Ruiz Promoted to Destin Commons' Senior Director of Marketing & Leasing
’ managing partner Turnberry Associates of South Florida announced the promotion of Heather Ruiz to Senior Director of Marketing & Leasing. In 2016, Ruiz was the winner of the ICSC (International Council of Shopping Centers) Foundation’s John T. Riordan Professional Education Development Scholarship and has now completed both Marketing I and Marketing II courses. Her involvement in the community on behalf of Destin Commons is extensive. Most recently, Ruiz was appointed by the Okaloosa County Commission to a four-year unpaid term on the county’s Tourist Development Council (TDC). She has been active with the Destin, Fort Walton, and Niceville chambers of commerce, and serves on the Fort Walton Beach Chamber’s Board of Directors. At the Destin Chamber, Ruiz is a 2015 graduate of Destin Forward, winning that year’s Leadership Award. The Niceville Chamber named Ruiz the recipient of the You Rock Chairman’s Award. She is also a 2016 graduate of Northwest Florida State College’s Leadership Okaloosa. She was named Honorary 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron Commander for 2018. Volunteering with a number of area non-profits is also high on Ruiz’s list of endeavors, including serving on the board of Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation
as the Vice Chairman.
Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation Outreach Puts on FLIGHT! Production at STEMM Academy
The Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation
(MKAF) recently put on a production of FLIGHT! for K-8 students. Made possible by The Windgate Charitable Trust, FLIGHT! combined creative staging, original music, and audience participation into a theatrical production that explored the stories of flight thoughout American history. K-8 students were encouraged to think about the future of flight and their possible participation in it. MKAF Outreach has put on this production at 20 schools and reached more than 4,000 students grades K-8 in Okaloosa and Walton counties.
Five Rehabilitated Sea Turtles Are Released
The Gulfarium's C.A.R.E. Center
released five rehabilitated sea turtles on March 13. Several hundred people were in attendance at Henderson Beach State Park
to witness the event. Four of the five sea turtles released were considered cold stunned. The fifth sea turtle to be released had been at the C.A.R.E. Center since Dec. 3, 2017. Anni, a sub-adult Loggerhead weighing 101 pounds, arrived with a severe entanglement injury to her front right flipper. The fishing line was wrapped around her flipper so tightly it ultimately severed the flipper shortly after her arrival to Gulfarium. In addition to external entanglement injuries, Anni also endured a successful surgery to remove an embedded hook in her system. For more information about the release, please visit the C.A.R.E. Center's Facebook page
Acentria Insurance Continues Expansion in South & Central Florida
continues its expansion into South and Central Florida with the recent partnerships of AllSafe Insurance Group and Asian American Nations Insurance Group. Located in Miami, Allsafe Insurance Group has been a leading provider in South Florida of individualized risk management programs, mainly for the commercial/residential buildings, construction, and hospitality sectors, while also offering a wide range of personal asset protection. Operating in Central Florida, Asian American Nations Insurance Group is located in Lake Mary and specializes in insurance products specifically designed for the hospitality industry. As part of these partnerships, both Allsafe and Asian American Nations Insurance agencies, along with their existing team members, will begin to integrate operations into the Acentria Insurance name, while continuing to operate out of their current locations.
Copy Systems Business Center Consolidates Locations
Copy Systems Business Center, Inc.
, recently consolidated its Destin branch into its long established Santa Rosa County branch, located in The Shoppes at South Haven at 4821 U.S. Hwy. 98 Ste. 102. The company still offers customers in Okaloosa and Walton counties comprehensive business services, including copying and printing, custom printing products, graphic advertising, commercial signage and much more.
Destin Commons Presents Donation to Distinguished Young Women
recently made a $1,000 donation to the Distinguished Young Women of Florida (DYW) organization’s prestigious scholarship program. Young ladies, both local and from around Florida, gathered at Destin Commons for an arrival ceremony for a convention that was hosted by Okaloosa County. The donation was made through Destin Commons’ Coins For A Cause program, which was created to help benefit local charities with the monies collected from the center’s parking meters. Coins For A Cause has donated more than $1.2 million to area charities since its inception 10 years ago. Seen here, Heather Ruiz, Destin Commons’ Senior Director of Marketing & Leasing, presents the check to Carole Bird, representing Distinguished Young Women.
