, such as Wellington Orthopedic Institute, are often known for their stunning success stories. And the Wellington Orthopedic Institute is no exception.

“A few years ago, a man in his 90s was pushed into our office while in a wheelchair, and he was in very bad physical shape,” Saporito said. “He had a bad hip and didn’t think anything could be done. He was in desperate need of help, and he was high-risk, due to his age. Well, we performed hip surgery, and he recovered. Two years later, he walked into our office unassisted and asked that we operate on his other hip. And we did, with success.”

The Wellington Orthopedic Institute also has worked on many patients within the equestrian arena from around the world — riders, handlers, trainers and owners.

“About 12 years ago, U.S. Olympic jumper McClain Ward suffered a shattered knee,” Dr. Mike said. “I operated on him, fixed his knee, and he returned to competition within a few months. He competed in the Olympics a few months later, and he won a gold medal in the team competition.”

The Wellington Orthopedic Institute also works with athletes in many other sports to repair most extremity injuries.

In addition to providing care for human beings, Dr. Mike has a successful track record of operating on animals in the western communities, as a volunteer.

“I’m a voluntary consultant with Lion Country Safari,” he said. “I operated on Lissa, the white rhinoceros, about five or six times. She lived for another 10 years. She had a cancerous tumor on her horn, which was successfully treated.”

Dr. Mike is always reminding patients what they can do to stay healthy.

“We are always telling our patients to exercise regularly by riding a bike, going swimming, using an elliptical machine, doing yoga and/or going to a Pilates class,” he said. “Those forms of exercise are easier on the joints. Also, I’m always reminding my patients about making better footwear decisions.”

He understands the importance of his patients maintaining a high quality of life and is committed to making that a priority. “Joint mobility and balance are the keys to life,” Dr. Mike said.

In addition to providing words of wisdom to his patients, he practices what he preaches.

“I try to keep myself in good physical shape. I currently enjoy biking, swimming and playing golf,” Dr. Mike added. “I played competitive basketball and baseball until I was in my 50s.”

Another positive influence was his father.

“My dad was a master tool and die maker,” Dr. Mike said. “Having to deal with that kind of equipment and mechanical knowledge helped me with my orthopedic skills.”

Even though Dr. Mike admits that he’s now in the “autumn” of his life, he has no plans to slow down, as he enjoys helping residents of the western communities.

Through the years, Dr. Mike has been active in the local hospital and community growth. He has served on multiple hospital staff positions at Wellington Regional Medical Center during his tenure. From a present member of the orthopedic steering committee and active teaching staff, he has served as chief of surgery and past chief of staff.

“I feel voluntary positions helped grow the hospital, community and medical staff,” Dr. Mike said.

The Wellington Orthopedic Institute is located at 10115 W. Forest Hill Blvd., Suite 102, on the campus of Wellington Regional Medical Center. For more information, call (561) 670-2010 or visit www.orthowellington.com.



Improving Surgical Outcomes For Patients

Improving Surgical Outcomes For Patients
Latest Technology Leads To Faster Recovery Times At Advanced Surgical Physicians

Story By Jaime Joshi Elder  |  Photos by Caleb Harris / Khanna House Studios

In 200 A.D., the Mayan civilization was in its infancy, the global population reached 257 million (less than the current population of the United States) and Leonidas of Alexandria started advocating for incision and cautery for breast cancer treatment — a process that became the standard of surgical care for the next 15 centuries.

However, over the past two decades, advances in surgical technology have accelerated at a dizzying pace. Surgeons have evolved from using scalpels to laser scalpels to operating the console of the da Vinci robot, a minimally invasive system that mirrors a surgeon’s hand movements while also delivering high-resolution, magnified images of what is being operated on.

Dr. Andrew J. Shapiro, medical director of Advanced Surgical Physicians in Wellington and the Comprehensive Breast Center at Wellington Regional Medical Center, is a passionate advocate for minimally invasive surgery, robotic surgery and advancements in breast cancer research. In 2023, he completed his 1,000th surgery with the da Vinci system and advocates strongly for the technology.

“I first started working with the da Vinci system in 2012,” Shapiro said. “As an advocate of ensuring the best possible outcomes for my patients, I saw that this technology had the potential to not only improve surgical outcomes, but also facilitate quicker recovery times and reduced hospital stays.”

This mentality is at the heart of his practice, Advanced Surgical Physicians. In addition to utilizing the da Vinci system, Shapiro and his partner, Dr. Kyle Eldredge, also employ traditional open surgery and laparoscopic techniques to treat the full range of general surgery conditions, including but not limited to breast cancer and benign breast diseases, gallbladder disorders, anorectal and colon conditions, as well as the treatment of pilonidal disease, melanoma and other skin cancers.

“Minimally invasive robotic surgery is used for so many different procedures, ranging from general surgery like we do at Advanced Surgical Physicians to gynecologic surgery like hysterectomies and urology procedures like prostatectomies and nephrectomies,” Shapiro said. “The procedure only uses small incisions, so it’s less traumatic on the patient’s body. This means less pain and blood loss. It means fewer complications and less scarring than with traditional surgery.”

