Boca Raton to open waterfront park at former Wildflower nightclub site

After a fierce six-year debate, more than 2 acres of concrete slab in downtown Boca Raton is on its way to becoming a park.

City Council members this week officially re-designated the former Wildflower nightclub site as a public park Monday. The move is the realization of a public movement that sparked a referendum in November and caused the city to scrap plans for a restaurant at the site.

“It’s a slow-turning ship to get everything done,” Boca City Council member Andrea O’Rourke said. “But it’s happening, it’s in the works and we’re looking forward to that.”

O’Rourke helped push for the referendum last year that caused the change of plans for the property at 552 E. Palmetto Park Road.

Now, the city is working on adding some upgrades before the site is completely redesigned. Plans include rebuilding the sea wall abutting the Intracoastal and putting in a walkway underneath the Palmetto Park bridge to connect the property to Silver Palm Park.

“These are elements that will be included in whatever plan comes to fruition, and the permitting takes time, about six to nine months, so we wanted to get those things in place first,” said Boca spokeswoman Chrissy Gibson.

Ariana Grande to leave Boca, return to Manchester for benefit concert

Pop star Ariana Grande, who returned home to Boca Raton after her Manchester, England concert was the site of a deadly terrorist bombing Monday night, will return to Manchester to hold a benefit concert, the singer announced on Twitter.

“Our response to this violence must be to come closer together, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder and to live more kindly and generously than we did before,” Grande wrote on Twitter.

Grande, a South Florida native, returned by private jet to Boca Raton Airport following the bombing. She had just finished her set at the Manchester Arena before the explosion killed 22 people and injured 59.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

Grande shared plans to return to England to spend time with fans and honor and raise money for the victims’ families. The details of the benefit concert and her return to Europe have not been shared.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Grande shared a message of unity and positivity following the tragedy, encouraging her fans to not “operate in fear.”

“We will never be able to understand why events like this take place because it is not in our nature, which is why we shouldn’t recoil. We will not quit or operate in fear. We won’t let this divide us. We won’t let hate win.”

Grande, whose “Dangerous Woman Tour” began in February, thanked her fans and fellow celebrities who wished her well following the ordeal.

Friday’s tweet was Grande’s first since she previously shared her disbelief on Twitter shortly after the attack: “broken. from the bottom of my heart, I am so sorry.”

Grande had cancelled European shows through June 5, according to her website. Her next scheduled show is June 7 at AccorHotels Arena in Paris, France.

It’s unclear if the benefit concert will affect the rest of her scheduled tour. The tour is not scheduled to come to the United States.

Grande, whose family lives in Boca Raton, has strong roots in South Florida. She was born in Boca, and attended schools in Broward County, The Palm Beach Post has previously reported.

She appeared in children’s theater in Boca and Fort Lauderdale, and sand with Boca Raton-based symphonies.

Following the attack, an emotional Grande reportedly met boyfriend and fellow artist Mac Miller at Boca Raton Airport.

Grande tweeted that music will help heal her fans in the wake of the tragedy.

“Music is something that everyone on Earth can share,” she wrote. “Music is meant to heal us, to bring us together, to make us happy. So that is what it will continue to do for us.”

Salman Abedi, 22, was identified as the bomber and was believed to have been killed in the incident.

The bombing was another incident in which violent extremists have targeted mass entertainment venues.

Last year’s Pulse massacre in Orlando, a street-festiv

al attack in Nice and nightclub killings in Istanbul Kuala Lumpur and Tel Aviv all involved vulnerable, large gatherings of people.

The pop superstar’s worldwide fan base is primarily female and young. Ten of the 22 victims from the bombing were under 20 years old, including an 8-year-old girl. Grande, 23, broke into the national spotlight in 2009 with a powerful voice along with a four-season appearance on Nickelodian’s Victorious.

She has three American Music Awards, an MTV Video Music Award, three MTV Europe Music Awards and four Grammy Award nominations. All three of her albums have been certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.

She has close to 107 million Instagram followers, second only to Selena Gomez.



Girls basketball: Boca Raton’s Hannah Pratt commits to Columbia

Boca Raton’s girls basketball team is sending another player to the Ivy League.

