Tuesday, July 30, 2013

One a miracle child, one who needs a miracle

One little girl, 6-year-old Onicka Patterson, is a miracle child.
One little boy, an unidentified 4-year-old, needs a miracle.
A sobering juxtaposition of two innocent Bradenton lives impacted by violent circumstances over which neither had any control.
Last December Onicka survived a terrible car wreck and a traumatic head injury, but lived to thank her rescuers -- Longboat Key firefighter paramedic Brian Kolesa and Manatee County EMS medics Kevin Mackin and Jesse Mannix -- in an emotional reunion Monday.
The same day a 4-year-old boy lie in All Children's Hospital, blinded permanently in one eye
after he was struck by an errant bullet that entered his home after being fired in a drive-by shooting last Saturday.
According to Rev. Bob Sichta of Congregational United Church of Christ, which rents the house to the boy's mother and boyfriend, the 4-year-old could face further neurological complications.
That Onicka is still the vivacious little girl she was before the accident is heartwarming.
She was in a medically induced coma for almost two weeks.
She suffered not one, or two, but three strokes.
She has a plate in her skull and a permanent shunt to ease the pressure on her brain.
Yet there was Onicka Monday at a  Long Boat Key fire station, doing Miley Cyrus' "Hoedown Throwdown" for her family, friends and admirers.
Her rescuers were blown away.
They didn't think they'd see the day Onicka would be walking and talking, let alone dancing and singing.
The stars were all lined up for her, one rescuer said.
If only that were so for that 4-year-old.
According to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, the boy and his family were at home last Saturday morning when shots were fired by the occupant(s) of one vehicle toward another vehicle, but one of the rounds entered the house and struck the boy's head.
What madness.
Saturday mornings are a special time for a family at home, some rest and relaxation after a long work week, then doing chores and so forth.
To have that shattered and with such awful consequences is terrifying.
The MCSO have identified a "person of interest" who may know what happened in the drive-by shooting, but haven't found them yet.
Meantime, the 4-year-old, a fun-loving, life-loving boy, the pastor said, is in stable condition, responsive to conversations and has movement in his extremities legs.
But the next couple of days are critical.
Whether the boy has permanent brain damage is still too early to tell.
His family prays for a miracle of their own.
A community prays for one, too.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Bringing board, public up to speed on budget vital

There are two interesting photos among the pie charts and data tables in the proposed Manatee School District budget summary.
One shows forest firefighters digging a fireline.
Next to it, yellow crime scene tape before a wall of flames warns: FIRE LINE DO NOT CROSS.
They symbolize the countermeasures built into the district’s revamped budget process to avoid a repeat of what new superintendent Rick Mills called “a culture of rampant, unchecked spending” that brought down the previous administration.
All right.
But the photos are also a metaphor for what will happen if Team Mills doesn’t get this budget business right and get the community on board, too.

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee on Bradenton.com.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Vote early, vote often for Marty the Marauder

Vote for Marty the Marauder!
The Bradenton Marauders’ entertaining mascot has thrown his tri-corner hat back in the race in minor league baseball’s Mascot Mania and needs our community’s help at the MILB.com polls.
The first round of voting ends Aug. 1 and Marty is up against tough Florida State League competition. Phinley of the Clearwater Threshers was a national semifinalist last year.
For voting details, visit www.bradentonmarauders.com
Voting can also be done on twitter. Tweet @The_Marauders and use the hash tag #mascotmania.
Retweets count as votes too
Up to 25 tweet/retweet votes can be cast per day from an individual twitter user.
• Manatee High School’s Andrew Walter is one of 32 students from around the nation participating in the “Economics for Leaders” program hosted by the Foundation for Teaching Economics at Vanderbilt University.
• How many former students of Mary Westendick remember the longtime kindergarten teacher, who taught at Samoset Elementary School from 1954 to 1991?
They’ll be sad to know “Miss Mary” is moving back to Tallahassee where she grew up.
Read more Friday in Vin's People on Bradenton.com.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Palmetto Youth Center cagers eye nationals