This past April, Shapiro and Eldredge were each awarded accreditation as Surgeons of Excellence in Robotic Surgery and Minimally Invasive Surgery by the Surgical Review Corporation.

“This accolade reflects our practice’s continual effort to surpass the expected standards and lead in the development of safer, more effective surgical treatments,” Shapiro said.

As general surgery specialists, Shapiro and Eldredge both treat patients with a multitude of conditions, which can include: skin and soft tissue such as the breasts; surgical treatment of cancer; surgical treatment of traumatic injuries; care of critically ill patients who need surgery; the head and neck; the abdomen and its contents, such as the stomach, liver, gallbladder, spleen, duodenum, the tail of the pancreas and the transverse colon; the endocrine system (hormones and glands); and the digestive tract.

They are also involved with their patients from the initial evaluation to prepping for surgery, performing the procedure and post-operative management.

“There is no greater relationship in medicine than a surgeon and their patient,” Eldredge said. “What inspired me to become a general surgeon was the ability to take complete care of a patient from the very beginning. From initially diagnosing what is ailing them to completing surgery and alleviating them of their pain or illness to watching them recover and feel better.”

Eldredge started his medical journey as an emergency medical technician and saw first-hand the difference that efficient and calculated care makes in the health and well-being of a patient. While in medical school at Emory University in Atlanta, he was awarded a fellowship in Robotic Minimally Invasive Colorectal Surgery and continues to serve Palm Beach County’s western communities with excellence in this field.

The strategic implementation of patient care in almost every area of the body is also what inspired Shapiro to pursue a general surgery specialty, as it echoed the training he received in the military.

A proud veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, Shapiro completed his residency in general surgery at Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Ft. Gordon, Georgia, and went on to serve as chief of the Department of Surgery at Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital in Ft. Polk, Louisiana, and was awarded a Combat Medic badge, the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

“The ability to serve my country was my honor, but the ability to provide medical care to our brave men and women fighting for our freedom? That was my distinct privilege,” he said. “My career as a military surgeon prepared me for almost every surgical contingency, and I appreciate all the support we’ve received here in Wellington as a military family. It has a deep sense of community and is a great place to support and feel supported.”

Shapiro’s service didn’t end upon his honorable discharge from the army, and he continues to support his community today through philanthropic means.

In addition to hosting a 5K race to benefit the local nonprofit organization Clinics Can Help, which collects and redistributes durable medical equipment and supplies to families in need, Shapiro also works as a trainer with New Horizons Service Dogs, a nonprofit organization that partners trained dogs with the disabled, mostly in the area of wheelchair and mobility assistance.

“Andrew loves dogs and understands the positive impact a dog can have on someone’s life,” said Ilene Shapiro, Dr. Shapiro’s wife and office manager at Advanced Surgical Physicians. “Wrangler, our golden retriever from New Horizons Service Dogs, works with our patients at the office as an emotional support dog. Receiving a cancer diagnosis is a lifechanging event, and patients and their families experience so much anxiety during this time. Wrangler works as an emotional support animal at the practice and helps bring about a sense of peace and calm. Both staff and patients at the practice love him.”

On top of all of this, and spending time with his family, Shapiro makes the time to serve as a voluntary assistant professor of surgery at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.

“I was raised believing in the importance of service and community stewardship,” Shapiro said. “Both my wife and I believe that we are better when we work together in service to others. We try to reinforce these values both with our children and in our medical practice. We have traveled all over the country and are proud to call Palm Beach County home, and we are committed to providing the highest standards of care, bringing our patients options for the best health outcomes.”

To learn more about Advanced Surgical Physicians, visit www.toplinemd.com/advanced-surgical-physicians.


A Focus On Patient Care

A Focus On Patient Care 
The Advanced Breast Center At Wellington Regional Medical Center Honored By National Program

The Advanced Breast Center at Wellington Regional Medical Center was recently recognized as a Certified Participant in the National Quality Measures for Breast Centers (NQMBC) Program. This distinguished honor represents a commitment by the breast center to provide the highest level of quality breast health care to patients.

Pam Tahan, CEO of Wellington Regional Medical Center, expressed her pride in the achievement.

“This certification is a testament to the dedication and hard work of our team,” Tahan said. “We are committed to providing our patients with the highest quality care, and this recognition reinforces our efforts and the positive impact we are making in our community.”

Measuring and comparing quality performance is essential in assessing patient care and allocating resources where improvement is desired. In today’s dynamic healthcare industry, breast centers are faced with providing quality care while simultaneously keeping costs under control. A center’s staff must not only be familiar with existing standards of care, but they must also be aware of new advances in technology. The Advanced Breast Center at Wellington Regional Medical Center has taken a major step to ensure the program provides the best possible quality care to patients.

“Being recognized as a Certified Participant in the National Quality Measures for Breast Centers Program is a significant accomplishment,” said Dr. Andrew Shapiro, medical director of the Advanced Breast Center. “It reflects our ongoing commitment to excellence in breast health care and our dedication to adopting the latest advancements in medical technology and treatment protocols.”

