Former ‘Mr. Basketball’ Dupay discovers glory days later in life

By Mike Hamson
Tribune Correspondent
Published: March 16, 2016

High school and college could have been the glory years for South Tampa resident Teddy Dupay. Instead, he now has found his best years as the head of the Teddy Dupay Basketball Academy.

Some people know Dupay as the former high school All-American point guard and University of Florida basketball star who was kicked out of college for gambling on college sports.

Parents such as Norman Harris of Brandon think of him as the coach who teaches their children jump shots, layups, dribbling, footwork, passing, and defense.

Harris said his sons, Jacob, 15, a ninth-grader, and Henry, 13, a seventh-grader, have gone to Dupay for extensive basketball training.

“Teddy’s attitude has definitely helped them a ton — his positive attitude,” Harris said. “He knows technique. Teddy was Mr. Florida his senior year in high school. He still holds the scoring records for the state of Florida for high school.”

Jacob, a home-schooler, plays…

Fast-pitch softball league preps girls for college

By Mike Hamson
Special Correspondent
Published: February 3, 2016

BRANDON — Dan Carney, coach and president of the Brandon Softball league, said no one goes undrafted in this fast-pitched softball league. On a recent Tuesday night under the lights of Rogers Field at Sadie Park in Brandon, girls in the Ponytails division practiced fielding the ball, pitching and running the bases.

Carney said the league is affiliated with Dixie Softball, which has a motto: “For the fun of the game.”

His goal is to pitch the benefits of the game to more young people who might not realize they can earn a softball scholarship. In February of their senior year, fast-pitch softball players apply for Dixie softball scholarships.

“We need more girls to come out and play softball,” Carney said. “All of the leagues are challenged with that. It’s a fantastic sport and a lot of fun.”

Carney said fast-pitch and slow-pitch softball share similarities. But with fast-pitch, girls can attempt to steal bases and …

Lee Roy Selmon inspired pastor to feed student athletes

By Mike Hamson
Special Correspondent
Published: April 27, 2016

The Rev. Jeffery Singletary of Valrico said he started his Huddle Touch ministry four years ago as a way to pay tribute to a church member who inspired him — Tampa Bay Buccaneer legend Lee Roy Selmon.

Huddle Touch provides mentoring and pregame meals to student athletes at more than 50 schools in Florida. The idea of reaching out to athletes came to Singletary after Lee Roy Selmon passed away. Selmon was a member of his Exciting Central Tampa Baptist Church where Singletary was the pastor before making a separate ministry out of Huddle Touch.

“I was always speaking and doing chapel services for the Bucs, for various NFL football teams, colleges and high schools,” Singletary said. “Lee Roy Selmon was in one of my men’s groups. He came to me when Jefferson High School was going to play the state championship that afternoon. He asked me if I would go and speak at the high school with him. We did, and they went and won …

Artist sings in colors, shares work at Bamboozle Cafe

Tribune correspondent
Published: March 16, 2016

DOWNTOWN – Colene Milligan often says she sings in colors. People who view her art might think they hear the canvas speak to them as she brings an auditory element to the art experience.

Milligan will show her art work at Bamboozle Cafe, 516 N. Tampa, Street, Tampa, from March 26 through April 23. She said she has a great love for music, which is evident in her multi-media pieces.

“Without hesitation, my most cherished painting is ‘Acoustic Waves,’” she said. “I put a piece of my heart in each piece, and this one is an image of its melody.”

Jayne Lisbeth of Seminole Heights said Milligan has exhibited all over California, North Caroline and Florida. Lisbeth said Milligan is known as “Sweet Colene” in the art world.

Lisbeth is helping to coordinate the opening for Milligan’s one-woman show “Splash of Art,” on March 29 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Bamboozle Café.

“We’re very impressed with her art and love her ocean series and…

Father-son duo coach local wrestling team

Special correspondent
Published: February 10, 2016

BRANDON — Russ Cozart, the head wrestling coach at Brandon High, wrestled with challenges on and off the mat. The well-traveled coach won seven world titles in the Veteran’s World tournament, but his biggest battle was dealing with his son’s childhood asthma. He started coaching his son Rocky in the sport of wrestling at the young age of 3.

