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The Challenges of Caring for Loved Ones

When Westchase’s original owners purchased homes 15-20 years ago, many were just beginning families.

In those early years, WOW was filled with play group news and announcements focused on the hundreds of toddlers that called Westchase home.

Many who saw their kids grow up in those early play groups are now watching them walking down the hallways of high schools and colleges. But the parents’ caretaking years aren’t over. As the children of these homeowners have grown up, their own parents have aged. Now many Westchasers have stepped into new roles – carrying for their parents.

A friend who lives nearby recently inquired about Westchase facilities focused on elder care. My inquiry with my own friends found many had the same questions and wondered how best to handle the situation. WOW writer Karen Ring recently sat down with two local experts in elder care. Her cover story strives to answer many of the questions her fellow residents are asking.

This past month has also seen the resolution of some of the year’s biggest news events. The Westchase Community Association (WCA) brought its work amending the community’s governing documents to a close and a rezoning hearing for a proposed Costco and other commercial parcels at Westchase’s eastern entrance was heard and seems likely to see approval by county commissioners this month. You’ll find our coverage of these events on pages 12 through 17.

This month’s WOW is also filled with great stories about your neighbors. We continue profiling the 2014 WOW Scholars. We introduce a new author from The Greens, who published her first book at the ripe, old age of 11. We tell the story of Robinson High School’s state championship-winning flag football team, whose impressive players included a number of Westchase residents. We bring you news of a Westchase kids’ summer kickball league and a new yoga class at the Westchase Rec. Center. We even offer a peek at a fascinating and new summer camp offering kids an opportunity to learn more about engineering in fun, captivating ways.

So be sure to pack up your WOW as you head out to the pool and beach. No other publication offers a more comprehensive look at your Westchase community.

Also remember to take us on vacation. Snap a photo with family members holding WOW and you can win $100. (See page 86.)

We hope you continue to enjoy your summer. If you’re doing some early shopping in anticipation of the next school year, please remember the Kaye Prox School Supply Drive that has become an annual tradition in the community. For more information about how to participate, please see page 26.

Please remember we welcome your shout outs and letters and remember to tell our valued advertisers you’ve seen them on these pages.

Happy summer!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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The 2014 WOW Scholars

At the end of May I had the opportunity to meet some impressive Westchase residents.

A group of five young college-bound men and women were invited to the Westchase Golf Club to be honored as this year’s WOW Scholars. This month we introduce this impressive of collection of brains and hearts, fiercely dedicated to both scholarship and community service. They were selected from among the largest, most competitive group of applicants ever. It wasn’t enough to have a 4.0 GPA or simply meet their schools’ required number of service hours. These students surpassed both in remarkable ways. Turn to page 4 to meet them.

This month also brings the most important opportunity in years for residents to weigh in on their local government. Your association has compiled a group of amendments to Westchase’s governing documents. These rules affect how your association operates; some also affect your homes and yards. On June 10 Westchase Voting Members will be casting their final votes. In late April the association mailed every homeowner a ballot to allow them to cast their own votes on the amendments to the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CCRs) and Bylaws. If you’ve misplaced your ballot, call the WCA’s office at 926-6404 to get a new one. The summary of these amendments that ran in the April and May WOW is still available on http://www.WestchaseWOW.com under HOA News.

VMs are also voting on changes to Residential Guidelines, another group of rules affecting your properties. Summaries of these proposed changes again appear on page 16. As there is no homeowner ballot related to these rule-changes, take a moment to communicate your preferences to your VMs so they can represent your view. Their contact information is in this WOW’s reference section.

June also kicks of the Florida tradition of watching the tropics. Hurricane season runs from June through November. If you’re new to Westchase and especially Florida, it’s time to make a storm plan and adequately supply your family in case of a severe storm. Storm veterans from 2004 will attest that waiting until two to three days out will simply ensure you’ll find empty store shelves. Further, all Westchase homes should familiarize themselves with their Hurricane Evacuation Zone (pages 102-103). Storm surge is the biggest killer in hurricanes and Westchase lies close enough to Tampa Bay that homes as far north as The Shires could still take up to ten feet of water. Turn to our coverage on page 22 and 101 to help you prepare.

Remember we always welcome your letters, shout outs and story ideas. We also ask you to let the businesses whose ads you see on these pages know you appreciate their support of WOW and Westchase.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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The Countdown Begins

As we distribute this edition of WOW, a mere five weeks of school are left.

I’d mention the exact number of hours and minutes, but don’t want to appear desperate.

In anticipation of our freedom, we offer a special look at travel and leisure. Our cover story by Karen Ring (page 4) offers some fascinating destinations your neighbors have visited while including their travel tips. We offer our special thanks to the advertisers who brought you the Travel and Leisure Special.

As you prepare your vacation, remember our WOW in the World contest (page 86). Bring along WOW for the trip, snap a photo (or several) holding it in an interesting place, send us a brief description, and we’ll send you between $60-100 while sharing the fun with the community.

This month Belanova Salon is offering a special contest, exclusive to WOW readers, to honor moms. The winning mom will receive special pampering. Get the kids involved and check out the details on page 46.

Westchase’s generous volunteers at the Westchase Charitable Foundation are holding their popular Westchase Cup golf tournament on May 17. You don’t have to be an accomplished golfer to join the fun. They tier their players, giving everyone an opportunity to win. Why not help some people in need by getting a team from your neighborhood together? You’ll have a great day and possibly bring the Westchase Cup back home to Westchase, where it belongs. See page 24 for details.

The big news this month involves rules governing your homes and yards. The Westchase Community Association (WCA) is proposing amendments to the association’s governing documents. While it may not be the most riveting reading you’ll do this month, your participation is key to building a community in which you want to live. Check out the articles on pages 20 and 22. If you haven’t filled out the poll the WCA sent you last month, the article on page 20 may be of help. Filling out the poll and returning it will bind your Voting Member to cast your votes as you prefer. Otherwise, they get to cast your vote at their own discretion. If you’ve lost your ballot, you can call the WCA office at 926-6404 to get a new one.

As always, we welcome your letters and shout outs and ask you to tell our valued advertisers you saw them in WOW.

Happy Mother’s Day!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Summer Camp, Commercial Development and Rules Amendments

This month’s WOW is filled with important stories you won’t want to miss.

Be sure to read everything so you don’t miss any of the fun.

WOW’s sixth annual Summer Camp Spectacular, starting on page 96, offers some great tips for finding camps for your kids. WOW writer Karen Ring has interviewed a number of Westchase kids to discover their favorite summer camps. Karen’s second camp article offers advice on asking the right questions to get the most out of your kids’ camp experiences. We thank all of our summer camp directors and organizers for helping to bring you this special section.

In March the developer of the proposed Costco commercial parcel at Linebaugh and Sheldon filed for rezoning of the property. The county’s documents offer the clearest look yet at what that development will look like – and the potential impact its traffic will have. Check it out on page 16 and share your opinion about it with Hillsborough County.

The Westchase Community Association is also gearing up to amend its governing documents, containing rules about the appearance and use of our homes and yards. On page 14 we offer a summary of the proposed changes, which were reviewed by Westchase Voting Members (VMs) on March 18 after WOW’s deadline. To learn if VMs made any substantive changes to the amendments or the timetable for having them mailed to residents for polling, be sure to check WOW Online at http://www.WestchaseWOW.com

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This month we also invite residents who are not currently in the 2013 Westchase Resident and Business Directory to submit their information for inclusion in the 2014 directory, which will be distributed in June. The directory is strictly opt-in. If you want your contact information available for your Westchase friends and neighbors, be sure to fill out and submit the form in this month’s inserts or go online to http://www.WestchaseWOW.com and fill out the directory form there. For more information, see page 26. We never share this list with any other commercial entity.