Rising senior forward Hannah Pratt committed to Columbia on Monday, according to Bobcats coach Nhu Nguyen.

As a junior, Pratt average 8.3 points and six rebounds per game while playing solid defense. She was a second-team All-Area pick as a junior last season as she helped Boca Raton win the Class 9A state basketball title. Her teammates, Rachel Levy and Grace Marko, were Co-Players of the Year.

Levy is also Ivy League-bound. The graduating senior will play basketball for Harvard next year — she is one of three Palm Beach County players headed to the Boston area to play women’s basketball, along with Marko and Cardinal Newman’s Milan Morris.

Boca Raton rising senior Hannah Pratt committed to Columbia. (Photo provided)


Boca Raton firm sees mad scramble as foreign investors attempt to beat deadline to get green cards

BOCA RATON, Fla. – From hotels to restaurants, foreign investors have made their mark in South Florida. In some cases, investors earned American citizenship through their investment.

Now leaders in Washington, D.C. are debating how to move forward with the EB-5 program as it is set to end next Friday.

Just like fresh ingredients make the perfect meal, the right pieces have to come together to form a successful investment.

When Alex Rudolph took the Tap42 concept from Fort Lauderdale to Boca Raton, foreign investors were part of his recipe.

They’re not just paying for a green card, they’re investing in the business because they have faith in the business like we do,” Rudolph pointed out, adding his has personal relationships with his investors.

The program allows foreigners to fast track their green card by investing at least $500,000 in American projects that create a minimum of 10 jobs.

Families from Vietnam, India, Argentina, and Italy have all expressed interest in partnering with Rudolph. Many of his partners frequent his restaurants. Locations in Coral Gables and Midtown Miami were also funded through the EB-5 program.

“Restaurants, hotels, assisted living facilities, you see it all over Palm Beach County,” explained Lauren Cohen. She connects investors and businesses through her Boca-based company, e-Council, Inc.

Since the program is set to expire, Cohen said there is a mad dash from investors to find out what the future holds.

“Investors want to take advantage of the opportunity while it’s there,” Cohen said.

Critics argue the EB-5 program allows foreigners to buy American citizenship for their families and skirt traditional routes.

But Cohen said she believes EB-5 kept businesses pumping and Americans employed through the Great Recession.

“Projects need money and the country needs economic stimulation, that’s not going away anytime soon,” Cohen said.

She admitted the program could use reforms. It’s basic outline hasn’t changed since 1993. She expects Congress will extend the program at the last minute. And then increase the minimum amount the government requires investors to contribute.

Rudolph hopes Congress serves the program new life so he can open new restaurants. He has plans for two more locations. Each one would employ about 75 people.

“It’s a great opportunity for people from other countries to be able to live the American Dream, and also for us to get to interact and have investors from all over the world, as opposed to a bank giving us a loan, writing a check and saying, ‘We’ll see you later, good luck with your business,’ ” Rudolph said.

A spokesperson from Senator Marco Rubio’s office said Rubio supports the program, but would like to see changes to cut out abuse and fraud.


Holistic Organic Wellness in Boca Raton expands to a new location, bringing new wellness options to the community!

BOCA RATON, FL – 11 Apr, 2017 – Residents and visitors in Boca Raton now have an ideal place to go for relaxation, detoxification, skin care, and other wellness essentials. Holistic Organic Wellness (HOW) has expanded and moved to a new location in the center of the Boca Plaza on Federal Highway.

Boca Raton Florida
Boca Raton Florida

The HOW center opened three years ago to bring healing modalities and natural products to those looking for an alternative or complement to conventional medicine, and to those wanting to enhance their mind and body wellness practices.

The unique HOW center is an oasis for finding peace and healing. They offer a range of holistic services and products for women and men of all ages.

The HOW center is hosting a wellness fair on Saturday, May 6th from 1–7pm. Demonstrations, educational talks, healthy food, and organic wine samples will be offered, as well as deeply discounted services available exclusively to attendees.

“We like to show people HOW to change their lifestyles one variable at a time,” explains Adriana Guardia, co-owner of the center. “Our clients come to us for high-quality, effective products. Others come to find relief from the stress of the daily grind and relax for thirty minutes in a footbath. From our customized facials and skin care products to seasonal cleanses and homeopathic sprays, our clients choose us because we provide a variety of tools without being overwhelming.”

