Eli Bright, a 3-year old boy from Kentucky, was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy. He has been placed on a clinical trial which has greatly increased his quality of life. Even though his life span is uncertain, he still thinks of being a fire fighter. Through the efforts of friends and family, Eli was brought to Clearwater to visit with Winter the Dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. But, first, he was surprised with a visit to Clearwater Fire and Rescue Department Station 45. There, he was able to be the “fire chief” for a day before being taken by a fire truck to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
On June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 53 during his attack inside the Pulse Night Club in Orlando. In memory of those who lost their lives by the actions of this killer, I donated blood today, just as I did last year on the first anniversary of these slayings. I recall that thousands responded immediately after the attack in 2016, but not as many have continued to donate. As a regular blood donor, I know that blood product is needed every day of the year, so please consider donating, if you are physically able, at least once a year. It is a gift of life that each of us can share.
The Clearwater/Upper Pinellas Branch of the NAACP held its 44th annual Freedom Fund Banquet on June 1st at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Former Tarpon Springs mayor David Archie served as the master of ceremonies. Marva McWhite is the president of the local chapter. The keynote address was provided by Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP. It was also a special honor to have Clearwater’s own Leon Russell, national chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors, at the banquet to introduce President Johnson. Freedom Fund banquets are held by local NAACP chapters to support youth-oriented education programs and activities.
The City of Clearwater paused today to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Memorial Day. The program was held at the Florida Veterans Plaza located at Crest Lake Park. Special guests included State Representative Chris Latvala and “Tig” Tiegen who was a US Marine stationed at the consulate in Benghazi and featured in the movie “The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Former US Representative David Jolly was the emcee of the program that was coordinated by the Tampa Bay Veterans Alliance, which is still seeking individual contributions for the memorial wall at the plaza. More information is available at the website www.tampabayveteransalliance.org.
The Clearwater Police Department and Fraternal Order of Police Clearwater Lodge 10 held its 37th annual Police Memorial Service on May 18th. The members of the Clearwater Police Department and its members’ organization gather each year to commemorate those who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the line of duty. A special tribute was given to those 12 Florida law enforcement officers and K-9s who were killed during 2017. The program also remembers every year Clearwater’s four blue heroes–Officers Harry Conyers, Peter Price, John Passer, and Ronald Mahony. Chief Dan Slaughter, Lodge President Steven Squillante, and I spoke to those present, and the keynote address was given by Pinellas County Judge Joshua Riba.
The Florida Coastal Management Program is holding its annual meeting in Clearwater this week. Staff and I welcomed the attendees and spoke to them about the city’s efforts to develop and engage in a variety of environmental initiatives. Also, the City of Clearwater is honored to be one of three Florida communities in a pilot program to assess vulnerabilities to projected increases in coastal flooding. This Florida Resilient Coastlines Program looks to synergize resilience planning and natural resources control, as well as to promote and ensure a coordinated approach to sea level rise planning and infrastructure improvements.
Clearwater is one of several cities across Florida and the nation that hosts “Rathayatra” or Festival of the Chariot. This Hare Krishna festival with religious and cultural significance dates beach to 1486 and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The chariot carries the deities Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balarama, and Lady Subhadra as attendees pull it with long ropes through city streets. Chanting, dancing, and feasting culminate the celebration which honors Lord Krishna’s return to Vrindaban.