As I mention each month, please tell WOW’s valued advertisers you saw their ads here. And always read the editor’s notes at the ends of articles. We sometimes put important stuff in there.

In closing, I hope your April opens with great fun and happiness. And I wish those who observe this month’s holidays a happy and blessed Passover and Easter.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Home: Its Price and Purpose

WOW’s annual look at Westchase real estate always proves exciting.

And this year proved no exception.

WOW interviewed a group of Realtors familiar with the Westchase market and poured over large amounts of 2013 sales data to help bring our cover feature. We thank all of them for their assistance, particularly Nancy and Doug Wood of Coldwell Banker, who provided the sales data for WOW’s review. We also thank all the real estate professionals and related businesses that helped bring you this special section.

The real estate sales data showed a solid upward surge in prices in 2013. We offer all the details beginning on page 4. The data, however, also piqued our interest in other ways. Combined with concerns residents of The Bridges and Keswick Forest have shared about the increasing number of single family homes that are now for rent – and the impact they are having on their neighborhoods’ appearances, WOW explored whether ways existed to estimate the number of investment homes currently in Westchase. While there’s no data that perfectly pinpoints a number, some data acquired from Hillsborough County may serve as a solid foundation for exploring the matter further.

WOW shared this data, which appears on page 8, with both the WCA Board and Westchase Voting Members in February. It triggered some rather strong reactions at the board level.

Some residents have pointed out that investor activity has helped home prices rebound and they want no further restrictions on their homes. Others have expressed concerns about the significant growth of for-profit investment properties in Westchase, some of which put owner profit before community appearance. Others worry that the phenomenon is fraying Westchase’s traditionally strong social fabric, producing a community with more transient residents less willing to join neighborhood watches or even block parties.

While the data may estimate the number of leased homes in some neighborhoods better than others, WOW hopes it will serve as a starting point for discussion.

Our nation and our community are changing. This issue of WOW – and the conversations it may spark – represent an opportunity to pause and think about our hopes and aspirations for our community and the future role of your association. If you feel strongly one way or the other, reach out and let your VM know. Westchase is your home and your community and you can help shape them both for the better.

As always, we welcome your letters, shout outs and story ideas. To help keep WOW strong, please remember to tell our valued advertisers who saw them here.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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House and Heart

Whether it’s your home or your heart, we have some fixer-upper advice for you this month.

A walk or jog through Westchase uncovers a hive of activity. On one side of the street a neighbor is constructing a new pool. A block away a driveway dumpster offers a hint at a kitchen renovation underway.

Westchase’s homes, like many of their youngest occupants, are now in their teens and early twenties. The widespread renovations reflect the great pride Westchase residents take in their homes. A familiar Florida sight is a suburban development in its third or fourth decade entering a period of noticeable decline.

Not Westchase.

Families here stay on top of things. The leaking water heater gets replaced. The curling shingles are stripped off and new ones nailed down. Original pools are rehabbed, their dingy pool decks replaced with upgraded tiles. Builder grade cabinets, countertops and light fixtures make way for stained wood, granite and brass.

In keeping with a February tradition, the Home Improvement Special (your tax return will soon be on its way!), WOW writer Karen Ring tackles two home projects that hundreds of homeowners are now contemplating: new roofs and windows. When submitting the informative piece, Karen commented on how much she learned while writing it.

No better symbol of Westchase’s growing mania for home improvement exists outside of the former Westchase Welcome Center. Purchased in foreclosure in late December, the building is in the midst of serious renovations. Its rescue came at the hands of West Park Village residents Brian and Wendy Ross. Check out their plans – and Karen Ring’s home improvement article – in our feature series beginning on page 4.

WOW writer Catherine Barnhill also offers some fixer-upper advice – but this time she’s uncovered tricks to keeping your marriage strong. If you’re looking for great and useful advice, you need only turn to some wise members of the Westchase Seniors Group, whom Catherine sought out for their tips on making marriage last.

If your home and relationships are in tip-top shape, we still have some tips for strengthening your heart. This month WOW welcomes back some veteran columnists who have not appeared here in a few years. Fitness expert Shannon Thigpen is looking forward to again offering her wisdom on health and fitness while Nutrition expert Christine Miller, whose column will appear bimonthly, will offer valuable insights on healthy eating. Welcome back, Shannon and Christine!

As always, we welcome your letters, shout outs and story ideas. To help keep WOW strong, please remember to tell our valued advertisers who saw them here.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Celebrating Thanksgivukkah and Santa’s Arrival

December is my favorite month in Westchase.

No matter how old this kid gets, when Santa’s Pre-Flight Parade rounds the corner and slowly rolls towards Baybridge Park, he can’t wipe the silly, sentimental grin off his face.

December, of course, is a month of many holidays. Hanukkah began a few days before WOW’s distribution and it began in a most unique way. Its first full day coincided with Thanksgiving for the first time in a century – a confluence that will not occur again anytime soon. WOW Writer Karen Ring spoke to a number of Westchase families who celebrated Hanukkah and Thanksgiving and explored the unique twists they gave the hybrid of holidays this year. Check them out on page 16.

December also brings Santa’s parade through Westchase – this year on Dec. 14. With a donation of $5,000 to bring the parade back to Westchase, WOW is proud to help support Santa and all of his helpers at the Westchase Charitable Foundation. Be sure to prepare your block party – or, better yet, prepare your neighborhood float and join the fun! All the information you need is on page 22.

Those generous WCF elves will again be collecting presents for needy kids during the parade. Let’s show our appreciation for this event – and the work of the foundation – by remembering to donate a gift to ensure other children have a Christmas full of smiles and joy. Parade organizers also always welcome checks made out to the WCF to help with their charitable assistance of families who are experiencing a crisis or significant medical needs.

Santa graciously gave away his traditional spot on December’s cover for another group of happy faces – belonging to future students at Davidsen Middle School. We thank all who, on their day off, braved a bright sun, fire ants and other Florida threats to life and limb (Did I mention the bright sun?) to make the cover shot possible. Westchase is blessed with great public schools filled with dedicated parent volunteers and talented teachers. Yet, Davidsen sometimes doesn’t get a fair shake. This month our cover feature explores all the talk about the school and presents the facts. We hope the story will present information that helps all parents make better informed decisions.

This month we say a sad farewell to two of our wonderful columnists, both of whom have graced WOW’s pages since 2009. Diversions and Excursions writer Marilyn Gyselinck offers her final look at fun destinations and WOW Kid Reporter – now Teen Reporter – Isabel Giovannetti offers her farewell column as well. Over the years, both have proven so incredibly reliable and remarkably creative. They’ve been true pleasures to work with and they will certainly be missed. Thank you, Marilyn and Isabel! You have certainly earned your WOW retirement!

Remember we always welcome your letters and shout outs. Please also let our dedicated advertisers know you’ve seen them on these pages.

Happy holidays!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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A Testament to Getting Involved

October’s WOW has two stories that can serve as important lessons to our children – and their parents.

Our cover story shares the dedication of a 10,000 square foot gymnasium that recreates the Westchase Recreation Center (located in The Bridges adjacent to Westchase Elementary). Its expansion also creates an array of new recreation opportunities for Westchase.

