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AIMÉE ALEXANDER, Times Staff Writer

AIMÉE ALEXANDER

Aimée Alexander works as a staff writer and editorial assistant at the Tampa Bureau. She covers everything from community events to charities to the occasional reality TV star. A native of St. Petersburg, FL, she attended University of South Florida St. Petersburg's Journalism and Media Studies program. She would love to hear your story ideas.

Phone: 813-226-3408

E-mail: aalexander@tampabay.com

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  1. Movie multiplex to break ground next year in Riverview

    Business

    TAMPA — A new 14-screen multiplex is expected to break ground in Riverview in early 2015, providing an option for SouthShore and Brandon residents who experience overcrowding at the AMC Regency Theater on W Brandon Boulevard.

    The Goodrich theater complex, the first by that company in Florida, promises wall-to-wall screens, a bar and grill and stadium seating with recliners in all auditoriums....

  2. Hillsborough County Fair opens this week

    Events

    BRANDON — Swimming pigs. Cars smashing into each other. Deep-fried Oreos.

    Take it all in, and then some, when the 21st annual Hillsborough County Fair gets under way at 5 p.m. today with dollar day for both admission and rides.

    This year, the fair expands to two weekends, with two nights of rodeo competitions returning Friday and Saturday in the 1,800-seat arena, and a bull run and fiesta rounding out Sunday afternoon....

    The county fair runs today through Sunday, then again from Oct. 30 to Nov. 2.
  3. Gift of wheelchair powers University of Tampa student's soccer dream

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Tyler Hernandez usually plays his favorite sport on the hardwood floor of a basketball gym, but on one particular morning he chose an asphalt parking lot just off of Dale Mabry Highway.

    Hernandez, eager to show his friend Hank Malouf how a new piece of equipment would enhance his performance, couldn't wait until he found his way back into a gym.

    So he rolled out his new Strike Force Power Soccer wheelchair and began whooshing around the parking lot and pinging the 13-inch ball with Malouf....

    Tyler Hernandez, here in his everyday wheelchair, and Hank Malouf, owner of Hank’s Catfish & BBQ, made a connection last spring after Malouf read an article about Hernandez’s dream of trying out for the U.S. Power Soccer team. Malouf then helped fund the purchase of Hernandez’s Strike Force Power Soccer wheelchair.
  4. Hometown Hillsborough

    Human Interest

    DAR Sun City Center

    DAR Chapter of Sun City Center putting plans in motion for upcoming fundraiser

    In Sun City Center, the Col. George Mercer Brooke Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution has been busy planning its 2015 luncheon and fashion show fundraiser to benefit Athena House, a charity that provides housing for homeless female veterans. Committee members recently got together to plan the table decorations for the event. From left, seated: Carol Acosta, Jody Masterson and Bunny Blackstone. Standing: Jan Bassett, Pat Peltz and Ellen Cyr....

    Freedom Plaza couple celebrates 62 years of marriage:  Freedom Plaza residents Roger and Ginny Zwieg recently celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary with their daughter, Ellen Kleinschmidt; her husband, Kevin; grandson Brian; and his fiancee, Mika McGee. Ginny previously worked with hearing impaired children in suburban Milwaukee schools and Roger had a career in the oil industry, retiring as vice president and general manager of a petroleum marketing firm. He also spent 30 years in the Air Force and Air National Guard, retiring as a staff intelligence officer. The couple relocated to Sun City Center to be near their daughter, Ellen, and their two grandsons, Andy and Brian. Pictured: Roger and Ginny Zwieg, far right; daughter Ellen Kleinschmidt and son-in-law Kevin Kleinschmidt, center; grandson Brian and his fiancee, Mika McGee, far left.
  5. Checking kids' cellphone, Internet use is guard against sexual predators

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — The disappearance of a Valrico girl after she exchanged 2,000 text messages with a twice-convicted sex offender has many parents concerned about their children's interactions on cellphones and social media.