Visitors to the HOW Center are greeted, and often surprised with the welcoming, comfortable environment not found in many high-end spas today. Customers view the HOW Center as a home away from home, and their own personal sanctuary regularly commenting that they feel relaxed just upon arriving to Boca Plaza.

Stephanie Cimino, a second generation certified Aromatherapist and Esthetician, co-owns the center with Guardia. Cimino has a wealth of knowledge on the topics of skin care, energy healing, personal empowerment, and whole-body wellness. Both she and Guardia are extremely passionate about holistic health and self-care, and they are equally passionate about educating others on integrating these practices in an achievable way.

“We combine science with spirituality,” Cimino shares. “By using expertise and intuition we are able to address individuals on a holistic level: physically, spiritually, emotionally, and energetically.”

The Holistic Organic Wellness center is a true retreat for those looking to detoxify, beautify, purify, and pamper. Services include ionic foot baths, customized facials, energy & chakra balancing, nutritional guidance, aromatherapy workshops, yoga classes, and so much more.

The center is now offering TEN DOLLAR THURSDAYS as the perfect opportunity for new clients to “meet the HOW girls”, sample services, and learn about Holistic Organic Wellness.

Media Contact
Company Name: Holistic Organic Wellness
Contact Person: MARIA GUARDIA
Phone: 5619550099
Country: United States

Chris Salamone

Florida High School Students Start Lunch Club So No One Eats Alone: ‘Relationships Are Built From Across the Table’

From left: Gerald (member), Denis Estimon (founder), Allie Sealy (founder), Alycia (member)
Oscar David James

Denis Estimon never felt more lonely than when he was surrounded by noisy classmates in his elementary school lunchroom, afraid to join in on their spirited conversations and draw attention to his broken English and Haitian accent.

Feeling alone in a crowd was the worst emotion imaginable for a 6-year-old boy, he says today. That’s why he was inspired to start the “We Dine Together” club with several friends at his high school last year, hoping that none of his classmates would have to eat lunch in isolation.

“Long-lasting relationships are built from across the table,” Denis, now 18 and a senior at Boca Raton Community High School in Florida, tells PEOPLE. “We want to get kids to come out of their comfort zones and realize that they have a lot in common, no matter where they’re born, what they’re background is, or whether they speak with an accent. In one way or another, we’re all alike.”

Founder Denis Estimon with club members
Oscar David James

At Denis’ high school, where there are nearly 3,400 students, “it’s hard to get to know each other sometimes,” he says, “but imagine what would happen if you had lunch with somebody new every day. It’s a wonderful thing to watch people come out of their shells and make new friendships.”

More than 60 teens are now members of “We Dine Together,” using their lunchtime each day to search the school’s cafeteria and courtyard for students who are eating alone.

“I know what it’s like to feel shy and by myself,” one of the club’s co-founders, Kinsley Soorestal, 17, also from Haiti, tells PEOPLE. “When my family moved here nine years ago, I was always the kid lunching alone. Now that I’m making a difference, it feels good to say, ‘Hey, I gotcha, man. What’s your name? How are you doing?’ “

“You can tell they really appreciate it,” he says. “Maybe for the first time, they feel like they belong.”

Kinsley, along with Denis and two other students, Allie Sealy and Jean Max Meradie, came up with the idea for the club while taking summer classes last year at Propel, a nonprofit that helps disadvantaged teens to get a step ahead in school.

When one of their teachers, Greg Francis, asked what single thing they would most like to change about their high school experience, the students agreed that lunchtime could use some improvements.

“I told him, ‘On one side of the cafeteria, you have the white kids, the popular kids and the well-off kids, and on the other side, the new kids, the kids without money, the kids with disabilities and the non-white kids,’” says Denis. “A lot of those kids felt like they didn’t have a friend and were eating alone.”

With students from more than 70 countries attending the mostly-white school, “Denis and his friends decided to become true agents of change,” Greg Francis, now an after-school instructor at the high school, tells PEOPLE. “They’ve reached out with compassion and extended a hand, ensuring that every student at Boca Raton is accepted. I feel like a proud parent to all of them.”

