Category Archives: Feature Stories

Wellington The Magazine, LLC Featured Articles

Horsing Around

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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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Wellington Expands Senior Ride Program

Wellington Expands Senior Ride Program New Freebee Program Offers A Convenient Alternative Transportation Service For Senior Citizens From Wellington

Wellington’s new agreement with Freebee offers a more convenient transportation service for senior citizens in Wellington. Wellington’s seniors now have access to this free program, Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Since 2010, the Village of Wellington has provided a limited transportation program for senior residents 62 years of age and older. In an effort to expand this program and its services, the village recently received proposals from interested firms to provide alternative transportation services using a ride-share-type system.

The ride-share transportation service includes the following: Monday through Saturday service from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. using two fully electric vehicles with unlimited rides. There is a mobile app with an option to request service via dispatch/call-in. The program offers door-to-door, on-demand service; a custom dashboard with the ability to display performance metrics in real time; and single or shared-use service.

Freebee replaced Wellington’s previous senior transportation program, which often carried around 10 people per day. Now, two Freebee cars serve between 20 and 30 people per day. The initial term of the contract began on May 1, 2024, for a three-year initial term, and provides for five one-year renewal options.

Freebee is a free electric-car service funded by the village’s Parks & Recreation Department. All rides must generally be within the village limits, but the cars will travel as far north as Southern Blvd. and as far south as Lake Worth Road. Riders must be at least 55 years old and Wellington residents.

Freebee, which was created by two University of Miami graduates, serves many municipalities in South Florida. The company calls their drivers “ambassadors” because they’re expected to be friendly, welcoming and talkative with the riders.

Riders can order a car through the Freebee app, or by calling a centralized dispatch. Unlike the popular ride-share apps Uber and Lyft, there isn’t a way to see reviews for local drivers. The app has a feature where riders can post photos and reviews, however, they aren’t specific to any driver or service area.

Wellington’s Freebee cars are Tesla Model X electric vehicles. A phone app makes calling a car similar to the procedure for Uber and Lyft, but rides are free.

“It’s convenient, it’s free, you’re having fun and smiling,” said Jason Spiegel, co-founder of the company. “We are short-distance, inter-municipality transportation that provides high ridership at a lower cost for cities because our clean-energy vehicles require less maintenance and no gas, compared to trolleys and buses or traditional car services.”

This new village transportation ride service, in partnership with Freebee, provides an increased level of service. It is a free shuttle service for Wellington residents age 55 and older offering unlimited door-to-door pick-ups and drop-offs in these new Tesla Model X vehicles.

Residents who use the program no longer need to provide the previously required 24-hour notice. Rides can be scheduled for same-day service with an average wait time of 15 minutes. Commuters also have the added flexibility of scheduling their rides up to five days in advance, ensuring that they can plan their travel with ease and reliability.

The service area includes anywhere within the Wellington municipal boundaries, as well as HCA Florida Palms West Hospital and its surrounding medical offices, as well as along State Road 7 from Southern Blvd. to Lake Worth Road. Service hours are Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed on Sunday.

Residents can sign up by visiting the Wellington Community Center for a one-time registration. Be sure to bring your ID and water or utility bill. Information can also be provided via e-mail to rides@wellingtonfl.gov.

To request a ride, residents should:

  1. Call the Freebee dispatch number at (855) 918-3733 or download the Freebee App.
  2. Request a pick-up.
  3. Enjoy the free ride.

Village staff is working on targeted outreach to seniors, including current senior transportation commuters. The outreach plan includes senior workshops, pre-registration of current riders via the Freebee portal and direct mailers. Additional marketing and promotion of the service throughout Wellington will be scheduled in conjunction with Freebee’s economic development team.

To learn more about the Freebee service, visit www.wellingtonfl.gov/rides.

 

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A Minister, Politician, Columnist And More

A Minister, Politician, Columnist And More Father John Mangrum Was An Instrumental Leader In The Early Years Of The Wellington Community

Father John Mangrum — also known as “Johnny The Stroller” — was a spiritual leader, early elected official, devoted community builder and beloved newspaper columnist. This month, our Wellington History series continues by featuring this instrumental leader from the early years of the Wellington community.

The early years of Wellington were filled with fascinating characters, but perhaps none of such well-rounded interests as Father John Mangrum.

Mangrum’s influence cut across many layers of the fledgling Wellington community. He was an Episcopal priest instrumental in growing one of Wellington’s earliest churches. Mangrum was also an ecumenical leader who helped several other religious congregations gain their foothold in Wellington. He was also an avid horse lover known as the “priest of polo,” who gave the opening prayers at the old Palm Beach Polo stadium.

