121522_SW_Stories of the Season _DIGITAL EDITION

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O<br />

The heartbeat <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> community<br />


December 15, 2022 — January 4, 2023 | Since 1986<br />

Huntington<br />

Learning Center<br />

Getting Students Back<br />

on Track for Success<br />

Locations in Dr. Phillips<br />

and Winter Garden.

When you want it SOLD<br />

Darrell Nunnelley<br />

407-467-8069<br />

BROKER<br />

6 Beds * 6 Baths * Lake Olivia * Pool * Theater * 2 Story Boathouse * Guest House<br />

For Rent<br />

8 Chase Road<br />

Windermere * Lake Butler<br />

501 Main Street * Windermere * Local Office<br />


www.SouthwestOrlandoBulletin.com x December 15, 2022 — January 4, 2023 x 3

4 x December 15, 2022 — January 4, 2023 x www.SouthwestOrlandoBulletin.com<br />

Meet The Goodless Dermatology Team!<br />

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Treatments for Skin Cancer, Acne Psoriasis, Eczema.<br />

Offering Radiation Therapy (SRT)<br />

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Same day appointments available<br />

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www.SouthwestOrlandoBulletin.com x December 15, 2022 — January 4, 2023 x 5<br />


HOWTO ...........................................................................................6<br />

Protect Your Pets During Fireworks<br />

BUSINESS PROFILE..............................................................................7<br />

Be Part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Royal Landscape Family<br />

PROMOTIONAL FEATURE.....................................................................8<br />

Huntington Learning Center<br />

31ST ANNUAL STORIES OF THE SEASON .......................................... 9<br />

NEWS &BUSINESS BRIEFS................................................................21<br />

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Orlando, FL 32819<br />

407-909-0485<br />

Get started at schwab.com/windermere<br />

December 15, 2022<br />

Volume XXXVII, No. 4<br />


Rick V. Martin<br />


Yvette Martin<br />


Lisa Sagers<br />

lisa@kearneypublishing.com<br />

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Lauren Salinero<br />

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Blair Parke<br />

P.O. Box 851<br />

Windermere, FL 34786<br />

407-351-1573<br />

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6 x December 15, 2022 — January 4, 2023 x www.SouthwestOrlandoBulletin.com<br />

A solitary, high-pitched sizzle resounds<br />

through <strong>the</strong> night followed by<br />

an ear-piercing bang and pop. This<br />

is soon followed by a cacophony <strong>of</strong><br />

bangs, sizzles and pops as <strong>the</strong> night<br />

sky is set alight with a spectacle <strong>of</strong> color<br />

and sound. To many people, fireworks<br />

denote a celebration. To most pets, <strong>the</strong><br />

unexpected loud noises and lights are<br />

a nightmare come to life. When faced<br />

with such an overwhelming display, <strong>the</strong><br />

fight or flight instinct in animals can turn<br />

to panicked flight. If allowed, pets can<br />

flee in terror, not recognizing where is<br />

safe. This leads to an abundance <strong>of</strong> lost<br />

— and possibly injured — pets leading<br />

into <strong>the</strong> new year. Follow <strong>the</strong>se tips<br />

to ensure your pet spends a safe New<br />

Year’s Eve at home:<br />

Restrict pets to <strong>the</strong> house throughout<br />

<strong>the</strong> day and night <strong>of</strong> expected<br />

firework displays. Even if you have a<br />

fenced yard, a panicked animal may<br />

still escape and become lost or potentially<br />

injured. Take your pet out on a<br />

leash for potty breaks before and after<br />

prime time for fireworks, but avoid<br />

walking <strong>the</strong>m during times likely to be<br />

heavy with <strong>the</strong> loud noises.<br />

HOW TO ...<br />

Protect Your Pets During Fireworks<br />

Keep Holidays From Turning Into a Nightmare<br />

by Lauren Salinero<br />

Keep pets calm by following your<br />

normal routine. Have a safe place for<br />

<strong>the</strong>m to rest during festivities with <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

favorite toy, bed and ambient noise —<br />

from a TV or radio — to help drown<br />

out <strong>the</strong> sudden pops and bangs outside.<br />

If possible, stay home to comfort<br />

your pets through <strong>the</strong> ordeal. If you<br />

do plan to leave <strong>the</strong> house, make sure<br />

your pets are secured in your home<br />

and cannot get out on <strong>the</strong>ir own.<br />

Some pets wea<strong>the</strong>r <strong>the</strong> storm <strong>of</strong> fireworks<br />

better than o<strong>the</strong>rs. If yours has<br />

high anxiety or panics easily at loud<br />

noises, consider medication to help<br />

it get through <strong>the</strong> night. Contact your<br />

vet for a sedative or o<strong>the</strong>r anxiety prescription.<br />

Be sure to make an appointment<br />

for medication a couple <strong>of</strong> weeks<br />

before <strong>the</strong> new year, allowing plenty<br />

<strong>of</strong> time to fill <strong>the</strong> prescription. If you<br />

An<br />

animal’s<br />

fight or<br />

flight<br />

instinct<br />

causes<br />

many pets<br />

to hide<br />

or flee<br />

in panic<br />

during<br />

fireworks.<br />

want something more natural, <strong>the</strong>re<br />

are many calming products available<br />

to help ease pets through a stressful<br />

situation. Just remember to consult<br />

your veterinarian before administering<br />

any new foods or supplements.<br />

Microchips and tags are vital in <strong>the</strong><br />

event that your pet does escape your<br />

property. If your pet is lost, having<br />

your information clearly visible on its<br />

tag allows those who find it to contact<br />

you right away. Microchipping is also<br />

essential for a vet to scan <strong>the</strong> animal<br />

and get your information. If your pet<br />

gets lost and does not have any <strong>of</strong> this<br />

identification, be sure to check your<br />

local humane society and animal control.<br />

You can also browse “Found Pet”<br />

postings on social media sites. But, <strong>the</strong><br />

best way to ensure your pet finds its<br />

way back home is to microchip it and<br />

have a tag with your information on<br />

its collar.<br />

However you plan to celebrate<br />

this year, make sure your pets are<br />

safe and comfortable at home and<br />

that you have a plan in case <strong>the</strong>y<br />

do break out <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> house. Whe<strong>the</strong>r<br />

that means using medication to ease<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir anxiety or staying home to<br />

give comfort during <strong>the</strong> worst <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

fireworks, providing your pets with<br />

a safe space throughout <strong>the</strong> noisy<br />

night ensures <strong>the</strong>ir safety well into<br />

<strong>the</strong> new year. ª

“Give <strong>the</strong> gift that keeps on<br />

growing.” That’s one motto Royal<br />

Landscape Nursery in Gotha<br />

uses to encourage people to consider<br />

as <strong>the</strong>y choose Christmas gifts<br />

this year and even into <strong>the</strong> new year.<br />

Royal Landscape Nursery carries<br />

almost everything for anyone’s residential<br />

and/or commercial plant and<br />

hardscape needs.<br />

Family-owned and -operated for<br />

more than 20 years, Royal <strong>of</strong>fers<br />

everything from plants and trees <strong>of</strong><br />

all shapes and sizes to new products<br />

and landscaping materials like sod,<br />

mulch, rock and more with <strong>the</strong> best<br />

quality and prices around. Shopping<br />

local is something people like to do,<br />

and <strong>the</strong> Royal family loves to meet<br />

new neighbors and show <strong>the</strong>ir appreciation<br />

to <strong>the</strong> community by providing<br />

a quality product at a reasonable<br />

price.<br />

The company is currently in <strong>the</strong> process<br />

<strong>of</strong> making some new improvements<br />

to its main location in Gotha.<br />

They are under construction, building<br />

new <strong>of</strong>fices to <strong>of</strong>fer more products<br />

and more ways for people to enjoy<br />

<strong>the</strong> location and find what <strong>the</strong>y need.<br />

“We are trying to make our location<br />

more presentable and more<br />

user-friendly. We are always trying<br />

to [enhance] <strong>the</strong> location and improve<br />

<strong>the</strong> customer experience so it<br />

is better for everyone,” said Connie<br />

Emmerson, co-owner <strong>of</strong> Royal<br />

Landscape with her husband, Steve.<br />

Providing All Your Plant Needs<br />

As you visit Royal Landscape’s<br />

6 acres <strong>of</strong> nursery, you will notice<br />

some new changes to <strong>the</strong> location,<br />

such as new <strong>of</strong>fices and increased<br />

product lines with <strong>the</strong> introduction<br />

<strong>of</strong> Vietnamese hand-glazed pottery<br />

and Adirondack chairs that resemble<br />

au<strong>the</strong>ntic wood but are more durable<br />

and low-maintenance. The new<br />

supplies are <strong>the</strong> perfect additions for<br />

residential patios and even commercial<br />

locations.<br />

“We are constantly striving to expand<br />

<strong>the</strong> customer experience to <strong>of</strong>fer<br />

a one-stop shopping experience<br />

for your residential landscape and<br />

commercial design needs,” Connie<br />

said. “From <strong>the</strong> ground up, we have<br />

<strong>the</strong> mulch, sod, pottery and <strong>the</strong>n<br />


everything you can put in <strong>the</strong> pots<br />

and everything you can put into <strong>the</strong><br />

ground.”<br />

Royal also has a commercial division<br />

that supplies and installs landscaping<br />

materials for commercial<br />

projects.<br />

“We do commercial projects from<br />

<strong>the</strong> ground up for large projects,”<br />

Connie said. “We deal with a lot<br />

<strong>of</strong> high-end construction companies,<br />

where we supply and install<br />

landscape materials and do irrigation<br />

installation from retail plazas to<br />

apartment communities.<br />

“At Royal Landscape Nursery, you<br />

can buy in bulk or one item at a time.<br />

We cater to retail and wholesale customers<br />

alike. If you want to load up<br />

your car, we have staff that can assist<br />

you. Or, if you need delivery, we<br />

also <strong>of</strong>fer that service, as well.”<br />

Being Part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Family<br />

The new changes to Royal<br />

Landscape Nursery are part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

company’s continued efforts to remain<br />

an integral part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Central<br />

Florida community for nursery and<br />

landscaping needs. Customers have<br />

come to know Connie and Steve<br />

well throughout <strong>the</strong> years and have<br />

enjoyed seeing <strong>the</strong>ir daughters, Mia<br />

and Sophie, helping with operations<br />

as well.<br />

The “family” also includes staff<br />

members like Emily, who has been<br />

www.SouthwestOrlandoBulletin.com x December 15, 2022 — January 4, 2023 x 7<br />


Be Part<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Royal Landscape Family<br />

Where Personal Service Comes First<br />

Royal<br />

Landscape<br />

<strong>of</strong>fers 6<br />

acres <strong>of</strong><br />

nursery,<br />

including<br />

new<br />

<strong>of</strong>fices and<br />

increased<br />

product<br />

lines.<br />

<strong>the</strong> first smiling face you see at Royal<br />

Landscape for <strong>the</strong> past three years.<br />

Royal also has several outside staff<br />

members who are ready to answer<br />

customer questions and help with<br />

landscaping needs. Royal is proud<br />

to say <strong>the</strong>y do not have a large<br />

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* Volume toll savings on CFX-owned expressways.<br />

turnover in staff, and <strong>the</strong>y appreciate<br />

<strong>the</strong> employees <strong>the</strong>y have.<br />

“We strive to have a great reputation<br />

around town, and people seem<br />

to like us,” Connie said. “We like to<br />

assure people that we <strong>of</strong>fer you <strong>the</strong><br />

best quality [and] best price. It’s not<br />

always <strong>the</strong> lowest price, but we have<br />

<strong>the</strong> best quality and grow a lot <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

plant materials ourselves, <strong>the</strong>refore<br />

are able to <strong>of</strong>fer a very competitive<br />

price.<br />

“When you buy products from<br />

Royal Landscape Nursery, we always<br />

ask your name. This is so that<br />

our staff can greet you by name <strong>the</strong><br />

next time you come by. Hopefully, it’s<br />

ano<strong>the</strong>r way to make you feel a part<br />

<strong>of</strong> our Royal family.”<br />

Stop in today to check out Royal’s<br />

new changes, and bring your<br />

Christmas list. Remind your friends<br />

and family that gift certificates are<br />

always available and make a great<br />

gift for your holiday shopping.<br />

Royal Landscape Nursery is open Mondays-Fridays<br />

from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m.-noon.<br />

For more information, including holiday hours, visit<br />

www.royallandscapenursery.info. ª

www.SouthwestOrlandoBulletin.com x August 4 — 17, 2022 x 1<br />

Huntington Learning Center<br />

Getting Students Back on Track for Success<br />

Huntington Learning Center<br />

has established itself as a trusted<br />

learning environment for students<br />

in <strong>the</strong> Dr. Phillips, Windermere<br />

and now Winter Garden areas.<br />

This past spring, <strong>the</strong> center opened<br />

a second location in Winter Garden<br />

to better serve families in that area.<br />

In today’s academic environment,<br />

students are facing more challenges<br />

than ever before, but Huntington<br />

Learning Center is prepared and<br />

equipped to help.<br />

Executive Director Aziz Kabani<br />

explained <strong>the</strong> problem facing students<br />

is <strong>the</strong>y have been trying to play<br />

catch up each year since COVID-19.<br />

“We’re still dealing with <strong>the</strong> effects<br />

<strong>of</strong> COVID-19, and we’re seeing issues<br />

arise because <strong>of</strong> that learning loss,”<br />

Kabani said.<br />

Students are already at a disadvantage<br />

going into a new school year.<br />

There is a known learning regression<br />

that happens every summer. When<br />

parents take into consideration <strong>the</strong><br />

challenges that schools have faced<br />

during <strong>the</strong> past couple <strong>of</strong> years, children<br />

aren’t retaining <strong>the</strong> information<br />

<strong>the</strong>y’re learning as well and are struggling<br />

as a result.<br />

Staying One Step Ahead<br />

Huntington Learning Center is committed<br />

to helping students, not just<br />

get back on track, but continue to<br />

progress.<br />

“Our goal is to always have students<br />

working one grade level<br />

ahead,” Kabani said. “We identify<br />

where <strong>the</strong>ir skill level is and build all<br />

<strong>the</strong> way up.”<br />

Huntington Learning Center does<br />

this through thorough evaluation <strong>of</strong><br />

what each student needs and oneon-one<br />

instruction customized to each<br />

child. It also <strong>of</strong>fers a virtual option for<br />

those who aren’t comfortable coming<br />

to <strong>the</strong> center in person. Virtual<br />

students get <strong>the</strong> exact same learning<br />

experience online, as well as access<br />

to <strong>the</strong> same 3,000 pieces <strong>of</strong> curriculum<br />

that is available in <strong>the</strong> center.<br />

Whe<strong>the</strong>r it’s reading, writing or math,<br />

<strong>the</strong> teachers are able to continue oneon-one<br />

instruction online at no extra<br />

charge.<br />

“The first thing we do is give <strong>the</strong><br />

student an assessment to see exactly<br />

where <strong>the</strong>y fall with <strong>the</strong>ir skill level,”<br />

Kabani said. “Our goal is to be able<br />

to identify any setback or any gaps<br />

in <strong>the</strong>ir foundational skills. From <strong>the</strong>re,<br />

we develop a program for each individual<br />

child. There are no two students<br />

in our program that are working<br />

on <strong>the</strong> same curriculum. It’s all based<br />

on specific needs.”<br />

The dedication to each child’s success<br />

and willingness to go above and<br />

beyond are what truly set Huntington<br />

Learning Center apart. The teachers<br />

work in partnership with parents and<br />

schools. They have progress meetings<br />

with <strong>the</strong> child’s parents every few<br />

weeks, so <strong>the</strong>y are informed <strong>of</strong> what<br />

skills <strong>the</strong>ir child is working on and how<br />

he or she is progressing. They may<br />

reach out to <strong>the</strong> student’s teachers at<br />

school to collaborate on <strong>the</strong> best way<br />

to help <strong>the</strong> student progress, and <strong>the</strong>y<br />

are happy to attend IEP or 504 meetings<br />

to advocate for <strong>the</strong> student.<br />

All teachers at Huntington<br />

Learning Center are required to hold<br />


a minimum four-year degree and<br />

must be trained specifically in <strong>the</strong><br />

subject matter <strong>the</strong>y are teaching. The<br />

center has been helping students for<br />

more than 20 years and is accredited<br />

by <strong>the</strong> Middle States Association.<br />

It is also accredited as a private<br />

school by <strong>the</strong> Florida Department <strong>of</strong><br />

Education.<br />

With <strong>the</strong> largest SAT program in<br />

<strong>the</strong> state, <strong>the</strong>ir average test score increases<br />

