If you asked them, they’d probably say they’re nothing special. However, they’re going through every day facing a little more of a challenge than the average person, but they meet it and keep going. Lake & Sumter Style is pleased to introduce you to People Who Inspire, those who consider most obstacles just a bump in the road to where they want to go.
Standing on principle
Arek Trenholm, 16, of Leesburg, has spina bifida—a condition that impairs the development of the spinal cord—and has been in a wheelchair since he was 6. Yet when the flag passed by during Leesburg High School’s homecoming parade, Arek did what he shouldn’t be able to do. He stood.
“He has always enjoyed parades and despite his disability, stood for our national anthem, as well as pledges and salutes to the American flag since he was a little boy,” says Arek’s mother, Deree Trenholm.
His uncle, Myron Legget, a local professional photographer, took a picture of Arek’s struggle to stand and salute the flag when the Junior ROTC Color Guard passed by. He posted the photo to Facebook and it went viral—23 billion hits.
The story, picked up by ABC News, caught the eye of Raymond Maczik, who immediately brought it to the attention of his brother, David Maczik, founder and president of The Standing Company in Saginaw, Michigan. For five years, Scott Liesch, a quadriplegic, delivered chairs for the company and trained people how to use them.
“I love my job. Helping other chair users, like Arek, is quite rewarding,” Scott says.
Now Arek can stand easily and salute the flag of the country he so loves. He continues to inspire with his patriotism and can-do spirit.
The bread of life
Philippe and Kathleen Farrugia
When you open the door to a little shop in Grand Island called A Wish or Two Ago, you are hit with the most amazing aroma. It’s a combination of what has been baking all morning—bread, croissants, patisseries, cheesecake, cinnamon rolls (a nod to Americans), cookies, macaroons, biscotti, and other wonderful treats.
Philippe and Kathleen Farrugia own the shop, which also has an array of antiques and home décor items in front. Philippe is a master French baker and makes 20 different types of bread, which are prepared with only the healthiest ingredients.
“We believe this is really a ministry that Jesus has chosen us to do, especially with all the stuff going on with gluten free,” Kathleen says. “What happens is, anything involving dough with enriching, bromating, and bleaching of the flours goes through the body and causes problems.”
She says even the government requires all ingredients listed, but with whole, complex ingredients, the list is small.
“Jesus is the bread of life. He broke bread at the table and said, ‘Partake of this; this is my body.’ He also multiplied the bread, so we know bread is important to us,” Kathleen says. “That’s why we are working here to repair the reputation of bread.”
Their bread is made without any additives, chemicals, or synthetic ingredients. And with flavors like Kalamata olive, cinnamon raisin, rye, nine-grain, sourdough, and even what they call “God bread,” you know you’re getting good, healthy food that will sustain your body.
Two traveling trikes
Mike & Lucia Ratrie
When Mike Ratrie, 62, and his wife Lucia, 56, agreed to take an ambitious ride across the United States, making decisions became the norm. In the four-month, 5,885-mile journey, there were hundreds of decisions. Before they left—how to train, where to train, what to pack, what to sleep in, and what to sleep on. On the road—when to start, what to eat, where to eat, how far to ride, and how fast to ride.
Mike always rode a recumbent bike because of lower back problems. Lucia was sure she’d never ride a three-wheeler. However, an unfortunate automobile accident changed that. After her recovery, the couple was inspired to embark on a cross-country ride and use it to raise money for the McLindon Family Foundation, which provides adaptive bikes to special needs children.
For months, the couple created computer spreadsheets detailing distances and elevations. Because Mike has Type 1 diabetes, they set end points near pharmacies. As a failsafe, they pre-packaged boxes of Mike’s diabetic supplies, which were shipped by a friend from Mount Dora in care of general delivery along the route.
The planning paid off. Aside from a day in Fairplay, Colorado, when altitude sickness affected Mike, it was smooth cycling from the Pacific Coast to Yorktown, Virginia, on the Atlantic, and then home.
June 21 to Oct. 23, 2016
Total mileage: 5,885 miles
Average speed: 10 mph
11,542 feet (Hoosier Pass, Colorado)
Sea level (Outer Banks, North Carolina)
Social media: facebook.com/twotravelingtrikes
Sowing seeds of health
Naturopathic doctor Jan Young spent most of her life giving people “raw” deals. In 1998, long before it was fashionable, she opened a juice bar and veggie cafe called Living Foods in Mount Dora. In addition to managing her store, she taught classes about healthy eating and maintained an organic co-op to provide fresh produce to the community.
“I’ve taught organic eating for 20-some years. I was trained on wheat grass, living foods, eating raw, and helping people regain health through those methods,” she says.
The sign on her front porch says, “Jan’s Place,” and that’s where she’s growing hydroponic organic produce in the peaceful Eustis countryside. Though there are 64 acres on the ranch, the greenhouse for the Living Towers is only 2,200 square feet, yet it produces more than 5,000 plants.
“To grow these crops on the ground you would need between a third and half an acre,” Dr. Young says. She abides by the “80-20 philosophy,” which means if you eat healthy 80 percent of the time, the 20 percent unhealthy is not devastating.
See her website, livingtowers.com, to learn how to grow the plants in a water-based system (hydroponic). The herbs and vegetables produced in her greenhouse are sold directly from the farm, and supply organic co-ops and food banks.
Dr. Young says, “Everything we need to be well is grown on this earth.”