It’s a story of the power of a few. A couple of years ago when Hillsborough County was looking to lop millions off its budget at the height of the recession, the county’s rec. centers and their programs faced the chopping block. Enter Fords resident Renier Cruz and a handful of other Westchase residents. They became involved, contacting county commissioners, rallying the community and saving Westchase’s recreation center. Better still, they won commitments that it would one of a handful expanded with help from the Community Investment Tax.

The Westchase Recreation Center is one of the community’s lesser known gems. This month it begins hosting a slate of expanded programs for residents ranging from senior citizens to tiny tots. If you haven’t yet investigated what it has to offer you, check out the story beginning on page 4. You’ll be surprised at what you’ve been missing, tucked right under all of our noses.

Then there is the story on page 10. It tells of a handful of Cavendish Drive residents, led by West Park’s Richard Johnson. He believed a fountain placed on a Linebaugh Avenue pond could provide a beautiful focal point, not only for them but for the entire community. Through Richard’s activism, his neighbors rallied and the CDD agreed to install the $24,000 fountain. It’s an impressive sight.

Renier and Richard remind us that if we have a fine idea and we’re willing to work hard to pitch it, we can reshape our community for the better. Thanks to them both!

In addition to featuring our Private School Special (beginning on page 112), this month’s WOW has a host of stories about other great neighbors. It also kicks off WOW’s busiest season, when we host The Great West Chase 5K and Kids’ Fun Run and prepare for the Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive.

This month, we’d love to have you come out and join the fun at the Oct. 26 race. Whether you walk or run, you’ll have a blast! Be sure to register soon at http://www.TheGreatWestChase.com

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As always, we welcome your shout outs and story ideas. We thank our private schools for supporting our education special and ask you to tell all our advertisers you saw them in these pages.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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WCA Hires Roberto Calla as New Tennis Pro

Following a weeks-long interview process that saw a handful of job candidates for Westchase Tennis Pro hitting on the courts with Westchase players, WCA President Joaquin Arrillaga announced the hiring of Roberto Calla on Sept. 9.

The decision caps a month that saw former Westchase Tennis Pro Mike Larscheid resign over Westchase Community Association’s (WCA) announcement that it would hire a second tennis professional. Larscheid’s departure triggered some strong criticism of the board from members of the Westchase tennis community.

In hiring Calla, WCA directors may have taken to heart Larscheid’s warnings that they would never find an experienced pro who would agree to work in a bifurcated program with two tennis professionals. Calla will be Westchase’s sole tennis pro. Explaining the decision to revert to the one-pro structure, Arrillaga, however, commented, "The board identified a couple of coaches willing to come and work side by side in a dual-pro staff structure including a company who offers this service. We decided that with the caliber of coach we have in Roberto and his expected program changes, having one head tennis pro is the best approach. I am happy with the way the board handled this from the start. We have not backpedalled but are moving forward and into the future."

The board’s search for the new pro took place over several weeks. Arrillaga stated that a number of residents who play tennis regularly were invited to play with and speak with the three candidates under consideration. Afterwards, Arrillaga suggested there was a clear preference for Calla. “We got many different calls and e-mails about him.”

Arrillaga remarked, “We’re extremely excited Roberto has accepted our offer to come to Westchase. The ideas and programs that he’s bringing are novel and exciting.”

Arrillaga pointed out that a number of Westchase tennis players who left Larscheid’s program to play under Calla will be returning to Westchase’s courts with him.

Calla stated, “I’m really excited and happy to be part of the Westchase team. I’m going to use my knowledge, experience – and most importantly – my passion for the sport to help improve tennis in Westchase.”

Calla, 49, comes from the Tennismith School at the Northdale Golf and Tennis Club. A native of Peru and former professional soccer player, Calla immigrated to the U.S. 20 years ago. For the last 15 years he has worked as a tennis pro. In his previous position Calla not only taught both children and adults the sport, he also trained significant numbers of coaches in the both the U.S. and Europe, guiding them in ways to build successful tennis programs.

“Yes, we’re going to make some changes,” he announced about Westchase’s tennis programs. Gone, for one, will be the names of the current junior tennis program. He also initially sees tournament preparation expanding as well as the creation of a tennis homeschool program. “For now, we’re just changing little things,” he stated. “I want to meet everyone. The juniors, the adults, all the players.”

After getting a better feel for the current programs, he said other changes will be in store. Current Tennis Assistant Dan Mielke, however, will remain on staff.

“Keep looking for updates to programs and activities,” Arrillaga stated.

Calla will begin in Westchase Sept. 30.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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A Commitment to Community Service

I’ll begin by admitting to some embarrassment this month.

Question: What self-respecting publisher decides to put a relative on the cover of a magazine for which he’s responsible?

Answer: It’s either a publisher with neither shame nor spine or a publisher with a very persuasive relative.

In my case, I hope it’s the latter.

In recent months three Westchase residents, including one of my daughters, have spent a great deal of time organizing a school supply drive for needy kids. The drive itself was largely founded and created by Westchase resident Carol Collins. Having seen its results firsthand, I can testify to the drive’s goodness and importance.

Thus, I was confronted with a personal conflict. As evidenced by its WOW Scholars program, the Great West Chase 5K and the magazine’s annual donations of nearly $100,000 to local public schools, WOW has a strong tradition of promoting community service, literacy and school success. The story and the drive thus seemed a natural match for WOW. For obvious reasons, however, I was pretty hesitant. If you’ll forgive me, I was ultimately convinced – with the help of some arm twisting – that the important of the drive and its impact outweighed any personal concerns.

I hope you too will support what I know is a great cause: the Kaye Prox Food Bank School Supply Drive. Please turn to page 4 to learn how you can help.

This month’s WOW is full of great stories. While back-to-school often means a turn to cooler temperatures up north, WOW writer Karen Ring offers some great ideas on page 16 about how we can keep our cool during the last two months the Florida oven is on.

With an eye on next month’s WOW, I have a favor to ask. After we release the results of our annual dining survey in September each year, I inevitably run into residents who are amazed at some of the winners and express regret they didn’t participate to ensure their favorite restaurants won. If this describes your past reaction, now is the time to drop what you’re doing and take a few minutes to log on to http://www.westchasewow.com At th.e top of the page, you’ll find an article leading to this year’s dining survey. For your help in picking the best, we’ll enter you into a drawing for dinner for two. Three prizes will be given out. Your participation is greatly appreciated.

Remember that we always welcome your shout outs, your letters and your story ideas. Please also remember to let our valued advertisers know you saw them in WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Keeping Connected Between WOWs

July’s WOW is full of important and entertaining news, but how can you stay connected between issues?

In our feature story on page 4 Karen Ring offers great tips and ideas to help you make the most of your Independence Day celebrations. You’ll find friendly reminders that noise-making and airborne fireworks may not be used within Westchase. You’ll also find coverage of our community meetings, including that of the Community Development District. Its supervisors are in the midst of determining homeowner assessments during their budget season.

In our community news section, you’ll also find news of developments on Westchase’s outskirts, which could impact the lives of homeowners within The Bridges. Important meetings about one of these properties occurred just after WOW’s deadline. When such things occur, how can you keep connected?

If you haven’t yet visited WOW Online (http://www.WestchaseWOW.com), you’ll find that it is one important way you can stay abreast of important Westchase news between issues of WOW. If you’re not in the habit of checking the site daily, you can friend World of Westchase’s Facebook page, where we post links to all our news updates. You can also e-mail webmaster@westchasewow.com. Simply place “subscribe” in the subject line of your e-mail and you will be added to our e-mail contact list. Subscribers are notified by e-mail each time an important news item is posted to WOW’s Web site.