“We have always had a close relationship,” Russ Cozart said. “It’s a little different trying to be a father and then be a coach. We have always had a building relationship where I wanted to be a great coach to him and great father to him.”

“Rocky, when he was 2 years old, developed severe asthma, the highest level asthma you can have. Through all that, he became one of the most successful wrestlers at Brandon High School, and one of the most successful in the state of Florida.”

Championship wrestlers Russ and Rocky now work together with eager young people attending their Eagl…

Fitlife Foods welcomes 9th location, plans home delivery

BY Mike Hamson
Special correspondent
Published: February 24, 2016

SOUTH TAMPA — When you are crazy busy and working, David Osterweil, the founder of Fitlife Foods, wants you to win. According to his philosophy, winning is about feeling energetic and fit.

“We want people to get addicted to the way they feel,” Osterweil said. “Time is our most precious commodity. It’s the quality of that time that is really most important. There are days you feel great and feel fit. You feel like you can accomplish anything. Those are the days you want to repeat in your life. We all know the days when you feel sluggish.”

Osterweil, of Davis Island, started the concept of fresh, calorie-controlled and pre-packed meals in 2011. He now has nine locations throughout Florida with plans to offer delivery service. Fitlife Foods started at 2946 Providence Lakes Blvd. in Brandon a year ago. Since then, he has opened other franchise locations on South Dale Mabry Highway in South Tampa and North Dale Mabry …

Trinity College inks home-schooled soccer player

Special Correspondent
Published: February 17, 2016

BRANDON — Logan Beach, 17, of Mulberry, loved the game of soccer starting at the age of 4. Thanks to the Tampa Bay Heat, home-school students, including Beach, compete with other athletes and pursue their dreams of playing collegiate soccer.

Beach, a senior, signed his letter of intent at Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon on Feb. 3, which was National Signing Day. He will play soccer for Trinity College of Florida in New Port Richey, where he earned a scholarship.

Beach said he started playing soccer in early 2000s when there was only one home-school group in the area.

“We did not have the greatest team in the world, but we were competitive,” he said.

When he entered seventh grade as a home-schooler, Logan joined the Tampa Bay Heat, an acronym for Home-school Education and Activities Team. He said soccer was something that got him through the daily doldrums.

“It was my fall-back,” he said. “That was my thing.…

YMCA director sets high fundraising goal

Special Correspondent
Published: February 17, 2016

BRANDON — As Dwight Kerr observes cancer survivors exercising at stations as part of the Live Strong program, he says it reminds him of why he loves his job.

Kerr, the district development director for the North Brandon and Campo Family YMCAs, said Live Strong is one of several feel-good programs that benefits from the YMCA’s yearly fundraising campaign.

Kerr said his goal is to help raise $215,000 for the Campo location and $65,000 for the North Brandon YMCA by the end of May.

“My goal is an easy one to do because not one penny of that goes to paint on walls or salaries or equipment,” Kerr said. “It all goes to families, children and not the upkeep of the building.”

“At the Campo Y, over half-a-million dollars each year goes to scholarships or the Live Strong class and cancer survivors. It’s all about the community.”

Kerr said the Campo YMCA is family-friendly, with a focus on youths as well as the 1,500 seniors…

Sharks’ wrestler is Riverview High’s first state champion

Special Correspondent
Published: April 13, 2016
Updated: April 14, 2016 at 03:36 PM

RIVERVIEW – Riverview High School Coach William Sargable says wrestling is a beautiful sport where, no matter if you win or lose, there is no one to point a finger at besides yourself. And he’s proud that one of his outstanding wrestlers recently became Riverview’s first male athlete to win a state championship in any sport.

In early March, Kizhan Clarke won the 2016 Class 3A 132-pound State Championship at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee.

“Kizhan was the first state champ we had,” Sargable said. “Actually he was the first finalist we ever had. Last year he was state runner-up.”