As an accredited breast cancer program, Wellington Regional Medical Center has been recognized nationally as a leader in breast imaging and the treatment of breast cancer. As an American College of Radiology Breast Imaging Center of Excellence, WRMC has demonstrated excellence in mammography, breast ultrasound and MRI of the breast, as well as stereotactic, ultrasound and MRI-guided breast biopsies.

Dr. Sandra Mondro, a radiologist at the Advanced Breast Center, highlighted the importance of continuous improvement.

“This certification underscores our commitment to not only meeting but exceeding the national standards in breast health care,” Mondro said. “Our goal is to ensure that every patient receives personalized, state-of-the-art care tailored to their specific needs.”

Launched in April 2005 and now used in 45 states, the NQMBC program offers facilities providing breast health care the ability to track and measure breast center performance in more than 40 individual quality indicators. The program has been validated by multiple peer-reviewed medical journal publications. The most compelling component of the program is the ability of participants to enter their data and immediately compare their performance with other participating breast centers across the country.

The National Consortium of Breast Centers is proud to recognize the Advanced Breast Center at Wellington Regional Medical Center as a Certified Participant. The facility will continue in its commitment to provide the highest quality care to its patients and work on keeping up a Certified Quality Breast Center of Excellence.

The National Consortium of Breast Centers promotes excellence in breast health care for the general public through a network of diverse professionals dedicated to the active exchange of ideas and resources. It serves as an informational resource and provides support services to those rendering care to people with breast diseases through educational programs, newsletters, a national directory and patient forums. Learn more at www.nqmbc.org.

Wellington Regional Medical Center is a 235-bed, acute care hospital providing high-quality healthcare services to the residents of central Palm Beach County since 1986. As a community hospital, accredited by the Joint Commission, WRMC prides itself on its continued commitment to remain on the forefront of advanced technologies and expand programs and services to meet the needs of the growing community it serves.

Learn more about the Advanced Breast Center at Wellington Regional Medical Center at www.wellingtonregional.com.


Serving The Wider Community

Serving The Wider Community
South Florida Fair Installs New Chair And Eight New Board Members, Including Wellington’s Pam Rada

By Shannon Anastasio

The South Florida Fair & Palm Beach County Expositions Inc. recently announced Becky Isiminger as the new chair of its board of directors and also added eight new members to its board. They were installed at the fair’s annual meeting on Thursday, April 25.

Among the new board members is Wellington’s Pam Rada, who hopes that she can use her expertise to support the wider community.

“With my background and experience, I plan to leverage my skills by joining the South Florida Fair’s marketing committee and providing feedback on their already robust marketing program,” Rada said. “My goal is to help create compelling narratives that highlight the fair’s unique offerings and engage the community in meaningful ways. By doing so, I aim to enhance the fair’s outreach and ensure it continues to captivate and connect with a diverse audience.”

Rada’s career spans more than 15 years of marketing, public relations and sales experience. She currently oversees the marketing, advertising and community outreach for Wellington Regional Medical Center. Prior to healthcare, Rada served as a marketing director in the shopping center industry.

“I am particularly excited to collaborate with the South Florida Fair’s marketing team to learn about and enhance their digital strategies for reaching a larger audience,” she explained. “Another initiative I am passionate about is contributing to special events and programs that celebrate the cultural diversity of South Florida. These projects will allow us to connect with a broader community and showcase the vibrant cultural community that defines our region.”

Rada believes that her work at Wellington Regional fits well with her volunteer work with the South Florida Fair.

“At Wellington Regional, we pride ourselves on providing care you can count on to all members of the community,” she said. “We’ve extended this commitment to the South Florida Fair by sponsoring hand-washing stations and emergency services, ensuring a safe and welcoming environment for all attendees. My experience in community outreach will help me foster strong connections and ensure that our engagement efforts at the fair reflect the same dedication to inclusivity and support.”

Rada hopes to help expand the reach of the South Florida Fair beyond its traditional communities of support.

“One of the biggest opportunities for growth lies in expanding our reach into Broward County through digital transformation. By leveraging new technologies and digital marketing strategies, we can effectively attract the Broward audience,” she said regarding the fair. “Additionally, enhancing our sustainability practices presents a significant chance to make the fair more eco-friendly and appealing to environmentally conscious attendees. I aim to contribute by bringing innovative ideas and best practices from my marketing background, fostering community partnerships, and driving initiatives that promote growth, inclusivity and sustainability.”

On the fair’s board, Isiminger replaces outgoing chair Robert Weisman. As the new chair, Isiminger is responsible for leading the 106-member volunteer board of directors and working closely with the executive staff of the fair to ensure the continued success of the nonprofit organization.

For the past 20 years, Isiminger has served as the corporate secretary/treasurer for Isiminger & Stubbs Engineering, overseeing the financial department. She has been a director at the fair since 2005 and a trustee since 2012. Beyond the fair, she currently serves on the Quantum House Board of Directors, is a past president of the Junior League of the Palm Beaches and is an elder at First Presbyterian Church in North Palm Beach.

