The 2017 Del Webb Sunbridge Growing Bolder Awards, presented by Senior Resource Alliance and the Winter Park Health Foundation, smashed stereotypes, confronted ageism and honored the power and possibility of aging.
So you think you can't dance? Don’t be so sure. Quin Bommelje was 58 and watching Dancing with the Stars when she decided that she wanted to learn to dance. She and her husband Rick, a professor at Rollins, enrolled in a beginner’s class at Arthur Murray. By all accounts they were both terrible. (Learn more about that story here.)
But Quin, who is now 70, has discovered a passion and a talent that she had no idea existed. Today, she and her partner Misha are one of the top dance teams in the world and Quin is competing against and beating dancers -- some young enough to be her grandchildren.
Meet the Winners of the 2017 Growing Bolder Awards:
The winner of the Greatest Generation Award presented by Westminster Winter Park is Captain Jerry Yellin. Our winner enlisted in the Air Force on his 18th birthday, two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He became a decorated fighter pilot flying the final combat mission of World War II on an airfield near Tokyo. After they were airborne, Japan surrendered but he and his wingman didn’t receive the radio alert. Immediately after carrying out their mission, they banked into a cloud cover and his wingman disappeared, apparently shot down, becoming the final combat death of World War II. The story of his historic final flight is told in the book The Last Fighter Pilot. After the war, he struggled for 30 years with a severe undiagnosed case of PTSD – until 1975 when he found Transcendental Meditation which helped him escape his depression and loneliness. Today he’s the author of 4 books and at age 91 travels the world sharing his story and bringing healing and hope to a new generation of veterans battling post-traumatic stress disorder.
The winner of the Healthy Living Award presented by Florida Blue is Ann Kahl. Ann is well known on the Central Florida running circuit as the one who blows by you wearing a shirt that says on the back – “You’ve just been passed by an 87-year-old.” But leaving people behind is not at all what she is about. She’s the ultimate encourager who inspires everyone she comes in contact with to take control of their own health, to get off the couch and get into life. She’s a retired graphic artist who still practices the art of calligraphy for appreciative clients worldwide. And she’s used that skill to hand letter and publish two how-to-books on fitness. When it was too hot to run, she created a swimming pool running program and hand-illustrated a manual that she gives, free of charge, to anyone who wants one.
The winner of the Spirit to Care Award presented by Florida Hospital is Louis Allen Williams II. Our winner has made caring his way of life through his countless volunteer positions. He’s a tremendous blessing to our community as volunteer at the Orange County Regional History Center , the Orlando Museum of Art, the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, the Enzian Theater, the 33rd Street Jail Ministry, the Bicycle Blessings Ministry and CERT – the Community Emergency Response Team. He’s a Florida Hospital Layman Clergy, and serves the Tuskawilla First Methodist Church through its Food Bank, Men's Group and Christian Blessings Bible Study.
The winner of the Spirit of Collaboration Award presented by Del Webb-Sunbridge is Andrea Eliscu. Andrea is a nationally known medical marketing thought leader and author of multiple books. She is also a tireless connector who knows how to get things done to the benefit of our community. She’s a dedicated philanthropist helping raise awareness and hundreds of thousand of dollars for UF Health Cancer Center at Orlando Health, UCF College of Medicine, the Orlando Ballet, and the Orlando Rowing Club. But her biggest focus in recent years has been the innovative Cops and Kids Dragon Boat Program which she created in 2010 to bridge the divide between inner-city kids and community police officers. The program, one of the most unique mentoring initiatives anywhere, has become a model for similar programs nationwide. She recently helped the club transition from a 100% volunteer organization to an official program of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Florida adding two new teams including one that pairs Orlando firefighters with other at-risk kids.
The winner of What’s Next? Award presented by Great Transitions is Randy Noles. Randy is the son of a Florida publishing icon who’s become one himself. After a longtime and award-winning career in publishing, the iconic Winter Park Magazine, was about to be sold. Fearing for the future of the one-of-a-kind community resource, he became a first-time entrepreneur, leading a group of investors this year, to purchase Winter Park Magazine. He’s the author of two books, one turned into a documentary film, and at age 60, returned to college to pursue his longtime dream of earning a masters degree at Rollins. Not only is he now a student at Rollins but also professor -- teaching classes to both undergraduates and to retirees in the Center for Lifelong Learning.