“My greatest accomplishment was winning the state title,” Kizhan said. “It’s a feeling I can’t explain. It takes hard discipline to come back and beat someone who beat you.”

Kizhan, who started wrestling as a freshman at age 15, will sign his letter of intent with Division I American University of Wash…

Spiritual quest takes Ruskin man on 3,000-mile journey

Special Correspondent
Published: April 13, 2016

RUSKIN – Life-affirming vision quests have many benefits. And Tres Smith, of Ruskin, is currently experiencing one riding his bicycle cross country with a group of 25 men and 12 women called Bubba’s Pampered Pedalers.

As part of the group’s “Coast to Coast” tour, the cyclists dipped their rear tires in the Pacific Ocean in San Diego on March 5 and, if all goes as planned, will dip their rear tires in the Atlantic Ocean in Saint Augustine April 25.

Smith is blogging about his 3,000-mile bicycle journey at the site his wife, Mariella, created called “Tres Goes Biking.”

“I wanted to ride across the country my whole life and never had a chance,” he said, adding he finally decided to take the plunge.

A registered nurse certified in rehabilitation nursing and catastrophic case management, Smith credits cycling and activities like “officiating wheelchair rugby, coaching wheelchair softball, sprint triathlons, kayaking, bac…

These Patriots are still playing football

Special Correspondent
Published: February 17, 2016
Updated: February 18, 2016 at 02:11 PM

Mark Krieger never expected to be watching his children play football.

You see, the Dover resident and retired health and physical education teacher doesn’t have any sons, having been blessed with three daughters.

Then came Independence Academy and flag football.

Krieger’s daughter Kay, 12, is a seventh-grader at the school and a member of the Independence Academy Patriots flag football team.

“I think it’s great,” said father Krieger. “I did not have any boys. I wound up with three girls. Kay likes to compete. She likes being with her girlfriends, and she likes to be in shape. She likes being on a team.”

With flag football season kicking off in February, Krieger watched his daughter play at William Owens Pass Sports Complex, 1350 Sydney Dover Road.

He said Independence Academy, 12902 E. U.S. 92, Dover, is about 3 miles from his home. A charter school, the academy’s new build…

Lawn bowling continues through summer – sans snowbirds

Special Correspondent

Published: April 20, 2016
SUN CITY CENTER — As many part-time residents return to the north this summer, about a dozen dedicated lawn bowlers in Kings Point will brave the heat.

Jim Ferguson, 77, the president of the Kings Point West Lawn Bowling Club, said they recently initiated games with the Sun City Center Lawn Bowling Club to keep the game going during the hot summer months.

“We play year round but in the summer we don’t get as many people because the snowbirds go back,” he said. “With our friendly rivalry, we eventually hope to have a trophy presented to the winner, like with hockey you have the Stanley Cup passed about.”

Originally from Philadelphia, Ferguson said it’s the technique that makes the game interesting.

“The bowls (balls) are flat on two sides,” he said. “One side is weighted so when you throw the weighted side it will curve to the right and if you switch it over it goes to the left.”

The object is to come closest to a…

Nam Knights plan ‘Take 2’ event with brats, beer, music

By Mike Hamson
Special Correspondent
Published: April 27, 2016

BRANDON — In life, you always deserve a second chance.

After rain spoiled their annual pig roast fundraiser for the first time in 10 years, members of the Nam Knights MC Westside Chapter plan a “Take 2” event with brats, beer and live music.

Gregg Wyckoff of Fishhawk Ranch, a Vietnam-era veteran who has been a member of the club for a decade, said the club’s pig roast make-up event will take place May 7 at Fox and Hounds British Pub, 229 E. Brandon Blvd., Brandon. They will serve brats outside from 5 to 8 p.m.

The Carlos Dangers Band performs from 8 p.m. to midnight.

“The pig roast on April 2 was pretty much a wash-out thanks to the all-day rain,” Wyckoff said. “We persevered and still made a little money though not what we were aiming for.”