Big ups to Palmetto Youth Center Trojan basketball.
Coach Reggie Bellamy's cagers won the USSSA South East Regional Championship for the 17-&-Under Division 2 category in Suwanee, Ga., and qualified for the national championship tournament in Kansas City, Aug. 9-11.
A fundraising campaign is under way to get the team there.
"Our goal is to be able to raise enough money to allow the team to participate in this prestigious event," said Chris Lukowiak, the center's executive director. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these children.. With the community working together, I'm sure we can make it happen."
PYC officials are seeking 120 donors who can give $100 each and, so far, 11 have stepped up with that commitment.
Regardless, any donations will be accepted for the cause.
"This is an excellent group of young  men, dedicated to reaching beyond Palmetto and accomplishing individual and team successes," said Tony Stephens, the center's athletic director. "We are proud their positive activities are bringing rewards."
For more information, call 941-722-0783.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

'That's Dancing' struts its stuff at nationals

Bonnie Gray's dance troupe has done it again.
Students of "That's Dancing!,"  the choreographer's dance education program for adults, shined at the recent
Starpower National Talent Competition in Orlando.
Dancers from around the U.S., and from as far as Guam and Australia vied at the Disney Dolphin Convention Resort. 
The Starfire Competitive Tap Company of Bruce Colby, Susan Wilcox, Evelyn Sturn, Suzy Berinsky, Jeanne Wacker, Vickie Inglese, Mary Pickup took top honors, earning near perfect scores in all of their entries.
The Wilcox, Colby and Sturn trio took the national champion title in the adult duo/trio division.
Colby also won national champion adult soloist honors.
In the adult small group division, the team received second- and third-place national champion honors, titles that go to the highest scoring routines, regardless of dance style.
The team has been together six years and holds four national champion titles in the small group division and two national champion titles for adult duo-trios. It also holds five national champion titles in the adult solo division.    
All their routines were choreographed by Gray, a working professional stage performer and award-winning choreographer.
“That’s Dancing!" offers several levels of tap dancing for adults and classes are held in Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch and St. Petersburg. The next class session is in September.
Visit www.bonniegray.com
Or www.facebook.com/StarfireTapCo. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Can Long Bar Pointe, Cortez Fishing Village coexist?

The view from the rickety dock was so peaceful on those Sunday afternoons.
The idle fishing boats, the wildlife, the mangroves — even the abandoned houseboat — were aglow in the fading sunlight around the northern rim of Sarasota Bay.
This is living, I’d think behind Alcee and Plum Taylor’s old two-story house in Cortez, visiting the gracious couple my first few years here.
Alcee’s gone now and it may be a blessing.
Long Bar Pointe, the coastal resort Carlos Beruff and Larry Lieberman have proposed, must have the feisty Cortezian spinning in his grave.
Beruff got an earful at a town hall meeting last Thursday evening from Cortez folks — Alcee’s widow among them — and other area residents up in arms about the project and its impact on their corner of paradise.

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee on Bradenton.com.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Big fundraiser July 21 for Cortez fisherman

Florence "Di-Di" Foster is surrounded by First Bank friends on State Road 70, who helped her celebrate turning 102 years young.

There’s a 2 p.m. July 21 benefit for longtime Cortez fisherman Mike O’Leary at Swordfish Grill, 4628 119th St. W. The event is help raise funds to defray medical costs for the well known single dad who is battling throat cancer. The event is being supported by Cortez Kitchen, Chop Shop, Sysco, A.P. Bell and Cortez Seafood Market to name a few and will have food, raffles and entertainment.
For details, call Pamela O’Reilly at 941-713-5865. Or email sydneydiving@aol.com or OLearythecrab@gmail.com.

Layna Ryser
Allee Lowry
• You’re never too young to learn about doing good deeds. Allee Lowry, 3, and Layna Ryser, 4, each donated 10 inches of hair for Locks of Love. Allee’s parents are Nicole and Ricky. Layna’s are Leslie and Randy;  Their grandma is Karen Ryser.