    Ashley Lyon, 16, exchanged messages, videos and photos with 41-year-old Steven Patrick Myers before she was reported missing on June 13. She was recovered by authorities in Louisiana after car chase late Wednesday night and is recovering from multiple stab wounds. An alert cashier at a roadside truck stop near Baton Rouge, La., spotted Lyon and Myers and notified police....

    Ashley Lyon, 16, exchanged messages with a man before she was reported missing on June 13.
  6. White House internship strengthens calling to public service

    Human Interest

    Vincent D'Agostino had his eye on the White House Internship Program long before he landed it last fall. The Homosassa native learned of the program several years ago, but the timing wasn't right. He had more important things to focus on, such as giving back to the world. "There was a bigger part of me that just wanted to help others, listen to their problems and help navigate them toward solutions." Two years after earning his bachelor's degree in psychology from Flagler College, D'Agostino joined the Peace Corps and headed to Swaziland, Africa, devoting two years to creating HIV/AIDS support groups and teaching English. Upon returning to the United States, he secured a job with Suncoast Hospice, and later began attending Stetson University College of Law part time. He graduated in 2012. Determined to apply to the internship program one last time, D'Agostino thought his experiences in law school, coupled with his passion for people with HIV/AIDS, might give him the edge he needed. He was right and was invited to the program in September. D'Agostino, who lives in Seminole Heights with his partner and their pet cockapoo, recently spoke with Times staff writer Aimée Alexander about his journey to becoming a White House intern and what's on the horizon....

    Vincent D’Agostino has worked with the Peace Corps in Africa and Suncoast Hospice. The law school graduate recently interned with the Office of National AIDS Policy at the White House.
  7. Weekend Conversation: Cinde Cortelyou

    Human Interest

    Cinde Cortelyou had her doubts about entering Hallmark Cards' Girls Gotta Laugh greeting card contest in 2010. On a whim, the Tampa resident created a card for the contest and just 48 hours later received word that her entry was a winner. Using a black-and-white photo of her stern-faced great-grandparents stiffly posing with twin infants — her mother and aunt —she penned a cheeky question: "Do these babies make me look fat?" On the inside, the card read: "Nah, you always look hot." Cortelyou works for the state of Florida, helping determine eligibility for Medicaid. "It's my left brain's activity," she said. "When I am not working, creating award-winning greeting cards for Hallmark balances out my right brain." Cortelyou recently sat down, with dog Zoe by her side, and spoke with Times staff writer Aimée Alexander about her success with winning three greeting card contests and what's in store for the future....

    Cortelyou’s dog, Zoe, sits in front of her winning Mother’s Day cards. Friends recognized Zoe and sent pictures of themselves with the card.
  8. Life Center leader healed by helping others with grief

    Human Interest

    Sheryle Baker has built her life around finding healing by helping others.

    The executive director of the Life Center of the Suncoast grew up in the shadow of her older brother Ira's illness. Baker was only 16 when her brother died, and she emerged with questions.

    Her perspective shifted after meeting psychiatrist and author Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, an expert in the field of death and dying and creator of the Five Stages of Grief. Ross served as a mentor for Baker, helping her find a way to transform her grief into a meaningful career....

    Sheryle Baker, 65, has served as executive director of the Life Center for 30 years. Baker, who was mentored by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, is part of a team that provides grief and trauma counseling.
  9. Indy racer drops by Moffitt to cheer families of cancer patients

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Ryan Hunter-Reay may be in town for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg this weekend.

    But the IndyCar Series champion said one of his main priorities Wednesday was to visit with parents and children of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute's Families First program who are coping with a parent's cancer diagnosis.

    "I can definitely empathize with people here," said Hunter-Reay, co-founder of Racing for Cancer. His mother, Lydia, died after a two-year battle with colon cancer in 2010....

    IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay visits with parents and children of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute’s Families First program Wednesday in Tampa. He’s in town for this weekend’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. 
  10. Sunrise Community's super fundraiser aims for awareness, support

    Human Interest

    For Barbara Hobbs, raising awareness about adults with special needs is a deeply personal issue.