Aside from Rada, other new board members are Shawna Ahmad, Yinett Florentino, Ilan Kaufer, Charity Lewis, Chris McAllister, Frank Sardinha III and Brannan Thomas.

Ahmad has been a Florida educator for 29 years. Currently, she teaches and learns with academically progressive high school students and colleagues at Seminole Ridge High School. Her goal is to create academically engaging learning experiences through an environment that fosters creativity, curiosity and kindness.

Florentino is a small business owner, providing consultancy services in the administrative realm. With a background in business, nonprofit organizations, marketing and accounting, she is passionate about helping and supporting business leaders lead with purpose in both the profit and nonprofit sectors. Her interests include leadership, business development and innovation.

Kaufer serves as the external affairs manager for Florida Power & Light Company. In that role, he manages external relations for portions of Palm Beach County and all of Okeechobee County. He has worked for FPL since 2009 and has served the company in various roles.

Lewis works as the civic engagement supervisor for the City of West Palm Beach. With many years of experience in fulfilling multifaceted roles in customer and public service, in both the public and private sector, she possesses a unique blend of communications, marketing and public relations expertise.

McAllister is a registered nurse with more than a decade of experience in the emergency department, currently serving as a team manager at VITAS Healthcare. Beyond his professional commitments, he is deeply involved in community service, dedicating 13 years as a volunteer at the South Florida Fair.

Sardinha is a practicing attorney in Palm Beach Gardens at Loren & Kean Law. A proud Palm Beach County native, he has been attending the South Florida Fair since elementary school. Since 2005, he has volunteered for the Florida American Legion Boys State, serving as its executive director for several years, and on its board of directors since 2018.

Thomas is the director of community relations for U.S. Sugar. In this role, he manages the company’s community support and engagement initiatives, serving the Glades and coastal communities where the U.S. Sugar people live and work. He is responsible for overseeing U.S. Sugar’s generous community outreach efforts.

The South Florida Fair is produced by the South Florida Fair & Palm Beach County Expositions Inc., a nonprofit organization, and has a longstanding tradition of raising funds for educational and charitable purposes. The 2025 South Florida Fair will be held Jan. 17 through Feb. 2. The fair staff also present many additional events throughout the year.

For additional information about the fair, call (561) 793-0333 or visit www.southfloridafair.com.


Wellington Seeks Input On Budget Priorities

Wellington Seeks Input On Budget Priorities The Village Uses Online Tools And Public Workshops To Gather Feedback From Residents

The Village of Wellington puts a major focus on getting input from the public on their budget priorities. Outreach is ongoing this month as the village draws up its spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year.

By Jim Barnes, Wellington Village Manager

Wellington has always worked to engage its residents and businesses in its annual budget process. From budget surveys to traditional in-person workshops, we have continually worked to gather as much input into our budget development as possible. In 2023, we launched additional simulation tools, such as “Balancing Act,” in an effort to expand outreach. The simulation ties the village’s budget to its strategic priorities — the big-picture goals of the community. Connecting spending levels to these goals provides yet another layer of contextual information to budget engagement opportunities for residents.

“Our simulation is currently organized by strategic objectives,” said Christine Wadleigh, the village’s budget director. “The services our programs offer village-wide are all categorized into ‘service objectives.’ Using strategic objectives adds another layer to understanding how a department serves the community and the delicate reality of allocating funding.”

The village’s efforts to align its budget to its strategic objectives demonstrate how we strive to implement new ways of thinking about the budgeting process and use technological advances to build caring and resilient communities, continue transparency and reverse declining trust in government.

The goals of Wellington’s budget public engagement initiative are to build trust in government decisions; get information on public priorities; gain familiarity with budget allocation areas and aid understanding of budget tradeoffs; and align public expectations with what a government can realistically accomplish.

In order to enhance engagement in the budget process, the interactive tool Balancing Act features a simulation of the budget. In this tool, respondents interact with the proposed General Fund budget by revenue type and expenditure area, and the respondent may increase or decrease spending. Increases in spending indicate priorities, and any additions have to be offset elsewhere in the budget to balance. Open comment fields are included to gather freeform feedback to distribute to the Wellington Village Council and senior staff.

Historically, local governments have relied on a budget process that favors addressing short-term priorities over long-range planning. For more than two decades, Wellington has moved away from incremental processes into a more integrated approach. This is a result of the council’s responsible recognition of budget challenges on the horizon: the village’s revenue growth wasn’t keeping pace with its expenses. Decisions regarding projects, programs and services involve determining cost cuts or revenue increases, and we wanted residents to understand the reality of our budget challenge.

It was also apparent that the traditional method of community outreach around the budget wasn’t cutting it. The village was spending immense staff time engaging small crowds of repeat attendees. We needed better, more diverse feedback from more residents to make informed decisions.

Since then, our budget engagement has become an almost year-round activity, with different emphases at different points in the budget process. Early in the fiscal year, we launch a simulation with a preliminary budget and use the simulation tools to have our departmental staff prioritize their budget preparation process. This first cut is based on gauging broad priorities and determining how to resolve tough potential tradeoffs. Additional rounds accompany the proposed budget so the public and elected officials can both see the rationale for initial decisions and provide high-level input.