are impressive. A Huntington<br />

student’s SAT test score will on average<br />

increase by 250 points or more,<br />

and <strong>the</strong>ir ACT test score will on average<br />

increase by 6 points.<br />

“For some people, it’s <strong>the</strong> difference<br />

between even going to college<br />

and not going to college,” Kabani<br />

said.<br />

Huntington Day School<br />

In an effort to enhance learning<br />

even fur<strong>the</strong>r, Huntington Learning<br />

Center opened <strong>the</strong> Huntington<br />

Day School in 2020. The small,<br />

private school accepts K-4 students.<br />

It is accredited by <strong>the</strong> Florida<br />

Department <strong>of</strong> Education, and it mirrors<br />

Orange County Public Schools’<br />

calendar and hours for parents’ convenience.<br />

Many parents will also be<br />

happy to learn that Huntington Day<br />

School is exempt from requiring third<br />

and fourth graders to take <strong>the</strong> FSA.<br />

Building Confidence<br />

in Academics<br />

Confidence-building is a key element<br />

in helping students excel. All<br />

<strong>the</strong> teachers at Huntington Learning<br />

Center aim to encourage <strong>the</strong> students<br />

and boost <strong>the</strong>ir confidence.<br />

Parents who come to Huntington<br />

Learning Center are <strong>of</strong>ten in a contentious<br />

relationship with <strong>the</strong>ir kids.<br />

They feel frustrated and discouraged<br />

at having to fight over homework every<br />

night and not being able to help.<br />

And, <strong>the</strong> kids are doing what Kabani<br />

calls delayed avoidance. They want<br />

to do everything else except <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

homework, because it’s hard. They<br />

want to save <strong>the</strong> hardest thing for<br />

last, and <strong>the</strong>n it doesn’t get done.<br />

“We want to let students know that<br />

<strong>the</strong>y can do <strong>the</strong> work,” Kabani said.<br />

“The biggest complaint we get from<br />

<strong>the</strong> parents is, ‘I cannot sit with my<br />

child and do homework. My daughter<br />

and I get into a fight every single<br />

night about doing this, because it’s<br />

too hard for her, and she doesn’t<br />

want to listen to me.’ When we’re<br />

able to build <strong>the</strong>se skills, <strong>the</strong> student<br />

is able to work independently, and<br />

it changes <strong>the</strong> whole relationship<br />

between <strong>the</strong> parent and <strong>the</strong> child,<br />

because <strong>the</strong>y’re able to get back<br />

to being Mom and Dad and <strong>the</strong><br />

child instead <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> teacher and <strong>the</strong><br />

student.”<br />

After studying at Huntington<br />

Learning Center, <strong>the</strong> same children<br />

who struggled to read when <strong>the</strong>y<br />

started at <strong>the</strong> center are now reading<br />

two or three grade levels ahead.<br />

And, <strong>the</strong>y like it, because <strong>the</strong>y’ve<br />

become good at it. Huntington<br />

Learning Center builds those skills,<br />

and <strong>the</strong> confidence to tackle learning<br />

challenges and excel at <strong>the</strong>m.<br />

For more information, call 407-290-1111 or<br />

visit huntingtonhelps.com/center/dr-phillips or<br />

huntingtonhelps.com/center/winter-garden-fl. ª

31 st<br />

annual<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

<strong>Stories</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

<strong>Season</strong><br />

www.SouthwestOrlandoBulletin.com x December 15, 2022 — January 4, 2023 x 9<br />

<strong>Stories</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Season</strong><br />

The entries submitted for Southwest Orlando Bulletin’s 31st annual <strong>Stories</strong> <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

<strong>Season</strong> contest told tales <strong>of</strong> special visits from Santa, mystical holiday creatures<br />

and <strong>the</strong> joy <strong>of</strong> spending time with family and friends. Whe<strong>the</strong>r <strong>the</strong>y recreate<br />

holiday memories or take readers to imaginary places filled with elves, reindeer<br />

and <strong>the</strong>ir ilk, <strong>the</strong>y are sure to add holiday spirit to all.<br />

Congratulations to first-place winner Ruth Simms <strong>of</strong> Dr. Phillips, runner-up Ben<br />

Costa <strong>of</strong><br />

Westfield Lakes, and child winner Madelynn Valley <strong>of</strong> The Willows at<br />

Lake Rhea, all <strong>of</strong> whom received cash prizes. Also included are submissions<br />

selected as honorable mentions.<br />

The staff <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Southwest Orlando Bulletin extends thank-yous to everyone who<br />

entered <strong>the</strong> contest and wishes a happy holiday season to all.<br />

Winner<br />

The Dad Before Christmas<br />

by Ruth Simms<br />

Dr. Phillips<br />

Mom grabbed a towel<br />

and put out <strong>the</strong> fires.<br />

Dad merely asked her<br />

to hand him <strong>the</strong> pliers.<br />

Frustrated and perplexed<br />

on how to finish this task,<br />

Dad put his tools down<br />

and picked up his flask.<br />

“I’ll leave you alone,<br />

I’m going to bed.<br />

Merry Christmas, my husband,”<br />

she said, <strong>the</strong>n she fled.<br />

‘Twas <strong>the</strong> night before Christmas<br />

and all through his home,<br />

Dad’s children were sleeping,<br />

and he was free to roam.<br />

He put a screw in <strong>the</strong> hole,<br />

but <strong>the</strong> part wouldn’t fit.<br />

Deciding force was needed,<br />

he grabbed his drill bit.<br />

“I can’t watch anymore!”<br />

Mom said in disgust.<br />

“You fix that toy now,<br />

you do what you must!<br />

Dad looked at <strong>the</strong> toys.<br />

Dad looked at <strong>the</strong> mess.<br />

Dad looked at <strong>the</strong> parts,<br />

and he had to confess.<br />

He unpacked <strong>the</strong> toys,<br />

<strong>the</strong> instructions he read,<br />

and he started <strong>the</strong> job<br />

that all dads dread.<br />

“That drill’s too loud!”<br />

Mom whispered to Dad.<br />

“You’ll wake <strong>the</strong> children,<br />

and that would be bad!”<br />

“On Christmas morning<br />

when your children arise,<br />

<strong>the</strong>re better be toys<br />

and no bad surprise.<br />

“I can’t to do it!” he said.<br />

Feeling so sad and blue.<br />


His head he did scratch<br />

as he looked at <strong>the</strong> mess,<br />

and decided it was simpler<br />

if he just tried to guess.<br />

Dad put <strong>the</strong> drill aside,<br />

but he wasn’t too happy.<br />

Without electric tools<br />

this job would be crappy.<br />

His wife stood ready<br />

to hand him <strong>the</strong> tools,<br />

silently wishing he’d<br />

just follow <strong>the</strong> rules.<br />

He went back to <strong>the</strong> part<br />

that still wouldn’t fit,<br />

And he grabbed a hammer<br />

to force <strong>the</strong> screw bit.<br />

The toy was a wagon,<br />

not so hard to build.<br />

To attach a wheel and a handle<br />

would make him look skilled.<br />

With a mighty effort<br />

he swung into <strong>the</strong> job,<br />

but slamming his finger<br />

he stifled a sob.<br />

He spread out <strong>the</strong> parts<br />

as he prepared for his task,<br />

And to give himself courage,<br />

he took a swig from his flask.<br />

Seeing Mom’s face,<br />

he knew it was risky.<br />

But to soo<strong>the</strong> his hurt finger,<br />

he just drank more whiskey.<br />

Mom scowled at <strong>the</strong> whiskey.<br />

Dad pretended not see.<br />

He sorted <strong>the</strong> screws<br />

because neatness is key.<br />

Now, Mom was not happy,<br />

her eyes started bulging.<br />

But she held her tongue<br />

and didn’t scold his indulging.<br />

Once order was established,<br />

he grabbed <strong>the</strong> wagon handle,<br />

because he was clumsy,<br />

he knocked over a candle.<br />

Dad flailed at that screw<br />

until it curved and it bent.<br />

But it didn’t go in,<br />

just left a big dent.

10 x December 15, 2022 — January 4, 2023 x www.SouthwestOrlandoBulletin.com<br />


“But for kids to have Christmas,<br />

I must follow through.”<br />

Perplexed and dismayed<br />

but unwilling to quit,<br />

He looked at <strong>the</strong> parts<br />

and studied <strong>the</strong> kit.<br />

Then a brilliant idea came,<br />

flashing like thunder!<br />

“I know what to do!”<br />

he said filling with wonder.<br />

The next day was Christmas.<br />

And Mom feared for <strong>the</strong> worst.<br />

She feared disappointment,<br />

but her fears were reversed!<br />

The children were screaming<br />

with excited Christmas noise.<br />

Over <strong>the</strong> bikes and <strong>the</strong> wagons<br />

and all <strong>the</strong> great toys.<br />

And in <strong>the</strong> corner, she saw Dad,<br />

sleepy and tired but serene.<br />

Gone was <strong>the</strong> flask,<br />

replaced with caffeine.<br />

“You’ve been up all night!”<br />

She said, giving him a hug.<br />

“How did you do it, my husband?”<br />

In answer, he just gave a shrug.<br />

“All <strong>the</strong> toys are assembled.<br />

Each one looks shiny and new.<br />

You did good,” she said, <strong>the</strong>n<br />

whispered,<br />

“So what did you do?”<br />

“A little <strong>of</strong> this and a little <strong>of</strong> that,”<br />

he used modest inflections.<br />

“But to be truthful, my dear,<br />

I just followed <strong>the</strong> instructions.”<br />

Runner-Up<br />

The Last Toy<br />

by Ben Costa<br />

Westfield Lakes<br />

I sit at <strong>the</strong> back <strong>of</strong> a cold, metal<br />

shelf. It feels like an eternity has<br />

passed since I’ve heard anybody<br />

walk by. The store closes soon, and<br />

I begin to lose hope. I get comfortable<br />

and come to peace with having<br />

to wait for next Christmas, again.<br />

How do <strong>the</strong> employees forget about<br />

me? I’m surrounded by new toys.<br />

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They have flashing lights and bright<br />

colors. I’m easily broken, while <strong>the</strong>y<br />

have tough plastic shells. I hear a set<br />

<strong>of</strong> footsteps coming down my aisle,<br />

but <strong>the</strong>y quickly pass. There’s no way<br />

anybody will find me back here. Oh<br />

well, ano<strong>the</strong>r Christmas without a<br />

home. I close my eyes. Tomorrow is<br />

Christmas Eve, and I doubt people<br />

will be looking for toys <strong>the</strong>n. I fall<br />

asleep in <strong>the</strong> darkness that always<br />

surrounds me.<br />

I wake up to an incredible amount<br />

<strong>of</strong> noise and people talking. This<br />

has to be <strong>the</strong> busiest Christmas Eve I<br />

have ever seen. I start to have hope<br />

for becoming a child’s best friend,<br />

but quickly extinguish <strong>the</strong> feeling as<br />

I do not want to disappoint myself.<br />

The crowd is coming down my aisle,<br />

shuffling as fast as <strong>the</strong>y can to <strong>the</strong><br />

shelf. Toys are being grabbed right<br />

in front <strong>of</strong> me. Suddenly, <strong>the</strong> toy sitting<br />

in front <strong>of</strong> me disappears. The<br />

store lights are blinding, and I am<br />

completely dazed. I feel a hand grab<br />

me, only to let go <strong>the</strong> moment after.<br />

I am knocked to my side, and I lay<br />

<strong>the</strong>re blind and dizzy. There is so<br />

much noise and panic everywhere.<br />

The crowd begins to sound disappointed,<br />

and <strong>the</strong>ir voices move fur<strong>the</strong>r<br />

away from me. I begin to adjust<br />

to <strong>the</strong> bright, white store lights and<br />

see that I am <strong>the</strong> only toy on <strong>the</strong> shelf.<br />

Everything around me is empty, and I<br />

am <strong>the</strong> last toy that remains. At least<br />

I can see light now. The store lights<br />

shut <strong>of</strong>f with a loud thud but quickly<br />

turn back on.<br />

“Please, sir! Just one toy for my<br />

child. Just one ...,” a man says.<br />

The begging man is quickly cut <strong>of</strong>f<br />

by an employee <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> store.<br />

“Alright, alright,” <strong>the</strong> employee says<br />

calmly. “Merry Christmas, sir. Just be<br />

quick.”<br />

“Thank you! Thank you so<br />

much!” says <strong>the</strong> shopper. “M-Merry<br />

Christmas!”<br />

I sit on my shelf knowing that he<br />

won’t find <strong>the</strong> toy he is looking for. All<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> toys in <strong>the</strong> store are sold out.<br />

I’ll just wait for <strong>the</strong> store lights to turn<br />

back <strong>of</strong>f. I hear his footsteps getting<br />

closer. This poor man doesn’t know<br />

that all <strong>the</strong> aisles are empty. His footsteps<br />

slow once he reaches my home.<br />

Suddenly, I feel a hand grab me.<br />

“This is perfect! Excuse me, sir. I<br />

would like this toy!”<br />

The man bolts to <strong>the</strong> checkout and<br />

places me on <strong>the</strong> conveyor.<br />

The employee picks me up and inspects<br />

me.<br />

“Hey, this one doesn’t have a price<br />

tag, and I’m really tired and have to<br />

get home. So, I’ll just let you have it<br />

for free. Does that sound good?” <strong>the</strong><br />

employee says, struggling to keep his<br />

eyes open.<br />

The man looks stunned, and he<br />

gently grabs me.<br />

“Thank you, sir. Merry Christmas,”<br />

says <strong>the</strong> man.<br />

He carries me out <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> store and<br />

walks us home. His house is warm<br />

and cozy. I’ve never felt anything but<br />

<strong>the</strong> cold metal <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> shelves. The man<br />

sets me underneath his Christmas tree<br />

next to one o<strong>the</strong>r present. I wait for<br />

<strong>the</strong> morning, anticipating <strong>the</strong> joy on<br />

<strong>the</strong> child’s face when I meet my new<br />

best friend.<br />

Child Winner<br />

Pay It Forward!<br />

by Madelynn Valley<br />

The Willows at Lake Rhea<br />

I approach <strong>the</strong> c<strong>of</strong>fee shop on<br />

Christmas Eve, relieved to escape <strong>the</strong><br />

harsh winds and snow falling outside.<br />

A man with a grizzled white beard,<br />

wearing a long parka over his work<br />

suit, opens <strong>the</strong> door for me.<br />

“Have a great Christmas tomorrow,”<br />

he greets me with a smile as he<br />

walks out.<br />

I just roll my eyes at him and stomp<br />

toward <strong>the</strong> counter, satisfied by <strong>the</strong><br />

amount <strong>of</strong> snow falling <strong>of</strong>f my boots.<br />

“Not everyone can feel so happy<br />

after a long day,” I mutter under my<br />

breath.<br />

“I’ll have a peppermint latte with no<br />

whipped cream,” I tell <strong>the</strong> cashier.<br />

“Coming right up,” she replies.<br />

I roll on <strong>the</strong> heels <strong>of</strong> my feet as I<br />

replay <strong>the</strong> workday’s events in my<br />

mind. With Christmas <strong>the</strong> next day,<br />

<strong>the</strong> salon where I work was full <strong>of</strong><br />

picky customers who wanted <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

hair to look nice for <strong>the</strong> holidays.<br />

The cashier hands me my c<strong>of</strong>fee. I<br />

pause, waiting for her to tell me my<br />

total cost. She doesn’t say anything.<br />

Confused, I ask, “Don’t I have to<br />

pay for <strong>the</strong> c<strong>of</strong>fee?”