    Hobbs serves as the voice of the Feb. 1 Super Tailgate for Charity fundraiser for Sunrise Community, a nonprofit organization that provides support for adults with disabilities. She says her involvement has helped define her true purpose in life.

    Hobbs came to know Sunrise two years ago. While going through a divorce, the full-time mother of four made a things-to-do list and "Taking care of her family" topped the list....

    Barbara Hobbs found Sunrise Community while helping her mentally disabled niece.
  11. Joy of Merchant Marine's visit to SS 'American Victory' ends in sorrow

    Human Interest

    TAMPA

    Earl Joseph Mayo had a knack for timing. Married for 56 years, his wife, Fran, said the hands of a clock could fall off and Earl would still rise each morning at 6:30 on the dot. • The morning of Nov. 16 began in the usual way, with Earl and his wife sharing a quiet breakfast in their scenic senior mobile home community tucked away in Zephyrhills. She had strong coffee; he had his usual cereal mixture of half Honey Nut Cheerios and half Special K with sliced fruit on top....

    Fran Mayo displays a photo of Earl Mayo on the SS American Victory in front of a map marking all of the ports he had visited.
  12. Giving Tuesday looks to launch holidays with charitable spirit

    Human Interest

    While some have been busy scooping up holiday deals during Black Friday and lining up their credit cards for tomorrow's Cyber Monday event, others are making plans for a new type of holiday tradition this week: Giving Tuesday.

    In the spirit of holiday giving, Giving Tuesday began in 2012 as a national movement to encourage people to participate in charitable acts. The momentum behind Giving Tuesday? Create a national day of philanthropy the day after the series of branded shopping promotions....

    “Stop trying to change the world and look at who is in front of you instead,” Jason Sowell says.
  13. Junior League chief leads ladies who launch social change

    Human Interest

    Junior League of Tampa president Lee Lowry acknowledges that women's charity groups sometimes conjure up stereotypical images of "ladies who lunch" or highfalutin tea parties replete with white gloves and fancy pearls. • But not the Junior League. They might still wear pearls, but the gloves are off. With 85 percent of its members working outside the home, the league consists of women with diverse backgrounds who want to enhance their skills while taking on child welfare and education issues. • Ad 2 Tampa Bay recently awarded the league its pro bono Public Service Campaign for 2013-14, and the league hopes to be at the forefront of raising awareness about sex trafficking. • Lowry, a married mother of two who also works as the communications director for St. John's Episcopal Church and School, recently spoke with Times staff writer Aimée Alexander about the awareness campaign and the league's upcoming holiday gift market....

  14. Volunteers drive success of Tampa's India Festival 2013

    Human Interest

    Mahesh Modha believes that everything in life revolves around relationships.

    As this year's chairman of Tampa's India Festival, Modha spent the past year cultivating relationships and leading a team of 200 volunteers in setting the stage for Saturday's long awaited annual event.

    "It's time to abdicate and deliver," he said.

    Modha promises this year's festival will be the most memorable of the past 26 years, largely because of the volunteers. Although he sees himself as an instrument guiding the volunteers, "Really, they make me look good."...

    India Festival chairman Mahesh Modha says volunteers “make me look good.”
  15. 'Below Deck' star Adrienne Gang: Is your drink spiked?

    Human Interest

    It started as a fun girls' night out.

    The plan was for six friends to meet for dinner and drinks at a favorite upscale eatery in South Tampa. But three hours later, Adrienne Gang's party was over.

    Her night ended with a mug shot, a battery charge and a brief stay in jail. She remembers none of it.

    "The next thing I know I am being fingerprinted in the Orient Road Jail," said Gang, 30, a Valrico native and one of the reality show stars of Bravo's Below Deck....

    Adrienne Gang has starred in the Bravo reality show Below Deck.She is a Durant High graduate and Valrico native.