The winner of the Disrupting Aging Award presented by AARP FLORIDA is Cathy Kerns. For more than 30 years, Cathy was a well known public relations professional, community leader and a committed volunteer member of the AARP Florida Communications, Engagement and Outreach team. After selling the successful PR business that she and her husband built, she became a community activist, advocating for the needs of caregivers — a passion she developed after caring for her husband in his final months despite her own diagnosis of muscular dystrophy. She also started and ran a unique small business called Stylesticks, creating customizable canes made of clear Lucite tubes that can be filled with “whatever” to match the user’s outfit. Her customers included Queen Elizabeth, Joan Rivers and many others. Through it all, she continued her work for AARP, even testifying before Congress. And just weeks before her death less than 60 days ago, she helped the AARP Florida team gather and distribute resources to those affected by Hurricane Irma. Even in declining health she drew energy from helping others and gave energy to all around her.
The winner of the Lifelong Learning Award presented by Woman’s Worth® is Vivian Carrington. "Miss Vi" spent 30 years volunteering at a local hospital and six years getting her Doctor of Ministry degree in hopes of becoming a hospital chaplain only to learn that her degree was from an unaccredited school. So at age 70, undeterred, she enrolled at Rollins College. She persevered through a battle with a severe case of the autoimmune disease lupus that resulted in a 7-year grind to her degree. But as she has always done, she persisted. And recently, at the age of 76, she became one of the oldest Rollins graduates ever. She now has a first-class diploma which she plans to use—especially considering that her stated goal is to live to 120.
The winner of the Career Caregiver Award presented by Pabst Foundation is Dr. John Guarneri. Dr. Guarneri is an OB/GYN physician who during his decades of service, has cared for generations of Central Florida families, always placing a special emphasis on spiritual care as part of his holistic treatment. He learned through interactions with other physicians that most were great at taking care of the body but rarely the mind, and almost never, the spirit. So he led the creation of the Department of Healthcare & Spirituality at Florida Hospital and in his role as the department’s director, he teaches other physicians how to integrate the spiritual aspect of care into their daily clinical practice. He is renowned for being highly creative in his approach to engaging and educating both family and professional caregivers.
The winner of the Dignity and Choice Award presented by Cornerstone Hospice is Margaret O’Neill Quilty. Margaret is a registered nurse who has provided compassionate care to all she’s served for decades. But she always had a heart for helping children, raising 7 of her own: 2 biological, 5 adopted and 4 with special needs. 17 years ago she and her husband began working with babies with medical issues in their home. Now retired, she continues to use her skills as a medical foster parent currently caring for 3 children with major medical problems. Her passion for providing loving care has touched the lives of many Central Florida families.
The winner of the Rock Stars of Aging Award presented by Growing Bolder is 101-year old Mary Ellen Strohaker. As a baby, Mary Ellen was sent to live with her grandmother after her mother died and her father was sent overseas to fight in World War One. Grandma must have done something right because she became one of the first women get a University degree and then spent 40 years working as one of the nation’s first special ed-teachers. Her husband died unexpectedly at age 53 but today, she continues to live in the same house they bought 47 years ago. How’s that for aging in place? Her recent years have been filled with travel, friends and fitness. She is a bit of a celebrity at the Peggy and Phiilip B. Crosby Wellness Center where she has worked out for decades, inspiring all around her to get and keep moving.
The winner of The Power of Community Award presented by Del Webb Sunbridge is John Gabriel. In the late 1980s, John helped launched the Orlando Magic before becoming the team’s general manager. He was the architect of a major reconstruction process that earned him NBA Executive of the Year in 2000 and branded him as one the most innovative thinkers in all of professional sports. In 2011 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease but continued his work in the NBA while dedicating himself to not only maintaining his health but also joining and ultimately helping lead the battle against Parkinson’s. He’s a passionate advocate for research who has raised more than a half-million dollars for the Parkinson’s Association of Central Florida. He is currently an Executive Consultant for the Orlando Magic and Council Member of the Shands Hospital at University of Florida Movement Disorder Clinic.