Todd Harr of Fishhawk Ranch, president of the Nam Knights MC Westside Chapter, said the group of motorcycle riders raised about $9,000 to help Haley House fund and the Lynn Sowe…

Community robotics team eyes Arkansas event

By Mike Hamson
Special Correspondent
Published: April 27, 2016

BLOOMINGDALE — Girls who make up the Squirtle Squad Scholars, a Brandon community robotics team, hope to raise $10,000 so they can represent Florida at the Razorback Invitational in Arkansas in May.

Camille Brosch, 12, a sixth-grader at Burns Middle, said she has learned a lot about programming and how to work as part of a community team. She is on a “First Lego League” team comprised of girls ranging in age from 9 to 12 who attend Burns and Turkey Creek middle schools and Lithia Springs and Cimino elementary schools.

“I am really excited to go to the competition in Arkansas to compete against teams from all around the world and see how they chose to do the missions,” Camille said. “I also enjoyed talking about robotics at the Great American Teach-in and helping rookie teams.”

Camille serves as the captain and tech lead for the team that will compete at a statewide competition May 7 at Hillsborough Community College…

Local artists celebrate moms with ‘Spring Fling’

By Mike Hamson
Special Correspondent
Published: April 27, 2016

YBOR CITY — Fifteen local artists will share their collections and creativity during a “Spring Fling: Celebrating Moms,” event on May 6 and May 7, the day before Mother’s Day. The art event takes place at Coppertail Brewing Company’s private loft above the brewery at 2601 East 2nd Ave., Tampa.

Jayne Lisbeth of Seminole Heights, one of the organizers, said pets are welcome.

“We have a lot of art and jewelry, which everyone loves,” she said. “There will be beer and food trucks. It’s a one-stop shopping and love experience to celebrate your mom. Come out and do something fun with her all day.”

She said people will find items and experiences that are non-traditional and unusual. For example, artist Theresa Crout will sell her handmade “voodoods” or voodoo doll art.

Also, Victoria Hawkins gives intuitive art readings.

“She sits down with someone and talks to them about their life and who they are and takes down notes,” L…

Friends take over Bootleggers Brewworx

By Mike Hamson
Special Correspondent
Published: April 20, 2016

As Valrico neighbors, Shaun Goeckner and Mike Pitts brewed beer together for 10 years. The beer-brewing buddies decided to buy Bootleggers Brewworx when the brew-on-site retail store became available last August.

Goeckner said they plan a grand opening May 7 to show people their new expansion and renovations — including a beer-tasting bar.

“I have been brewing for 25 years or longer,” Goeckner said. “There are probably 100 different styles of beers. I’ve made a thousand different batches of beer.”

Originally from California, he got started brewing beer because he loves to cook.

When people visit the tasting bar at their retail store, they will only find Florida-brewed beer, he said.

He recently took a break from teaching people how to craft their own beer to talk about the store that sells wine and beer-making supplies and equipment. They also have classes on creating your own wine and beer, as well as parties.

“We …

Inaugural fishing tourney will see who can catch the most different species

By Mike Hamson Special Correspondent Published: April 20, 2016
RUSKIN — From high leaping snook and easy-to-catch trout to redfish that roam the shallow waters, the species of fish will matter to anglers competing in the first Tampa Bay Fishing Tournament.
Rick Rios of Valrico, a board member for the Greater Brandon Community Foundation Inc., said the nonprofit organization will host its inaugural fishing tournament May 13. Registration is at 7 a.m. followed by an 8 a.m. launch and noon awards party at The Resort and Club at Little Harbor, 536 Bahia Beach Blvd.
“This is the first year we are doing the tournament,” Rios said. “We wanted it to be fun and a little different. We are not giving away cash prizes because it’s for charity. We are giving away trophies. Our first-place winner will be the boat that catches the most different species of fish.”
The tournament is a “boat tournament,” which means anglers will only be able to participate as part of a purchased boat and not as indiv…

New Windmill Taphouse gives customers a healthy buzz

By Mike Hamson
Special Correspondent
Published: April 20, 2016

People who frequent the new Windmill Taphouse, located at 116 N. Kings Ave., Brandon, are likely to walk out with a health buzz.

