Last updateFri, 19 Jun 2015 4pm


Hitchcock's Challenge 2014

Baskestball Takes Center Stage

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For thousands of high school basketball enthusiasts, Santa Fe High School was the place to be as fans filled the school gym to overflowing for four days of fast paced high school hoops. Starting on Dec. 26 and running through Dec. 30, 16 teams vied for bragging rights as the Hitchcock's Challenge basketball tournament champion. Area teams, including Santa Fe, Hawthorne, Eastside, Trenton, Bell, Dixie County, Union County, Columbia County and St. Francis, as well as teams from South Florida, the Florida Panhandle and as far away as Tennessee made the journey to shoot hoops in the Christmas tournament that has been a major sports experience since 1993. The tournament’s 2013 champion, the Suwannee Bulldogs, is once again in the championship hunt in 2014, facing Fort Lauderdale’s Archbishop McCarthy High School.

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Waldo’s Christmas at the Caboose

Spreading the joy of Christmas

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WALDO – Santa Clause told the Waldo area children to come one and come all – and they did. In fact, 128 children in all came for a visit with Santa during Waldo’s Christmas at the Caboose Thursday, Dec. 18. As scores of children sat on Santa’s lap to tell the jolly man in red exactly what they wanted for Christmas, Santa’s little helpers gave the youngsters early gifts. At the end of the evening, Santa’s helpers pulled raffle tickets for the children who had a chance to win a bike, skateboard, scooter, dollhouse and table set, home music system, video game system, or telescope/microscope set. Santa and his elves made sure that every child from baby to 12 years old left that evening with a gift and a sack full of candy.

Sure to make Christmas warmer, the City also passed out dozens of prizes including candy, coffee mugs, gift baskets, coffee makers, a crock pot with towels, a cookbook, and a cookie baking kit, said Waldo Area Recreation Director Erika Smith.

Sponsored by the City of Waldo and with contributions from community members and organizations, the Christmas at the Caboose event brightened the holidays for Waldo area children, and with the outpouring of community support, the City was able to help provide gifts for more than eight additional families

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Memorable Christmas - Shop with a Cop

W - Shop with Cop S5000302It was all smiles as High Springs police officers, staff and area children participated in the first ever High Springs "Shop with a Cop" event at the Walmart on U.S. Highway 441 in Gainesville.

Eleven High Springs children woke up on Monday, Dec. 22, and quickly remembered they were about to be the first children in their city to take part in a program that would lead to a fun-filled and fabulous pre-Christmas Day. They were the lucky participants to take advantage of a new program sponsored by the High Springs Police Department (HSPD) called “Shop with a Cop.

Although the idea is not new, it is new to High Springs. It is a concept Officer Adam Joy brought to the department. The idea began as a spark when Joy asked permission to take two children shopping for their own Christmas gifts at his expense. When some of the other officers heard about the idea, they offered to donate money so Joy could take more than two children on a shopping spree.

“I thought if they were willing to donate the money, they should go along and see the delight on the children’s faces for themselves,” said Joy.

HSPD was already involved in raising funds and gifts for “Operation Holiday Cheer” when Joy brought his “Shop with a Cop” idea forward. Despite that fact, Acting Chief Antoine Sheppard gave the go-ahead for the interested officers to proceed with a small group of children to see if the new program would prove successful. That decision fanned Joy's initial spark into a small flame.

Once they received the go-ahead, the officers were off and running. They managed to raise quite a bit of money in a remarkably short time. They donated funds themselves, as that was their idea in the first place, but they also received donations from the High Springs Historic Society and several other private donors who heard about the project.

Joy checked back with Walmart on U.S. 441 in Gainesville, the store he had originally contacted about the program, to confirm details a few days before the children were to arrive for their shopping trip.

“I was surprised when the store's management said they would be delighted to provide breakfast for the children and would also donate a $25 gift card per child towards the purchase of gifts for each,” said Joy. “That got us to our goal of being able to offer a $100 gift amount to each child,” he said.

Knowing in advance where they were going to be shopping, some families brought their children to the store a day or two early to look for the item(s) they wanted. Some had their hearts set on just one or two treasures...a bicycle and helmet or a tablet...while others took the more is more approach. Walmart department managers were available when needed with their handy scan guns to bring a bit of dollars and cents reality to the situation. Some children had to decide which items in their cart were most important to them in order to stay within their allotted amount.

Some children sought out items not only for themselves, but also to give or share with other family members. So as not to spoil the surprise, no names will be disclosed. One thoughtful child who had chosen items for other members of his family said he was purchasing a movie because he wanted to watch it with his dad.