Mangrum was also a political leader, joining the Acme Improvement District Board of Supervisors — Wellington’s pre-incorporation government — in 1981 as the first non-developer representative of the community. First by appointment, then by election, he served as an Acme supervisor for more than a decade as the community wrestled with the thorny issue of incorporation.

Beyond the religious and political spheres, Mangrum was also engaged in the crucial work of community building. His alter ego was “Johnny The Stroller,” the name of his long-running column in the Town-Crier newspaper. He went to events around the young community and wrote about them, always with a focus on weaving together a gathering of transplants from elsewhere into the backbone of a new Wellington community destined for greatness.

In 1976, St. David’s in the Pines Episcopal Church became the first church established in the new community of Wellington. It had a handful of member families when the Rev. John F. Mangrum became its second rector in 1979.

Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Mangrum grew up with a deep love of baseball and music. He served in the Pacific during World War II after doing his basic training here in Palm Beach County. After the war, he studied at the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University before returning to Michigan to serve as an Episcopal priest.

After several postings in Michigan, he moved to Florida with his wife Shirley in the mid-1950s, serving at congregations in Mount Dora, Avon Park, Tampa, Jacksonville and then Clewiston. He was serving in the Glades when he first heard of the huge new development known as Wellington, and when the position at St. David’s became available, Mangrum jumped at the chance to be involved.

Through the boom years of the 1980s, Mangrum grew his congregation from a few dozen families to more than 400. The church, under his leadership, built a new 300-seat building dedicated on Thanksgiving Day in 1987, and even hosted Prince Charles (now King Charles III) on Easter Sunday in 1980 during one of his polo-playing trips to Wellington.

“He was a very solid priest who brought people into the congregation when Wellington was growing,” recalled Father Steven Thomas, who followed Mangrum as rector at St. David’s. “He was actively involved in the life of the community.”

He first met Mangrum while Thomas was working at St. Andrew’s School in Boca Raton.

“All of the priests in the southern part of Palm Beach County met once a month. I invited him to come to St. Andrew’s for chapel. He would come maybe once a year and give a talk during the children’s service. He was popular. They loved hearing him,” Thomas recalled.

When Mangrum eventually decided to retire in the early 1990s, he brought Thomas to Wellington and urged him to apply for the position.

“He was instrumental in my coming to Wellington and put in a good word for me with the church council. That led to me being involved in the church community for three decades,” said Thomas, who retired as rector at St. David’s in 2023.

Mangrum’s role in the religious life of Wellington wasn’t contained to St. David’s and his Episcopal flock. He was an active member of the community’s clergy association and used the resources at his disposal to support other congregations. As the leader of Wellington’s first established congregation, Mangrum believed it was his sacred duty to help others get started.

St. David’s housed the fledgling congregations of Wellington Presbyterian Church, St. Peter’s United Methodist Church and Temple Beth Torah while they waited for their own properties to be developed. While the parish that became St. Rita Catholic Church never met at St. David’s, a major fundraiser supporting St. Rita was held at St. David’s.

By the early 1980s, there were several thousand residents living in Wellington, which was still largely controlled by developers. In 1981, the developers chose Mangrum for appointment to a seat on the Acme Improvement Board of Supervisors as a representative of the growing residential population. When several Acme seats were opened to the residents through election in 1989, he stayed on the board, this time as an elected representative.

Acme, Wellington’s pre-incorporation government, had limited control, largely over drainage, roads and parks. But it was also one of the only outlets residents had to express their concerns.

“Father Mangrum was a team player. He was always willing to listen to other people’s points of view,” said Kathy Foster, who served alongside Mangrum in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “When I was president of Acme, I could always count on him to help build consensus.”

Foster, who went on to become Wellington’s first mayor after incorporation, said that Mangrum was “definitely committed to the community and to what the people wanted.”

He was particularly useful at representing Wellington before the Palm Beach County Commission and other areas of county government. “A lot of negotiating went on with the county to make sure they didn’t implement something the people of Wellington did not want,” Foster said.

She added that Mangrum’s importance to early Wellington could not be overstated.

“Father Mangrum was an integral leader in the early Wellington community,” Foster said. “He and Father [Walter] Dockerill [of St. Rita] started the ecumenical association to bring all of the different faiths together.”

She particularly recalled his jubilant personality and his love of polo.

“The thing I remember most was that he always had a smile and witty remark for everyone he met,” Foster said. “He reigned every Sunday at his box at polo. He would call out to everyone passing by. He knew everyone’s names, and always had a kind comment to say.”