No other media or Web site in Tampa Bay offers as comprehensive coverage of Westchase as WOW and WOW Online. Please remember to add the site to your favorites.

Another important way of staying connected involves your voting member (VM). In the past month, I’ve seen Westchase’s VMs circulate e-mails announcing lost pets, a helpful FAQs sheet about the new garbage collection system the county will roll out this fall and important announcements regarding the planned development for the property near The Bridges. If you have not asked your VM to add your e-mail to your neighborhood contact list, I’d encourage you to do so this month. While none of them use the lists for commercial reasons, their announcements can help keep you informed and protect the investment you have in your home.

Working together, we strive to keep all residents informed and build a stronger community in Westchase.

Remember we always welcome your letters, shout outs and story ideas. We also ask you to let the businesses whose ads you see on these pages know you appreciate their support of WOW and Westchase.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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The 2013 WOW Scholars

In this issue we introduce six impressive residents.

The group of young men and women on our cover represents a most impressive combination of brains and hearts. They were selected as the 2013 WOW Scholars from among the largest group of applicants the magazine has ever received.

Each June WOW announces the year’s WOW Scholars, selected each spring by the magazine’s board of directors. The challenge WOW faces in making the selection from among the dozens of Westchasers who have shown great commitment to both academics and community service is testament to the great families and kids who call Westchase home – as well as the teachers and schools that serve them.

Over the summer, we’ll introduce the WOW Scholars with individual scholar profiles. We’re confident you’ll be as impressed as we are.

This month we also bring to a close our three-issue home improvement special. On page 90 WOW writer Karen Ring offers ideas for less expensive makeovers of your kitchens, closets and garages. These projects promise a big bang for the buck. We thank all of our contractors and home improvement specialists who’ve helped bring this series to you.

Summer vacation officially begins the first week of June. As many of our community’s students prepare to say farewell to familiar schools to begin new adventures in the fall, we also say farewell to a number of fine folks. Our Westchase Profile, on page 72, announces the retirement of one of Westchase Elementary’s crossing guards, Rosa Davila, who has been ensuring the safety of our kids for eight years! We wish Ms. Davila a happy, prosperous retirement.

I also want to take a moment to thank two dedicated individuals, Dana Gerus and Tracey Dean. Both have served as reliable, talented corresponding secretaries for Davidsen’s PTSA and Westchase Elementary’s PTA for at least the past two years. Both, however, are passing on their keyboards. I’m grateful for the professionalism, care and dedication they have shown in their contributions of school news. Thank you so much, Dana and Tracey! 

While they assure me their shoes will be filled in the fall, WOW is looking for Lowry and Alonso parents willing to play the role of news correspondents for their children’s schools. If you are interested in volunteering, please just give me a call or send an e-mail.

Remember we always welcome your letters, shout outs and story ideas. We also ask you to let the businesses whose ads you see on these pages know you appreciate their support of WOW and Westchase.

By Chris Barrett, WOW Publisher

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Improving Your Lot in Life

You can let down your guard this month.

Our feature story is actually true.

One of WOW’s most popular annual traditions is our gag April Fool’s cover story. Last month’s feature story, about a large cell tower hidden inside a hill with some rather interesting amenities, took the silliness to an all new level – approximately 255 feet above the ground. While our April Fool’s tradition annually triggers one or two annoyed responses, we receive far more positive feedback from readers who bravely admit to being fooled. Armed with admirable senses of humor, these residents even share their funny stories of the interesting conversations that transpired in their living rooms and kitchens prior to their discovery they’d been hooked. We share some of our readers’ responses – both annoyed and humorous – on page 16.

This month WOW aims, for the second time this year, to help our readers improve their lots in life. We’re, of course, talking about your home. The second part of our three-part Home Improvement series begins on page 4. WOW writer Karen Ring spoke with a handful of Westchase residents who are turning their backyard pools and patios into slices of paradise. She offers great suggestions – ranging from the simple and inexpensive to the grand and pricey. We particularly thank the homeowners who spoke to us and all the home improvement businesses that helped sponsor this special feature. Please be sure to let them know you appreciate their support of the magazine.

Between issues, WOW staff keeps busy posting news updates on WOW Online at http://www.westchasewow.com.  To receive e-mail notifications of posted updates, simply send an e-mail to webmaster@westchasewow.com with the word “subscribe” in the subject line. When we post something new, we’ll let you know. We’ll never, however, share your e-mail with any commercial entity.

WOW also has a Facebook page, World of Westchase, where we place links to articles posted between issues. Simply friend us there and you’ll quickly learn of any updates to WOW Online.

Remember that we always welcome your letters, shout outs and feedback. And please don’t forget to tell all our advertisers you appreciate their support of WOW.

I wish all moms a warm and happy Mother’s Day filled with hugs!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Keeping Informed

I was once told by a journalist that 40 percent of readers fail to make a jump when an article continues to another page.

Another thing that has always surprised me is the number of people who show up at community meeting and profess complete surprise when they learn about projects that have been written about for months in WOW.

Change is the only constant in all of our lives. This past month, in a nod to the transformative power of the digital age, WOW removed its last drop box at the swim and tennis centers. In years past, these boxes played an important role for residents who were submitting articles and classified ads. Given the widespread use of e-mail, in the last year or so, when I’ve checked them, I’ve usually just found mulch and empty granola bar wrappers. We still, of course, welcome your submissions. Going forward, however, we’ll need them submitted via e-mail.

If you feel compelled, however, please feel free to still mail us your empty granola bar wrappers.

Given our busy lives, it can be challenging to keep abreast of constant changes. One way we can all protect the investment we’ve made in our homes, however, is to stay informed about constantly changing events and news in our community. If you don’t make the time to read WOW carefully and thoroughly each month, you risk being taken by surprise.

One thing that shouldn’t come as a surprise this month is our annual Summer Camp Spectacular, aimed at helping Westchase families make the most of the summer. This special section is brought to you by summer camp programs throughout Tampa Bay. Appearing at the back of WOW, this year’s summer camp special provides a wealth of tips for picking camps aimed at maintaining the academic gains your child has made this school year. We also offer some tips on picking the best camps − while watching your budget.

Remember that we always welcome your letters, shout outs and feedback. And please don’t forget to tell WOW’s advertisers you appreciate their support of the magazine.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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The Bearer of Good News

I’m a dedicated reader of good, old fashioned newspapers.

One way, however, we strive to make WOW different from the everyday newsprint is in the stories we tell. We try to operate from a belief that residents want to read the good news as much or more than the bad. At times, it appears Tampa Bay reporters overlook this in their daily struggle to fill both column inches and air space.

In recent years, it’s been difficult to put a positive spin on our March tradition: WOW’s annual Real Estate Special. Fortunately, I’m happy to report that this year’s articles offer much good news for the community. On page 6 WOW writer Karen Ring takes a look at what motivated different Westchasers to buy homes while our traditional analysis of last year’s sales statistics begins on page 14.

Many businesses have helped bring this special to you and I thank them for doing so. I would, however, like to single out Doug and Nancy Wood of Coldwell Banker for special thanks. Each year the Woods spend a good amount of time assisting WOW in compiling the data on which we base our annual report. Their extra, uncompensated effort is much appreciated!

Westchase is filled with good news. This month WOW’s pages hold a number of different stories about residents who are volunteering to make a difference – to raise funds to find a cure for cancer, to deliver hot meals to seniors, to collect items for abandoned Jamaican children, to help fourth and fifth graders develop an interest in science, technology and engineering – even to recycle sneakers into playing fields for kids rather than toss them in a landfill.