Research Firm Recognizes Top Doctors for Patient Satisfaction
Professional Research Consultants (PRC) has recognized eight physicians and nurse practitioners within Sacred Heart
Medical Group as 5-Star Award Winners in Okaloosa and Walton counties. PRC conducts patient surveys and research for more than 2,000 healthcare organizations, including Sacred Heart. The 5-star providers are those who scored in the top 10 percent nationally on patient satisfaction surveys. The 5-Star Award winners for 2017 are as follows:
• Dr. Glenn Bankert, Crestview, Gynecology
• Dr. Kara Brooks, Crestview, Family Medicine
• Dr. Mark Cooper, Crestview, Family Medicine
• Dr. Ralph Goodman, Emerald Coast, Endocrinology
• Dr. Kerrian Hudson, Destin, Family Medicine
• Dr. Charles Mayes, Emerald Coast, Cardiology
• Dr. Sean McWilliams, Emerald Coast, Otolaryngology
• Dr. Stephen Zimmermann, Niceville/Bluewater Bay, Internal Medicine
Fort Walton Beach Medical Center Performs New Sutureless Aortic Valve Replacement
Fort Walton Beach Medical Center
’s Heart Center recently completed the first minimally invasive sutureless aortic valve replacement in the tricounty area. The surgery was performed on a 62-year-old male. Aortic Valve Rapid deployment is a benefit of the sutureless valve, in patients who have multiple comorbidities, or poor left ventricular function. The use of the sutureless valve in high and intermediate risk patients reduces overall surgical time, thereby reducing the risks of postoperative complications. This technology has been compared to TAVR, showing lower paravalvuar leaks and stroke rates seen in Transcatheter aortic valve replacement.
Tom Saffel Joins Board of ECCAC
Tom Saffel, a Santa Rosa Beach resident for the past 13 years, recently joined the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center
’s (ECCAC) board of directors. Saffel is a soon to be retired business development manager working in sales coordination with key national customers for Kimberly Clark. He and his wife of 37 years, Dana, have made Santa Rosa Beach their “forever home.” They have two grown sons. The Saffels are annual contributors to Alaqua Animal Rescue, Sinfonia Gulf Coast
, American Cancer Society
, and Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation.
Destin Commons Donates to Chamber’s Destin Forward Program
The Coins For A Cause initiative at Destin Commons
recently donated $592.25 to the Destin Chamber’s Destin Forward 2017-2018 Class Project – the beautification of the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation
's Cultural Village. Coins For A Cause was created by Destin Commons to benefit local charities with the monies collected from the center’s parking meters. Learning from experts in many different fields, Destin Forward is a program by the Destin Chamber of Commerce
designed to provide a hands-on learning experience for up to 25 business professionals in a 9-month class from August to May. Each year, the Destin Forward class is tasked with a community project to fundraise and implement before graduation. Seen here, Rachel Guidry, Destin Commons’ Marketing Coordinator and Destin Forward Class of 2018 Class Member, presents the donation to Shane A. Moody, CCE, FCCP, Destin Chamber President and CEO.
ECCAC Receives Donation From Mid Bay Rotary Club
The Mid-Bay Rotary Club recently donated $500 to the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center
(ECCAC). Providing services and emotional support to child victims experiencing abuse, abandonment, or neglect is the 24/7 job of the multi-disciplinary team of staff and volunteers at the ECCAC with locations in Walton and Okaloosa counties. In ECCAC’s 17-year history, right at 11,000 children have received more than 43,000 services at no cost to include mental health therapy, crisis intervention, referrals to other community providers, interviews, and medicals. Pictured here (left to right) are Steve Gardner, Katrina Puri, Kim Henderson and Tom Ockunzzi.
Pediatric Specialists Join Sacred Heart Medical Group at Mack Bayou
Pediatric urologist Dr. Mark Wehry (left) and pediatric gastroenterologists Dr. Sheryl De Leon-Dial (center) and Dr. Nicole Lawrence (right) have begun seeing patients at Sacred Heart
Medical Group at Mack Bayou in Santa Rosa Beach. Wehry is fellowship trained and board certified in pediatric urology. He graduated with his master’s degree in anatomy from the University of Louisville and his medical degree from East Carolina University. Wehry received residency training in general surgery and urology at St. Louis University Hospital. He performed a fellowship in pediatric urology at Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, DE. He is a member of the American Urologic Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, and he has been published in the Journal of Urology and the British Journal of Psychiatry.
De Leon-Dial graduated with her medical degree from the University of the City of Manila in the Philippines, and she completed residency training in pediatrics at Harlem Hospital Center in New York City. She performed a fellowship in pediatric gastroenterology at the University of Florida in Gainesville. De Leon-Dial is a member of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, and the North American Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition.
Lawrence graduated with her bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in chemistry from Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, and she received her medical degree from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn. Lawrence completed her residency training in pediatrics at The Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart, where she received the W. Reed Bell Outstanding Resident Award in her first year and senior year. She performed a fellowship in pediatric gastroenterology at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where she received the Fellow Teaching Award and was named Fellow of the Year. Lawrence is a member of the American College of Gastroenterology, the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Medical Women’s Association, and the North American Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition.