In his multi-faceted roles as a spiritual leader, elected official and community builder, one of the tools at Mangrum’s fingertips was his weekly “Johnny The Stroller” column in the Town-Crier. He put that famous wit of his to work, pen to paper, to continue building the Wellington community.

Sometimes he mused about community events, such as the Fourth of July fireworks show (“A Big Bang in Wellington”); sometimes he called for needed amenities (“Wellington Needs Its Own Community Center”); or espoused his favorite pastimes (“Polo Is The Place To Be On Sunday Afternoons”). The goal was the same — further the creation of the community called Wellington.

Reflecting years later, he expressed thanks to his good friend, Town-Crier founder Bob Markey Sr., for giving him a platform to continue his mission of preaching the gospel of Wellington.

Aside from all these other roles, Mangrum was also a charter member and president of the Wellington Rotary Club, a founding member of the Palms West Chamber of Commerce, a founding member and board member of the Wellington Boys & Girls Club, and a board member with the Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center.

In 1997, seven years after retiring from St. David’s, Mangrum and his wife left Wellington for a retirement community in Boca Raton. He did return on occasion, including to receive a community service award from the Town-Crier in 2000 and to have his name placed on Wellington’s Founders Plaque in 2003.

Shirley Mangrum passed away in 2001, while Father John Mangrum died March 18, 2010, at the age of 87.

“It was the great Henry Pitt Van Dusen who said that the minister is the duly accredited friend of the whole community,” Mangrum said when interviewed for his Town-Crier community service award in 2000. “That idea has governed my whole life. In Wellington, that is what I was, and that is why you were here talking to me today.”

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A Expert Eye For Equine Art

A Expert Eye For Equine Art
International Fine Art Photographer Irina Kazaridi Is A Master With The Camera

By Mike May

Every year during the winter season, Wellington is home of many specialists in the equestrian world — riders, owners, trainers, grooms, breeders, coaches, journalists and more. Among the visitors are world-renowned equestrian photographers, and this year, that group included Irina Kazaridi, a fine art photographer who specializes in equestrian and polo photography.

Kazaridi hails from Beaulieu-sur-Mer, a scenic town in the south of France located between Nice and Monaco.

Recently, Kazaridi spent two months in Wellington, and she was not alone.

“My family joined me on this trip, so we combined it with a holiday,” she explained.

During the trip, she was able to mix business with pleasure.

“The main reason for coming to Wellington was the Winter Equestrian Festival, a unique and beautiful event that reunites the most elegant equestrian society and their most amazing horses,” Kazaridi said. “I had two small exhibitions of my work planned. One was at the beautiful private equestrian property in Wellington, Double A Stables, and another at the Longines Global Champions Tour in Miami. It was a great opportunity to showcase my work.”

Kazaridi has been taking photographs and showcasing her unique work for more than 10 years.

“I’ve been in the equestrian photography business since 2013, starting with polo in Saint-Tropez, which is near my home,” Kazaridi said. “Over the past 11 years, I’ve traveled the world to the most beautiful equestrian events.”

She excels in taking pictures of a wide variety of equine subjects.

“I photograph all types of horses, including jumpers, dressage, polo and racing horses,” Kazaridi explained.

She specializes in taking pictures of horses because of the appeal of the unexpected.

“I am drawn to taking pictures of horses because of the unpredictability of shooting, and the excitement of chasing the perfect shot,” Kazaridi said. “It’s also satisfying to see my works adorn the most sophisticated interiors.”

While Kazaridi knows how to take great pictures, her ability to bring that photo to life, so to speak, is what makes her artwork uniquely special.

“My specialty is creating fine art portraits for interior décor, and I collaborate with designers worldwide,” Kazaridi said.

One of Kazaridi’s biggest fans is equestrian Ariane Stiegler, president of Double A Stables in Wellington.

“What caught my eye was how she reached into horses’ souls and photographed them in a very unusual way — portraying only parts of their anatomy,” Stiegler said. “Her prints are large, extremely powerful and decorative. I knew when I called her that her uniqueness would set her apart from all traditional photographers in the United States and worldwide. I truly believe she is one of a kind.”

Kazaridi’s latest project is a new and different kind of equine pictorial.

“Now, I’m working on my new book of fine art photographs of the white wild horses of Camargue,” Kazaridi said. “It’s in the Provence region, in the south of France.”

Stiegler knows that Kazaridi’s new project will be well received by the general public, especially by horse lovers.

“She is extremely creative and her new endeavor of shooting horses in Camargue and putting together a book will propel her to new heights,” Stiegler said.

To learn more about the equine fine art photography of Irina Kazaridi, visit www.horseprintcollection.com.

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