It’s important, as well, to remember that your neighbors serving as Westchase Community Association (WCA) directors and voting members are also all volunteers who are striving to make Westchase the best possible place. While you may not agree with everything they do, they are involved because they believe in building a better community.

As always, we welcome your letters and shout outs. And we ask you to tell our advertisers you saw them on pages of WOW and appreciate their support of Westchase.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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WOW Helps with Your Home Project

This month WOW kicks off a new, fun and informative series.

Beginning on page 4, we begin a three-month look at home improvement projects in Westchase.
As I’ve traveled throughout the community in the last year or so, I’ve been struck by the number of homeowners who have undertaken significant renovations of their homes. As any Realtor will tell you, Westchase homes are very popular. Rather than move, many existing Westchase homeowners are instead electing to stay, focusing on transforming or updating their homes to meet their current needs and desires.

To help our readers with their home makeovers, we begin by looking at different projects that have beautifully transformed some of your neighbors’ kitchens and bathrooms. We also offer some important tips on picking a contractor. While next month marks our popular Westchase Real Estate Special and April’s WOW is traditionally focused on summer camps, we’ll return to the home improvement theme in May and June. May’s WOW will focus on pool and patio ideas. June’s WOW will conclude with a look at home organization, decorating tips and other simple ideas.
We thank the businesses that have brought you this month’s special.

This month’s WOW also brings you news of important, upcoming changes to Westchase’s garbage collection (page 20) and construction at the intersection of Linebaugh Avenue and Sheldon Road (page 26). A public meeting to take your input on the road changes was scheduled after WOW’s deadline but will likely occur early in February. Please be sure to check WOW Online at http://www.WestchaseWOW.com for the time and location of this meeting.

As always, we welcome your letters, shout outs and story ideas. Simply e-mail them to me at editor@westchasewow.com.

Last, to help WOW continue its service and generous support of Westchase schools, charities and the Westchase community, please remember to tell the businesses you see on these pages you saw them in WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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WOW Expands; Looks to the Past and the Future

It has become a tradition of the January WOW to engage in some time travel.

But I begin this month with a warm welcome.

For the first time since West Park Village homes were added to its delivery routes back in 1999, WOW is expanding its circulation – and it’s jumping 15 percent! This month we welcome the residents of the West Park Village apartments as our new readers. WOW will run a page of their news in our Village Voices section; meanwhile, our expansion greatly benefits WOW’s advertisers, whose ads will be seen by 15 percent more readers with no increase to advertisers’ costs.

Now for the time travel: As we’ve done in years past, WOW takes its traditional look back at Westchase news in 2012 on page 16. If you’re accustomed to giving news articles about the Westchase Community Association (WCA) or Community Development District (CDD) a pass, this review of these two entities’ decisions and actions in 2012 will help get you up to speed.

In a nod to the future, WOW presents two features this month. This past year the WCA focused much of its work on developing a Two Year Master Plan, setting out its goals for the next year or so. Many of their proposals have been included in the 2013 budget. Our cover story takes a look at the committee’s recommendations and the association’s plans to make them reality in 2013. How will they benefit you? See page 4.

In addition, WOW helps you remake your future and your health with our annual Health and Wellness special, beginning on page 12. We thank all our advertisers for bringing this feature to you.

WOW is unusual. While it’s the official newsmagazine of our Westchase Community Association, it is not subsidized by any association homeowners’ dues or assessments from our CDD. WOW is financially independent, paying for all of its editorial, publishing and distribution costs solely with its advertising revenues. To help WOW continue its service and generous support of Westchase schools, charities and the Westchase community, please remember throughout the New Year to tell the businesses you see on these pages you saw them in WOW.

Happy New Year! 

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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My Thanks to You

The last three months of each year are busy ones for WOW staff.

And for a legion of generous Westchase volunteers.

December’s WOW annually recaps two of the magazine’s charitable efforts, The Great West Chase 5K, held Oct. 27, and the Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive, which occurred on Nov. 11.

Both proved tremendously successful this year. While WOW staff helps organize these events, they are only made possible by scores of business sponsors and volunteers, ranging from the community’s youngest Scouts to a host of active senior citizens. We list these generous individuals on pages 20 and 96. Every year I am inspired by the number of generous souls, who help cement Westchase’s strong sense of community. Please thank them when you see them.

What’s more, I thank you for participating in the events. The race had the greatest number of runners in its history while the food drive was the most successful yet. Volunteers returned from neighborhoods beaming with delight, frozen turkeys perched across their dashboards because their vehicles were so full. One Greens driver had to drop her daughters back at home in order to fit all the donations.

So I thank you for your generosity! It is why I am always incredibly proud to call Westchase home.

I also want to take a moment to thank WOW’s Business Manager, Tracy Urso, and our graphic designer, Hillary Tucker for all the extra hours they put into these events. Tracy, in particular, is the true force behind the race’s success. Ask any runner. Few races are as well organized and popular as The Great West Chase. Tracy is the reason.

Turning to December’s events, I hope everyone enjoys Santa’s parade. Be sure to see our cover feature on page 4. It includes a letter to Westchase children, written by Santa Claus. In it Santa asks them to help him out on Dec. 8.

I’m confident their response will again illustrate Westchase’s inspiring generosity.

As always, send us your Shout Outs and letters. And be sure to tell our generous advertisers you saw them in WOW.

Happy holidays!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Giving Thanks

In keeping with a November tradition, this month’s WOW announces Westchase’s annual Thanksgiving Food Drive.

The drive will be held on Sunday, Nov. 11, at 1 p.m. Our feature story, beginning on page 4, offers all the details regarding how you can participate. It even offers a run-down of village participation to interject some fun competition into the event.

This year WOW will offer a prize to encourage Westchase’s neighborhoods to increase their participation levels. The individual neighborhood with the highest participation (based on the percent of total homes), will win $300 for a neighborhood block party. To make it fairer, we’ll be breaking some of larger neighborhoods like The Bridges, The Greens and The Fords down to their respective subdivisions (Wakesbridge, Greensprings, Abbotsford, for example).

Last year Stonebridge had 41 percent of its homeowners participate and Harbor Links/The Estates, saw 40 percent of homes contribute. Will they do it again? Or will Sturbridge (34 percent), Wycliff (33 percent) or another neighborhood turn out a few more participants and steal the party away? Either way, it’s for a great cause!

This month I also share news of some grants WOW recently made. As you know, WOW is entirely self-sufficient, relying solely on its advertising revenues to cover costs. We do, however, return revenues in excess of expenditures to worthwhile community projects, charities and schools. In September, WOW cut checks totaling nearly $60,000 to nearby schools to help them enhance their school technology: Westchase Elementary ($12,000), Lowry Elementary ($5,200) Davidsen Middle School ($9,200), Alonso High ($8,500), and Robinson High’s IB Program ($10,000). In addition, WOW made grants of $7,500 to Davis Elementary and Bellamy Elementary, both Title I schools that feed into Davidsen Middle. WOW additionally donated $10,000 to purchase school supplies for needy kids through the Hillsborough Education Foundation and donated $5,000 to help bring the Westchase Charitable Foundation’s Santa’s Pre-Flight Parade back to Westchase streets this December.

The dedication of our readers and advertisers ultimately made all this possible. Thank you!

Know that we always welcome your letters and shout outs. And please remember to tell our valued advertisers you saw them in WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Schools, Deer and Service Opportunities

October marks the beginning of the busiest time of year for parents.