Her face breaks out in a grin.<br />

“A man in a big red parka already<br />

paid for your order,” she explains.<br />

Shocked, I stare at her. “Really?”<br />

Her eyes meet mine. “Yes, really.”<br />

I pull out a crumpled $20 bill from<br />

my wallet.<br />

“Here, for <strong>the</strong> next person in line.” I<br />

hand <strong>the</strong> cashier <strong>the</strong> money.<br />

“Merry Christmas!” she calls as I<br />

walk to <strong>the</strong> door sipping my warm,<br />

minty beverage.<br />

I open <strong>the</strong> door, <strong>the</strong> s<strong>of</strong>t bell on it<br />

tinkling like a bell on Santa’s sleigh.<br />

I linger in <strong>the</strong> doorway just long<br />

enough to see an elderly woman<br />

break out in a grin from ear to ear,<br />

her snack already paid for. I see her<br />

hand <strong>the</strong> cashier money, and I realize<br />

she paid for <strong>the</strong> person behind her.<br />

Smiling, I step out onto <strong>the</strong> sidewalk.<br />

Strangely, I feel warm inside,<br />

and I know it’s not just from <strong>the</strong> c<strong>of</strong>fee<br />

I savor. I wonder how long <strong>the</strong> “pay it<br />

forward” chain will continue for. I pull<br />

my jacket a little tighter and continue<br />

on my way to <strong>the</strong> apartment complex<br />

I live in with a little spring in my step.<br />

“So this is what holiday cheer is,” I<br />

say out loud to myself quietly.<br />

I pass <strong>the</strong> busy department store<br />

decked out in colorful holiday decorations.<br />

Out <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> corner <strong>of</strong> my eye,<br />

I spot <strong>the</strong> man who had bought my<br />

c<strong>of</strong>fee standing in front <strong>of</strong> one <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> store’s many window displays.<br />

I want to thank him for his generosity<br />

and for bringing Christmas spirit<br />

into my heart. I run over to <strong>the</strong> place<br />

I was sure I had seen him, but he is<br />

gone, replaced by a swirling cloud<br />

<strong>of</strong> snow. Confused, I turn away from<br />

<strong>the</strong> brightly lit window. Then a smile<br />

creeps onto my face, and <strong>the</strong> answer<br />

to where <strong>the</strong> man went dawns on<br />

me. Surely, he must be Santa Claus<br />

himself.<br />

Honorable Mention<br />

A Second<br />

Chance at Christmas<br />

by Allison Belemjian<br />

Wesmere<br />

My name is Alex Robbins. I’m 13<br />

years old, and Christmas is my favorite<br />

holiday. My family delights in<br />

decorating, baking and celebrating<br />

Christmas. But last year, something<br />

happened. My grandparents came<br />

down to Florida to visit us from New<br />

York, which was exciting because we<br />

only get to see <strong>the</strong>m once a year during<br />

Christmas. On Christmas Eve, we<br />

are always allowed to open one present,<br />

and my grandfa<strong>the</strong>r told me to<br />

choose <strong>the</strong> carefully wrapped present<br />

he gifted me. It was a small red box<br />

with a green ribbon. My 3-year-old<br />

sister, Abby, chose <strong>the</strong> biggest present<br />

she could get her hands on. We<br />

opened our presents at <strong>the</strong> same time,<br />

and I was shocked.<br />

Abby received a pink bike with tassels<br />

and a bell. Meanwhile, all I got<br />

was an old watch. A watch? I didn’t<br />

mean to be ungrateful, but I wanted<br />

something bigger or better than a<br />

used watch. My grandfa<strong>the</strong>r pulled<br />

me aside after seeing <strong>the</strong> disappointment<br />

on my face and explained that<br />

<strong>the</strong> watch wasn’t a normal watch. If<br />

you moved <strong>the</strong> dial, you could go<br />

back in time up to 24 hours. I didn’t<br />

believe him. I began to think Grandpa<br />

was going senile, and I excused myself<br />

to help set <strong>the</strong> table for Christmas<br />

dinner.<br />

Everything went smoothly at first,<br />

but <strong>the</strong>n Abby literally started crying<br />

over her spilt milk. My mom initially<br />

scolded her but <strong>the</strong>n helped<br />

her clean it up. Suddenly, everything<br />

went wrong. My mom and grandma<br />

hadn’t prepared enough food, so we<br />

were still a bit hungry. My mom and<br />

grandma drove to <strong>the</strong> only open store<br />

to buy more food but got stuck in <strong>the</strong><br />

parking lot because <strong>the</strong> car wouldn’t<br />

start. When my dad left to pick <strong>the</strong>m<br />

up, Abby was unsupervised for a few<br />

minutes and opened every present,<br />

not just her own. When my parents arrived<br />

home, <strong>the</strong>y canceled Christmas<br />

morning. My favorite holiday was<br />

over, and it was because <strong>of</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r people’s<br />

actions. I felt devastated. I went<br />

to bed early. Why stay up if <strong>the</strong>re’s no<br />

Christmas?<br />

Christmas morning, everyone was<br />

on edge. No one spoke during breakfast.<br />

I slumped back to my room, but<br />

something caught my eye — <strong>the</strong> old<br />

watch on my desk. I figured, what <strong>the</strong><br />

heck? If it doesn’t work, <strong>the</strong>n it’s not<br />

harming anyone to try it. It was 7:35<br />

a.m. on Christmas morning. I turned<br />

<strong>the</strong> watch dial back 24 hours to 7:35<br />

a.m. on Christmas Eve, which was just<br />

www.SouthwestOrlandoBulletin.com x December 15, 2022 — January 4, 2023 x 11<br />

before my mom left to get last-minute<br />

groceries.<br />

Suddenly, as I was standing in my<br />

room, my mom called from downstairs,<br />

“Alex, I’m going to <strong>the</strong> store. Do<br />

you need anything?”<br />

I was stunned. Did it really work? I<br />

rushed down <strong>the</strong> stairs and saw all <strong>the</strong><br />

presents still wrapped under <strong>the</strong> tree. I<br />

was in utter disbelief. I asked my mom<br />

if I could accompany her to <strong>the</strong> store.<br />

While <strong>the</strong>re, I made sure we got extras<br />

<strong>of</strong> everything to avoid <strong>the</strong> extra trip to<br />

<strong>the</strong> grocery store and <strong>the</strong> car breaking<br />

down. Later that evening, after my<br />

sister and I opened our one Christmas<br />

Eve present, I carefully listened as<br />

Grandpa explained <strong>the</strong> special watch<br />

to me. I thanked and hugged him. Just<br />

before dinner, I made sure Abby had<br />

a sippy cup instead <strong>of</strong> a regular glass<br />

to avoid spilling her milk. Dinner was<br />

scrumptious, and we had leftovers for<br />

days. When we all went to bed, I was<br />

deeply thankful for a second chance<br />

at Christmas.<br />

Honorable Mention<br />

A Christmas to Remember<br />

by Camryn Reese<br />

Keene’s Pointe<br />

Ding. Ring. This is what Luna heard<br />

rarely. Not many people had been<br />

coming to her dad’s bakery since<br />

he died in November. Luna was<br />

working hard at <strong>the</strong> store to buy a<br />

Christmas tree from Kelly Tree Farm,<br />

which was across <strong>the</strong> street from <strong>the</strong><br />

bakery. Luna drooled and stared as<br />

tree after tree was picked up right in<br />

front <strong>of</strong> her. She almost had enough<br />

money but needed ano<strong>the</strong>r day’s<br />

work. Luna headed home for a restful<br />

night <strong>of</strong> sleep.<br />

Riiiing. Luna hopped out <strong>of</strong> bed to<br />

say hello, only to realize it was her<br />

alarm and not <strong>the</strong> bakery bell. She<br />

quickly took a shower, ate some cereal<br />

and got on her bike. Luna pedaled<br />

as fast as a cheetah over to <strong>the</strong> shop<br />

She started getting some powdered<br />

sugar, flour, eggs and butter from <strong>the</strong><br />

kitchen. In two hours, she had made<br />

20 croissants, five macaroons, 10<br />

Danish pastries and three doughnuts.<br />

She displayed <strong>the</strong> delicious treats,<br />

and in five minutes came Mr. Kiplit.<br />

He was her most reliable customer<br />

and always came at 9:30 a.m.<br />

sharp. She sat in <strong>the</strong> corner booth<br />

and always ordered two sunny-sideup<br />

eggs and one blueberry Danish.<br />

But today was different. He was<br />

wearing a light-up Christmas sweater<br />

and holding a half-full mug <strong>of</strong> hot<br />

chocolate. He sat down in <strong>the</strong> booth<br />

and waited for Luna to assist him.<br />

She rushed over and said, “Two<br />

sunny-side-ups with a blueberry<br />

Danish?”<br />

But he said, “No. Not today, Luna.”<br />

He simply handed her a check,<br />

got up and left. Luna stood <strong>the</strong>re with<br />

her dropped jaw. Mr. Kiplit had just<br />

given her a $250 check! Luna would<br />

have enough money to buy a tree<br />

now. She watched him walk around<br />

<strong>the</strong> block, gratefulness shining in her<br />

eyes.<br />

Later that night, Luna closed <strong>the</strong><br />

shop and rushed across <strong>the</strong> street to<br />

Kelly Tree Farm. There wasn’t a tree<br />

in sight.<br />

She started to turn back when a<br />

young girl said, “Wait. There is still a<br />

tree for you!”<br />


12 x December 15, 2022 — January 4, 2023 x www.SouthwestOrlandoBulletin.com<br />


Luna rushed 3 yards deep into <strong>the</strong><br />

field where she found a small tree to<br />

<strong>the</strong> right <strong>of</strong> her.<br />

She brought home a macaroon<br />

for Santa since it was Christmas Eve<br />

and settled on <strong>the</strong> comfy couch for a<br />

Hallmark movie. Then, she headed to<br />

bed, excited for Christmas tomorrow.<br />

When Luna woke up, <strong>the</strong>re was a<br />

small present underneath <strong>the</strong> tree.<br />

She crawled <strong>of</strong>f her bed and saw<br />

that it was from Santa. She popped<br />

<strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> top <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> box and boom! She<br />

saw swirling colors all around her.<br />

Suddenly, Luna fell onto <strong>the</strong> floor <strong>of</strong><br />

a hospital. There she saw a young,<br />

beautiful woman holding a baby.<br />

“Ryan, would you hand me Luna’s<br />

blanket, please?” <strong>the</strong> lady asked.<br />

Luna felt a pit in her stomach. That<br />

was her mo<strong>the</strong>r! Luna sprinted out <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> room, crying. She had just seen<br />

her mom. She was in <strong>the</strong> past.<br />

“I must be hallucinating,” Luna said<br />

anxiously in <strong>the</strong> elevator.<br />

She got <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> elevator and wiped<br />

<strong>the</strong> tears <strong>of</strong>f her face. Bing. The<br />

www.footworksdancestudio.com<br />

• Dance With Me<br />

• Twinkle Star<br />

Creative<br />

Movement<br />

• Wee Hop<br />

• Ballet<br />

elevator opened, and her mom came<br />

out. Luna slowly walked up to her<br />

and gave her a warm hug.<br />

Even though her mom couldn’t see<br />

her, Luna got her wish to meet her<br />

mo<strong>the</strong>r. With that, Luna was back in<br />

her bedroom, crying happy tears,<br />

for her dream had come true. She<br />

plopped down on her creaky bed<br />

and opened a book by Abdul Kalam.<br />

She had one more page in <strong>the</strong> book.<br />

As tears welled up in her eyes<br />

again, she said out loud, “You have<br />

to dream before dreams come true.”<br />

To this day, Luna still works at <strong>the</strong><br />

diner. In fact, she owns it. She greets<br />

each customer with a smile as bright<br />

as <strong>the</strong> sun and dreams about her<br />

Christmas to remember.<br />

Honorable Mention<br />

A Dream <strong>of</strong> Christmas<br />

by Jordyne Bridgeman<br />

Belle Meade<br />

It was a clear night. The snow was<br />

falling gently to <strong>the</strong> ground. A little<br />

girl named Skye Dove was lying in<br />

bed. She was too excited to sleep,<br />

for it was Christmas Eve. Skye knew<br />

• Jazz<br />

• Contemporary'<br />

• Hip Hop<br />

• Musical<br />

Theater<br />

• Pointe<br />

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Santa would be on his way to her<br />

house soon. As she lay staring out<br />

<strong>the</strong> window, she wondered if children<br />

in Germany and France were doing<br />

<strong>the</strong> same thing. Were <strong>the</strong>y waiting<br />

for Santa to arrive, as well? Thoughts<br />

filled her head about celebrations in<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r countries as her eyes began to<br />

close.<br />

Skye opened her eyes, and, as she<br />

looked around, she noticed this was<br />

not her bed or room. She got up and<br />

tiptoed to <strong>the</strong> door. She could hear<br />

people singing. The sounds were different<br />

from songs she’d heard before.<br />

She soon realized that she was in<br />

France! In France, Christmas is called<br />

Joyeux Noël, and <strong>the</strong> people sing<br />

carols known as Chants de Noël. On<br />

Dec. 24, when Skye would be celebrating<br />

Christmas Eve, <strong>the</strong> people <strong>of</strong><br />

France would enjoy a meal toge<strong>the</strong>r<br />

to celebrate Le Réveillon de Noël.<br />

Skye watched as families exchanged<br />

gifts. When <strong>the</strong>y went to<br />

evening church, Pére Noël brought<br />

gifts to children and left <strong>the</strong>m underneath<br />

<strong>the</strong> tree. The children also left<br />

shoes by <strong>the</strong> fireplace for Pére Noël<br />

to fill with treats. On Dec. 25, families<br />

celebrated by enjoying a large dinde<br />

with roasted turkey. Skye was getting<br />

tired from seeing all <strong>the</strong> festivities in<br />

France. She laid down and closed<br />

her eyes once again.<br />

It was Christmas morning, or so<br />

Skye thought when she woke up.<br />

She could hear noises outside <strong>the</strong><br />

room. She thought it was strange, as<br />

she was usually <strong>the</strong> first one awake<br />

on Christmas morning. Again, Skye<br />

opened her door and realized she<br />

was not in her home. She was now<br />

in Germany! The noises she’d heard<br />

were a family setting up and decorating<br />

a Christmas tree.<br />

Skye wondered what day it was.<br />

In Germany, homes are decorated for<br />

<strong>the</strong> holiday season. The tree is saved<br />

for last and not put up or decorated<br />

until Dec. 24. This is when Germans<br />

celebrate Weihnachten, or Christmas<br />

Eve. In <strong>the</strong> evening, <strong>the</strong> children are<br />

moved to a room <strong>the</strong> tree is not in.<br />

The Christkind, or Christ child, brings<br />

presents. A bell is rung to let <strong>the</strong> children<br />

know <strong>the</strong> presents have been<br />

delivered. Families ga<strong>the</strong>r around <strong>the</strong><br />

tree and open gifts. Families enjoy a<br />

meal <strong>of</strong> duck, goose, rabbit or roast<br />

in celebration.<br />

On Dec. 25, <strong>the</strong> people <strong>of</strong> Germany<br />

<strong>of</strong>ten enjoy a meal toge<strong>the</strong>r, attend<br />

church services and light <strong>the</strong> final<br />

white candle <strong>of</strong> advent surrounded<br />

by a wreath on <strong>the</strong> table.<br />

After <strong>the</strong> advent candle was lit, Skye<br />

felt herself getting sleepy. She drifted<br />

<strong>of</strong>f into a wonderful slumber. She<br />

woke up to <strong>the</strong> smell <strong>of</strong> c<strong>of</strong>fee. Skye<br />

realized her mom had woken before<br />

her. She looked around, and she was<br />

in her bedroom. A huge smile came<br />

across her face. Skye thought about<br />

<strong>the</strong> wonderful dream where she had<br />

visited countries she wondered about.<br />

She thought about <strong>the</strong> traditions celebrated<br />

in France and Germany, how<br />

some were similar and some were<br />

very different. Then Skye became<br />

even more excited to go downstairs<br />

and enjoy her own family’s traditions.<br />

Honorable Mention<br />

Mistletoe <strong>the</strong> Pig<br />

by Brielle Nelson<br />

Windermere<br />

It was a week until Christmas, and<br />

you could see lights for miles. It was<br />

a wonderful time <strong>of</strong> year, and everyone<br />

was baking Christmas treats.<br />

Snow was falling, music was playing<br />

and presents were being wrapped.<br />

The only thing that could make this<br />

Christmas perfect was having a pig<br />

as a pet.<br />

People thought Lucy was silly for<br />

wanting a pet pig, especially her twin<br />

bro<strong>the</strong>r, but she didn’t care. Lucy was<br />

one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> most cheerful people in <strong>the</strong><br />

town, but she wasn’t this year. She<br />

had been obsessed with pigs ever<br />

since she was 7 years old. Her mom<br />

and dad said she would have to buy<br />

a pig with her own money, and she<br />

had been saving for two years. Now<br />

she had enough. She even had a little<br />

extra for pig food.<br />

The next day, <strong>the</strong> family went to<br />

church, and Lucy was so excited.<br />

Church was her favorite time <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

week. When <strong>the</strong>y got <strong>the</strong>re, Christmas<br />

cookies were being handed out. She<br />

was especially excited when she saw<br />

her friends. She forgot all about being<br />

sad. They got home from church,<br />

and she saw all <strong>the</strong> decorations and<br />

presents. She remembered dreaming

about wanting a pig for Christmas,<br />

and she was sad again.<br />

She asked her mom and dad one<br />

more time, and <strong>the</strong>y said, “Wait and<br />

see!”<br />

On Christmas Eve, Lucy’s parents<br />

took her to an animal farm where<br />

people were selling baby animals.<br />

Lucy saw baby goats, lambs, cows<br />

and three baby pigs. She was so excited,<br />

she almost squealed at <strong>the</strong> top<br />

<strong>of</strong> her lungs. Before she did though,<br />

she thought through what may happen.<br />

Her parents might be getting her<br />

a pig, or <strong>the</strong>y could be asking someone<br />

how much work a pig is so that<br />

Lucy changed her mind. After a second<br />

<strong>of</strong> silence, Lucy did squeal, but<br />

very quietly so she didn’t disturb <strong>the</strong><br />

pigs.<br />

Her parents told her that she could<br />

go and pet <strong>the</strong> pigs. Once she got<br />

in <strong>the</strong>re, she started rolling, oinking<br />

and playing like a pig. Lucy’s family<br />

stayed for half an hour before Lucy<br />

finally asked to take one home.<br />

“Did you bring your money?” her<br />

dad asked?<br />

Lucy had <strong>the</strong> biggest smile ever!<br />

She immediately pulled out her money<br />

and asked how much for one? The<br />

person managing <strong>the</strong> pigs said that<br />

one pig cost $75.<br />

Lucy was even more excited because<br />

she thought she was going<br />

to get a big pig, and it would cost<br />

a lot, so she had saved $200. She<br />

was able to buy everything her pig<br />

needed. Her parents interrupted her<br />

before she could pay for him. They<br />

said that she would have to pay for<br />

<strong>the</strong> pig food, and <strong>the</strong>y would pay for<br />

vet bills. Then, she picked out <strong>the</strong> pig<br />

that touched her heart <strong>the</strong> most.<br />

After <strong>the</strong>y left <strong>the</strong> farm, <strong>the</strong>y went<br />

shopping for pig food, a pig bed, a<br />

pig pen and toys. They finally went<br />

home, and Lucy started to think <strong>of</strong><br />

names for her pig. Her ideas were<br />

Wilber, Rico, Wyatt, Mistletoe and<br />

Charlie. After an hour <strong>of</strong> thinking<br />

and playing, she decided on <strong>the</strong><br />

name Mistletoe with <strong>the</strong> nickname<br />

Milo. Mistletoe was <strong>the</strong> perfect name<br />

to always remind her <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> special<br />