• There was no three-peat at the 16th annual Beech Mountain Invitational on beautiful Beech Mountain, N.C. Beall’s executive Jim Simpson dethroned Jay Romine, the tournament winner the last two years and Manatee Technical Institute’s new law enforcement academy director. Simpson also beat Ken Appel and Paul Riesterer in the six-day event.

• Alas, the season is over for the Manatee Cal Ripken 8-&-Under All Stars. Manager Lee Heintz’s ballclub suffered only one loss in postseason, but it happened at the recent state tournament in Palm Beach Gardens, keeping them out of the regionals in Richmond, Va.

Read more Friday in Vin's People on Bradenton.com.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Manatee's got rowing fans in some high places

Gee, I didn't realize we had so many rowing fans in such high places.
Did you?
It was semi-amusing to read the list of our town's officials flying to Switzerland on the public dime to sell the International Federation of Rowing Associations that Sarasota-Bradenton should host the 2017 World Rowing Championship.
Elliott Falcione, the Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director?
OK, he is the county tourism chief and there's some serious tourism money to be made if we get that event four years hence.
Manatee County Commissioner Larry Bustle?
Well, he is the commission chairman. I'll bite.
But Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker, too?
One county administration exec ought to be enough on this entourage that includes several Sarasota representatives, which makes sense since the Benderson Park rowing complex is in Sarasota.
So how did Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston get in on this deal?
Hizzoner must be along to show Bustle and Hunzeker where to go in Zurich and Lucerne for a good time.
Which brings me to the destination of this junket.
In the Alps?
I thought the Swiss were all about skiing.
Given the public money being invested in this excursion, it better succeed.
That the Manatee Tourism Development Council is paying for the Manatee delegation out of visitor bed taxes is only part of it. There's the $2.7 million Manatee and Sarasota County will each guarantee for the 2017 championship, too.
Our competition for the big event is Bulgaria.
We'll find out the winner when the rowing federation meets in September.
In South Korea.
Haven't these rowing people heard of Orlando?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Time for AMI cities, county to hire more lifeguards

Lifeguards apportioned along the 7-mile span of Anna Maria Island are long overdue.
The tragic drowning of Dushay Nelson underlines that need.
That only the Manatee County beaches --- Manatee Beach and Coquina Beach --- have had lifeguards while AMI's three municipalities have not may have worked all these years.
But the time is past.
As Anna Maria Commissioner Gene Aubry  has suggested, it would behoove the three cities to sit down with county officials and determine whether they can produce a plan that works for all.
Naturally, it will cost money.
Yet when it means being able to save one person, such as the unfortunate Winter Haven 14-year-old who drowned last Saturday, does anyone dare put a price tag on a life?
It's amazing that our beaches, the big draw in our county's multi-million dollar tourism industry, have been safeguarded so long for so little expense.
Manatee's annual marine rescue budget?
Just $652,000.
A decade ago that department had a staff of 17.
It is now just 11.
Given the economic impact of our beautiful beaches, one would think there would be sufficient resources on hand to help maintain the safety of the thousands of people who enjoy them daily.
AMI's elected leaders and Manatee County should grasp that and find a solution.
The status quo won't do.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Iwo Jima memorial would be fitting here

Ordinary Americans immortalized by an extraordinary act:
Harlon Block.
John Bradley.
Rene Gagnon.
Ira Hayes.
Franklin Sousley.
Michael Strank.
They were the young men --- all U.S. Marines, save for Bradley, a Navy corpsman --- who raised Old Glory atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima, Feb. 23, 1945.
It is perhaps the most inspiring and enduring image of America’s grueling campaign in the Pacific against the Japanese Empire during the final months of World War II.
An image that resonates for many in our community.
“Bullets, bombs and people falling all over the place,” Iwo Jima veteran Gene Christie told The Herald in 2010. “The word ‘holocaust’ is used a lot, but that’s what Iwo was. A holocaust.”
That image also resonates for veteran Kevin Henault, a Bradenton businessman.
Along with Sarasota businessman Gregg Anderson, he’s spearheading a grassroots fundraising drive to find a home for the Iwo Jima Memorial Statue a five-ton miniature of sculptor Felix de Weldon’s iconic Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va., designed from Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal’s Pulitzer Prize winning picture.
Sarasota passed on the statue early last week.
Henault wants to bring it here.
Here’s to that success.