One tough cookie
Recently, Bailey Abbott explained Turner syndrome to her classmates, which made her parents very proud. Bailey just smiles and says, “I’m tough.”
This condition affects only girls and women—one in 2,000. Females have two complete X chromosomes, the sex chromosomes. For those with Turner syndrome, there’s an absence of all or part of the second X chromosome in all or some of the body’s cells. Physical features of girls with Turner syndrome include short stature and lack of ovarian development.
“We were lucky the pediatrician at Leesburg Regional Medical Center recognized the symptoms immediately after Bailey was born,” her mom Ashley says. “Her hands and feet were swollen, she was only 17 inches long, and he ordered blood tests to confirm it.”
Bailey has only one kidney and had to have surgery for aortic coarctation when she was 3 weeks old. Now, she takes a growth hormone injection every night. She also regularly goes to the Turner Syndrome Center at the University of Florida, one of the only centers in the southeastern United States that provides specialized care for these girls with pediatric endocrinology, cardiology, nutrition, psychology, and a research center.
After attending a national conference focusing on Turner syndrome, the Abbotts came home more knowledgeable and with new friends who had daughters like theirs. It was a pivotal moment. They organized their first walk to raise funds for research and recently had the third one. In total, they’ve raised about $75,000 and now want to raise funds to help other families attend the national conference.
Bailey recently learned to ride her bike, something very difficult to do because those with Turner syndrome have balance issues.
“She about wore me out, but she did it,” says Bailey’s father, Chet.
The work of childhood
Dr. Kristi Burns
Dr. Kristi Burns believes recess is one of the most important parts of the school day. Like Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, she believes “play is the work of childhood.”
“In California, [my son] had three recesses every day,” says Dr. Burns, a 1995 graduate of Eustis High School who earned a doctorate in biochemistry from Georgia Institute of Technology. “Now, he was attending a school that did not even have recess for kindergarten students.”
Dr. Burns turned her frustration into activism. It started with picketing outside local elementary schools, then spearheading a social media networking group called Lake County Healthy Schools. She also made recess a focal point of her campaign when she successfully ran for the Lake County School Board District 2 seat in 2016.
Now, as part of a statewide group called Recess for All Florida Students, Dr. Burns and other “recess moms,” as they are affectionately called, have lobbied Tallahassee lawmakers to pass a mandatory requirement that elementary schoolchildren receive 20 minutes of recess each day. Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill, HB 7069, in June.
The passage of the bill is welcome news to Dr. Burns and many other parents who feel maximizing the amount of classroom time for test preparation can be detrimental.
“Lots of research supports recess,” she says. “I’ve never seen any research that is against recess. It is great for motor development, character building, and intellectual stimulation.”
He restores my soul
Pastor Ron Cook
At age 25, Pastor Ron Cook learned a difficult lesson. “Church members told me I didn’t have enough stripes on my back. They said they were going to put some stripes on me,” he says. “That comment really hurt. I needed someone to talk to, but pastors often have nowhere to turn for help.”
At that very moment, a ministry was birthed in his heart. Realizing burnout is a threat to pastors, their families, and their church, Ron wanted to help pastors struggling with the daily demands of ministry.
That dream was realized 15 years ago when he and his wife, Rodetta, formed Care for Pastors, a Leesburg-based ministry that helps leaders from all denominations.
“There are three challenges pastors face in churches,” Ron says. “First, there’s empathy fatigue because we give until we have nothing left to give. Second, there are marital challenges because a pastor and his wife live in a fishbowl. They give everything to the church and have nothing left once they arrive home. The third is church conflict. Sometimes church members have a contradictory vision to what the pastor has.”
Last year, the ministry provided confidential counseling to 800 pastors and/or spouses through Skype, email, and face-to-face interaction. Care for Pastors offers use of the Serenity House, a fully furnished three-bedroom home in Leesburg for pastors who need respite. Pastors from as far away as Canada and the Philippines have stayed in the home.
“God has blessed us with this phenomenal ministry,” he says. “We don’t just focus on the spiritual aspect, but also the emotional and physical aspect.”
For information, visit careforpastors.org or call 352.728.8179.
Mapping a way out of depression
Lisa Cypers Kamen
Lisa Cypers Kamen understands the debilitating effects of depression and calls herself a “reformed depressed person.” She readily admits she was in the “pit of despair,” and now wants to help others get out of it.
“I did not wander into my happy place,” Lisa says. “There was a personal evolution to achieving greater happiness after tremendous challenges. It took work.”
In 2008, Lisa and her now ex-husband separated, and then he was hospitalized. Due to the recession, they eventually lost their home and investments, and he was forced to file for bankruptcy. Things became worse when Lisa’s employer died, and she had no home, no job, and no financial reserves.
For Lisa, however, failure was not an option. She may have been at the bottom of the hill, but she knew the only direction for her was up. The result was a lot of hard work and the writing of the book, “Are We Happy Yet? Eight Keys to Unlocking a Joyful Life.”
She came up with a breakthrough system that helps others cultivate sustainable happiness and well-being.
“Positive psychology focuses on what’s right with life here, now, and tomorrow, rather than ruminating on what’s wrong with it and what happened in the past,” Lisa says.
Her goal is to transform post-traumatic stress into post-traumatic growth. Her key points include accepting the past as a reference point, not a destination; embracing the truth that life is tough, but you can be happy; appreciating why less is often more; and focusing on what’s right, not what’s wrong.