In addition to asking residents to weigh in on how to best balance the budget, we have also used the budget tool Taxpayer Receipt that shows residents how much of their total tax bill goes toward different areas of village operations like debt service or recreation.

These simulation tools help us create more constructive, informative conversations about the budget and engage citizens in a process that is often lacking in transparency.

The primary benefit we see as a village with Balancing Act is direct feedback from our residents. The simulations take a dense and dull subject and make it more engaging, understandable and exciting. We also can begin to explain the connections to revenues and expenditures and the relationships of a balanced budget. It also enables resident input to be captured independently, where residents can work on the simulation on their own, and allows for interaction in group settings, which we do with community groups. We are currently changing when we engage our residents with simulation. We are getting residents involved in the process sooner, and we hope to see a continued growth in engagement and participation.

Online public engagement evolved from a nice-to-have to need-to-have feature of government as resident schedules became busier, precluding them from participating in traditional community meetings. The interactive tools we use also give residents a quick and simple way to provide input on capital project prioritization, given that we also have more projects than available funding.

It is safe to say our residents are getting accustomed to simulation tools as part of the annual budgeting process. We continue to see increasing participation numbers. We will continue to look at ways to increase participation in our in-person and online opportunities. Our residents love to provide input, and our online engagement efforts are becoming an annual part of capturing their voices.

Wellington’s budget public engagement tools will launch this month and continue through mid-August. The simulation results will be presented in the budget adoption hearings in September.


Hospitals Arrive To Serve The Wellington Area And Beyond

Hospitals Arrive To Serve The Wellington Area And Beyond 
The Two Major Medical Hubs Serving The Greater Wellington Community Both Date Back To 1986

By Joshua Manning

Wellington Regional Medical Center and HCA Florida Palms West Hospital started small in the 1980s and grew to become beacons of healthcare serving patients across central Palm Beach County and beyond. This month we go back in time to the early 1980s, where medical procedures meant a long trek east for Wellington residents.

It was a banner year for local healthcare in 1986, when, after years of planning, two hospitals opened to serve the Wellington area.

Originally small outposts on large tracts of land, Wellington Regional Medical Center and HCA Florida Palms West Hospital have grown exponentially over the past four decades, now offering the most state-of-the-art care available to residents who once had to trek 40 minutes or more to the coast for even the most basic medical procedures.

However, back in the early years of the western communities, that was exactly what regional officials wanted. These local hospitals, now anchors in the Wellington economy, had to fight state regulators and county officials for years before being awarded the necessary approvals to build.

The national companies that built the two hospitals in the Wellington area still operate them today. In the case of WRMC, that would be Pennsylvania-based Universal Health Services (UHS), and in the case of Palms West Hospital, it’s Tennessee-based Hospital Corporation of America, now HCA Healthcare.

WRMC has provided a wide array of healthcare services to the residents of central Palm Beach County since 1986.

It started with the vision of UHS founder and Executive Chairman Alan B. Miller, said Ben Boynton, who served for years as a hospital board member.

“He chose that parcel of land based on the growth of what Wellington was envisioned to be,” Boynton said of Miller. “There were a lot of people who doubted his foresight on that property, but he pushed through as a visionary.”

Miller recalled observing the development of Wellington in the 1970s, noting that the population was growing rapidly.

“By 1986, three local doctors decided that the growing communities on the western side of the county needed a community hospital,” Miller recalled. “The doctors entered into negotiations with a number of major corporations but selected UHS to turn their vision into a reality. When UHS opened Wellington Regional in 1986, the population was growing at a rate of 50 percent.”

Dr. Jeffrey Bishop was the first physician working at the new hospital.

“I watched it being built. I was doing my internship at the old Humana Hospital,” Bishop recalled. “The doctors who opened that hospital — Dr. Harold Kirsh, Dr. Michael Longo and Dr. Albert LaTorra — recruited me. These guys were all DOs, and they wanted to open up an osteopathic hospital in the western communities.”

That dream was accomplished working with UHS. The company’s representative overseeing the project was Richard Wright. “They recruited me to open a practice in the western communities,” Bishop said. “My first office was on the third floor of the hospital before the medical buildings were built.”

Miller noted that the doctors — Longo, LaTorra and Kirsh — owned the certificate of need (CON) required to build the hospital and worked with UHS to develop the project, while developer Bruce Rendina helped the company acquire the land.

“We are always evaluating the opportunities within key markets across the U.S. to determine where there is healthcare need that we could address,” Miller said. “In the case of Palm Beach County, we had been monitoring the possibility of acquiring land in that region for several years. When the chance to acquire the land presented itself, we took swift action to seize the opportunity.”

Miller noted that in 1986, both hospitals were under construction at the same time.

“Community members expressed questions and were not certain that two hospitals were needed,” he recalled. “However, we had data indicating that the community would grow and that we would meet the need of future growth.”