Hilton Sandestin Beach Announces New Spring Menu at Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood
Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa
is home to Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood
, Northwest Florida’s longest standing AAA Four-Diamond Restaurant. Seagar’s just announce its new spring menu. Developed by Executive Chef Laurie Graupner, the menu highlights seasonal favorites, such as Blue Crab Claws sautéed in garlic butter and pancetta; Broiled Gulf Oysters with onion and bacon marmalade; Heureux Farms Pork Belly paired with hand-made horseradish gnocchi; Seared Snapper accompanied with black truffle risotto; Pan-Roasted Grouper garnished with pineapple slaw; and more. New desserts added to the mix include Peaches and Cream with honey ginger cake, macerated peaches, and vanilla custard and “Banana Split” Mousse with milk chocolate mousse, strawberry compote, compressed pineapple, and banana. Visit Seagars.com/menus
to see more.
ECCAC Receives Donation From Island Wing Company
The Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center
(ECCAC) was pleased to accept a $320 check from the team at Island Wing Company
in Destin. The restaurant participated in ECCAC’s February Eating for Advocacy event. In addition to the money raised, the restaurant also collected needed items for the centers. Providing services and emotional support to child victims experiencing abuse, abandonment, or neglect is the 24/7 job of the multi-disciplinary team of staff and volunteers at the ECCAC with locations in Walton and Okaloosa counties. In ECCAC’s 17-year history, right at 11,000 children have received more than 43,000 services at no cost to include mental health therapy, crisis intervention, referrals to other community providers, interviews, and medicals.
ECCAC’s Gala & Golf Event Breaks All Previous Records Raising $230,000
Raising more than $230,000, the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center
(ECCAC) put on its most successful annual Kieran May Memorial Gala & Golf event yet in early March. Guests were moved by a now grown up Katelyn Pendleton sharing her tragic childhood experiences and how ECCAC was instrumental in changing her life for the better. David Seering emceed the Gala, held at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa
, with an energetic live auction. With an impressive $100,000 raised from the live and silent auctions alone, paddles also went up in the air to help both centers in Okaloosa and Walton counties. Mr. Big provided live entertainment throughout the evening. The Kieran May Memorial Golf Classic was held two days after the Gala at Kelly Plantation Golf Club with 116 golfers braving a rain laden day. Both events benefited children by raising funds to provide ECCAC services at no cost to help identify, treat, and support children and their families in abusive situations. Seen here are guest speaker Katelyn Pendleton(left) and Julie Hurst, ECCAC CEO, at the recent Kieran May Memorial Gala.
Merrill Lynch Financial Advisor Ondrejkova Earns Distinguished CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER Designation
announced that Simona Ondrejkova of Merrill Lynch’s Destin office has earned the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER certification awarded by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board) and is allowed to use the CFP® certification mark as an educational credential. The CFP® designation is awarded to individuals who meet rigorous education, examination, experience, ethics, and other requirements set by the CFP Board. Ondrejkova, a resident of Santa Rosa Beach, received a master’s degree from Florida State University and joined Merrill Lynch in 2012. Ondrejkova is located in the Destin Merrill Lynch office at 34990 Emerald Coast Pkwy. and can be reached at (850) 269-7011.
Katrina Puri Is New ECCAC Board Member
Katrina Puri has joined the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center
’s (ECCAC) board of directors. She is an administrator for her husband Dr. Kapil Puri’s urology practice and is active in raising money, toys, and awareness for ECCAC throughout the community. Puri is a native of New Orleans with a B.A. in Business Management from Southeastern Louisiana University. Soon after, she began her career in medical administration at Tulane University Hospital and Clinic in New Orleans. Her love for volunteering began at Tulane, staying long hours after work helping patients from Central America who were survivors of Hurricane Mitch. She is also bilingual, as her parents are from Cuba and Honduras. She met her husband at Tulane, and the couple moved to Niceville in 2004, right at the time of Hurricane Ivan. Soon after, as Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, Katrina and Kapil housed many evacuees, while she also volunteered her time to help storm victims with recovery and relief efforts.
America’s Swimming Pool Company Receives Best In Destin 2018 Award
ASP – America’s Swimming Pool Company
announced the Destin location had been awarded Best In Destin 2018 in the Pool Building/Services category by VIP Destin Magazine
. Each year, VIP Destin Magazine asks readers to cast their votes for their favorite local businesses in an extensive list of categories. This program identifies the top companies that have achieved exceptional customer service and overall business success. America’s Swimming Pool Company is proud to be ranked as the best pool cleaning, repair, and renovation company in Destin and honored to be named alongside other local real estate, lawncare, and property management service businesses.