This month’s magazine offers its annual Private School Special, offering valuable information about pre-schools and private schools as parents gear up for this fall’s Open House opportunities. WOW writers Joey Johnston and Lisa Puster offer great coverage beginning on page 16. We thank all the schools and pre-schools that helped offer this feature.

WOW’s cover story looks at some of Westchase’s most popular residents – our neighborhood deer. In May I re-landscaped my front yard and quickly learned that as much as I like to admire it, deer loved eating it even more. Many Westchase residents are struggling with the same challenge – how to outsmart a persistent stomach on four legs. I share what I’ve learned beginning on page 4.

This month also begins WOW’s busiest time of year. On Oct. 27, WOW staff, along with dozens of generous volunteers and sponsors, will host the 11th annual running of The Great West Chase. If you’ve never run a 5K before, why not make this your first –  while helping a great cause? See page 22 for more information.

The race also provides opportunities for community service hours for Westchase’s middle and high schoolers. We need friendly faces to stuff race packets and assist at Race Packet Pick Up on Friday, Oct. 26, and the morning of the race on Saturday, Oct. 27. On Sunday, Nov. 11, we’ll need some strong arms and backs to help load and unload trucks during the Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive. If your son or daughter needs service hours, simply reach out to me at editor@westchasewow.com or Tracy Urso at advertising@westchasewow.com.

As always, we welcome your shout outs and letters and ask you to tell our generous advertisers you saw them in WOW!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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WOW’s Dining Survey and Reader Survey

The results are in!

September’s WOW holds our popular annual restaurant special and dining survey results. Karen Ring’s fun cover feature on eating out begins on page 4 and your dining survey results are on page 95. I thank all the restaurants who helped bring you this special.

This month, I’d also like to highlight some of the changes prompted by a survey of readers we took over the summer. That survey helped us tweak our content in ways that have improved WOW.

We’ve already received positive feedback on our new events listing, which this month runs on pages 94-95. Each month WOW staff culls through Tampa Bay events to compile this list of free (or nearly free) events for your enjoyment. We strive to include events that will appeal to all cross-sections of Westchase. If you have suggestions, don’t hesitate to share them.

To address the time challenges of busy families, Bridges resident Alicia Dela Cruz has remodeled the former Healthy Gourmet space. While still dedicated to bringing you healthy food ideas, Dela Cruz aims to help you get out of your recipe rut. Each month, she’ll offer a handful of easy dishes that will help easily change the evening line-up and keep the family happy.

This month Kristin Swenson also debuts her new column, Beaucoup Boutique, on page 62. Kristin contributes to a popular Tampa blog on fashion, shopping and trends. We welcome her wit and insights and good fashion sense to WOW!

In addition to content changes, we’re also making a staff change. WOW is preparing to hire its first ad sales staff member. For more information about applying for this opportunity, please see page 25.

Remember that we always welcome your letters and shout outs. Also please remember to mention to our valued advertisers that you’ve seen them in WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Don’t Miss Out on WOW Online

Do you receive e-notices of WOW news updates and surveys?

If you didn’t visit WOW Online (http://www.westchasewow.com) last month, you missed out on a great survey that is the basis for this month’s cover feature. Do you park on the street thinking your neighbors really don’t mind that much? Our feature story on page 4 –  and the results of WOW’s Bad Neighbor survey – may have you rethinking some common habits.

In July, WOW posted two surveys and a host of online news updates. To receive notice of news items and surveys, simply send an e-mail to webmaster@westchasewow.com with Subscribe in the subject line or like World of Westchase’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/WorldofWestchase

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The other survey posted in July was WOW’s Reader Survey. Scores of readers took the time to tell us what they enjoy and what they’d like to see changed. We promised that checks for $100 would be going to three randomly selected participants. We congratulate Stephanie Georgiades of The Greens, Jennifer Hoppe of Radcliffe and Mary Banks of Castleford for winning the random drawing and thank all who filled the survey out. This month – and in months to come – WOW’s content will reflect changes made because of our readers’ valued feedback.

This month you can participate in another great survey, our annual WOW Dining Survey. See page 65 for more information or log on to http://www.westchasewow.com and fill the survey out there. Doing so can win you dinner for two at one of the winning restaurants.

This month we also want your back-to-school photos. Please see page 48 for the details.

Remember that we welcome your shout outs and letters. As always, please let WOW’s valued advertisers know that you’ve seen them here.

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What is WOW Missing?

It’s time for a light housecleaning and we’d like your help.

WOW’s staff really wants to produce the most enjoyable and informative newsmagazine serving any community. To this end, every few years we take a formal survey of readers and non-readers to gauge whether we’re hitting the mark – and to understand how we’re missing it. Last month we rolled out the online survey and we’ve already heard from scores of homeowners. We’re discovering which features and articles they enjoy and which cause them to turn the page.

To encourage your participation, we’ll do a random drawing of all completed online surveys to award three $100 prizes. If you haven’t yet filled out the brief survey, please click here.

One resident we heard from in June is Jacob Morello. A 2011 graduate of Alonso High School who just finished his freshman year at Harvard, Jacob was one of our 2011 WOW Scholars. He read with interest our June article on T.R. Robinson’s IB Program. It motivated him to contact us and offer to write a similar piece about what makes his alma mater, Alonso High School, a special place that also graduates impressive and talented young Westchasers. Turn to page 26 for Morello’s insights. WOW writer Lisa Stephens also continues her profiles of the 2012 WOW Scholars on pages 24 and 25.

In a nod to Independence Day, July’s WOW also features a story inspired by one of America’s great pastimes – baseball. This summer the familiar sound of Rays baseball has regularly filled my family’s living room. One of those voices belongs to broadcaster Todd Kalas, who calls West Park Village home when he isn’t traveling with the team. Todd, who has a great sense of humor, recently sat down with WOW reporter Joey Johnston to share what he loves about Westchase. Check it out on page 4.

Remember that we welcome your shout outs and letters. As always, please let WOW’s valued advertisers know that you’ve seen them here.

Happy Independence Day!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Wicked Smart With a Generous Heart

The spring meeting of the WOW Board of Directors brings the same annual challenge.

Faced with dozens of impressive applicants for the magazine’s WOW Scholars program, directors have to choose a handful to honor as the year’s WOW Scholars.

While I am merely an observer of their deliberations every year, their reactions make clear what a challenging task they face. Westchase has an abundance of talented, hardworking and profoundly generous high school kids who are wicked smart.

This month’s cover story features this year’s WOW Scholars, each of whom received a $2,000 scholarship from the magazine. We honored these young, college-bound men and women for their academic excellence and their commitment to community service. We introduce this impressive lot to the community in our cover story, beginning on page 4.

As part of our coverage, we also wanted to take a look at a particular program that impresses us each year with the caliber of students it produces: the International Baccalaureate program at T.R. Robinson High School. WOW writer Joey Johnston visited the school, talked to its Westchase students and on page 26 helps us understand what makes the place uniquely successful.

In the coming months WOW profile writer Lisa Stephens is also sitting down with each of the WOW Scholars in order to better share their stories with us. Her WOW Scholar profiles begin on pages 22 and 23 and will run throughout the summer.

June’s WOW also annually runs an important map we hope you never have to use. This month hurricane season begins in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico and it will run through November. In our storm guide on pages 100-103, we provide helpful storm resources and a detailed view of evacuation zones throughout Westchase. All of the community lies in storm surge areas, which will become inundated should a powerful hurricane strike Tampa Bay. As survivors of past storms will testify, it is water rather than wind that proves the biggest killer. As a precaution, know your Westchase evacuation zone, prepare an emergency plan and gather your storm supplies.