In the early years, the main issue that Bishop recalled was keeping the place full. “There were days where patients from my practice were the only ones in the hospital,” he said, adding that competition was fierce with Palms West Hospital, which had already opened. “The big concern was if there’s a need for two hospitals in the western communities, but obviously, some people had good foresight.”

Bishop recalled the equestrian-themed décor and high-end caterer that ran the food service during the early years. “People came in off the streets to eat there,” he said.

He is very proud of how WRMC has grown over the past four decades.

“It has developed into a full-fledged community hospital that serves the community in a great manner,” said Bishop, who served on the hospital’s board for 25 years, including five as chair. “It has all kinds of specialty services, such as the NICU and a huge emergency department. It’s a certified stroke center, does cardiac catheterization and robotic services. They do the full gamut of what a hospital does now.”

Bishop also served as chief medical officer and program director for the hospital’s family medicine residency program, among other roles. He is also proud of his work developing the surgery and medical peer review committees.

Kevin DiLallo served as CEO of the hospital during its largest expansion years, from 1997 to 2010.

“I was there during the largest growth in the hospital’s history,” recalled DiLallo, who is now vice president of development for UHS and overseeing the construction of a new hospital for the company in Palm Beach Gardens. “We built medical offices one, two, three and four. We put the front tower on. We built the new emergency room. We built the Level III NICU, which is now named after me. There was massive growth during those years.”

During his time at the hospital, DiLallo saw a very distinct change underway, as Wellington stopped being somewhere “way out west” and became much closer to the center of life in Palm Beach County. Some of this may have been tied to the opening of the Mall at Wellington Green, just across the street.

“There was tremendous growth of the medical staff, and people becoming more accustomed to the western communities,” DiLallo said. “People didn’t come west before.”

This brought clients to WRMC from all parts of the county and beyond, often drawn by the unique offerings presented on the hospital’s campus.

“It has gone from being a community hospital, to a regional hospital, to being a true pillar of the community on the medical side,” Boynton said. “People have been travelling from other cities and states for medical procedures to be done here in Wellington. The hospital has done an incredible job bringing in these specialties. It really has been an incredible transformation.”

Miller has been very impressed by how WRMC has grown.

“In 1986, and up to today, we have seen an excellent reaction from and support by the community,” he said. “At Wellington Regional, we continue to contribute to the health of the community and boost the local economy. In 2023, we admitted 15,234 patients and had 58,961 emergency visits, and we made more than $4 million in capital investments.”

Like WRMC, it took time for Palms West Hospital to become what it is today.

In June 1981, the Town-Crier reported that, “The Hospital Corporation of America says it will have a 117-bed general surgical hospital operation by 1983.” That upbeat assessment, however, was off by several years. In October 1981, the regional Health Planning Council, which decided on hospital needs for the area, rejected the proposal, instead adding 80 additional beds to a hospital in Delray Beach. The Bureau of Community Medical Facilities in Tallahassee later agreed. Nevertheless, HCA officials said they would not give up on the plan. Eventually, approval was granted in December 1983, and a groundbreaking was held in 1984. Nearly 1,000 people were on hand to celebrate its grand opening on Jan. 19, 1986.

Mike Pugh, the hospital’s first administrator, arrived in 1984 and oversaw the construction, opening and first decade of the hospital’s life serving the community.

“I just can’t get over what a change it is and how nice it is,” Pugh said upon returning to the hospital he built for its 25th anniversary in 2011. He recalled how the hospital opened with only four doctors on staff and a trickle of patients. At first, the hospital only used one floor of its initial three. However, it grew quickly.

“In our first 10 months of serving the western communities, Palms West Hospital admitted nearly 1,200 patients and performed more than 850 surgeries and endoscopies,” Pugh wrote in a newsletter marking the hospital’s first anniversary. “By the close of 1986, there were more than 7,500 visits to our emergency department and over 3,000 outpatient visits.”

Pugh has not been forgotten by the hospital, which plans to name its new five-story tower expansion in his honor when it opens in 2027.

An obstetrics department was added in 1989, and a pediatric division followed in 1994. In 1993, a new 60,000-square-foot pavilion opened. Through the years, 10 medical buildings were added to the campus to accompany the hospital itself. Today, the 204-bed facility includes a full-service children’s hospital.

Deborah Welky worked for Pugh doing public relations for the hospital when it first opened. “Everybody liked Mike. He had been part of the last M*A*S*H* unit in Korea and was there when producers came out to do research for the 1970 movie of the same name,” Welky said. “He had also been a member of the Chad Mitchell Trio back in the day, just like John Denver had. So, he had stories to tell, and I like people with stories.”

She recalls the heady excitement of those early days. “The first big story to come out of Palms West Hospital was that a baby had been born at the hospital,” Welky said. “It was before the hospital’s birthing ward had been set up and was, instead, born in the emergency room. Babies wait for no plan.”

Speaking of births, she recalled how the two hospitals argued over approvals for an obstetrics ward.