Chuck Homuth, of Temple Terrace, the owner of Chuck’s Natural Fields Market, expanded recently with a new taphouse adjacent to his Brandon retail store. The taphouse with a 350-square foot “salt cave room” features kombucha teas and local craft beers.

“It’s a cutting-edge new type of thing for this area,” said Homuth, who also owns the Chuck’s in Temple Terrace. “We have health beverages on tap like kombucha, which is a fermented tea made from the kombucha mushrooms with all kind of health benefits such as antioxidants and probiotics.”

Just like beer, kombucha is a fermented beverage that is fizzy but features flavors such as apple, coffee and cream soda. The taphouse also accommodates craft beer lovers.

“We have nine different kombucha teas on tap and six different local craft beers on ta…

Coffee & Art Festival’s publicity page goes viral for organizers

By Mike Hamson
Special Correspondent
Published: April 13, 2016

BRANDON — When Thom Schultz of Brandon put up the Facebook event page for the first Tampa Bay Coffee & Art Festival, he didn’t realize it would go viral.

Schultz, the director of DC Noise company, said the Facebook page “blew up” with interest in the event taking place on April 23 from 6 to 9 p.m. at The Noise Box, 1310 John Moore Road, Brandon.

“We weren’t expecting that,” he said. “We got thousands of people interested in the event. We ended up having to figure out how we are going to accommodate the interest for it. It’s perfect timing because Tampa Bay has become a huge hot spot for craft coffee. The next thing needed was the coffee festival.”

This year’s venue is a facility owned by Christ Community Church. He is already planning to secure a larger venue for next year’s event to have room for the interest of local coffee connoisseurs.

This year’s event will help raise money for the Bay Area Foundation for t…

Girls travel softball team made up of ‘World Series’ champs

By Mike Hamson
Special Correspondent
Published: April 6, 2016

BLOOMINGDALE — Coach D.J. Pena of Valrico led the Bloomingdale Blaze Under 12 Babe Ruth softball team as the girls captured the Florida state crown in 2014. Now, about half of the members of that same softball team continue to work with Pena as part of the Florida Fire 14-and-under travel team.

His travel team is headed to the “Diamond 9 Showcase” in Orlando for a softball tournament the second week of June, followed by a legacy tournament in Atlanta in the middle of July.

“Our goal is to make sure all of our kids have an enjoyable time,” Pena said. “It’s safe. It’s a good environment for the kids. Hopefully we learn a little bit about softball and life’s lessons — that you have to work a little bit to get what you get. More importantly, we tell all of our volunteer coaches to make sure our kids have fun and want to come back next year. We are competing with a lot of activities around these kids.”

One of the members …

Students lead ‘Relay for Life’ event at Armwood

By Mike Hamson
Special Correspondent
Published: April 6, 2016

Adults typically organize the Relay for Life events. This year, students at Armwood High School in Seffner are taking charge to remember loved ones lost to cancer and honor those fighting the disease.

Ashley Johns, 16, a junior at Armwood High, said the students took on the task of organizing the American Cancer Society’s major annual fundraising event.

She is the community liaison for Armwood’s Relay For Life.

“Strong, developed student leaders are working together as a team on a job typically designated for adults,” she said. “In past years, we have had a lack of motivation, spirit, leadership and overall participation. This year, our committee is passionate, persistent and ready to tackle any obstacles head on. As a key club team, we have already raised $700 for the event.”

Though Key Club’s goal is $1,000, the overall fundraising event goal for Armwood is $10,000, according to Johns.

The Armwood Relay For Life ev…

Newsome coach runs football summer camp

By Mike Hamson
Special Correspondent
Published: March 30, 2016

LITHIA — Ken Hiscock, the head football coach at Newsome High, said a winning attitude is what helped the Wolves become district champions three years in row.

Hiscock shares his insider secrets on football success during a summer football camp called, “The Wolf Way.” The camp is for children ages 8 to 13 at the Fishhawk Sports Complex, 16120 Fishhawk Blvd., Lithia.

This spring, he is leading the Newsome football pack. It’s his 11th year as the head football coach at Newsome.