The children who benefited from this year's “Shop with a Cop” program were chosen at random as officers encountered them while on patrol, said Joy.

“Walmart made everything possible,” said Joy, who admits he didn't give the company much notice this year. “Next year we have been advised to apply for a Walmart grant, which we intend to do, and hope to be able to take more children along on our next “Shop with a Cop” trip,” he said.

It appears Walmart may have fanned Joy's tiny spark into a full-fledged fire as he is clearly already thinking about ways to expand the program next year.

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UF establishes award in honor of Alachua's Emelie Matthews

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GAINESVILLE ─ Graduating transfer students in the University of Florida’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences can soon receive a special award named for a 35-year CALS employee.

The new CALS Student Excellence Fund will be renamed to honor college Admissions Coordinator Emelie Matthews, a longtime Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and CALS employee, when she retires next year.

In her position, Matthews works primarily with transfer students. She has working for UF for 35 years. For 12 of those, Matthews also has served as an adviser for Sigma Alpha, a professional agricultural sorority.

“I’ve always tried to look at what’s best for the students and guide them, so that they can go out and be successful individuals,” Matthews said.

The fund will support an award to an outstanding transfer student who is graduating from CALS. The fund will also help to support the UF chapters of Sigma Alpha and Alpha Gamma Rho, Matthews said.

“There are so many opportunities for our students in CALS,” college Dean Elaine Turner said. “Emelie has been such a valuable member of our team, working to make those opportunities available to students, and this fund will continue to do so.”

Currently, $2,000 has been donated to begin this fund. In order to serve its intended purpose, the fund needs to grow to $30,000, Turner said.

During her career, Matthews has gone beyond her duties as admissions coordinator to invest in students’ lives.

“It’s about what we can also teach [students] about working with people, leadership and the communication skills that they need to be successful,” she said.

To make a donation to support the CALS Student Excellence Fund in honor of Emelie Matthews, visit www.cals.ufl.edu/matthewsor mail a check, made payable to the University of Florida Foundation, to: Matthews Fund c/o CALS Development Office, P.O. Box 110170, Gainesville, FL, 32611-0170.

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High Springs Christmas parade by night


HS Parade DSC 1724Photo by RONN JONES/Special to Alachua County Today

HIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade went off without a hitch at 6 p.m., just as the sun disappeared from view. More than 38 entrants participated in the 17th annual event.

Both the Santa Fe High School and High Springs Community School Bands marched and played lively music, along with several local and regional civic groups. Karate and tumbling groups, religious organizations, police and fire departments, as well as city officials, made their appearances.

Several participants tossed or handed out candy for the children who squealed in delight as each multi-lighted float passed by. Although the night was chilly, it was not windy. But most people, and especially children, were bundled up and some were sitting on or wrapped up in blankets as they watched the parade pass by.

One year of bragging rights and first, second and third place ribbons were given for the best floats, judged this year by Betty and John Gloskowski, owners of the Antique Center of High Springs, and Basti Gonzalez of the High Springs Farmers Market.

The first place float winner this year was the High Springs Historical Society, who recently received donations to purchase replacement tires for the 1928 Brockway La France fire truck, the city's first fire truck, in order to be able to include it in this year's parade. Second place honors went to the Native Nations and third place was awarded to the Kiwanis Clubs of Santa Fe (Alachua/High Springs).

Michael Loveday provided pre-show entertainment at 5 p.m. as adults and children found places on Main Street they thought provided them the best view of the coming parade. Loveday's show consisted of a unique collection of songs of faith and family titled, “Not So Christmasie Christmas Songs.” Loveday was also set up at the viewing stand at the corner of Main Street and NW 1st Avenue and was this year's official parade announcer.

By the time the parade made its way down Main Street to Railroad Avenue and turned off, children's horseback rides had been set up and children with their parents lined up in the chilly evening hours for a visit with Santa Claus in front of the brightly lit Christmas tree.

Younger children who spied Santa, excitedly ran toward him as their parents grabbed them up and explained they had to wait in line to visit with the man in red. Parents snapped photos as children sat on Santa's lap and told him what they wanted for Christmas this year or rode the ponies.

“This was a great parade this year,” said one woman waiting in line. “Between that and visiting with Santa, my daughter might never be able to get to sleep tonight. She is so excited about Christmas, she's about ready to burst,” she said with a laugh.

It seemed as though a number of people shared her excitement gauging by the laughter and broad smiles on their faces.

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