“No one could argue that another hospital was needed in the area, but what they could argue about was whether another birthing ward was needed. Permission is granted based on population and need. So, argue they did,” Welky said. “Viewed hopefully as a retirement community by hospitals firmly established east of Military Trail, those of us who lived in the Wellington area knew differently. Youth sports were booming. Recreation programs were bursting at the seams. And you know what young children often have? Baby brothers and sisters. It was clear that retirees weren’t the only ones populating the area. The WRMC birthing center was approved.”

Welky eventually left Palms West Hospital for a full-time position with the Village of Wellington.

“That’s when WRMC CEO Arnie Schaffer invited me to become a part of his Community Advisory Board,” she recalled. “In addition to being goodwill ambassadors of sorts, the primary job of this board was to analyze information gathered from questionnaires filled out by patients after they had been released. When the hospitals were young, this feedback was crucial. It absolutely shaped the way things developed.”


Enjoy Quick And Healthy Snacks And Treats At Fresh Mangos

Enjoy Quick And Healthy Snacks And Treats At Fresh Mangos

For something healthy and very satisfying, visit Fresh Mangos, now open in the Mall at Wellington Green. The new Wellington location is the fifth South Florida outpost for this locally owned chain.

You can work up quite an appetite during a day of shopping. If you’re looking to dive into something healthy and tasty during a break in your buying, head on over to Fresh Mangos. The company recently opened its fifth South Florida location in the Mall at Wellington Green.

Fresh Mangos began as a way to fill a need for shoppers.

“We observed that malls had very few, if any, healthy snack options for their customers,” owner Jessica Tafur said. “If someone is hungry while in the mall, they have to eat some kind of junk food or high-carb or high-sugar snack. We decided to change that and offer something healthy and delicious.”

Fresh Mangos has been around since 2018, when the first Fresh Mangos opened at the Palm Beach Outlets (now the Tanger Outlets). Since then, they’ve developed a menu that’s hard to beat.

“Now we have mangos with more than 20 topping choices, depending on the location, up to four varieties of natural juice, frozen drinks, açaí and pitaya bowls, smoothie bowls, parfaits, fruit bowls, energizing teas, boba tea and more,” Tafur said.

If you like to eat your mangos sliced, you’re in the right place.

“The five sliced mango options on the menu were actually the clients’ top five combinations,” she said. “We decided to name the most popular combinations and put them on the menu for convenience, and to make the ordering process faster.”

You can choose between the Classic, Mexican Spicy, Flavor Explosion, Sweet Temptation or the Build Your Own, each with their own particular toppings, to satiate your mango mania.

As for which offerings are among customers’ favorites, it’s a question of where and who.

“This really depends on the mall we are in and the demographic of our customers,” Tafur said. “But in general, besides the mangos with toppings, the smoothies and açaí, pitaya and smoothie bowls are very popular.”

What, then, is the magic of the mango? Apparently, it all comes down to its adaptability.

“Mangos are one of those fruits that grow in just about every continent and are enjoyed in so many different ways,” Tafur said. “In Latin America alone, there are many ways of eating this fruit. Some like it green with salt and lime, others ripe and sweet, still others like to add hot sauce or sweet condensed milk. Travel to Asia, where it is eaten with sticky rice and cilantro, and then North America, where it is enjoyed ripe and in smoothies and drinks. The possibilities with mangos are quite vast.”

Fresh Mangos is well-aware that time is of the essence. Maybe you’re on a lunch break, maybe you’ve only got a few minutes to spare and need something to “grab and go.” Not only are they ready for you, but Fresh Mangos is also dedicated to making sure whatever you’re buying will keep you in the game.

“We like to think of ourselves as healthy fast food,” Tafur said. “We have our fruit ready to go, our juice is in the dispensers, and everyone has been trained in the most efficient way of preparing everything, so we can get our customers taken care of quickly. We are not as fast as a drive-through, since everything is made to order, but we do our best to be quick.”

Fresh Mangos and the Mall at Wellington Green is a match made in commercial heaven. They’d been waiting to set up shop in Wellington for a while, and finally, all the stars aligned.

“We have been wanting to open in this mall for years, but for several reasons, that was not possible,” Tafur said. “Many of our customers would come to our Tanger Outlet location in West Palm Beach and ask us if we would open in Wellington. We finally did! We are a bit hidden, but you can find us on the first floor, in front of California Pizza Kitchen. The clients of Wellington also deserve a healthy snack alternative.”

Check out Fresh Mangos during your next visit to the Mall at Wellington Green, and you — and everyone with you — will come away happy.

“We do not just have to be a snack, we have sandwiches and crepes as well for a larger meal,” Jessica said. “We have many families stop by, and everyone finds something on the menu that they like. Parents are happy their kids got a healthy snack, and kids are happy with their snack. Young adults and teens can also find something to their liking, usually smoothies or frozen drinks or boba tea. For our clients who like to work out, we have protein smoothies and zero sugar energizing teas. We have something for everyone.”

Fresh Mangos is located on the lower level of the Mall at Wellington Green across from California Pizza Kitchen and near Dillard’s. For more information, visit www.myfreshmangos.com.