The winner of the Creative Engagement Award presented by Florida Assisted Living Association is Jodi Tassos. Jodi is a life-long musician whose passion is creating opportunity for others to make music. She currently leads the Young at Heart Chorale of the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park and has performed in the Bach Festival Choir for forty-three seasons. She strives for and expects excellence while giving grace and encouragement along the way. She is a humble, but strong woman who inspires all around her to get off the couch and get into life.
The winner of the Live With Purpose Award presented by Winter Park Health Foundation is William Jones. William is a compassionate, artistic man who volunteers with the CATCH Healthy Habits Program, teaching children about health and wellbeing at the Winter Park Community Center and at the Joe R. Lee Boys and Girls Club in Eatonville. He’s a also musician who volunteers teaching children music at the downtown library on Saturdays. He stays fit by riding his bicycle wherever he goes. And whether it’s sharing fishing techniques, Tai Chi movements, or how to play the steel drums, he is a perfect example of using what you know to have a positive impact on others. As he approaches his 70th birthday, he says he is having the best time of his life because he lives with purpose.
The winner of the Inspired Living Award presented by Allegro is Abraham Gold. Abraham became a first time published author in his mid-80s with his book, Darkness to Light with Hope. In it, he shared for the first time, his family’s heartbreaking story during one of the darkest times in human history. Now 91, this holocaust survivor volunteers at middle schools throughout Central Florida – sharing his story with a new generation to ensure that we never forget. Known for his kind heart and gentle spirit, he is a man of great courage and determination with an unwavering belief in the promise of the future.
The winner of the Show Up Strong Award presented by NeuroSpine Institute is Jocelyn Lowther. Jocelyn is an attorney in Cocoa Beach who entered her first masters track and field meet on her 40th birthday. That year she set all-time state records in the 100, 200 and 400-meter runs. On her 43rd birthday she took up surfing and is now an award-winning surfer. When she developed arthritis in her 50s, she cut back on running and took up swimming which ultimately enabled her to return to running where in her 60s she’s world ranked in the long jump and the sprints. She was the 2015 Florida State Masters Athlete of the Year and has been inducted into of the Space Coast Hall of Fame. In addition to running, surfing and swimming, she participates in yoga and racquetball and says anyone can start being active at any age. In other words, it’s never too late to Show up Strong.
The winner of the Judith Thames Award presented by Senior Resource Alliance is Dr. Annette Kelly. Dr. Kelly is a visionary leader renowned for creating innovative organizations and programs that enable seniors to live life as fully as possible. She is the co-founder of the award-winning Brain Fitness Club, a non-profit for those diagnosed with early memory loss that has become a model for organizations nationwide. She is also the Founder of Neighbors Network, a non-profit that provides the support necessary for older adults to continue living and thriving in their homes. She’s a researcher, nurse practitioner, geriatric caregiver and passionate advocate for the aging. Her lifelong commitment to herself and those she serves is: Stay independent, Stay active, and stay connected.
The winner of the Building a Healthier Community Award presented by UCF College of Medicine is David Shaheen. David is a retired NASA finance manager who has volunteered as a “Standardized Patient”, an SP, since the charter class entered UCF’s medical school in 2009. He plays the role of the sick, the injured and even their families in the medical school’s Clinical Simulation and Training Center. He’s scripted with a specific scenario, from a routine checkup to a life-threatening diagnosis and acts out his medical issue helping students learn to do physical exams, take patient histories and, perhaps most importantly, communicate with clarity and compassion. His work is helping the College of Medicine educate the highly skilled and compassionate doctors of the future.
There was nothing OLD and everything BOLD about the second annual Growing Bolder Awards. We shined the spotlight on local seniors who, as valuable members of our community, are pursuing their passions and living lives of purpose while making a difference in the lives of others.
Move Forward. Give Back.®
There is a rapidly growing number of men and women in every community in America who are living longer than they had planned. They are outliving their money and the result is devastating. One in six older adults goes to bed hungry every night and waiting lists for programs like Meals and Wheels are growing daily.
The 2017 BOLDYs® benefit the Senior Resource Alliance in Central Florida.