Celebration Resident Gets “Cheeky” With Prince Harry

By Cindy Swisher

 Contrary to lyrics of the song from Casablanca, “a kiss is NOT just a kiss”…just ask Celebration’s own Ruth Uffelman.  Not only did Prince Harry kiss her hand (not once but twice!) during a chance meeting during the Invictus Games, he also gave her a peck on the cheek.

Ruth shared her experience with her fellow Thriving in Place friends during Friday’s Mini Lunch & Learn after the Games. Clearly smitten, the plucky senior planted a kiss on the handsome royal’s cheek in return and promptly pronounced, “You need a shave!”  He laughed.  Our guess is both are still smiling!

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Celebration Foundation Volunteer Appreciation

By Mary Pat Rosenthal and Jennifer DiDomenico

 Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in. ~ Author Unknown

Celebration Foundation had the pleasure of honoring its many volunteers during National Volunteer Week, 2016.  The volunteers were treated to a lunch and dessert provided by Unidos of Kissimmee.

Recently the Foundation’s Community Impact program, chaired by board member Eric Domis, awarded $1,500 to the Celebration High School’s Technology Student Association.  TSA fosters personal growth, leadership & opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math at both state and national level competitions.  The students gave testimonials as to how being a member of the TSA group has impacted and improved their lives.  Funds provided to the TSA group enabled them to attend state and national level competitions of which one student placed 1st and two students placed 7th at the State competition.  Those attending the lunch were Meghan Bobola, Daniel Curtis, Michael Curtis, Brittany Findley, Joshua Morales, Mr. Steve Curtis and Chapter Advisor, Theresa Bobola.

“This program has changed my life in many ways,” said one of the students. “Thank you for your support.”

Mr. Anil Gupta, Celebration resident and author of Immediate Happiness – an inspirational Amazon #1 Bestseller, delivered an entertaining and interesting perspective on the topic of “Happiness”.  He highlighted tools to assist all in finding their own abundance, happiness and fulfillment.  Mr. Gupta believes in the 3 “G’s” to unearth true happiness:  1) Grow emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally; 2)Give your time, your energy, your love, your passion,  give to the world without expecting anything back; and 3)Be grateful for what you have and don’t focus on what you don’t have.

“Life is about how you make people feel. What are the two most important aspects of life? Health and relationships. It is not about what you say, but how you say it,” said Gupta. “I am totally indebted to The Celebration Foundation, as this was my children’s first real experience of organized service which enabled [them] to become leaders of leaders.”

Celebration Foundation Board Chairwoman, Eileen Crawford followed Mr. Gupta and praised the Foundation Volunteers for exhibiting the 3 “G’s” of happiness.  The many programs supported by the Foundation would not be possible without the help, heart and assistance of its volunteers.  On behalf of the Board and staff, Ms. Crawford extended her heartfelt gratitude to all its loyal and hardworking volunteers.

Gloria Niec, Executive Director of the Celebration Foundation, closed the event on a “Happy” note by personally thanking all in attendance and expressing gratitude for volunteers unable to attend.  A drawing was held and lucky winners received gift certificates generously donated by Celebration businesses including Best Cleaners of Orlando located in Celebration, Immediate Happiness books by Anil Gupta, Pei Wei Restaurant, The Salon by Rebecca Juarez and 5 Guys Hamburgers.

I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks. ~ William Shakespeare

Thriving in Place has a New Partner!

By Neal Lincoln

Thriving in Place Program Manager Neal Lincoln recently met with Sean Barton, General Manager at Celebration Hardware, to present them with a plaque expressing their appreciation for being a “Proud Partner” of the Thriving program. Thriving in Place is a program of the Celebration Foundation that strives to allow those over 55 or folks living with a disability to stay in their Celebration homes as long as possible.

Celebration Hardware offers a 10% discount to Thriving in Place members, who certainly appreciate the opportunity to give their support to one of our local businesses.

Thriving in Place thanks Celebration Hardware for their generous support.


Celebrating Special Birthdays!