Christmas <strong>the</strong>y first met. When it was<br />

time for bed, after a long and exciting<br />

day, Lucy put her pig in <strong>the</strong> pig pen.<br />

She turned <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> lights and sang a<br />

lullaby to Mistletoe as <strong>the</strong>y fell asleep.<br />

It was Lucy’s best Christmas ever.<br />

Honorable Mention<br />

The Newsboys’ Christmas<br />

by Sandra Roman<br />

The Willows at Lake Rhea<br />

Twelve-year-old Jonathan Joseph<br />

Butler, better known as JJ, is feeling<br />

<strong>the</strong> wicked December cold. His coat<br />

is several sizes too large, and <strong>the</strong> frigid<br />

wind is creeping up his sleeves. He<br />

wants to head home, but he still has<br />

25 newspapers to sell. It’s Christmas<br />

day in 1864, and <strong>the</strong> Washington,<br />

D.C., streets are dreary and desolate.<br />

JJ misses his parents. His mo<strong>the</strong>r<br />

died <strong>of</strong> scarlet fever back in South<br />

Carolina, after which his grief-stricken<br />

fa<strong>the</strong>r escaped to D.C. with him and<br />

his sister. His fa<strong>the</strong>r joined <strong>the</strong> Union<br />

Army. JJ wishes <strong>the</strong> war had never<br />

started. It has already claimed <strong>the</strong><br />

lives <strong>of</strong> 40,000 Black soldiers, including<br />

his fa<strong>the</strong>r. JJ and his sister, Mary,<br />

live in a makeshift wooden shack on<br />

U Street. Mary works at Freedman<br />

Hospital cleaning rooms. The war<br />

has been so brutal that <strong>the</strong> hospital<br />

workers <strong>of</strong>ten work around <strong>the</strong> clock.<br />

JJ has not seen his sister in days.<br />

JJ desperately wants to sell his remaining<br />

papers. Like all newsboys,<br />

he tries to encourage customers by<br />

shouting headlines to passersby.<br />

Today’s good news — Read All<br />

About It — General Sherman has<br />

seized Savannah, Georgia; expect<br />

<strong>the</strong> Confederate Army to surrender<br />

soon!<br />

It’s getting dark. JJ is tired and hasn’t<br />

eaten all day. He thinks he should give<br />

up and start <strong>the</strong> long walk home. Just<br />

as he turns onto Pennsylvania Avenue,<br />

he hears Mickey Bones call out his<br />

name. Mickey is <strong>the</strong> best newsie.<br />

He knows how to navigate <strong>the</strong> city<br />

streets and knows who all <strong>the</strong> bigwigs<br />

are. He is nice to JJ and stands up to<br />

anyone who bullies him. Mickey is<br />

also always thinking about food. He<br />

steals fruit from <strong>the</strong> street vendors and<br />

hides it in his newspaper knapsack.<br />

Sometimes he shares his spoils with JJ.<br />

Mickey excitedly shouts at JJ,<br />

“Follow me! We are going to <strong>the</strong><br />

White House for dinner!”<br />

JJ laughs. He knows Mickey is a bit<br />

<strong>of</strong> a jokester.<br />

www.SouthwestOrlandoBulletin.com x December 15, 2022 — January 4, 2023 x 13<br />

“So what, Mick, are we raiding <strong>the</strong><br />

garbage bins?” JJ asks.<br />

Mickey insists and drags JJ by<br />

his ill-fitting overcoat to <strong>the</strong> side entrance<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> White House, where,<br />

to JJ’s amazement, he sees 10 o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

newsies.<br />

When <strong>the</strong> cook hears <strong>the</strong> knocking<br />

and chatter <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> boys, he opens <strong>the</strong><br />

door. He is about to scurry <strong>the</strong>m away<br />

when Mickey yells, “We have been<br />

invited by Tad Lincoln, <strong>the</strong> president’s<br />

son!”<br />

Of course, <strong>the</strong> cook doesn’t believe<br />

him, so he tells <strong>the</strong>m to wait <strong>the</strong>re by<br />

<strong>the</strong> door. Ten minutes later, a very tall<br />

man with a beard, dressed in a bow<br />

tie, top hat and tailcoat comes to <strong>the</strong><br />

door. He laughs when he sees <strong>the</strong>m<br />

in <strong>the</strong>ir raggedy coats and caps. He<br />

says that his son had not mentioned<br />

his new invites but that <strong>the</strong>y are all<br />

welcome to share dinner with him, his<br />

friends and family members.<br />

The White House staff quickly sets<br />

a table for <strong>the</strong> newsboys. JJ can’t believe<br />

what is happening. He knew <strong>the</strong><br />

president was a great man, but he<br />

didn’t know that he would be so kind<br />


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and humble as to let a poor Black<br />

newsboy into his home. All <strong>the</strong> boys<br />

eat to <strong>the</strong>ir hearts’ content. It is one<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> most magical evenings <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

lives. JJ decides that day to strive to be<br />

kind and welcoming to o<strong>the</strong>rs, just like<br />

<strong>the</strong> president was to all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>m.<br />

Sadly, while JJ lived to see many<br />

Christmases for years to come, that<br />

1864 Christmas would be <strong>the</strong> last one<br />

for President Lincoln. He was assassinated<br />

<strong>the</strong> following year.<br />

Honorable Mention<br />

My Family<br />

Christmas Traditions<br />

by Mackenzie Hill<br />

Winter Garden<br />

Christmastime in my family is <strong>the</strong><br />

best time <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> year and something<br />

that we look forward to. My family<br />

comes from America and Cuba. A<br />

very known tradition is Nochebuena.<br />

This tradition has been celebrated in<br />

my family for as many years as I can<br />

remember. Nochebuena is celebrated<br />

Christmas Eve and is a huge feast <strong>of</strong><br />


14 x December 15, 2022 — January 4, 2023 x www.SouthwestOrlandoBulletin.com<br />


food that is made to share with your<br />

family. We make mojo pork, tostones,<br />

yucca, rice and black beans.<br />

The day <strong>of</strong> Nochebuena, we begin<br />

preparing food at noon. My dad gets<br />

<strong>the</strong> pork ready to go into <strong>the</strong> oven.<br />

It marinates in seasonings and mojo<br />

sauces for about three days. The pork<br />

is huge, and it cooks until about 7<br />

p.m. The key to making <strong>the</strong> pork moist<br />

is cooking it at a low temperature for<br />

a long period <strong>of</strong> time. My extended<br />

family comes over at 3 p.m., and we<br />

snack on a cheese spread and chips<br />

while dinner is being made. We spend<br />

this time toge<strong>the</strong>r catching up on life,<br />

playing games and helping everyone<br />

make food in <strong>the</strong> kitchen.<br />

About an hour before <strong>the</strong> pork is<br />

done, we fry <strong>the</strong> plantains and yucca,<br />

my favorite part <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> night. Yucca<br />

is my favorite food, and because we<br />

only eat it once a year, it makes this<br />

day more special. Plátanos are plantains<br />

that are cut into small chunks,<br />

smashed and fried. Yucca is almost<br />

like American fries except traditional<br />

yucca is only boiled. In my family’s<br />

Nochebuena, we boil and fry it to<br />

make it crispy.<br />

For <strong>the</strong> past few years, my dad has<br />

made a garlic dip that we use for <strong>the</strong><br />

plátanos fritos (fried plantains) and<br />

yucca. I truly enjoy Christmas, especially<br />

when I get to spend it with <strong>the</strong><br />

people I love <strong>the</strong> most. On Christmas<br />

Eve night, since I was super little, my<br />

sister and I have had a slumber party<br />

in my room. We watch a Christmas<br />

movie, fall asleep and, next thing you<br />

know, it is Christmas day.<br />

On Christmas morning, we call<br />

our parents and wish <strong>the</strong>m a Merry<br />

Christmas, get ready a little bit, and<br />

<strong>the</strong>n wait on <strong>the</strong> stairs for our parents<br />

to give us permission to come down to<br />

see <strong>the</strong> presents we got. We open our<br />

bigger presents first, and <strong>the</strong>n it is time<br />

to make breakfast. Ano<strong>the</strong>r one <strong>of</strong> our<br />

traditions is making cinnamon rolls on<br />

Christmas morning.<br />

Everyone says that Christmas isn’t all<br />

about presents, but I love presents. I<br />

especially love when I get to see my<br />

family open <strong>the</strong> presents that I picked<br />

out for <strong>the</strong>m. We open all our gifts,<br />

leaving <strong>the</strong> ones for our grandparents.<br />

The last thing we open just as a family<br />

is our stockings. Even my dog has<br />

a stocking full <strong>of</strong> treats and toys. My<br />

abuelita comes over, and we open <strong>the</strong><br />

presents that we give her and <strong>the</strong> presents<br />

she gives us. The rest <strong>of</strong> my family<br />

comes over later in <strong>the</strong> day. We open<br />

presents as a family and celebrate this<br />

amazing holiday toge<strong>the</strong>r. We make<br />

ham, mashed potatoes and corn casserole<br />

for dinner. These are my family’s<br />

Christmas traditions, and I can’t<br />

wait to do <strong>the</strong>m over and over again.<br />

Honorable Mention<br />

The Christmas Baby<br />

by Chloe Gutierrez<br />

Southwest Orlando<br />

Once upon a time — about 15<br />

minutes ago — it was midnight in<br />

<strong>the</strong> North Pole. A jolly-looking man<br />

dressed in all red-and-white furs<br />

was sitting by <strong>the</strong> fireplace inspecting<br />

some beautifully carved wooden<br />

figures, which he was painting with<br />

a riot <strong>of</strong> rich, beautiful Christmas<br />

colors. Yes, it was Santa Clause, S.<br />

Kringle, St. Nicholas, whatever you<br />

call him, making Christmas presents<br />

for Mrs. Clause. His thoughts were<br />

wandering when all <strong>the</strong> sudden <strong>the</strong>re<br />

was a loud crack!<br />

For a second, he thought he must be<br />

mad! In front <strong>of</strong> him was a big, black<br />

hole. It was sucking him in! Now,<br />

Santa weighed about 600 pounds,<br />

but <strong>the</strong> tug was so strong, he could<br />

not resist it. He decided not to fight<br />

and instead jumped into it.<br />

He whirled through a tunnel at <strong>the</strong><br />

speed <strong>of</strong> light, <strong>the</strong>n suddenly, he was<br />

still. He cautiously opened one eye,<br />

<strong>the</strong>n <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r, <strong>the</strong>n gasped. Before<br />

him, he saw wreckage and smoking<br />

ruins <strong>of</strong> what would have once<br />

been lovely buildings. Then, he heard<br />

a s<strong>of</strong>t sound behind him. In a flash,<br />

he turned around and saw nobody.<br />

He heard it again but closer to <strong>the</strong><br />

ground. He looked down and saw a<br />

tiny baby.<br />

It was wrapped in a light blue cloth,<br />

and it was awake but wasn’t crying.<br />

Poor little thing, Santa thought. It was<br />

so cute. He bent down and picked it<br />

up.<br />

“Where’s your mommy?” he asked.<br />

That is when he noticed it, on <strong>the</strong><br />

light blue cloth where <strong>the</strong> label was,<br />

it said Kyiv, Ukraine. Santa looked<br />

around again.<br />

Of course! It all made sense now.<br />

He was in Ukraine. Suddenly, planes<br />

started shooting across <strong>the</strong> sky, and,<br />

to his horror, he saw <strong>the</strong> Russian symbol<br />

on all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>m. His first thought<br />

was to take shelter immediately, but it<br />

was too late. The first bomb had fallen.<br />

With a shock that shook <strong>the</strong> earth,<br />

<strong>the</strong> bomb hit <strong>the</strong> ground. Crash!<br />

Debris went flying everywhere.<br />

Then, Santa’s feet started to run, fast!<br />

He shot over <strong>the</strong> ground as fast as his<br />

flying reindeer, until finally he reached<br />

an old, wea<strong>the</strong>r-beaten stable. For<br />

some reason, he felt like it was a safe<br />

place. So, he slowed down and entered.<br />

He placed <strong>the</strong> baby in <strong>the</strong> manger<br />

and sat down to catch his breath.<br />

He thought <strong>the</strong> baby was hungry. I<br />

do not have any milk, but I can give<br />

him some eggnog. He pulled out a<br />

large container and small cup. As he<br />

fed <strong>the</strong> baby, he realized his stomach<br />

was rumbling, so he pulled out some<br />

gingerbread. Ohh! He was so tired.<br />

Just one little nap.<br />

As he slept, Santa dreamed he was<br />

in <strong>the</strong> stable with <strong>the</strong> baby, but <strong>the</strong>re<br />

were two o<strong>the</strong>r people, as well. He<br />

saw Mary on <strong>the</strong> right and Joseph on<br />

<strong>the</strong> left. But, what he noticed most <strong>of</strong><br />

all was <strong>the</strong> baby in <strong>the</strong> manger. It was<br />

Jesus! But also, it was <strong>the</strong> baby he had<br />

taken care <strong>of</strong> since he got here. Had<br />

he really been taking care <strong>of</strong> Jesus<br />

<strong>the</strong> whole time? Just <strong>the</strong>n, <strong>the</strong> baby<br />

turned and smiled at him. Suddenly,<br />

he woke up. He opened his eyes and<br />

saw that he was back home with a<br />

scrap <strong>of</strong> light blue cloth in his hand.<br />

It did not say Kyiv, Ukraine. Instead, it<br />

said Jesus Christ.<br />

Honorable Mention<br />

The More You<br />

Give, <strong>the</strong> More You Get<br />

by Stella Barber<br />

Winter Garden<br />

I was sitting at home, bored. It was<br />

only a few days until Christmas, and<br />

we hadn’t even put up our Christmas<br />

tree yet. I bet our elf was really mad<br />

because every time I tried to find<br />

him, he was next to <strong>the</strong> spot where<br />

our Christmas tree was supposed to<br />

be. I walked outside at night with my<br />

friend, Addison.<br />

“Look at all <strong>the</strong>se people,” she said.<br />

“I feel really bad, <strong>the</strong>y don’t have<br />

Christmas trees. How will Santa deliver<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir presents with no Christmas<br />

tree?”<br />

“I think I need to put up my Christmas<br />

tree, too,’’ I said.<br />

“But <strong>the</strong>y probably don’t have a<br />

Christmas tree in <strong>the</strong>ir attic that <strong>the</strong>y<br />

can assemble at any time,” Addison<br />

said. “They look so miserable. I wish I<br />

could give <strong>the</strong>m something.”<br />

I went back inside when we were<br />

done with <strong>the</strong> walk. I was thinking<br />

about those people during dinner and<br />

at night.<br />

“What can I do for <strong>the</strong>se people?<br />

Could I give <strong>the</strong>m some <strong>of</strong> my presents<br />

instead?”<br />

When I woke up and got ready<br />

for <strong>the</strong> day I saw I had 243 missed<br />

calls from Addison. I called her back.<br />

It seems Addison had protested and<br />

made a fundraiser for <strong>the</strong>se people.<br />

“We need to help <strong>the</strong>se people.<br />

Everyone needs a good Christmas!”<br />

I asked Addison if I could help.<br />

Of course she said, “Yes.”<br />

After making papers and giving<br />

<strong>the</strong>m away to all our friends and texting<br />

all <strong>of</strong> our families to help with our<br />

fundraiser, we still didn’t have enough<br />

money. All we had was $50. When<br />

I was just about to give up, Addison<br />

screamed. She had hit <strong>the</strong> refresh button,<br />

and we had made $222,229!<br />

As we spread <strong>the</strong> word so much,<br />

we made it all over <strong>the</strong> news. On<br />

Christmas Eve, we were spread everywhere<br />

from influencers paying us and<br />

putting it on <strong>the</strong>ir channels.<br />

We raised a whopping $1,450,<br />

000. We gave everyone we saw<br />

$10,000 and a place to stay. Addison<br />

and I felt so great after saving more<br />

than 100 people on Christmas Eve.<br />

Even after Christmas, we still were<br />

all over <strong>the</strong> internet. We had invites<br />

to meet famous people all over <strong>the</strong><br />

world, and we even had our own<br />

nickname, Santa’s Givers. I guess, <strong>the</strong><br />

more you give, <strong>the</strong> more you get.<br />

Honorable Mention<br />

A Christmas Story: Cherished<br />

by Anthony George<br />

Reserve at Belmere<br />

I crawled over to <strong>the</strong> largest box <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong>m all. It was red and green with