Over pizza or sack lunches, club members aim to spend their lunch period with a different student every day, “letting them know they have a friend,” says Jean Max, 19.

“Everyone has something they’re dealing with,” he says, “and sometimes all they need is somebody to listen. Probably the best thing is how many new friendships we’ve made doing this. I’m no longer the quiet kid, afraid to speak out. Every single day now, I’m meeting somebody new and sharing ideas.”

One of those new friends is Nathaniel Hopwood, 18, who often dined alone until he shared pizza one day with a couple of club members. Now a group member, he seeks out others who remind him of how he felt when he was a new student.

“The club has introduced me to so many different people that I didn’t know before,” he tells PEOPLE. “I’ve definitely gained so much doing this it’s cool to have such a diverse group coming together to share lunch and stories about their lives.”

With other schools now interested in starting their own “We Dine Together” clubs, Denis Estimon says that Boca Raton students are now hoping to take their idea to the next level and hold a National High School Dining Day on May 22.

“From coast to coast, we want every high school across the country to share our message of unity and acceptance,” he says. “Even for 30 or 45 minutes, imagine what a difference that could make in lunchrooms across America.”

Chris Salamone

Run From The Rays event set to raise money for skin cancer fight

From left, Hannah Speer, Sandy Friedman and Fran Nachlas, co-founders of SafeSun, Inc. and Run From The Rays 5K, promote their cause. (Fran Nachlas/Courtesy)

In just four years, more than $140,000 has been raised and donated to local charities through the annual Run From The Rays 5K run and 1-mile walk, this year slated for the Spanish River Athletic Complex in Boca Raton on Sunday, April 23.

Nearly 800 local runners are expected to participate in this year’s event. The 5K run begins at 7 a.m., while the 1-mile run starts at 8 a.m. A free Kid’s Run (under-8) begins at 8:15 a.m. The event attracted 824 runners last year.

“We are acutely aware of the statistics regarding the dangers of the sun’s rays, and wanted to get our family involved in somehow making a difference,” said Boca Raton’s Fran Nachlas, co-founder and director of the event. Nachlas, a surgical nurse, runs the SafeSun charity to help raise funds for the prevention and treatment of melanoma and other skin cancers.

“Since all of us like to run, a 5K seemed the logical choice as a fundraiser,” Nachlas said. “The funds we’ve donated [support] everything from life-saving melanoma research, treatment for those who cannot afford it, and education for school-age children about sun safety.”

Nachlas said her family chose the charities to support because they wanted to make sure where the funds were going to be used and develop relationships with the charities, and they wanted to make a difference in their own community.

SafeSun was started by Nachlas and her husband Nathan, a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Boca Raton who has had to help patients overcome the devastating effects of the removal of their skin cancer. Nathan’s uncle died of melanoma at age 50. The Nachlases’ children, Jake Nachlas and Hannah Speer, and friends Charlie Luciano and Justin Friedman all help stage the event.

“We installed our first SafeSun Inc. free sunscreen dispenser at South Inlet Park in Boca Raton,” Nachlas said. “That was done in conjunction with the Richard David Kann Melanoma Foundation. We also plan on having dermatologists on hand at Run From The Rays to perform free limited-area skin checks.”

People can register for the 5K, 1-mile or the newly added Virtual Run option online, or in person at Runner’s Edge in Boca Raton.

Once again this year, the first 750 preregistered runners/walkers will receive custom-made medals and T-shirts.

There will be awards for the top overall male and female participants as well as top three in each age 5-year age group — from 10 and under to an 80-plus male/female division. The cost for the 5K run is $30 through April 17 and $35 after that. For the mile run, the cost is $20 for age 17 and over and $15 for age 16 and under. Those who can’t be at the event can still take part with the Virtual Run for $30.

“The Virtual Run,” Nachlas said, “is for people who love our event and want to be a part of it, but can’t make it to Boca on race day. They can run their mile or 5K wherever they are and still earn the medal and T-shirt!”

The kids’ race, for ages 8 and under, consists of distances from 50 to 200 meters depending on age. Ribbons will be awarded for the free event.

Chris Salamone