Sacred Heart Leads the Way in Surgical Revolution Utilizing Highly Automated Robotic Technologies
The Spine Center of Excellence at Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast
sees more than 70 surgical patients each month. Sacred Heart has led the way in transforming spine surgery from freehand procedures to highly efficient, surgeon-assisted, robotic technologies. Welcoming a robot into the operating room may sound like it should be reserved for science fiction, but Sacred Heart Hospital makes us forget it was ever anything but fact. Dr. Kornelis Poelstra is one of a handful of surgeons in the United States who has been expertly trained using the Mazor X, a robot used in spine surgeries that revolutionizes both the operation and the patient’s post-op experience. Poelstra, is the founder of Sacred Heart’s Spine Center, and is the first surgeon in the world to reach the milestone of 300 complex construction patient procedures using the state-of-the-art Mazor X™ Surgical Assurance platform.
Newman-Dailey Real Estate Sales Division Awards Carolyn DiFebo and Mark DeSalvo as the 2017 Fourth Quarter Top Producers
Realtor Carolyn DiFebo (left) and Real Estate Broker Associate Mark DeSalvo (right) were recognized as the 2017 Fourth Quarter Top Producers in Newman-Dailey Resort Properties
’ Real Estate Division. As the top sales agent for the fourth quarter, DiFebo knows Destin and the local real estate market. Working with seasoned investors and first-time buyers alike, DiFebo considers herself a problem solver and a people person. Working in the real estate industry for more than 30 years, she is a Certified Client Care Professional and holds the Military Relocation Professional Certification. She is also very active in the local community and supports a variety of charitable organizations.
As the top listing agent for the fourth quarter, DeSalvo continues to excel for customers. Serving buyers and sellers for more than 16 years, he is the consummate professional with extensive experience guiding customers through the buying and selling process to a successful conclusion. DeSalvo continues to be named Top Sales and Top Listing agent with Newman-Dailey on numerous occasions over the years.
Newman-Dailey Real Estate Sales Division Awards Shannyn Stevenson and Heather Green the Top Real Estate Producers for 2017
Newman-Dailey Resort Properties
awarded Real Estate Agents Shannyn Stevenson (left) and Heather Green (right) as the 2017 Top Producers of the Year. Achieving top sales agent for 2017, Stevenson knows the Gulf Coast. From Destin to Rosemary Beach, she understands the market and helps clients select the best investment property for their budget and lifestyle. Specializing in buying and selling rental investments and second homes, Stevenson has achieved great success putting together deals in the midst of ever changing market conditions and has continued to be one of the top producers at Newman-Dailey.
As the Top Listing Agent for 2017, Green uses statistics and market trends to achieve top values for her clients, which in turn has made her one of the leading real estate agents on the Emerald Coast. With a family history of success in residential and commercial real estate, Green is a natural at helping customers achieve their investment goals. Green reveals that “my extensive sales background has carried over to my real estate career and I pride myself in getting my clients top dollar when selling their properties.”
CIC Golf Tourney Raises $30,000 for Kids
The 12th Annual Children in Crisis
(CIC) Charity Golf Tournament presented by Tom Thumb, held at the Fort Walton Beach Golf Course, raised $30,000 for the abused, neglected, and abandoned children of our community. This year’s winning team was Rich Chase, David Boyd, John Hicks and Mike Davis with a winning score of 57. More than 125 golfers competed for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prizes, including longest drive and closest to the pin awards. Golfers enjoyed a Jim 'N Nick’s Bar-B-Q
lunch prior to play, refreshments and food stops on the course, and heavy hors d’oeuvres by Lesgo Personal Chef at the awards party. There were hole-in-one prizes, door prizes, free golf shirts, and much more! Seen here (left to right) Laura Moore, CIC Volunteer and Events Director and Tournament Committee Chair, and Ken Hair, CIC President and CEO, are pictured with the winning team of Boyd, Chase, Hicks and Davis.
Walton Snowbirds Donate to Children in Crisis
Members of the Walton County Snowbirds, Inc., showed that the panhandle is their winter home, and they are truly at home while in the area. They presented Children in Crisis
(CIC) with a check for $2,000 and pledged their support as members of the community. The 2018 Snowbird President made the presentation on behalf of the membership. Funding for the donation came from proceeds generated during the ladies luncheon and 50/50 drawings. Seen here (left to right), board members of the Walton County Snowbirds Sharon Pinylo and Karen Moosekian present a check for $2,000 to Ken Hair, CIC President and CEO, along with Mike Krueger, Bruce Blundell and Gary Pinylo.
BB&T Bank Team Donates Food to CIC Kids
of Destin helped the kids living at Children in Crisis
(CIC) by holding a food drive. The BB&T Team donated more than a full truckload of food and other need items. Thanks to the generous donations, the kids living at the CIC Neighborhood will have a little extra. Seen here (left to right), Ken Hair, CIC President and CEO, receives a full truckload of food and other needed supplies from John McCain, BB&T of Destin President, along with John’s family and team members.