shiny bits sprinkled everywhere. But,<br />

<strong>the</strong> most important thing was that it<br />

had my name on it. I tore open <strong>the</strong><br />

box with as much strength as my<br />

stubby hands could muster. My parents<br />

helped me take <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> rest <strong>of</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> gift wrapping so I could see what<br />

was inside.<br />

“Thank you, Mommy! Thank you,<br />

Daddy!” I shouted with a giggle.<br />

The first thing I took out <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> box<br />

was as big as my head. It was a<br />

glass dome that had a huge tree in<br />

<strong>the</strong> middle with balls and lights, just<br />

like <strong>the</strong> one next to me.<br />

My daddy sat down beside me<br />

with a camera, took <strong>the</strong> strange<br />

dome from me, and began to shake<br />

it. It was <strong>the</strong>n that a miracle occurred<br />

before my eyes. The white<br />

clumps on <strong>the</strong> bottom <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> globe<br />

spread out all over <strong>the</strong> dome. I wanted<br />

to know what that s<strong>of</strong>t white rain<br />

felt like on my hands. It was <strong>the</strong>n, at<br />

4 years old, that my love for snow<br />

globes began.<br />

Since that moment, I have gotten<br />

snow globes for every joyful memory<br />

with my family, so I can always<br />

remember <strong>the</strong>m. There was a big<br />

word my parents taught me that describes<br />

<strong>the</strong>m — souvenirs.<br />

It is now Christmas again, and I<br />

am joined by my younger bro<strong>the</strong>r,<br />

who is going to turn 2 years old<br />

soon. Zeke is chubbier than I was<br />

when I was his age, but my parents<br />

won’t let me call him fat. They say<br />

it is not a nice thing to call people.<br />

This Christmas, I am supposed to get<br />

a whole set <strong>of</strong> snow globes. I believe<br />

that Santa looks into <strong>the</strong> dreams <strong>of</strong><br />

people to see what <strong>the</strong>y want. I am<br />

going to dream a lot so Santa can<br />

get <strong>the</strong> gifts before tomorrow. I say<br />

goodnight to my parents and go<br />

sleep next to my bro<strong>the</strong>r’s crib.<br />

Today is <strong>the</strong> day! I leap down <strong>the</strong><br />

stairs toward where my parents sleep<br />

to ask for gingerbread cookies. After<br />

leaving <strong>the</strong> table with milk around<br />

my mouth and crumbs in my hair, I<br />

slide over to <strong>the</strong> Christmas tree and<br />

begin looking for my prize. Before I<br />

can look thoroughly, Mommy picks<br />

me up and carries me away.<br />

“No peeking until everybody is<br />

around <strong>the</strong> tree,” she sings.<br />

www.SouthwestOrlandoBulletin.com x December 15, 2022 — January 4, 2023 x 15<br />

Daddy goes to get <strong>the</strong> camera<br />

and wake up my bro<strong>the</strong>r. The whole<br />

family is around <strong>the</strong> tree. I hear <strong>the</strong><br />

familiar beep <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> camera, and I<br />

gently get Zeke <strong>of</strong>f <strong>of</strong> my lap so I can<br />

retrieve <strong>the</strong> present. He rolls over to<br />

suck his thumb. I drag <strong>the</strong> package<br />

back to my “stage” and get ready to<br />

say thank you before noticing ano<strong>the</strong>r<br />

name on <strong>the</strong> label.<br />

To: Elijah & Zeke<br />

From: Mommy & Daddy<br />

Ignoring it, I open <strong>the</strong> gift to retrieve<br />

<strong>the</strong> snow globe. This one has a family<br />

skating in an ice rink, just like when<br />

everybody went a few months ago.<br />

I roll Zeke back over and shake <strong>the</strong><br />

snow globe in front <strong>of</strong> him. His eyes<br />

go wide, and his mouth begins to<br />

drool in awe. I smile as I put <strong>the</strong> snow<br />

globe on <strong>the</strong> ground for him to see.<br />

He pushes <strong>the</strong> globe while trying to<br />

shake it, and <strong>the</strong> snow globe shatters.<br />

Before I have time to cry out despairingly,<br />

my mo<strong>the</strong>r is next to us.<br />

As <strong>the</strong> comforter, she explains to<br />

me, “These souvenirs represent our<br />

memories, but we really cherish our<br />

experiences in our hearts forever.”<br />

Honorable Mention<br />

Mack and<br />

<strong>the</strong> Mysterious Doggieday<br />

by Chibuikem Onyeji<br />

Winter Garden<br />

Hi, I’m Mack. I’m <strong>the</strong> dog <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

Boohickey family. My home is in New<br />

York City. I love to play fetch with my<br />

owner, Silvia. We go everywhere<br />

and do everything toge<strong>the</strong>r, and it’s<br />

always a lot <strong>of</strong> fun.<br />

I’ve noticed strange things that happen<br />

at different times <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> year. They<br />

call <strong>the</strong>se strange times doggiedays.<br />

I really enjoy <strong>the</strong>se times, except for<br />

one doggieday called Halobean. I<br />

do not like it because Silvia makes me<br />

wear strange clo<strong>the</strong>s that make me<br />

look like food. I have dressed up like<br />

a banana, hotdog and even a pumpkin!<br />

The costumes feel uncomfortable,<br />

and I end up running around with<br />

strange-looking monsters. To top it all,<br />

I can’t even scratch my itchy spots. It<br />

is a disaster.<br />

I thought I had experienced all doggiedays,<br />

but I guess not. I was in for<br />


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16 x December 15, 2022 — January 4, 2023 x www.SouthwestOrlandoBulletin.com<br />


a surprise. My owner woke up one<br />

day and bought a tree for <strong>the</strong> house.<br />

She also brought home ano<strong>the</strong>r dog,<br />

named Marco, who had to stay with<br />

us until Dogmas was over.<br />

“Dogmas?” I barked.<br />

He said it’s a scary doggieday<br />

where somebody called Sandy<br />

Claws sneaks into your house at<br />

night and puts colored boxes underneath<br />

<strong>the</strong> tree. He travels around with<br />

raindogs wearing bells that wake<br />

up all <strong>the</strong> dogs at night. And, some<br />

dogs even go missing. I did not want<br />

Sandy Claws to get into our home.<br />

So, I had to think <strong>of</strong> ways to stop him<br />

from coming in.<br />

I asked Marco how Sandy Claws<br />

gets in. He said he gets in from <strong>the</strong><br />

chimney because all <strong>the</strong> doors are<br />

locked. I thought <strong>of</strong> a plan to light up<br />

<strong>the</strong> wood under <strong>the</strong> chimney. Silvia<br />

usually presses a button, which turns<br />

on <strong>the</strong> fire. She <strong>the</strong>n keeps <strong>the</strong> living<br />

room closed to prevent us from playing<br />

with it.<br />

It was time to put my plan into<br />

action.<br />

A day before Dogmas, we decided<br />

to hide so Silvia would not find us.<br />

We hid behind <strong>the</strong> big tree in <strong>the</strong> living<br />

room.<br />

When she noticed we were not<br />

around, she called out, “Mack!<br />

Marco!”<br />

But, we did not respond.<br />

She got worried and checked<br />

around <strong>the</strong> house, but she did not find<br />

us. She decided to put on some fuzzy<br />

clo<strong>the</strong>s to go outside to look for us. I<br />

rushed to <strong>the</strong> window to look outside.<br />

Cotton balls were falling from <strong>the</strong> sky.<br />

It was beautiful and looked like lots <strong>of</strong><br />

fun to play in. But, I rushed back behind<br />

<strong>the</strong> tree to wait for Sandy Claws.<br />

Before long, Silvia returned home<br />

and headed to bed. I turned on <strong>the</strong><br />

fire. Then, I heard noises in Silvia’s<br />

bedroom and went inside to see if<br />

Sandy Claws was <strong>the</strong>re. Instead, I<br />

saw Silvia crying on <strong>the</strong> bed. I think<br />

she missed me. I went to cuddle with<br />

her, and she stopped crying. She<br />

gave me a big hug, and, before long,<br />

she fell asleep. So did I.<br />

I woke up hearing jingling bells<br />

somewhere in <strong>the</strong> house. Silvia was<br />

still sleeping. I hopped out <strong>of</strong> bed<br />

and rushed to <strong>the</strong> sound. I saw Marco<br />

snoring underneath <strong>the</strong> tree. Right beside<br />

him, I saw Sandy Claws leaving<br />

boxes.<br />

“How did you get through <strong>the</strong> fire?”<br />

I barked.<br />

Sandy Claws stopped what he was<br />

doing and turned around slowly. I<br />

was frozen in terror, expecting to be<br />

dognapped! Instead, he walked toward<br />

me and gave me <strong>the</strong> biggest<br />

dog biscuit I had ever seen. I was<br />

surprised by him and even more surprised<br />

by his gift. I realized <strong>the</strong>n that<br />

Dogmas was not so bad after all.<br />

Honorable Mention<br />

Home for Christmas<br />

by Mia Gordon<br />

Stoneybrook West<br />

On Dec. 24, 2022, a wonderful<br />

winter day, 5-year-old Emily Smith was<br />

building a snowman with her 11-yearold<br />

bro<strong>the</strong>r, Josh. They had been playing<br />

for hours, until <strong>the</strong>ir mom yelled<br />

from <strong>the</strong> door, “Hot cocoa time!”<br />

Emily and Josh dashed inside for<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir mom’s delicious hot cocoa. Lily<br />

had a seat at <strong>the</strong> bar, and took her<br />

hot cocoa and added extra whipped<br />

cream, caramel, chocolate syrup and<br />

gummy bears.<br />

“Gross!” Josh exclaimed. “Why<br />

would you put so many toppings on<br />

your hot cocoa?”<br />

“Because it’s unique and delicious,<br />

just like me.” Emily said proudly.<br />

Josh simply nodded his head and<br />

gestured to go back outside while muttering<br />

something under his breath.<br />

Time passed, and before you knew<br />

it, Josh was 18 and moving out, with<br />

12-year-old Emily desperately begging<br />

him to not leave.<br />

“Please!” Emily begged. “Pretty,<br />

pretty please!”<br />

“I’m only gonna be two hours away,<br />

Emily.” Josh said. “And, I’ll be back by<br />

<strong>the</strong> time it’s Christmas, I promise.”<br />

This meant a lot to Emily. When Josh<br />

made a promise, he always kept it.<br />

“OK, but you must come back,” she<br />

said. “I will drive two hours to find you<br />

and drag you home for Christmas.”<br />

She gave him a huge bear hug and<br />

watched as he finished loading everything<br />

into <strong>the</strong> car. Once he stepped on<br />

<strong>the</strong> gas, she started crying.<br />

“Wait! Josh, come back!” Emily<br />

said while gasping for air.<br />

She ran down <strong>the</strong> street after him.<br />

“I’ll be home by Christmas!” Josh<br />

yelled, and he turned <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> street<br />

and drove away.<br />

Emily counted down <strong>the</strong> days until<br />

Christmas. On Christmas Eve, Emily<br />

heard <strong>the</strong> doorbell, hopped out <strong>of</strong> her<br />

bed, and ran downstairs, expecting to<br />

see her bro<strong>the</strong>r standing before her.<br />

Instead, she saw a letter addressed to<br />

Emily Smith. She grabbed <strong>the</strong> envelope<br />

and rushed inside from <strong>the</strong> cold.<br />

“Mom! I got a letter!” Emily yelled.<br />

“Why don’t you open it?” her mom<br />

said.<br />

Emily sighed as she began to read<br />

her letter.<br />

“To Emily: I’m sure you are wondering<br />

why I sent a letter instead <strong>of</strong> being<br />

<strong>the</strong>re beside you, playing in <strong>the</strong><br />

snow. I was invited by <strong>the</strong> girl <strong>of</strong> my<br />

dreams to spend Christmas with her,<br />

and I promised her that I wouldn’t miss<br />

it. I am sorry that I’m not <strong>the</strong>re in person,<br />

but I hope this gift makes up for<br />

it. Don’t open it until Christmas. Sorry,<br />

Josh.“<br />

Emily felt tears welling up in her<br />

eyes. She crumpled <strong>the</strong> piece <strong>of</strong> paper<br />

and ran to her room, slamming<br />

<strong>the</strong> door behind her.<br />

Emily kept repeating <strong>the</strong> letter in her<br />

mind. No, this can’t be <strong>the</strong> end. Josh<br />

will come. Or he won’t. I don’t know<br />

anymore. Am I right or wrong? I don’t<br />

know.<br />

Emily glanced at <strong>the</strong> window, remembering<br />

all <strong>the</strong> traditions her and<br />

her bro<strong>the</strong>r used to do — making a<br />

snowman in <strong>the</strong> yard, putting too<br />

many toppings on her hot cocoa.<br />

Cocoa. Cocoa! Emily rushed outside<br />

onto <strong>the</strong> driveway just as a black<br />

Chevrolet pulled in.<br />

“Josh!” Emily squealed.<br />

“How did you know I was coming?”<br />

Josh asked as he hugged her.<br />

“Once I read your letter, I threw<br />

it out because I was so mad,” Emily<br />

said. “But, it got me thinking <strong>of</strong> what<br />

you said nine years ago. ‘You’re <strong>the</strong><br />

girl <strong>of</strong> my dreams.’”<br />

Josh smiled hard and yanked her to<br />

<strong>the</strong> ground.<br />

“Do you wanna build a snowman?”<br />

he asked laughing.<br />

Emily just smiled.<br />

Honorable Mention<br />

The Secret Santa Drop-Off<br />

by Ella Schuemann<br />

Isle <strong>of</strong> Osprey<br />

Riiing!<br />

I heard <strong>the</strong> late school bell as I was<br />

picking up my books <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> floor<br />

because Jeremy Will had pushed<br />

me over. He was <strong>the</strong> meanest kid at<br />

school and so were his siblings —<br />

Lucy, Edward and Camilla. They were<br />

<strong>the</strong> scariest kids in <strong>the</strong> whole school,<br />

and it felt like <strong>the</strong>y always targeted<br />

my family. I wondered about <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

parents, because I never saw <strong>the</strong>m<br />

around school. They got dropped <strong>of</strong>f<br />

at school by <strong>the</strong>ir parents. All <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

teachers favored <strong>the</strong> Wills kids, which<br />

my friends and I thought was strange.<br />

When I got home from school, my<br />

mom had warm, freshly baked homemade<br />

cookies. They were red and<br />

green cookies filled with Christmas<br />

spirit and joy. My mom sat us all<br />

down at <strong>the</strong> table, and I knew something<br />

was fishy, but I didn’t know what<br />

it was.<br />

“So, do you guys know <strong>the</strong> Wills<br />

family?” she asked. “They are struggling<br />

right now with <strong>the</strong>ir dad dying<br />

a year ago and <strong>the</strong>ir mom working<br />

shifts just to provide food for <strong>the</strong> family.<br />

They need some Christmas cheer<br />

in <strong>the</strong>ir lives. I was thinking we could<br />

be <strong>the</strong>ir Secret Santa.”<br />

“But <strong>the</strong>y are so mean to us!” my sister,<br />

Angel, blurted out.<br />

“I know, but we need to think <strong>of</strong> o<strong>the</strong>rs<br />

before ourselves sometimes,” Mom<br />

said. “It’s <strong>the</strong> right thing to do, and,<br />

after all, Christmas is <strong>the</strong> time to give.”<br />

“Fine,” my sisters and I said in sulky<br />

voices. “We’ll do it.”<br />

A couple <strong>of</strong> days passed until it was<br />

<strong>the</strong> day we were going to do <strong>the</strong> Secret<br />

Santa. We got <strong>the</strong>m fuzzy Christmas<br />

socks, a sled, four gingerbread houses<br />

and some hot cocoa packs. I didn’t<br />

think that those little presents would<br />

make such a difference.<br />

We drove to <strong>the</strong>ir home, which was<br />

a little brick house with <strong>the</strong> littlest Merry<br />

Christmas sign anyone had ever seen.<br />

We went up to <strong>the</strong> front door, dropped<br />

<strong>the</strong> presents <strong>of</strong>f, rang <strong>the</strong> doorbell and<br />

hid behind a tree. At first, <strong>the</strong>y didn’t<br />

answer <strong>the</strong> doorbell, but soon, Jeremy<br />

came and opened <strong>the</strong> door. His smile<br />

lit up <strong>the</strong> whole neighborhood.