Remember that we welcome your shout outs and letters. As always, please let WOW’s valued advertisers know that you’ve seen them here.

I wish all of Westchase’s dads a happy Father’s Day.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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What Happened to the Basketball Hoops Poll?

Some WOW readers may have unsuccessfully searched WOW Online for a poll on portable basketball hoops in April.

I’d like to take this space this month to explain and apologize for any inconvenience.

Due to an error I made, I decided on Monday, April 9, to pull the existing poll from WOW’s Web site.

When I agreed to post the survey online, I did so believing it was a WCA-requested survey. In recent months, WCA Director Nancy Sells inquired whether WOW would be willing to run a survey on portable basketball hoops and I agreed to do so.

Sells poll offered multiple options and was unbiased. Nevertheless, because I misunderstood a conversation (I want to emphasize here that Director Sells in no way misrepresented this point), I incorrectly believed it had the WCA board’s informal imprimatur and that directors wanted homeowner input.

Of course, WOW operates with editorial independence from the WCA. Nevertheless, I viewed it as a valuable community service to run a board-requested homeowners poll. In posting it, I labeled it a WCA Poll on Basketball Hoops. My publisher’s notes in this space in April also described it that way.

While WCA President Joaquin Arrillaga was aware of the poll and correctly described it in his president’s column, it was incorrect for me to describe it as a WCA poll. Contrary to my incorrect belief, neither the WCA Board nor Westchase VMs had actually requested it. The poll really was Director Sells’ attempt to acquire more information about the matter for the Documents Committee’s consideration later this year.

In incorrectly describing the poll, I may have caused some homeowners to mistakenly conclude the WCA is considering rules changes. Rather than promote that misconception, I elected to remove the poll until I could clarify matters here.

Coming full circle, VMs, however, subsequently voted to request WOW run an actual WCA-requested portable basketball hoops survey on WOW Online and we’ve gladly agreed to do so. Even if you took last month’s poll, please visit http://www.westchasewow.com to participate in this different poll. Your VMs do want your input.

In closing, I bid a fond farewell – and offer my profound thanks – to longtime Dishing It Out columnist Gail Gundersen. Gail and her carnivore husband Mick are moving to Atlanta. Gail has written for WOW for seven years and will be sorely missed. We wish Gail and Mick the absolute best as they move closer to their grandkids’ hugs.

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How Did Your Home Do in 2011?

This month our Real Estate Special shares what we’ve learned from combing through sales statistics for 2011.

Every year it’s a time-consuming process. In addition to sending questionnaires to a number of Westchase Realtors who know the local market, we study the sales data for trends. Comparing it to previous years’ performances, we set out to tell you what homes in your Westchase village are selling for.

It’s always a fascinating – and in recent years even frustrating – story.

I want to thank the Realtors who helped provide information and insight that brought this cover story to fruition. I also thank the advertisers who helped bring the Real Estate Special to you. Please remember that WOW and its work in the community are solely supported through its advertising revenue. Please therefore tell the businesses you see on these pages you saw them in WOW.

WOW is filled with other great features this month. Westchase resident Ben Weiner is bringing the first food truck rally to the community on March 9. It will be held in conjunction with the WCA’s Movie in the Park event. See pages 12 and 16 for more information.

The Westchase Community Foundation’s annual Westchase Cup Golf Tournament is coming up in April. Why not get a group of your neighbors together and try to wrest the cup back from the business teams that have won it in recent years? See page 22 for information on registering for this great event.

Many residents have followed news out of this year’s state legislative session. One of the biggest pieces of news is how new maps for legislative districts may affect our community. On page 20 we look at the new maps, currently under review and challenge. Should they stand, however, the proposed map for Westchase’s new House district may represent the best chance the community has ever had to send an actual Westchase resident to Tallahassee to represent us.

As always, the rest of WOW is filled with great stories about your association, your CDD and your neighbors.

I wish you happy reading and a happy spring break!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Be My Valentine?

In a few days children throughout our community will exchange dozens of little cards with their friends.

While these Valentines are now often accompanied by actual sweets, their sweet written messages and signatures annually bring back memories of my own childhood Valentine’s Days.

They also remind us of something more important. Each of us who shares – or who has shared – a life with another has a sweet story to tell. In meeting a new couple, my favorite question to ask is, “How did you two meet?”

No matter how silly, convoluted, funny or ordinary, the stories I hear are the most significant ones in the lives of those couples and their families. This month we interviewed a handful of residents and asked, “How did you two meet?” WOW reporter Karen Ring opens the door to their answers in our great cover feature on page 4.

While I often use this space to detail other fun articles that await you within the magazine, I’d like to take this month’s remaining space in a different direction.

I’d like to request a favor.

Yes, I’m asking a favor of you individually.

WOW is unique. The magazine is thrown each month in front of each Westchase home at absolutely no cost to homeowners. There is no subscription fee and we receive no portion of your HOA assessment to pay our bills. All of our costs are paid for by our generous advertisers. In recent years we’ve even been able to present over $100,000 annually to Westchase’s schools to enhance their technology and curricula.

For this to continue, we need your help. If you’ve noticed your vastly shrinking newspaper in recent years, you likely understand the challenges print publications face. Our struggling local economy has reduced the number of advertising businesses while the Internet poses further challenges.

If you value what WOW brings to you each month, I’d ask a simple favor in return. When you are making the decision to hire service providers, please consider our advertisers. Most important, when you do hire an advertiser in WOW, be sure to tell them, “I found you in WOW.”

By doing so, you show businesses that their WOW advertisements work.

Taking this simple step each month will be an important way you can help keep WOW strong. In turn, a strong WOW means a stronger community.

Thanks for being a dedicated reader!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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WOW’s January Traditions

Like the Roman god Janus, whose two faces gaze in opposite directions, January’s WOW again looks forward and backward.

January, his namesake, represents both beginnings and endings. In a nod to the past, WOW takes its traditional look back at Westchase news in 2011 on page 14. We also conclude our 20th anniversary History of Westchase series with a fascinating 20-year timeline of community events on page 20.

In a nod to the future, WOW’s cover story presents our annual Health and Wellness special. Joey Johnston’s feature helps everyone avoid the false, temporary hope of fad diets so prevalent each January. Instead, to help everyone with a new start, he’s interviewed two Westchase personal trainers to determine what really works for those who stick to their health resolutions each year.

Each January I observe another tradition in this space – one that gives me great happiness. I announce the donations WOW made to its local public schools the previous December.

WOW is unusual. While it’s the newsmagazine of our Westchase Community Association, it is not subsidized by any association homeowners’ dues or assessments from our CDD. WOW is financially independent, paying for all of its editorial, publishing and distribution costs solely with its advertising revenues. WOW’s mission, however, goes further. Each year its revenues in excess of expenditures are returned to the community in important, positive ways.

After a very successful year in 2011, I’m happy to report WOW was able to make gifts of $19,000 to Westchase Elementary, $7,500 to Lowry Elementary, $12,000 to Davidsen Middle School, $19,000 to Alonso High School and $10,000 to Robinson High School’s IB program, which serves over 100 Westchase teens. WOW donated these funds to enable the schools to purchase technology and curricular enhancements to strengthen our youngest residents’ educations. With this year’s donations, we’ve helped Alonso build a modern television studio and provide four mobile smart boards for its classrooms. Davidsen will purchase classroom projectors and install wireless access points in all classroom buildings. Lowry and Robinson are purchasing document cameras, projectors, smart boards and software. Westchase Elementary will purchase Mimio Teach Interactive Systems, mini laptops and DVD players.