By Susan Denardis and Ron Nock

Erma and Vee Motley recently celebrated their 90th Birthdays at Heritage Hall in Celebration. Erma was born on February 16, 1926 and Vee was born on April 25, 1926. They first met when they were in the fourth grade.

They married on December 19, 1946 after WWII when Vee was a junior in college and have been married for 69 years. They have three children, a daughter who lives with them and son who also lives in Celebration. Another son lives in California.

Celebration has been their home for 13 years. Some of their Celebration friends made donations to the Celebration Foundation in honor of their 90th birthdays! Happy Birthday Erma and Vee!

Spring Showers and Concerts in the Park

by Shelby Lomen

 We all know that the springtime weather in Central Florida can be unpredictable and we certainly found that out at our first scheduled concert of our new Concerts in the Park series! We hope to be able to feature our Celebration High School bands in the future.

Of course, we were so pleased to be able to bring you the UCF Flying Horse Big Band for an evening of great jazz! Led by Jeff Rupert, the Flying Horse Big Band treated the audience to a wonderful collection of old familiar tunes and some new, original creations.

Jeff Rupert is a Yamaha Performing Artist and has performed with greats like Maynard Ferguson, Mel Tormé and Benny Carter. Mr. Rupert is also a Grammy Award winner and in 2014 was named a Pegasus Professor, the highest academic award available from the University of Central Florida.

Mr. Harley and The Strollers joined us for our first concert for kids! Mr. Harley hails from the Orlando area and has been performing children’s music for more than 10 years. His songs have been featured on the Today Show and radio stations across the U.S.

It was a wonderful dance party for kids and adults alike!

Alas, we were again greeted by Mother Nature and were unable to feature the Osceola County School for the Arts, another group we hope to see in town in the future.

We hope everyone enjoyed our concerts, thank you for coming out to support us.

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WINGS Flies High at the K-8

By Eileen Crawford

On May 9 over 100 5th-8th graders, parent volunteers, and Osceola School District administrators gathered at the 851 Building to celebrate the end of another great year of WINGS at Celebration K-8.

The “Power Breakfast” was the culmination of a dynamic year of programing that began in September with a school assembly, and built monthly through “Power Lunches” where middle school students talked about the challenges that face them every day, and how they can reach out and help each other manage and conquer them. This is the second year of the program at the K-8, where participation grew 30% from WINGS’ inaugural year.

This year’s breakfast celebrated women’s march through history and was highlighted by a spirited talk and Q&A from Celebration resident and WINGS co-founder, former Colorado Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder.  “Congresswoman Schroeder is a gem for our children” offered Eileen Crawford, who co-facilitates the Power Lunch program with school counselors Rose Pollzzie and Jannine Martino.  “She has been involved from the beginning and participates in our assemblies and events, so now the kids know her and are able to learn about leadership and women’s history in government first-hand through her humor and stories about life in Washington.”

WINGS – The Women’s Initiative Nurturing Girls’ Strength – first took flight in November, 2013 when a group of local women came together in Celebration to share concerns about the onslaught of negative media and role models influencing girls and young women. From that meeting, the 24 WINGS founders vowed to take action to lift girls to be courageous in reaching for their dreams, and fearless in pursuing them.

Now an initiative of The Celebration Foundation, WINGS has produced two large events – in Celebration and Kissimmee – that featured keynote speakers, workshops, lunch, and fun surprises to inspire girls and those who love them to reach their goals in school and in life.

It sponsored an inspirational concert with local singer/songwriter Kellie Haddock, and sent students to visit Tallahassee to learn about leadership at the state level.  WINGS strives to utilize a variety of delivery methods to empower girls and women and is always looking for imaginative ways to inspire them to lead stronger, more confident lives. “Our hope is that all who are touched by WINGS soar to their highest potential.”


2016 Celebration Foundation Scholarship Winners

The Celebration Foundation was pleased to award scholarships to the following Celebration High School Students or Celebration Resident Students.