“Lucy, Edward, Camilla, come<br />

quick!” he shouted. “Look what Santa’s<br />

reindeer brought us.”<br />

They all had <strong>the</strong> biggest smiles on<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir faces, which made me smile,<br />

too. I had never seen any <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>m with<br />

a smile that big and bright. Their attitudes<br />

changed, and it felt like <strong>the</strong>y<br />

were different people.<br />

At school <strong>the</strong> next day, everything<br />

was different. There was no fighting,<br />

no pushing and no people being<br />

pushed into lockers, which was weird.<br />

When I saw Jeremy coming toward<br />

me, he said, “Oh hey, Luca.”<br />

It didn’t even matter that he said<br />

my name wrong, since my name<br />

was Luke. When I went to say “hey”<br />

back, no words would come out <strong>of</strong><br />

my mouth since I was so astonished.<br />

I hadn’t thought those gifts could<br />

change someone so much.<br />

One good deed can make a huge<br />

difference in someone’s life. God put<br />

me in Jeremy’s life so that my family<br />

could change his heart.<br />

We should give with our whole<br />

hearts, especially during <strong>the</strong> Christmas<br />

season.<br />

Honorable Mention<br />

Orlando Christmas Magic<br />

by Max Perrupato<br />

Westover Club<br />

It was 10 o’clock on Christmas Eve<br />

2022. There was a loud noise outside<br />

my window. I saw a glimmer <strong>of</strong> white<br />

light fly right past my house. I ga<strong>the</strong>red<br />

my bearings and got up. I soon<br />

realized that it was Santa’s sleigh!<br />

I ran to my parent’s room and told<br />

<strong>the</strong>m, “Mom and Dad, I just saw<br />

Santa’s sleigh!”<br />

My parents told me to go back to<br />

bed, but I knew this was my chance<br />

to finally catch a glimpse <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> jolly<br />

man himself. I ran outside to find that<br />

<strong>the</strong> white light was gone.<br />

I started walking in <strong>the</strong> direction it<br />

went. I walked all <strong>the</strong> way to downtown<br />

Orlando, and I noticed this kid<br />

from school. His name was Will.<br />

“Hey, did you see that light?” I<br />

asked him.<br />

“Yes, I did, and I’m going to look<br />

for Santa myself. I really hope we can<br />

meet him,” Will said.<br />

Will and I continued our search toge<strong>the</strong>r.<br />

Right as we passed Amway<br />

Center, we noticed something very<br />

peculiar.<br />

“Is that a reindeer?” I asked not believing<br />

my eyes.<br />

“Wow, that’s so cool” Will exclaimed.<br />

“Let’s check <strong>the</strong> name tag.”<br />

In big, gold, glitter letters, <strong>the</strong> tag<br />

read “Donnor.”<br />

“Wow, it’s one <strong>of</strong> Santa’s reindeer,”<br />

Will said.<br />

Then we noticed Santa’s sleigh with<br />

all its jingle bells and reindeer.<br />

“Wow, we really did it!” Will said.<br />

“We found Santa’s whole sleigh. But,<br />

where is Santa?”<br />

“I don’t know,” I said.<br />

Will noticed a giant screen. In big<br />

letters it read, “Orlando Magic vs. <strong>the</strong><br />

Lakers.”<br />

We decided to go inside and check it<br />

out. Once we got to <strong>the</strong> game, <strong>the</strong> ticket<br />

people said, “Do you have a ticket?”<br />

“No, we do not, sir,” I said.<br />

“I’m sorry <strong>the</strong>n,” <strong>the</strong> man said. “We<br />

can’t let you in.”<br />

At that moment, a phone rang, and<br />

he picked it up. I don’t know what <strong>the</strong>y<br />

were talking about on <strong>the</strong> phone, but<br />

we were allowed in. He told us to go to<br />

Club Box No. 36. Puzzled by this, we<br />

walked up <strong>the</strong> stairs and through <strong>the</strong><br />

elevator to <strong>the</strong> floor.<br />

When we finally reached <strong>the</strong> room,<br />

<strong>the</strong> door seemed to be unlocked.<br />

We knocked, and someone in a very<br />

jolly voice said, “Come on in.”<br />

We entered <strong>the</strong> room to find a man<br />

wearing a red suit and a red hat with<br />

a sleigh bell on top <strong>of</strong> it. We soon realized<br />

that it was Santa himself!<br />

Right after we walked up to him, he<br />

yelled, “Go, Magic!”<br />

We asked why he was <strong>the</strong>re and<br />

why he wasn’t out delivering presents.<br />

“Sometimes I need to watch someone<br />

else’s magic,” he said.<br />

We told Santa that we would come<br />

and help him so he would not be<br />

alone. For <strong>the</strong> rest <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> night, we used<br />

our Orlando magic and went around<br />

<strong>the</strong> world delivering presents to all <strong>the</strong><br />

children. Santa thanked us and wished<br />

us a merry Christmas. The next day,<br />

when I woke up, <strong>the</strong>re were presents<br />

everywhere.<br />

“Santa must have known that you<br />

were very good this year,” my mom<br />

said.<br />

“He sure did,” I said with a grin.<br />

www.SouthwestOrlandoBulletin.com x December 15, 2022 — January 4, 2023 x 17<br />

Honorable Mention<br />

The Free Deer<br />

by Gracyn Eitel<br />

Estates at Windermere<br />

Lonely. That’s exactly how I felt<br />

when I first arrived in America, my<br />

new home. I wished that I could<br />

be celebrating Christmas back in<br />

Ukraine, where I was born and where<br />

I lived, but I knew that was impossible<br />

now that my home was destroyed.<br />

Mo<strong>the</strong>r said that we would start<br />

fresh in <strong>the</strong> U.S., but sometimes good<br />

things are out <strong>of</strong> reach. When I arrived<br />

at my new home, I was taken<br />

aback as I realized that we were living<br />

in a homeless shelter.<br />

“What? We have to spend<br />

Christmas in a shelter?” I asked, shaking<br />

with disappointment.<br />

“I’m sorry, dear, but we’re going to<br />

have to,” Mom said. “We don’t have<br />

enough American dollars to buy a<br />

home, and <strong>the</strong> Americans are providing<br />

for us here.”<br />

So, <strong>the</strong>re I was, about to have<br />

Christmas at a homeless shelter. A<br />

homeless shelter. My body seemed to<br />

crumble in sadness. I lost my home,<br />

and now it felt like Christmas was ruined.<br />

I glanced over at a thicket <strong>of</strong><br />

weeds resting plumply beside <strong>the</strong><br />

building to see a young buck tussle as<br />

his antlers were wrapped around <strong>the</strong><br />

weeds. He was stuck. In a way, I felt<br />

like that deer, bound by awful circumstances<br />

and not wanting to be where<br />

I was put. I inched my way into <strong>the</strong><br />

shelter and settled in with my family.<br />

A couple <strong>of</strong> days passed before<br />

I really settled into my new home. It<br />

was cramped and full <strong>of</strong> little kids. But<br />

what really changed me was when I<br />

met Lola.<br />

Lola was a small girl. She had big,<br />

blue eyes and long, curly, auburn hair<br />

that rested at <strong>the</strong> bottom <strong>of</strong> her chest.<br />

I had seen her around <strong>the</strong> shelter before,<br />

but it was just a few days before<br />

Christmas when she touched me.<br />

“Naios?” Lola asked, saying my<br />

name s<strong>of</strong>tly. “Do you know what I<br />

want for Christmas?”<br />

“No, I don’t.” I replied.<br />

“I want <strong>the</strong> best Christmas cheer<br />

right here in this shelter,” she said. “I<br />


18 x December 15, 2022 — January 4, 2023 x www.SouthwestOrlandoBulletin.com<br />


really want everyone to have <strong>the</strong> best<br />

Christmas ever!”<br />

The words “Christmas cheer” hit<br />

me. I had it back at my old home. I<br />

never tried to bring it to where I was<br />

living now, because I was too wound<br />

up in my sadness and disappointment<br />

to do so.<br />

So, I decided that <strong>the</strong> shelter would<br />

see <strong>the</strong> best Christmas cheer <strong>the</strong>re<br />

ever was! I got to work immediately.<br />

I asked our caretakers if <strong>the</strong>y could<br />

bring in ornaments to decorate <strong>the</strong><br />

dopey Christmas tree, and <strong>the</strong>y did.<br />

The tree became a sparkling wonder,<br />

but I didn’t stop <strong>the</strong>re. I grabbed a<br />

bunch <strong>of</strong> paper from a spare room<br />

and put <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r kids to work cutting<br />

out paper angels and banners for <strong>the</strong><br />

tree. They had so much fun. I rounded<br />

up everyone to sing Christmas<br />

carols every night before <strong>the</strong>y were<br />

supposed to go to bed, and, on<br />

Christmas Eve, <strong>the</strong> caretakers provided<br />

us with a bunch <strong>of</strong> food to make a<br />

grand dinner.<br />

When it was time to eat, it made<br />

my heart beat with pride to see <strong>the</strong><br />

grins on everyone’s faces. As I was<br />

stuffing myself with turkey, I glanced<br />

out <strong>the</strong> window to see <strong>the</strong> same buck<br />

I had seen a while ago, silhouetted<br />

against <strong>the</strong> sun. He was free, and,<br />

somehow, I felt <strong>the</strong> same.<br />

Honorable Mention<br />

My Christmas Adventure<br />

by Caitlin Callan<br />

Phillips Landing<br />

My family has always wanted a<br />

white Christmas, but <strong>the</strong>re’s one problem<br />

— we live in Florida. It never<br />

snows here, so we checked out plane<br />

tickets, but <strong>the</strong>y were too expensive.<br />

We decided to just stay home.<br />

Ano<strong>the</strong>r Christmas with no snow. I<br />

needed to find a way to have a white<br />

Christmas.<br />

The day <strong>of</strong> Christmas Eve, we were<br />

eating a special dinner, and I could<br />

tell my family was feeling down. This<br />

was my last chance to find a way to<br />

have a white Christmas. After dinner,<br />

we watched Home Alone, <strong>the</strong>n I had<br />

to go to bed.<br />

As I was lying in bed, I kept thinking<br />

<strong>of</strong> a white Christmas. There had<br />

to be a way! My eyes were feeling<br />

heavy when I looked out <strong>the</strong> window<br />

and saw a shooting star. I made a<br />

wish for snow and hoped I’d get super<br />

lucky.<br />

The next morning, I woke up to <strong>the</strong><br />

smell <strong>of</strong> hot chocolate and <strong>the</strong> hum<br />

<strong>of</strong> Christmas carols. There was something<br />

different about today. Yes, it was<br />

Christmas, but it was something else.<br />

When I walked downstairs, I saw my<br />

little sister shaking all <strong>the</strong> presents. I<br />

rolled my eyes and walked into <strong>the</strong><br />

kitchen where my parents were eating<br />

waffles and drinking c<strong>of</strong>fee.<br />

When I walked in, <strong>the</strong>ir smiles were<br />

so joyful. As I grabbed a waffle, <strong>the</strong>y<br />

asked if I had seen it yet. I had no<br />

idea what <strong>the</strong>y were talking about.<br />

“Seen what?” I asked.<br />

Mom answered immediately, “The<br />

snow!”<br />

As I looked out <strong>the</strong> window, my<br />

chin dropped — snow! Later, after<br />

presents and having cookies and hot<br />

cocoa, it began to get dark. We sat<br />

at <strong>the</strong> table, <strong>the</strong>n heard a loud noise<br />

coming from <strong>the</strong> woods.<br />

“What was that?” my sister asked.<br />

“I don’t know,” Dad said. “Let’s<br />

check it out.”<br />

As we started walking toward <strong>the</strong><br />

woods, I saw a big star. It was so<br />

bright you needed sunglasses to look<br />

directly at it. As we walked far<strong>the</strong>r<br />

into <strong>the</strong> woods, snow fell harder and<br />

harder. It was like a winter wonderland<br />

with snow and a few “Ho, Ho,<br />

Hos.”<br />

When we finally made it to <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

side <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> woods, we heard crying<br />

and talking. We walked closer and<br />

saw a manger.<br />

“Could it be,” I murmured, “<strong>the</strong> Holy<br />

Family?”<br />

I could not believe my eyes. It was<br />

Mary, Joseph, Jesus and all <strong>the</strong> visitors<br />

and animals. When I looked closer,<br />

<strong>the</strong>re was no baby in <strong>the</strong> manger.<br />

Jesus must have crawled away while<br />

his parents weren’t looking. I had to<br />

find <strong>the</strong> baby and return him to his<br />

family, and quickly!<br />

I told my family, and we started<br />

looking. It took a while <strong>of</strong> searching,<br />

but we finally found Jesus. I made a<br />

beeline to where his family was sitting<br />

and started walking closer. When I<br />

finally got <strong>the</strong>re, I said hello to Mary<br />

and explained what had happened.<br />

When I finished, she was very grateful.<br />

I said thank you for understanding<br />

and for everything, and we started<br />

walking back.<br />

Once we got back to <strong>the</strong> house, we<br />

sat speechless for at least a half hour.<br />

“That was amazing,” my sister said.<br />

“Yup,” I said.<br />

When I thought I had gone to bed,<br />

I was actually waking up. Had I really<br />

been dreaming? I guess so.<br />

I walked downstairs to find my family<br />

staring out <strong>the</strong> window. Snow!<br />

Honorable Mention<br />

Ms. Linda’s Candy Shoppe<br />

by Jacy Chen<br />

Belmere<br />

Inspired by The Art Room run by Linda Ziglar:<br />

Ms. Linda’s Candy Shoppe was <strong>the</strong><br />

pride and joy <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> town. The children<br />

would go <strong>the</strong>re every single day after<br />

school with <strong>the</strong>ir pennies, and sometimes<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir parents would come, as<br />

well, for <strong>the</strong> c<strong>of</strong>fee taffy. There were<br />

flavors that you would see at an ice<br />

cream parlor. Some might seem gross<br />

and odd. The flavors had one thing<br />

in common, Ms. Linda made <strong>the</strong>m all<br />

by hand.<br />

Soon, it would be Christmas,<br />

and during that special month <strong>of</strong><br />

December, Ms. Linda would bring<br />

out her specials, which included her<br />

peppermint collection. It contained<br />

so many treats like edible peppermint<br />

ornaments, peppermint beans, peppermint<br />

gumdrops, peppermint snowman<br />

ice cream, and peppermint bark<br />

candy bars. She would even bring<br />

out her bestseller — mustard candy<br />

canes. They tasted funny, but <strong>the</strong> more<br />

you ate <strong>the</strong>m, <strong>the</strong> more you craved.<br />

The townsfolk loved to eat <strong>the</strong>m, especially<br />

<strong>the</strong> youngsters.<br />

Everyone loved that shop. It reminded<br />

<strong>the</strong> old <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir childhoods and reminded<br />

<strong>the</strong> young to treasure <strong>the</strong>irs.<br />

Honorable Mention<br />

A Christmas Snowstorm<br />

by Zakir Saferali<br />

Windermere<br />

On a dark night <strong>of</strong> winter, a boy<br />

named Jack went to visit his grandma<br />

with his mom. He was kind <strong>of</strong> nervous<br />

because it was <strong>the</strong> first time he had<br />

met his grandma, so he didn’t know<br />

what she would be like. Would she<br />

be kind, angry, grumpy or even sad?<br />

His mom told him that <strong>the</strong>re was<br />

nothing to worry about, but he still<br />

worried.<br />

His grandma lived on a rural farm,<br />

though on <strong>the</strong> way, he did see o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

people. Jack lived in Atlanta and<br />

had never seen such a lifestyle with<br />

so many people chopping <strong>the</strong>ir own<br />

wood. He didn’t quite understand<br />

why, and he was a bit curious, so he<br />

paid close attention.<br />

By <strong>the</strong> time Jack arrived at his<br />

grandma’s home, it was all nicely<br />

decorated for Christmas. After a<br />

long car ride, he went to bed. In <strong>the</strong><br />

morning, when Jack woke up, it was<br />

chilly. He wanted to ask his grandma<br />

for hot chocolate, but he couldn’t find<br />

her. Luckily, he checked outside and<br />

found her. She had just finished chopping<br />

wood and was starting to milk<br />

cows.<br />

Jack tried to act like she was just<br />

ano<strong>the</strong>r person and asked his grandma<br />

why she and everyone else in <strong>the</strong><br />

neighborhood had been working so<br />

hard.<br />

“There’s bad news I’ve been meaning<br />

to tell you,” she said. “There’s going<br />

to be a snowstorm on Christmas.<br />

It will be one <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> strongest storms<br />

that has ever hit this part <strong>of</strong> Asheville.<br />

That’s why everyone is preparing so<br />

much.”<br />

Jack could not believe that he<br />

would have to spend Christmas inside<br />

during a snowstorm. Before, Jack was<br />

worried about meeting his grandma.<br />

Now, he was worried about a very<br />

aggressive snowstorm heading his<br />

way.<br />

For <strong>the</strong> next couple <strong>of</strong> days until<br />

Christmas, Jack, his grandma and<br />

his mom prepared for <strong>the</strong> storm. It<br />

was <strong>the</strong> he day <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> storm, and<br />

Christmas had finally come. The power<br />

went out, and it was too cold and<br />

dangerous to go outside.<br />

Jack was a bit scared and sad. He<br />

had never been in a snowstorm. His<br />

grandma tried to cheer him up by<br />

teaching him card games such as Go<br />

Fish; War; Rummy; Slap, Slap, Jack<br />

and more. She even made more hot<br />

chocolate. Jack loved it all! He started<br />

to get his spirits up, especially on<br />

<strong>the</strong> most magical day <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> year.