Recent Grads Are Ready To Serve

Recent Grads Are Ready To Serve Twins Ryan And Reid Snider Are Both Headed To National Military Service Academies

Story by Mike May  |  Photos by Frank Koester

Wellington’s Ryan and Reid Snider have the distinct and fairly rare honor of being twins both headed off to highly selective national military service academies.

For the last 18 years, Diana and Dan Snider of Wellington and their twin sons have lived a life where the boys attended the same public schools and usually participated in the same activities. Now, life is changing. The two boys will remain united as brothers, but Ryan and Reid have decided to divide and conquer, as a way of furthering their education while patriotically serving and defending the nation.

After graduating from Palm Beach Central High School on Friday, May 17 — where Ryan was class valedictorian and Reid was ranked 13th among his 735 peers — both boys became focused on the next chapter of their lives, which have existed in lockstep with one another since birth.

Both Ryan and Reid are ambitious, athletic, creative, patriotic, smart, talented and are college-bound, but now they are headed in differing directions. Ryan is heading west to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, while Reid is going north to the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.

These ambitious young men from Wellington are not content to simply attend and graduate from their respective service academies. They want to excel and grow in their new environments.

“I will pursue a dual major in astronautical and aerospace engineering,” Ryan said. “My goal is to be a pilot and fly F22s, one of the most advanced stealth fighters in history. But I also want to use my experience and engineering knowledge to build the next generation of air and spacecraft.”

His brother also has an interest in engineering with big dreams.

“I plan to major in mechanical engineering with a specialization in astronautical engineering,” Reid said. “I am also interested in studying law and political science. In addition, I want to work with NASA, be an astronaut and go to Mars.”

The Snider boys will remain united as a family, but for the first time will be divided, geographically.

“We are always under the same sky with the same stars,” said Ryan, the older of the two boys by one minute, as both were born at the Wellington Regional Medical Center in December 2005.

The idea that both boys would pursue a military education and lifestyle is not a surprise, but it was not expected, either. “Two of the boys’ uncles served in the Air Force, their paternal grandfather was in the Army, and their paternal great-grandfather was in the Navy,” their mother Diana explained. “They, and we, are honored at the opportunity for each of our boys to be nominated and selected for these elite service academies.”

While Ryan and Reid are thrilled to be headed off to their service academies, they previously thought that their collegiate home would be in Gainesville, Florida.

“Our parents had done Florida Prepaid, and so our goal, before getting the service academy e-mails, was to get into the University of Florida,” Ryan said. “Throughout our application process to the service academies, we still applied to UF. But, crazy enough, UF was our backup school. In addition to our military appointments, both of us received our acceptance into UF.”

“I grew up as a huge Florida Gator fan, bleeding orange and blue,” added Reid, who was accepted into UF’s Honors College. “I always wanted to attend the University of Florida.”

Even though Ryan and Reid will be going their separate ways, they almost went to the same service academy. Soon after taking their PSAT as sophomores in high school, both boys received an informational e-mail from West Point.

“That stopped us in our tracks,” Diana recalled. “We talked about West Point and began looking up information on the other service academies. The boys became so interested that we took a family road trip to West Point in June 2022 following their sophomore year of high school. In August of that year, our family of four flew out to Colorado to visit the Air Force Academy.”

According to Diana, both boys researched and decided that they were interested in both West Point and the Air Force Academy. They applied for the summer leadership program at both academies and were accepted to both.

So, during the first week of June 2023, after their junior year at Palm Beach Central, they flew to West Point together for an intense week-long experience. They flew home at the end of the week, unpacked, washed clothes, repacked and flew to Colorado for another several days at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s program.

“We knew they would either love it or hate it,” Diana said.

Not surprisingly, they both loved the leadership programs, but Ryan preferred the Air Force Academy, while Reid really liked what was offered at West Point.

“Separately, they focused on their application packets, secured their nominations, and completed all necessary physical and academic requirements,” Diana added.

To get accepted into a military service academy, a current member of the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate must also sign-off on your application.

For Ryan, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott approved his application, while U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel approved Reid’s paperwork.

Ryan will report to Colorado Springs on June 26, while Reid must report to West Point a few days later, on July 1.

Between now and then, Ryan and Reid will focus on improving their physical fitness. Both noted that their daily lives are now filled with running, lifting weights, and doing lots of calisthenics such as push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups.

After graduating from the service academies, they are committed to a minimum of five years of active-duty service, followed by at least three years in the reserves, but both boys predict long careers with their respective military disciplines.

While both boys are excited about their immediate futures, they agree that they’ll miss the creature comforts of home, especially their mother’s cooking.

“I’m really going to miss mom’s really good quesadillas,” Ryan said.

“And I’m going to miss eating mom’s cakes, fudge and cookies,” Reid added.

Their parents know that life for them will be different, too.

“It will be very quiet,” Diana said. “But there will be many trips to both Colorado and New York for parents’ weekend, and other opportunities to spend time with our boys.”

Meanwhile, Diana knows that it’s time to let her sons pursue their dreams.

“We know that we have raised them to work hard, focus on their goals, add value to others and positively impact our world,” she said. “We trust that they are on track to do just that. We are honored to get to watch them continue to grow into amazing men.”


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