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee on Bradenton.com.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Vote B'town early, often for 'Friendliest City'

Believe Bradenton is the “Friendly City”?
Then let the rest of the nation in on our little secret by voting for B’town as the Friendliest Small Town in America in Rand McNally’s “Best of the Road 2013” contest.
The Bradenton Area Convention & Visitors Bureau wants to get out the vote
Visit www.bestoftheroad.com for details.

Michael Ohlman is on fire. The Lakewood Ranch High School alum received Carolina League Player of the Week honors for the second straight week. He’s a catcher/DH with the Frederick Keys, the Orioles Advanced-A ballclub in Frederick, Md.
Since coming off the disabled list May 23, Mike has had a hot June batting .356 with 15 extra-base hits, including five home runs — one a three-run walkoff — and 17 RBIs.
He missed six weeks with a shoulder injury suffered on April 15 and in the 35 games since he returned to the lineup, he leads the league in triples (4), on-base percentage (.456) and slugging percentage (.645) and he’s second in batting average (.355), walks (23) and extra-base hits (10).

• That’s 68 years of wedded bliss for Gene and Suzanne Henry.

Read more Friday in Vin's People on Bradenton.com.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

New faces on Meals on Wheels PLUS board

The 2013 Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee executive board has a couple of new faces. They are community volunteer Kathy Martella and Jimmy Stewart of Lakewood Ranch Communities.
They join sitting board members such as chairperson Terry Wells of First America Bank, vice-chairperson Will Robinson of Blalock Walters, treasurer Lynette Edwards, a retired educator, secretary Summer Smith, Bay News 9 reporter, and member-at-large Michelle Detweiler of Detweiler's Propane Gas Service.
Additionally, Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, Vanessa Fine Jewelry, Vernon DeSear of Manatee Memorial Hospital, Mary Forristall of Forristall Enterprises and Al Roach of 20 Minutes to Fitness remain as active board members.
Interested in getting involved with Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee?
Call Kristen Theisen at 941-749-0100.
Or visit www.mealsonwheelsplus.org.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Slowpoke learns a timely lesson from FHP

That's what my wife calls me when I'm behind the wheel.
I believe in taking my time.
If I'm driving in the city or county, I'm usually below speed limit.
On Interstate 75, I'll try to keep up with the flow of traffic.
Works for me.
What happened late last Saturday morning was a good reminder.
Sherri and I were in her new SUV on our way to Brighton, the Seminole casino just this side of Okeechobee.
It's virtually a straight shot east on State Road 70, a leisurely drive through Old Florida and its expansive cattle ranches.
Anyway, as we drove through DeSoto County we noticed an increased presence we see infrequently when we make our periodic excursions to Brighton.
The Florida Highway Patrol.
Nearing Highlands County, we wondered --- are these guys out in force because its the last weekend before the July 4th holiday?
Well, here came another FHP cruiser headed west and I never gave it a second thought.
Until he pulled a U-turn.
Uh, oooh.
"How fast were you going?" Sherri said.
I didn't know.
My wife's new ride has some giddyap and you don't realize you're going that fast.
Too late.
Sure enough, the FHP cruiser gradually closed on me and then its overhead lights came on.
The state trooper was courteous, but got right to the point.
Did we know the speed limit?
It's 60, he said.
We thought it was 70 out there in the wide open spaces.
Oh, boy.
The trooper took my license and paperwork and returned to his cruiser.
My wife kidded we might as well turn around and go home because that ticket might cancel out our casino funds.
But we got a break.
The trooper gave me a warning, instead, and a reminder the speed limit was the same the rest of the way.
After thanking the man effusively, we continued on our way to Brighton.
At 60 mph.
Just my speed.