“My goal is to create better men for the community and develop a winning attitude, not only on the field but in all aspects of their lives,” Hiscock said.

He said his key football players at Newsome this spring include Class of 2017 Dylan Throneburg, inside linebacker; Drew Lindbeck, quarterback; Cade Abreu, outside linebacker and Joseph Abreu, defensive end.

“They all have great motors, and they all lead by example of what it takes to be a diff…

Solitary artist goes big and bold with solo art show

By Mike Hamson
Special Correspondent
Published: March 30, 2016

CHANNELSIDE — Leslie Jeffery considers herself a solitary painter — she even loves to paint alone.

Although she does not plan an opening reception for her upcoming solo art show, “Go Big, Go Bold, she will arrange a “meet and greet” lunch sometime during the exhibit dates from April 7 through May 5.

The art exhibit is at Bamboozle Tea Lounge, 109 N. 12th St. in Tampa’s Channelside District.

Jeffery said her paintings convey energy and a mood whether it’s serious or lighthearted.

“I find the painting process exhilarating” she said. “I feel successful when I believe the last painting is my best one.”

Jeffery received her degree in art education and constructive design from Florida State University. Her grandmother, Olivia Whitaker, inspired her to become an artist at an early age.

She said her favorite art piece that will be part of the upcoming show is an abstract piece titled, “Lost in the Moment.”

“I love the depth…

Brandon wrestler faces off with top athletes at all-star meet

By Mike Hamson
Special Correspondent
Published: March 23, 2016

BRANDON — Brandon High School wrestling coach Russ Cozart said he is proud of several senior wrestlers who signed letters of intent with colleges while receiving athletic scholarships.

Cozart helped the Eagles take their 23rd straight Ippolito crown this year but isn’t resting. He just returned from Minnesota with his standout wrestler Kyle Norstrem.

On March 26, Norstrem, 18, will participate in a dual meet format at the 42nd annual Pittsburgh Wrestling classic at the University of Pittsburgh.

“There are two premier all-star meets in the United States,” Cozart said. “They invite the best from the U.S. in their weight class. One is called the Dream Team Classic and the other is called the Pittsburgh Classic. Kyle got invited to both of them.”

Norstrem is the son of Timothy and Nancy Norstrem. His brother Kevin was a five-time Florida state champion who wrestled with the Brandon High Eagles under coach Cozart.


YMCA hosts Southern Charm Etiquette party

By Mike Hamson
Special Correspondent
Published: March 23, 2016

TAMPA — In a world of texting, some say young people — glued to their smartphones — fail to be courteous to others. But thanks to several Brandon and Tampa-area volunteers, some area children recently learned table manners, phone etiquette and how to tie a tie at a Southern Charm Etiquette party sponsored by the YMCA.

Jen Packing-Ebuen, a family practice physician for Florida Hospital Physicians Group in Brandon, was one of the volunteers who helped children at Sulphur Springs K-8 Community School, 8412 N. 13th Street, with basic manners and public speaking.

“The etiquette event is absolutely key in teaching kids and young adults how to present themselves in formal situations, especially when searching for employment,” Packing-Ebuen said. “First, job interviews are stressful enough, and knowing you look the part is a huge confidence builder. This is my first time to this event, but other board members have told me t…

Nam Knights plan pig roast to raise money for veterans

By Mike Hamson
Special Correspondent
Published: March 23, 2016
PLANT CITY — Gregg Wyckoff of Fishhawk Ranch loves the brotherhood of the Nam Knights MC Westside Chapter.

He said the group is hosting its 10th annual pig roast on April 2 from noon to 5 p.m. at Uncle Mike’s Smokehouse Grill, 106 State Road 60 E., Plant City.

Wyckoff, a member of the club for 10 years, said the event will include bands, food and vendors.

“The original chapter in New Jersey was started by guys who were Vietnam veterans,” he said. “They loved to ride bikes. Most of us miss that camaraderie we had with like-minded guys. Then we all realized we like riding motorcycles.”

Retired, Wyckoff is a Vietnam-era veteran. He said the group is also made up of law enforcement personnel.