The storm suddenly passed, and <strong>the</strong><br />

lights came back on. His mom proudly<br />

said, “It was a bit <strong>of</strong> Christmas<br />

magic.”<br />

Jack was enjoying <strong>the</strong> day so much,<br />

he wished ano<strong>the</strong>r storm would come.<br />

Luckily, <strong>the</strong> fun wasn’t over yet.<br />

Jack helped to check on livestock<br />

and shovel <strong>the</strong> driveway. When he<br />

and his grandma finished, <strong>the</strong>y went<br />

to sing Christmas carols at o<strong>the</strong>r people’s<br />

houses and help <strong>the</strong>m recover<br />

from any damage caused by <strong>the</strong><br />

storm. After all that work, <strong>the</strong>y played<br />

cards and ate Christmas cookies.<br />

Jack felt good about this Christmas.<br />

He helped o<strong>the</strong>r people, even though<br />

he didn’t know <strong>the</strong>m. What he thought<br />

was <strong>the</strong> best part <strong>of</strong> Christmas was<br />

that he got to go to his grandma’s<br />

house. Even if he was scared in <strong>the</strong><br />

beginning, for <strong>the</strong> first time, he got to<br />

meet his grandma and bond with her.<br />

Ever since that year, Jack and his<br />

mom went to his grandma’s house<br />

to spend Christmas every year. That<br />

year, he learned that <strong>the</strong> true meaning<br />

<strong>of</strong> Christmas was spending time<br />

with your family.<br />

Honorable Mention<br />

Little Star <strong>of</strong> Bethlehem<br />

by Ireland McAndrew<br />

Keene’s Pointe<br />

It was 1968 in <strong>the</strong> month <strong>of</strong><br />

December. Snow was falling, and<br />

<strong>the</strong> brisk air was harshly brushing<br />

my face. As I walked by a wooden<br />

door decorated with a wreath and<br />

plenty <strong>of</strong> tinsel, I noticed that <strong>the</strong><br />

people inside were grinning with<br />

pleasure. Laughter filled <strong>the</strong> room<br />

like a warm cup <strong>of</strong> cocoa fills your<br />

soul. The sight didn’t make sense to<br />

me. Why would people be happy?<br />

It was just some mindless holiday.<br />

The sight gave me revolting emotions,<br />

so I knew it was time to go to<br />

my own family.<br />

I’m Mary, a 7-year-old girl<br />

who lives in an apartment east <strong>of</strong><br />

Bethlehem near a stable. Some<br />

say this was where <strong>the</strong> Messiah<br />

once laid his head, on <strong>the</strong> ragged<br />

manger that my animals eat out<br />

<strong>of</strong>. Supposedly, I was named after<br />

Jesus’ mo<strong>the</strong>r, Mary. My full name is<br />

Mariah Be<strong>the</strong>l. Be<strong>the</strong>l means house<br />

<strong>of</strong> God.<br />

www.SouthwestOrlandoBulletin.com x December 15, 2022 — January 4, 2023 x 19<br />

Though I had never witnessed<br />

any miracles, I memorized <strong>the</strong> Bible<br />

because it was a tradition to recite<br />

five scriptures on Christmas day. My<br />

family had strong feelings about <strong>the</strong><br />

astonishing love <strong>the</strong> Lord provided us<br />

when He sent His son to save us from<br />

our sins in <strong>the</strong> hope that one day, we<br />

would live eternal life in heaven.<br />

To me, that sounded like a fairy<br />

tale filled to <strong>the</strong> rim with candy<br />

canes and gumdrops. I just didn’t get<br />

what was so important about rejoicing<br />

for a bratty baby to have been<br />

born. I was adopted two years before,<br />

when I was 5, because my parents<br />

made disappointing decisions<br />

in <strong>the</strong>ir lives. As I was growing up, I<br />

never learned anything about God.<br />

My parents would become brutally<br />

harsh if <strong>the</strong>y caught me doing anything<br />

religious.<br />

One day, I took my sheep to graze<br />

in a new pasture. Sitting <strong>the</strong>re bored<br />

and waiting until <strong>the</strong> sheep were<br />

ready to come back, a light suddenly<br />

appeared as bright as <strong>the</strong> rising sun.<br />

I saw a large, winged angel calling<br />

my name.<br />

“Yes, what do you want?” I asked,<br />

frightened. “I do not understand who<br />

this is.”<br />

“Hi, I am Gabriel,” <strong>the</strong> angel said.<br />

“I was sent from <strong>the</strong> Lord to tell you<br />

<strong>the</strong> wonderful story <strong>of</strong> Christmas.<br />

Christmas is not about buttons, bows,<br />

tinsel and trees. It is about love and<br />

finding joy in little circumstances. After<br />

I delivered <strong>the</strong> news that Mary would<br />

have a baby named Jesus, she made<br />

a long journey to Bethlehem. Before<br />

<strong>the</strong>y reached this place, <strong>the</strong>y used<br />

<strong>the</strong> star <strong>of</strong> Bethlehem to guide <strong>the</strong>m.<br />

There, she had her baby boy, not in a<br />

luxury house or an exemplary apartment<br />

but in a putrid stable containing<br />

a sheep, donkey, cow and horse. You<br />

see, Mariah, Mary and Joseph didn’t<br />

need an intricate plan. They just needed<br />

love and guidance from <strong>the</strong> Lord.”<br />

Later that evening, I thought about<br />

what <strong>the</strong> angel had said but couldn’t<br />

quite put into place <strong>the</strong> way he’d told<br />

<strong>the</strong> story.<br />

I put my head on my pillow, trying<br />

to ignore my thoughts. What if<br />


Please<br />

check our<br />

website<br />

for holiday<br />


20 x December 15, 2022 — January 4, 2023 x www.SouthwestOrlandoBulletin.com<br />


Gabriel is right, and God is righteous<br />

and pure? Could it be possible<br />

that <strong>the</strong>re is more meaning to this<br />

holiday?<br />

That night, I was perplexed, thinking<br />

about possibilities and <strong>the</strong> story<br />

<strong>of</strong> Christmas. Finally, I woke up<br />

Christmas morning with exhilaration,<br />

anticipation and a smile that spread<br />

from ear to ear. I got it! Jesus died on<br />

<strong>the</strong> cross for all <strong>of</strong> us and took human<br />

form. He made sure that we were not<br />

sacrificed for our sins. He was born<br />

on that day, so we should praise his<br />

name and appreciate him. Merry<br />

Christmas, Baby Jesus!<br />

Honorable Mention<br />

A Very Special Christmas<br />

by Zachary Winfield<br />

Silver Woods<br />

This story begins in <strong>the</strong> small town<br />

<strong>of</strong> Windermere. This was many<br />

years ago, when <strong>the</strong> scent <strong>of</strong> orange<br />

groves were everywhere. A<br />

boy named Tom lived in a big house<br />

<strong>the</strong>re. He had three sisters and one<br />

bro<strong>the</strong>r.<br />

Tom loved exploring, and he was<br />

a Boy Scout. Tom loved his big bro<strong>the</strong>r,<br />

and when his bro<strong>the</strong>r joined <strong>the</strong><br />

Army, Tom was sad to see him go.<br />

He missed time with his bro<strong>the</strong>r and<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir fun adventures.<br />

On Christmas Eve, Tom told his mom<br />

he was going exploring. He stepped<br />

into <strong>the</strong> orange grove and vanished<br />

into <strong>the</strong> thick brush. It was getting<br />

dark and cold. He found a clearing<br />

with what looked to be a giant abandoned<br />

home. He walked inside <strong>the</strong><br />

house and turned on <strong>the</strong> lights. He<br />

continued into <strong>the</strong> living room when<br />

something smooth fell on him.<br />

A drop <strong>of</strong> frosting landed on Tom’s<br />

nose. He reached up and put <strong>the</strong><br />

sweet frosting to his lips.<br />

“Yum, this is good!” he exclaimed.<br />

Then, he saw a licorice red carpet<br />

and glass elevator. He walked<br />

inside and pressed a button, and <strong>the</strong><br />

elevator moved. The doors opened,<br />

and he saw a hockey rink and football<br />

field. Beyond <strong>the</strong> field, he saw<br />

a movie <strong>the</strong>ater and <strong>the</strong>me park. In<br />

<strong>the</strong> park was a gingerbread mummy<br />

roller coaster. Tom stopped for a<br />

ride, and <strong>the</strong>n he went to <strong>the</strong> gingerbread<br />

rocket ride.<br />

As he walked around, he found a<br />

bedroom with a phone. He called<br />

his parents and told <strong>the</strong>m where he<br />

was. He returned to explore and<br />

discovered an arcade game room.<br />

He turned and caught a glimpse <strong>of</strong><br />

something that made him sad. He<br />

returned to <strong>the</strong> bedroom and fell<br />

asleep.<br />

After some rest, he woke up and<br />

felt like exploring. He walked down<br />

<strong>the</strong> stairs and found a kitchen. He<br />

made some hot chocolate with candy<br />

canes. He even piled a bag <strong>of</strong><br />

marshmallows in <strong>the</strong> mug.<br />

Tom walked downstairs and found<br />

a room filled with 30 puppies. He<br />

played with all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>m for about<br />

an hour, <strong>the</strong>n he decided to return<br />

upstairs. He followed a trail <strong>of</strong> gumdrops<br />

to <strong>the</strong> elevator. There was a<br />

piece <strong>of</strong> paper on one button that<br />

read “push me.”<br />

The door opened to a music studio<br />

and ano<strong>the</strong>r trail <strong>of</strong> gumdrops. He<br />

found himself inside a military room.<br />

When he noticed <strong>the</strong> Army cookies,<br />

Nurse Practitioners:<br />

Es<strong>the</strong>r Pelissier, ARPN-BC<br />

Irene Gan, PMHNP<br />

Raykha Crag-Chaderton, PMHNP-BC<br />

Rachael Pittala, ARPN-BC<br />

Therapists:<br />

Michael Kellogg, LMHC, ATR-BC<br />

Randie Morillo, LC<strong>SW</strong>, AC<strong>SW</strong><br />

Amy Singleton, LMHC<br />

Brooke Parker, LMHC<br />

Cristal Daniel, LMHC<br />

Rachael Pittala<br />

Es<strong>the</strong>r Pelissier<br />

he choked back a tear, thinking <strong>of</strong><br />

time spent with his bro<strong>the</strong>r. He noticed<br />

something was different in this<br />

room. There was a large cylinder in<br />

<strong>the</strong> middle <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> room with holes on<br />

top and a note.<br />

He moved closer to read it: Hi,<br />

Tom. I had a feeling you would follow<br />

<strong>the</strong> gumdrops because you love<br />

adventures just like me. I built this<br />

place for you to enjoy. I am sorry<br />

I have missed time with you, but I<br />

want you to open this last gift. It’s<br />

your Christmas present. — James.<br />

Tom walked up to <strong>the</strong> large cylinder<br />

and opened <strong>the</strong> door. There in<br />

front <strong>of</strong> him, he could hardly believe,<br />

stood his bro<strong>the</strong>r. James was standing<br />

in full salute. His big bro<strong>the</strong>r<br />

gave him a smile and walked out.<br />

He hugged Tom so tightly Tom could<br />

barely brea<strong>the</strong>. He felt so happy!<br />

“Now, let’s go home and enjoy<br />

our Christmas toge<strong>the</strong>r,” his bro<strong>the</strong>r<br />

said.<br />

They walked out <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> gingerbread<br />

house and down <strong>the</strong> path<br />

leading home.<br />

Honorable Mention<br />

Home for <strong>the</strong> Holidays<br />

by Lily Carnell<br />

Oakland Park<br />

Christmas has been my favorite<br />

holiday for as long as I can remember.<br />

I love <strong>the</strong> idea <strong>of</strong> putting<br />

up Christmas trees, baking holiday<br />

treats, enjoying warm fires, sipping<br />

hot cocoa and, above all, spending<br />

time with my family. It all seems so<br />

picture-perfect, right? Well, it was<br />

until I went away to college.<br />

It was my first year at UC Berkeley,<br />

and I absolutely loved it <strong>the</strong>re — except<br />

for <strong>the</strong> fact that my family was<br />

all <strong>the</strong> way back in Florida, and it<br />

was way too expensive to fly back<br />

home for Christmas. I had been<br />

so slammed with schoolwork and<br />

end-<strong>of</strong>-semester exams I had hardly<br />

been back to my apartment let<br />

alone decorated it. I had just been<br />

crashing in my friend’s dorm, counting<br />

down <strong>the</strong> days until Dec. 16,<br />

2022, when break began.<br />

Finally, after eight all-nighters,<br />

barely one meal a day, and six<br />

A’s on my exams, <strong>the</strong>y were over!<br />

I stopped by a Starbucks and<br />

celebrated with a few friends before<br />

returning to my apartment.<br />

Thankfully, <strong>the</strong> drive wasn’t too<br />

long, but in my old, worn car, it<br />

would probably take a little longer<br />

than expected. It was so freeing<br />

blasting Christmas music with all <strong>the</strong><br />

windows down.<br />

I pulled into <strong>the</strong> parking lot just<br />

to see ano<strong>the</strong>r car in my spot. This<br />

happened so <strong>of</strong>ten, and it drove me<br />

crazy, but I wasn’t going to let that<br />

ruin my mood. The car, an all black<br />

BMW x5, had been my dream car<br />

for as long as I could remember. I<br />

was struggling to find my keys in<br />

my bag when, all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> sudden, I<br />

heard a noise in my apartment. It<br />

couldn’t be my dog because he was<br />

at <strong>the</strong> pound.<br />

The lock clicked, and <strong>the</strong> door<br />

slowly started to open. Standing in<br />

<strong>the</strong> doorway was my mom, dad, sister<br />

and my dog.<br />

“Surprise!” They all screamed.<br />

“Oh, my god!” I said. “What are<br />

you guys doing here?”<br />

“We wanted to surprise you and<br />

spend Christmas toge<strong>the</strong>r,” Mom<br />

said.<br />

They gave me <strong>the</strong> biggest hugs<br />

and showed me my beautifully<br />

decorated apartment. The fireplace<br />

was going, <strong>the</strong>re were freshly<br />

baked treats, and <strong>the</strong> smell <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

pine Christmas tree was spread<br />

throughout <strong>the</strong> apartment.<br />

“We have one more surprise for<br />

you,” my dad said.<br />

They led me down <strong>the</strong> stairs to<br />

right in front <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> brand-new BMW<br />

that was parked in my spot.<br />

“It’s all yours,” Dad said. “We are<br />

so proud <strong>of</strong> how far you’ve come.”<br />

I immediately started crying and<br />

threw my arms around my parents.<br />

“Thank you so much, for everything!”<br />

I said.<br />

This went from being my worst<br />

Christmas to my best Christmas<br />

ever!<br />

The staff <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Southwest Orlando Bulletin extends<br />

special thanks to everyone who participated in <strong>the</strong><br />

31st annual holiday short-story contest.<br />

Editor’s note: Entries may have been edited for<br />

grammar, punctuation, length and content. To honor<br />

as many holiday short stories as possible, School<br />

News, In Your Neighborhood and Southwest<br />

Sports do not appear in this issue. ª

Q Four new homeowners<br />

move into Criswell Court<br />

West Orange Habitat for<br />

Humanity held home dedication<br />

ceremonies for four new homeowners<br />

at Criswell Court in Winter<br />

Garden. Congratulations to<br />

Christina, Danykqua, Shannon<br />

and Tiffany.<br />

West Orange Habitat, working<br />

in close cooperation with <strong>the</strong> city <strong>of</strong><br />

Winter Garden, is addressing <strong>the</strong><br />

need for affordable housing in <strong>the</strong><br />

community located in east Winter<br />

Garden. This partnership provides<br />

<strong>the</strong> opportunity for low-income families<br />

to purchase <strong>the</strong>ir first homes.<br />

WOHFH oversees <strong>the</strong> construction<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> single-family residences, using<br />