Farah Ali

Julia Battalino

Breanna Bechtel

Nicholas Eynon

Sophia Graves

Kerstin Heinrich

Phebe Lemert

Mason Oliver

Nicolette Roe

Aiden Searcy

Tiarnach Torrens

Faith Weber

Celebration Foundation Scholarship 2016

Amanda Platt Charms the Audience

By Jennifer DiDomenico

On March 19, the Celebration Foundation welcomed The Honeycutters to the Presbyterian Church as part of its seasonal concert series. The Asheville, NC-based band took listeners to their country roots with their unique southern sound.

Led by songwriter Amanda Anne Platt, The Honeycutters first played several tracks from their newest album, Me Oh My— an album written and produced by Platt, threaded with themes of love, loss, acceptance and regrowth.

The Honeycutters also includes Tal Taylor on mandolin, Rick Cooper on bass, Josh Milligan on drums and Matt Smith on pedal steel, electric guitar and dobro. Together they produce a sound that travels from intimate church settings to local bars, to huge music festivals.

“We really do love playing in churches,” said Platt. “The sound is always so good and we love playing for such an attentive audience.”

Throughout the evening, Platt shared some special moments in her life that influenced the lyrics to her songs. She wrote “Wedding Song” for her best friend’s wedding day.

The Honeycutters concluded their performance with songs from their first album, When Bitter Met Sweet, and ended with their first big hit “Irene”.

“Celebration is a lovely town,” said Platt. “We want to thank you all for having us here.” The band’s fourth studio album, On The Ropes, will be released May 20. Tour dates can be found on their website: www.Honeycutters.com.

Grammy Award Winners Play in Celebration Before Heading to the White House

By Jennifer DiDomenico

The Celebration Foundation presented its last concert of the 2015-2016 Concert Series on April 9. Grammy Award winning Rebirth Brass Band took the stage, playing many of the songs that have become the soundtrack to the entire City of New Orleans.

“We want you to sit back, relax and enjoy the music,” said Chad Quentin, Rebirth member. “We’re gonna keep the music rollin’ on.” With its innovative, contemporary approach to New Orleans music, the band kept listeners clapping along and dancing in (and out!) of their seats all night long.

Rebirth Brass Band was formed in 1983, by the Frazier brothers. The band has evolved from playing the streets of the French Quarter, to playing festivals and stages all over the world. It currently consists of both first and second generation members.

The release of the “Rebirth of New Orleans” album in 2011 earned the band the title of the first brass band to win a Grammy Award in 2012. The album also reached #9 on the Billboard Jazz Chart and #1 on the CMJ Jazz Charts. Rebirth Brass Band performed at the White House for the fifth anniversary of International Jazz Day last month.

Outside of performing, Rebirth member Derrick Tabb founded “The Roots of Music”— a nonprofit organization with an education program that strives to keep children off the streets and support economic development efforts in the City of New Orleans. Visit TheRootsOfMusic.org for more information.

Without a doubt, the 2015-2016 Concert Series ended on a high note.

“Thank you for sharing this wonderful concert with us,” said Gloria Niec, executive director at the Celebration Foundation. “We want to thank the committee, our residents and the concert sponsors — we couldn’t make these concerts happen without you.”


Chad Honoré, trumpeter with the Rebirth Brass Band, asked to have his picture taken with our two 91-year old WWII Veterans who both fought in The Battle of the Bulge and at Normandy…John Colacchio (Celebration) and Harry Westcott (Kissimmee). Chad says he wants to show this to the President when the band plays at the White House next week.

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Celebration Girl Scouts Visit with Thriving Members

By Faith Kramer, Troop Leader

Celebration Girl Scout Troop 1280 joined members of Thriving in Place for lunch. These 3rd grade girls exchanged stories with the members on how they earned their favorite badges and the members reminisced about their campout days.

The girls assisted in serving and clean up after they enjoyed the great salad bar. The girls brought fruit and homemade cookies to the mix.

Our next visit is planned for June, when music and dancing will be at the Thriving in Place Meeting and the members will help the girl scouts earn their dance badge. We are looking forward to continue to work together to join the generations in town. Girl Scout Troop 1280 would like to thank the Celebration Foundation and Thriving in Place for their hospitality.