WOW is able to do this because of the generous and dedicated support of its advertisers and its readers. I encourage all readers to thank WOW’s advertisers for their support and encourage their favorite businesses to advertise here. Doing so pays dividends to Westchase’s children.

Happy New Year!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Westchase’s Favorite Elf

Which person has graced the most WOW covers?

Yes, it’s old Kris Kringle, and this month he’s there again!
Santa and the Westchase Charitable Foundation’s Pre-Flight Parade take to Westchase streets on Saturday, Dec. 10. The bead and candy-tossing Santa parade is one of Westchase’s most cherished traditions. Each year the same group of merry elves pitch in to bring joy to Westchase kids and adults alike. Recently I sat down with the parade’s organizers – as well as Santa himself – to hear what motivates them to hold the parade each year. Their stories were both funny and moving. Don’t miss them on page 5.

Financially backed by WOW, the parade is organized by the Westchase Charitable Foundation (WCF), which assists families who have sick children or who have experienced some tragedy. During the event, parade organizers will be collecting unwrapped gifts for Sincerely Santa, a toy drive for needy kids. If you find joy in the parade, make this the year to say thanks by offering an unwrapped gift and a donation to the WCF.

After a very successful Great West Chase 5K and a great Westchase Thanksgiving Food Drive, I have many people to thank. Please see the race article on page 40 and the food drive article on page 20 for lists of these special folks. I also want to thank you, our participating readers, who made these traditions so wonderful.

I do, however, want to single out WOW Business Manager Tracy Urso. Every year Tracy is the primary drive behind the success of The Great West Chase. Anyone who has ever participated comes away impressed. Thanks, Tracy, for doing such a phenomenal, dedicated job!
As always, we welcome your shout outs and letters to the editor. Please also let our valued advertisers know you saw them in WOW.

I wish you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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Westchase’s Greatest Asset

Westchase has beautiful and well-maintained commons areas, facilities and parks. But none of these are the community’s greatest asset.

Our community’s greatest asset appears on this month’s cover – Westchase’s residents. Only people can give Westchase its true spirit of community. This month, we take a look at what the 2010 Census tells us about the people who make up Westchase. Beginning on page 6, our cover story may hold some surprises for you.

Of course, there’s no surprise that our neighbors are both generous and proud to call Westchase home. On Oct. 29 both traits were apparent in the tenth running of The Great West Chase and the 20th Anniversary Party WOW held in West Park Village to celebrate Westchase’s birthday. As both events occurred after November’s print deadline, we will have greater coverage of them in December’s WOW. I do, however, want to thank all who participated in and sponsored the events. They were successful because of you – and our generous volunteers.

This month one of Westchase’s great community traditions continues. On Sunday, Nov. 6, the community will hold its annual Thanksgiving Food Drive, benefitting Metropolitan Ministries. At 1 p.m. that day, dozens of your neighbors will travel through our neighborhoods collecting your contributions. For more information on donating or participating, please see page XX.

This month – a month of thanks – I want to single out five individuals who represent Westchase residents’ selflessness and dedication. An important and historical event occurred without a fuss on Sept. 20 and Oct. 4. While it occurred without great notice, the merger of Westchase’s Community Development Districts (CDDs) is a rare bird in Florida. Why? It actually required five of Westchase’s ten CDD supervisors – individuals who receive a stipend of $200 per meeting – to set aside their personal desires, goals and their financial self-interest for the greater good of the community. Without their willingness to step aside the merger would not have occurred.

I want to thank Bob Argus, Susan Edgerley, Keith Heinemann, Joseph Lechman and Lewis Patterson for their many years of service – and for being great neighbors. If you see them, be sure to offer your thanks as well. They represent what is great about Westchase.

As always, we welcome your Shout Outs and your letters to the editor and encourage you to tell our advertisers you saw them in WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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You’re Invited to Westchase’s Birthday Bash

There’s no need to bring a gift. We just want you to join the fun! Those who read this space monthly already know that 2011 is a special year for Westchase. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the community’s founding. Residents have had great fun at the Movies in the Park, a concert in West Park Village, the opening of the West Park Village pool and the Westchase Gala, held in August.

While the fall series of Movies in the Park will begin again on Oct. 14, WOW also invites you to commemorate Westchase’s birthday in a special way. We invite all Westchase residents to a community birthday bash – a street festival on Saturday, Oct. 29, from 3-9 p.m. Held on Montague Street’s green in West Park Village, the party will feature great family entertainment and food and drink from local restaurants. It will end with a 6:45 p.m. showing of Rio on a giant movie screen. Except for any inexpensive food and drink you purchase, it’s all free! Come on out, grab dinner, let the kids have a ball, enjoy some birthday cake and catch the movie. It’s WOW’s way of saying, “Happy Birthday, Westchase!” Please see page 4 for more details.

The morning of Oct. 29 begins with another fall tradition, the tenth annual running of The Great West Chase 5K and Children’s Fun Run. If you haven’t yet seen this great event, roll out of bed early that Saturday and discover why it’s one of the most popular road races in all of Tampa Bay. With the help of many wonderful volunteers and sponsors, we throw the best race and post-party around! With runners’ and sponsors’ help last year, Just Elementary, which serves one of the poorest communities in Tampa, raised their FCAT school grade from F to C. Please see page 5 and the race site http://www.thegreatwestchase.com for more details.

This month we also bring you our great School Special, beginning on page 94, and thank the private schools and daycare centers that made it possible.

As always, we welcome your Shout Outs and your letters to the editor.

Don’t forget to send us your Halloween photos and please remember to thank our valued advertisers for supporting the community.

See you Oct. 29!

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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WOW Rolls Out New Web Site

If you’ve ever wished you could leave comments after WOW articles, now you can.

This month WOW rolls out a new and improved version of its online self at http://www.WestchaseWOW.com The N.ew WOW Online features all the great news items and columns you’re accustomed to finding there. There is, however, much more. For the first time residents will be able to leave comments about all articles and columns. The new Web also features an expanded business directory of local service providers. On each of their pages, residents are able to offer reviews of their services. Offering a new look and feel, WOW Online also features an expanded classifieds section and calendar for residents to post events and gatherings. From it you can e-mail content, “Like” articles on Facebook or Tweet about one you’ve enjoyed. Be sure to log on to http://www.WestchaseWOW.com and register your resident profile to use its great new features.

September marks the beginning of WOW’s busiest part of the year. Staff is gearing up for the Oct. 29 tenth anniversary running of The Great Westchase 5K and Children’s Fun Run. We’re also currently preparing a fun 20th anniversary bash that afternoon to celebrate Westchase’s birthday. While they’re more than a month off, mark your calendars for these events so you can join the fun.

This month’s cover story announces another important October event. The Bauder family of Kingsford is holding their annual tailgating party to raise funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The event and their story are the subject of this month’s cover feature on page 4. After reading it, you’ll feel compelled to land a hand.

This month on pages 96-103 we also offer our traditional September Dining Special, including the results from our 13th annual dining survey. We thank all the restaurants who helped make it possible. Be sure not to miss Shires resident Joey Johnston’s humorous take on Guys Tips for Healthy Eating Out, which appears on page 97. We also offer a new twist on our Restaurant Guide of menus. Instead of running with the inserts, it appears as a tear-out section between pages 96-97. Be sure to pull it out and tuck it in a kitchen drawer by the phone.

As always, send in your shout outs and letters and tell our valued advertisers you saw their ads in WOW.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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