sustainable materials and environmentally<br />

friendly building and<br />

landscaping practices. In addition<br />

to its existing stalwart partners and<br />

volunteers, WOHFH seeks strategic<br />

relationships with o<strong>the</strong>r interested<br />

corporations, churches and community<br />

organizations to help expand<br />

its volunteer and material resources,<br />

and hence its reach and impact for<br />

good.<br />

For more information, call 407-<br />

809-4411 or visit www.westorange<br />

habitat.org.<br />

Q DeVos Family Foundation<br />

recognizes seven local<br />

nonpr<strong>of</strong>its<br />

As part <strong>of</strong> its 30 Grants for 30<br />

Years Initiative, <strong>the</strong> DeVos family announced<br />

seven additional nonpr<strong>of</strong>it<br />

honorees in <strong>the</strong> Central Florida community.<br />

Each organization will receive<br />

funding from <strong>the</strong> DeVos Family<br />

Foundation and were recognized<br />

at a Orlando Magic game. Future<br />

recipients will be announced early<br />

next year and recognized throughout<br />

<strong>the</strong> remainder <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> 2022-23<br />

season.<br />

Nonpr<strong>of</strong>it honorees include<br />

New Hope for Kids ($30,000),<br />

Junior Achievement <strong>of</strong> Central<br />

Florida ($30,000), Every<br />

Kid Outreach ($30,000), One-<br />

Pulse Foundation annual Legacy<br />

Scholarships ($100,000), Big<br />

Bro<strong>the</strong>rs Big Sisters <strong>of</strong> Central<br />

Florida ($30,000), A Gift for<br />

Teaching ($30,000), and Orlan<br />

do After-School All-Stars<br />

($30,000).<br />

For more information, visit www.<br />

nba.com/magic/community/<br />

devos-family-foundation.<br />

Q Orlando kicks <strong>of</strong>f holiday<br />

season with Jack Kazanzas<br />

Star<br />

Orlando <strong>of</strong>ficials upheld a holiday<br />

tradition last month with <strong>the</strong> raising<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> Jack Kazanzas Star 50 feet<br />

above <strong>the</strong> intersection <strong>of</strong> Orange<br />

Avenue and Central Boulevard.<br />

City staff transported <strong>the</strong> symbol<br />

on a trailer to <strong>the</strong> location, where it<br />

was assembled at <strong>the</strong> intersection.<br />

The star was raised and secured in<br />

place with <strong>the</strong> assistance <strong>of</strong> Orlando<br />

Utilities Commission using lifting<br />

equipment, bucket trucks and cranes.<br />

The more than 50-year tradition<br />

<strong>of</strong> raising <strong>the</strong> 600-pound golden<br />

star began in <strong>the</strong> 1950s when two<br />

competing department stores —<br />

Ivey’s on <strong>the</strong> east and Dickson &<br />

Ives on <strong>the</strong> west <strong>of</strong> Orange Avenue<br />

— joined toge<strong>the</strong>r in 1955 to hang<br />

<strong>the</strong> Christmas star between <strong>the</strong> two.<br />

www.SouthwestOrlandoBulletin.com x December 15, 2022 — January 4, 2023 x 21<br />


compiled by Lauren Salinero<br />

In 1984, after <strong>the</strong> department stores<br />

closed, Jack Kazanzas, a lifelong<br />

resident <strong>of</strong> Orlando, led a campaign<br />

to raise funds to replace <strong>the</strong> original<br />

Christmas star that had fallen into<br />

disrepair. In 2010, <strong>the</strong> city rewired<br />

<strong>the</strong> star, which is now made up <strong>of</strong><br />

more than 4,000 LED lights. Today,<br />

<strong>the</strong> decoration symbolizes <strong>the</strong> start<br />

<strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> holiday season in downtown<br />

Orlando.<br />


West Orange Chamber <strong>of</strong><br />

Commerce representatives held<br />

a ribbon-cutting ceremony for<br />

Lendersone Powered by Family First<br />

Funding. WOCC builds partnerships,<br />

strong businesses and commitment<br />

to <strong>the</strong> community by serving<br />

as <strong>the</strong> leading business advocate in<br />

Central Florida, facilitating opportunity<br />

to nearly 1,000 member businesses.<br />

For more information about<br />

WOCC, call 407-656-1304 or visit<br />

wochamber.com.<br />

Orlando Health received approval<br />

from Florida’s Agency for<br />

Health Care Administration to provide<br />

acute hospital-level care in adult<br />

patients’ homes. Orlando Health<br />

Hospital Care at Home launches in<br />

February 2023. The program will be<br />

available to Orlando Health patients<br />

who meet specific clinical criteria determined<br />

by emergency department<br />

and hospital staff. Medical conditions<br />

that can be cared for safely in<br />

a home-based program include cellulitis,<br />

chronic obstructive pulmonary<br />

disease (COPD), asthma, urinary<br />

tract infection (UTI), heart failure,<br />

COVID-19, pneumonia and gastroenteritis.<br />

For more information, visit<br />

www.orlandohealth.com. ª<br />

photo courtesy <strong>of</strong> WOCC<br />

West Orange Chamber <strong>of</strong> Commerce ambassadors celebrate <strong>the</strong> opening <strong>of</strong><br />

Lendersone Powered by Family First Funding.

22 x December 15, 2022 — January 4, 2023 x www.SouthwestOrlandoBulletin.com<br />

n Holiday Happenings<br />

Through Dec. 23 — The Office Party<br />

Musical Extravaganza Show Performances<br />

Renaissance Theatre Company presents performances <strong>of</strong><br />

The Office Party Musical Extravaganza Show at The Ren,<br />

415 E. Princeton St., Orlando, on select nights. Cost:<br />

$30. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit<br />

www.ren<strong>the</strong>atre.com.<br />

Through Jan. 1 — Night Of A Million<br />

Lights<br />

Island H2O Water Park, 3230 Inspiration Drive,<br />

Kissimmee, hosts Night <strong>of</strong> a Million Lights, including family<br />

activities, live entertainment, festive food and beverages<br />

available for purchase, DJ Jack Frost’s Ice Block Party, a<br />

life-sized snow globe, winter wonderland with millions <strong>of</strong><br />

lights, and more. Time: 6-10 p.m. or 6-11 p.m. nightly.<br />

Ticket prices start at $30 for adults and $15 for kids 3-17,<br />

with proceeds benefiting Give Kids The World Village.<br />

Anyone under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or<br />

guardian. For more information, visit www.gktw.org/lights.<br />

Through Jan. 1 — Dazzling Lights<br />

Harry P. Leu Gardens, 1920 N. Forest Ave., Orlando,<br />

presents <strong>the</strong> third annual Dazzling Lights, a family-friendly<br />

event that gives guests <strong>the</strong> opportunity to embark on a<br />

three-quarter-mile, interactive holiday experience. Activities<br />

include a million lights, meet-and-greet characters in <strong>the</strong> Ice<br />

Castle, a yeti play area for children, 40-foot-diameter snow<br />

dome with swirling snow, and more. This year, guests choose<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir own adventure. Timed entry takes place from 5:30-9<br />

p.m. Cost: $55 for premium tickets that include access to<br />

an outdoor lounge, $25 for adults, $22 for children 3-13.<br />

On-site parking is available for a small fee. For more information<br />

or to purchase tickets, visit www.dazzlingorlando.com.<br />

Dec. 18 — Blue Christmas Worship<br />

Service<br />

The Sanctuary at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, 4851<br />

S. Apopka-Vineland Road, Orlando, hosts <strong>the</strong> Blue Christmas<br />

Worship Service, a time <strong>of</strong> reflection, hope and healing for<br />

anyone who has experienced a loss, whe<strong>the</strong>r a loved one,<br />

job, divorce, etc. Time: 4:30 p.m. For more information,<br />

visit www.st.lukes.org/bluechristmas or www.st.lukes.org.<br />

Dec. 18 — Chanukah Grand Community<br />

Festival<br />

Chabad <strong>of</strong> South Orlando, 7347 W. Sand Lake Road,<br />

Orlando, hosts <strong>the</strong> Chanukah Grand Community Festival,<br />

including activities, music and fun for adults and children; a<br />


compiled by Lisa Sagers<br />

stunt show by <strong>the</strong> BMX Trickstars; a live a cappella musical performance<br />

by Six13; <strong>the</strong> lighting <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> grand menorah; raffles<br />

and more. Time: 4 p.m. Admission is free; however, food and<br />

trinkets are sold. For more information, call 407-354-3660.<br />

Dec. 23 & 24 — Christmas Worship<br />

Services<br />

St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, 4851 S. Apopka-<br />

Vineland Road, Orlando, <strong>of</strong>fers a variety <strong>of</strong> Christmas<br />

worship services at select times. For more information,<br />

visit www.st.lukes.org/christmaseve.<br />

Dec. 25 — Chanukah Grand Car Menorah<br />

Parade<br />

On <strong>the</strong> eighth night <strong>of</strong> Hanukkah, Chabad <strong>of</strong> South<br />

Orlando hosts <strong>the</strong> Chanukah Grand Car Menorah Parade,<br />

beginning at <strong>the</strong> Chabad Center <strong>of</strong> Jewish life, 7347<br />

W. Sand Lake Road, Orlando, and ending at Icon Park,<br />

8375 International Drive, Orlando. The parade has a<br />

police escort, music, lights and more, and <strong>the</strong> first 100<br />

to register for <strong>the</strong> event ride The Wheel for free. Time:<br />

5:45 p.m. sharp. For more information or to register,<br />

visit www.jewishorlando.com/templates/articlecco_cdo/<br />

aid/2057310/jewish/menorah-parade.htm.<br />

n Miscellaneous<br />

Jan. 3 — Submission Deadline<br />

In celebration <strong>of</strong> Black History Month, <strong>the</strong> city <strong>of</strong> Orlando<br />

seeks local visual artists to display <strong>the</strong>ir artwork in <strong>the</strong><br />

Terrace Gallery at Orlando City Hall from Feb. 3-April 30.<br />

Artwork must be submitted to <strong>the</strong> Office <strong>of</strong> Multicultural<br />

Affairs at luis.martinez@orlando.gov by Jan. 3, 2023. Info<br />

should include artist biography or résumé; descriptions<br />

<strong>of</strong> each piece <strong>of</strong> artwork; and each submission must be<br />

labeled with name <strong>of</strong> artist, art title, year created, measurements<br />

and medium. Selected artists are notified via email.<br />

All selected 2-D art must be wall-ready with D rings or wire.<br />

For more information, email luis.martinez@orlando.gov.<br />

n Networking/Clubs<br />

Ongoing — Members Wanted<br />

The West Orange Women seeks women <strong>of</strong> all ages to<br />

join its group for fun, friendship and philanthropy. Annual<br />

dues are $20. For more information, call Mary Borgan,<br />

407-929-3030; or visit www.westorangewomen.com.<br />

Dec. 20, 27, Jan. 3, 10, 17, 24 & 31 —<br />

Virtual Toastmasters Meetings<br />

Windermere Toastmasters Club No. 4662754<br />

holds Zoom meetings. Attendees learn to develop<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir oral communication and leadership skills in<br />

a supportive and positive learning environment.<br />

Time: Tuesdays from 7-8:30 p.m. For more information<br />

or to request online Zoom meeting details, visit<br />

www.4662754.toastmastersclubs.org and click<br />

“Contact Us.”<br />

Dec. 21, 28, Jan. 4, 11, 18 & 25 —<br />

Virtual Toastmasters Meetings<br />

The Turnpike Toastmasters Club holds Zoom meetings.<br />

Time: Wednesdays from noon-1 p.m. For more<br />

information or to register for a virtual meeting, visit<br />

2362.toastmastersclubs.org and click “Contact Us” at<br />

least one day before <strong>the</strong> event.<br />

Dec. 22, 29, Jan. 5, 12, 19 & 26 —<br />

Virtual Toastmasters Meetings<br />

The Vista Toastmasters Club holds Zoom meetings.<br />

Time: Thursdays from 7-8:30 p.m. For more information,<br />

email vistatoastmasters.zoom@gmail.com or visit<br />

www.vistatoastmasters.org.<br />

Dec. 22, Jan. 12 & 26 — Thursday<br />

Networking Group Meetings<br />

West Orange Chamber <strong>of</strong> Commerce’s Thursday<br />

Networking Group meets at <strong>the</strong> Dr. P. Phillips YMCA<br />

Family Center, 7000 Dr. Phillips Blvd., Orlando. Time:<br />

second and fourth Thursday <strong>of</strong> each month from 8:30-<br />

9:30 a.m. For more information, email Jim Zeitschel,<br />

jim.zeitschel@primelending.com.<br />

n Support Group<br />

Jan. 15 — GriefShare: Loss Of A<br />

Spouse/Partner<br />

The Barnes Learning Center, Room 210 (second floor<br />

<strong>of</strong> Founder’s Hall, adjacent to Building C), at St. Luke’s<br />

United Methodist Church, 4851 S. Apopka-Vineland<br />

Road, Orlando, hosts GriefShare: Loss <strong>of</strong> a Spouse/<br />

Partner, a one-time free program that’s open to anyone<br />

who is grieving <strong>the</strong> loss <strong>of</strong> a spouse/partner no matter<br />

how long ago <strong>the</strong> loss occurred. Time: 2-4 p.m. To<br />

register, visit st.lukes.org/griefsharespouse. For more<br />

information, call 407-876-4991, ext. 262; or email<br />

care@st.lukes.org.<br />

n Volunteer<br />

Opportunities<br />

Ongoing — Virtual Volunteers Needed<br />

RSVP seeks volunteers to help make masks for Cornerstone<br />

Hospice & Palliative Care. For more information or if<br />

interested, call Tyler VanBuren, 630-335-3084; or email<br />

tvanburen@vcifl.org.<br />

Ongoing — Volunteers Needed<br />

The Foster Grandparent Program seeks limited-income<br />

volunteers 55-older to join in helping children in schools<br />

all around Central Florida. For more information, call<br />

407-298-4180 or visit volunteersforcommunityimpact.org/<br />

wp-content/uploads/2020/01/FGP-Info-Flyer-1-<br />

13-20.pdf.<br />

Ongoing — Pet Foster Homes Needed<br />

As part <strong>of</strong> its Pet Peace <strong>of</strong> Mind program, Cornerstone<br />

Hospice seeks foster homes for pets left behind after <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

owners pass away. For more information or to receive<br />

an application to foster, email ppom@cshospice.org.<br />

For more information about hospice volunteer opportunities,<br />

call Sharon Smith, 404-290-1583; or email<br />

ssmith@vcifl.org.<br />

Ongoing — Volunteers/Docents Needed<br />

Oakland Nature Preserve, 747 Machete Trail, Oakland,<br />

seeks adults interested in learning about <strong>the</strong> history,<br />

wildlife, plants and restoration efforts at ONP to volunteer<br />

at <strong>the</strong> preserve to greet visitors, help answer<br />

questions and lead a tour from time to time. Workdays<br />

are Mondays and/or Saturdays. For more information,<br />

email outreach@oaklandnaturepreserve.org or visit<br />

www.oaklandnaturepreserve.org/guide. To register<br />

online, visit oaklandnaturepreserve.org.<br />

Ongoing — Volunteer Veterans Needed<br />

Cornerstone Hospice seeks volunteers who are veterans<br />

<strong>of</strong> America’s armed forces to honor patients who<br />

are veterans by visiting <strong>the</strong>m in <strong>the</strong>ir homes, a facility<br />

or a hospital. Cornerstone Hospice is a four-star<br />

level member <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> We Honor Veterans program, a<br />

national initiative to provide veterans in hospice care<br />

with specialized services. All volunteers must participate<br />

in mandatory training that includes an overview<br />

<strong>of</strong> what is hospice care and how volunteers play an<br />

important role in caring for patients. For more information,<br />

call Olivia Davidson, 407-206-5060; or email<br />

odavidso@cshospice.org.<br />

Ongoing — Volunteers Needed<br />

The Mustard Seed <strong>of</strong> Central Florida, 12 Mustard Seed<br />

Lane, Orlando, seeks volunteers who can help with donation<br />

sorting, mattress recycling, warehouse maintenance,<br />

administrative work, special events or general maintenance.<br />

For more information, call 407-875-2040, ext.<br />

110; or email jessi@mustardseedfla.org.<br />

Ongoing — Volunteers Needed<br />

The town <strong>of</strong> Oakland seeks volunteers to assist in<br />

various fun and fulfilling roles at The Healthy West<br />

Orange Arts and Heritage Center. Applicants must<br />

consent to a criminal background check. For more<br />

information, call Pamela Stewart, 407-656-1117,<br />

ext. 2112; email arts&heritage@oaklandfl.gov; or<br />

visit bit.ly/artsandheritagecenter.<br />

Ongoing — Volunteers Needed<br />

My Bro<strong>the</strong>r’s Keeper seeks volunteers — especially adult<br />

men (18-older) <strong>of</strong> color — who can serve as positive role<br />

models and mentor boys and young men <strong>of</strong> color. For<br />

more information, email Grace, gdearden@vcifl.org, at<br />

Volunteers for Community Impact.<br />

Contributions to Community Bulletin Board are<br />

welcome. Please send information six weeks<br />

before <strong>the</strong> event to P.O. Box 851, Windermere,<br />

FL 34787; call 407-351-1573, option 5; or email<br />

Lisa@kearneypublishing.com. ª


DECEMBER 31<br />



& “<strong>SW</strong>ITCH” LIVE<br />








P.O. Box 851<br />

Windermere, FL 34786

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