Garden Club Wow Thriving Members with Ikebana

On Monday, March 28th, members of the Garden Club of Celebration gave a presentation on Ikebana – the Japanese art of flower arrangement and treated Thriving members to a delicious lunch.

Judith Rankine shared with the group that Ikebana can be based on one’s personality.  The vase, the type of flowers and the colors are all important based on your personality.   The Garden Club gave everyone a quick version of the Myers/Briggs personality test to decide everyone’s best arrangement. For example, a black vase may symbolize an introvert’s preference to be a little more closed off while an extrovert may use a clear blue shallow vase, indicating an eagerness to be the center of attention.

The room was packed with smiles and laughter that afternoon, and everyone was able to take their beautiful flower arrangements home to display.

Judith and fellow Garden Club members, Judi Nelson and Sylvia Cocks, paid particular attention to details and everyone enjoyed the “flower pot desserts”.

Thriving in Place can’t thank The Garden Club enough for such a wonderful presentation and all of the hard work they put into making our member’s day brighter.

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Celebrating Thriving in Place Six Month Anniversary –

We wish to thank our great volunteers, Sponsors and Partners for our success so far!

By Neal Lincoln (Thriving in Place Program Manager)

Thriving in Place was founded by the Celebration Foundation to enable seniors and those living with a disability the chance to remain in their Celebration residences as long as possible.  The program does this through volunteer efforts to provide transportation, errand assistance, handyperson services, companion visits and social activities; including lunches, speaker series events, and games and crafts, through our use of the Jones room.  Thriving also offers excursion opportunities, both inside and outside of Celebration, to our members.

This effort would not be possible without all of our fantastic volunteers, who since our launch date on October 15th 2015, have donated a total of 488 hours of service.  The list of volunteers is unfortunately too long to post here, but I am sure if you look around your neighborhood you will see someone who has lent us a hand!

We also wish to thank our Corporate Partners including Florida Hospital Celebration Health, Celebration Hardware, Chick-Fil-A, Flippers Pizza and Sweet Escapes for their continued support for our program!  Celebration Health provides a myriad of discounts and services to our members not the least of which is a substantial discount to their fitness facility; Celebration Hardware provides a discount to our members both in-store and on-line, and Chick-Fil-A, Flippers Pizza and Sweet Escapes have supported the program through donations of food to our regular Lunch Bunches!

We also wish to thank those in the community who have given generously to help us offset the inevitable costs associated with running a program of this size!  We have received grants or donations from Celebration Health, Brightstar Care, Big Rock Partners, Rotary Club of Celebration, Celebration Marathon, Garden Club of Celebration, and lead gifts from some Celebration families including the Kirschners, Kinsers and Newkirk/Tzchanz.

At our six month anniversary we currently have 65 members and 69 volunteers creating a unique environment in today’s America, an environment with “Neighbors helping Neighbors”, and we couldn’t have done it without everyone’s help!

So thank you all for your support, and here’s to many years of success together!!


Gloria Niec Honored as a Woman Warrior of Osceola County

Five professional women in Osceola County were recognized at a recent County Commission meeting for their local contributions to commemorate Women’s History Month. Each of the County Commissioners selected a recipient based on her advocacy and volunteerism within the county.

Gloria Niec, Executive Director of the Celebration Foundation, was nominated by Commissioner Michael Harford.

He shared some of her accomplishments.

She has led thousands of volunteers to pack over 850,000 meals for Osceola County crisis food pantries.

She was also instrumental in starting Osceola Connected, which combats childhood hunger by providing meals on the weekend to over 1,000 Osceola school students.

She’s also the backbone of a program that takes high school seniors who may not have a plan for college or have never set foot on a campus on trips to Valencia College and Technical Education Center Osceola (TECO) to expose them to the possibility of continuing their education.

“She gives children a chance to see possibilities,” Harford said. “These graduating seniors had no thought of post-secondary education. These efforts will give tours to 2,000 students this year. They’ve also awarded 28 scholarships to high school students. She saw a need in that. A woman warrior is someone who fights, and I give this to Gloria and the Celebration Foundation for the fight she does.”…Ken Jackson, Osceola News Gazette