“That’s the best part for me — the brotherhood,” he said. “We don’t just put money down and join this motorcycle club. We prospect for up to a year to show they really want to be a part of something like this.”

The annual pig roast…

Foolish Function Art lovers to dress up as favorite fools for April 1 exhibit opening

By Mike Hamson
Special Correspondent
Published: March 23, 2016
TAMPA HEIGHTS — Partygoers looking for a new way to celebrate April Fool’s Day can listen to music, play games, dress up and sip craft beer while admiring art.

Jayne Lisbeth said nine local artists will entertain with a “kaleidoscope” of 30 serious and foolish paintings during an interactive art opening for “Fools for Art” on April 1.

“Since the opening reception is on April Fool’s Day, we thought it would be fun to make it a fool’s event — interactive with everyone dressing and portraying their favorite fool,” Lisbeth said.

The opening reception will be from 3 to 9 p.m. April 1 at Hidden Springs Ale Works, Tampa Heights, 1631 N. Franklin St.

“Several of our artists are involved in yoga, which I think comes through in their style of art also,” Lisbeth said. “Artists are definitely a different breed, thinking outside the box and retrieving images from their spirit, interests, past and inner consciousness. Everyone wh…

‘Safety Around Water’ program makes splash at YMCA locations

By Mike Hamson
Special Correspondent
Published: March 9, 2016

Florida Health Department statistics show drowning is the leading cause of death for Florida’s young children.

In fact, Florida loses more children under the age of 5 to drowning compared to any other state.

In Hillsborough County, parents can take advantage of a free Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA Safety Around Water program for children ages 3-12 during the week of March 14-17.

Lalita Llerena, the communications director for the YMCA, said the Safety Around Water program is part of a national YMCA initiative. The program takes place at all of the different YMCA branches in Hillsborough County including the Campo Family YMCA, Bob Gilbertson Central City Family YMCA, Bob Sierra Family YMCA, New Tampa Family YMCA, North Brandon Family YMCA, South Tampa Family YMCA and others.

“We had the free swim program association-wide for two years, but last year it was called SPLASH! Week,” Llerena said. “One of our branches (Bob S…

Bulls take control of rivalry game

By Mike Hamson Special Correspondent Published: March 9,

Bloomingdale High School’s Bulls gained an early advantage against the Brandon High Eagles with Cody Wilson’s two-run double on March 1.
But some players say the real advantage for the team, led by head coach Kris Wilken, is the winning attitude.
The March 1 non-conference game at Brandon High concluded in a 3-1 victory for the Bulls.
Austin James, 18, a Bloomingdale senior who plays shortstop for the Bulls, walked after teammate Nikko Levine had a single to get the momentum going.
“I believe that our biggest competitor is ourselves, and if we don’t beat ourselves with mental mistakes and play the game how we know we can play we can beat any team on the other side of the field,” James said. “The strong point in our team is our team chemistry and how we would do anything for our brothers that keeps us focused on the main goal and that’s winning and becoming better each day.”
James said his goals this season include not only …

Dads practice modern chivalry at Daddy-Daughter Dance

By Mike Hamson
Special Correspondent Published: March 2, 2016

Wearing a wrist corsage with a yellow flower to match the color of her dress, Abigail Essig said she felt like a princess at the Campo Family YMCA’s inaugural Daddy-Daughter Dance.

Whether the fathers opened doors or pulled out chairs for their daughters, the evening was a lesson in modern chivalry.

Abigail pointed out that her father, Daren Essig, also wore yellow rose pinned to his suit for the Feb. 20 event.

“We are here tonight to celebrate and have a daddy daughter date because she is my princess,” Essig said.

A social studies teacher, Essig relocated to Florida from Rhode Island a few years ago with his family.

“I wanted to take her out and spend some quality time with my daughter because I work a lot and I don’t get to spend a lot of time with her,” he said.

More than 100 daughters joined in the dance at the Campo Family YMCA, 3414 Culbreath Road in Valrico.

Moises Lugo brought his daughter, Ramona Lugo, who h…