Five days a week, the sick and disabled stop by Craig Kraft's workshop on the bottom floor of Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Toddlers with spindly legs. Children with contorted spines. Bodies weakened and wrenched by diseases like spina bifida, cerebral palsy, dwarfism and muscular dystrophy.
Anywhere from five to 20 show up every day. They travel from southern Georgia, Key West, Miami, Pensacola, New Port Richey, Clearwater and Tampa to marvel at the rows of brightly painted, customized wheelchairs in Kraft's workshop....
03/12/15 Human Interest
ST. LEO — Frank O'Keefe was homesick for New York when he and another student organized a St. Patrick's Day parade at Saint Leo College in 1974.
O'Keefe, serving as grand marshal, sat in the back of a LeMans convertible. He chuckled at the memory of riding around San Antonio, a small, rural town in Pasco County.
"I don't think people knew what was going on," he said.
Fast-forward 41 years and the Bronx native's love for the parade still burns brightly. Only now, he wants Saint Leo students, faculty and alumni to join him and march in the real thing in Midtown Manhattan....
03/10/15 Public Safety
TAMPA — Tampa police will soon have more patrol cars outfitted with portable defibrillators.
The Rotary Club of Tampa has provided Tampa Police with 22 of the life-saving devices since last April. With a $15,000 donation Tuesday from Florida Hospital in Tampa, the club will now be able to boost that number to 100 defibrillators.
Altogether, the club has raised $100,000 since launching its "centennial project" last year. Before that, it donated $40,000 to the city for the Water Works Park project....
03/01/15 Human Interest
DUNEDIN — He bleeds Yankees blue and travels the country to watch the Bronx Bombers, so far hitting 24 of 30 stadiums.
His son says he's "crazy," so naturally when retired math teacher Richard Albero said he planned to take a hike — 1,200 miles from the Yankees' spring training home in Tampa to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx — nobody doubted his conviction.
Maybe his sanity came into question. A little....
02/27/15 Human Interest
TAMPA — Three months after being struck by a pickup truck, Plant High senior Jackie Faircloth is making "baby steps" in her recovery, her father said.
"She's definitely progressing,'' John Faircloth said, ''but it's going to be a long road of baby steps."
The 18-year-old cheerleader suffered a traumatic brain injury Nov. 29 in Tallahassee after a truck hit her then took off. She was in town to see a Florida State University football game with her brother....
Terry and Tamara Allen field all kinds of questions, but the trickiest come from folks like Janice George of Valrico, who combed through dozens of vendor stalls Thursday to find a bottle of Honey Bee healing lotion.
Many of the thousands who come to the Florida Strawberry Festival every year arrive with specific aims — to watch the pig races, catch a big musical act or work through multiple servings of strawberry shortcake, ice cream, even strawberry hamburgers....
02/24/15 Public Safety
TAMPA — The Hillsborough County firefighter and sheriff's deputy at the center of a target-shooting incident in Lithia last month will not be prosecuted.
In a Feb. 19 letter, Hillsborough Assistant State Attorney Christopher Moody told Sheriff's Maj. Robert Ura, the head of criminal investigations, that not enough evidence exists to level charges after several bullets hit landscaper Dawn Bryan's house on Jan. 24....
02/22/15 Public Safety
BRANDON — A fervent 10-day search for Apryl Foster, who disappeared after a night in Ybor City, came to an end Sunday afternoon when Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies found her car submerged in a lake.
Authorities said they recovered a body from inside the car and have "no reason" to believe it was anyone other than Foster, 33. She was last seen Feb. 13 wearing clothing that matched that of the recovered victim....
TAMPA — A Tampa doctor is suing HCA Inc., alleging she was fired from a physician-staffing company because she complained about low staffing levels at the emergency room of the chain's Brandon Regional Hospital.
In her lawsuit, Dr. Wanda Espinoza-Cruz, 44, alleged that so few doctors were available during a January 2014 night shift that a man with "obvious stroke symptoms" was forced to wait four hours for medical care. A CT scan later showed blood on his brain, her suit says....
02/14/15 Human Interest
TAMPA — Revelers hooted and danced. They jumped with outstretched arms.
The throngs who crowded 7th Avenue in Ybor City for the Knights of Sant'Yago Parade on Saturday night didn't leave disappointed.
Revelry flowed onto 7th Avenue for the annual parade, a tamer cousin to the raucous, drunken Gasparilla, which draws hundreds of thousands.
Unlike Gaparilla's "wet zone," which stretches along the parade route on Bayshore Boulevard in south Tampa, drinking at the 40-year-old parade is restricted to Ybor's bars. Scores of children also joined the revelers, giving the event a family feel as the illuminated floats chugged past....
02/13/15 Public Safety
TAMPA — State fraud investigators have issued an order barring the University Village retirement community from signing up new tenants amid a wide-ranging inquiry into alleged financial irregularities.
The Office of Insurance Regulation issued an initial order of suspension Friday after investigators received a tip Jan. 21 that the community's reserve account had been underfunded by $370,324....
02/13/15 Food & Dining
Valentine's Day couples last year noshed their Big Macs to LED candles and flowers, but sadly the McDonald's at 6717 N Dale Mabry Highway pulled the plug on this year's romantic escape under the Golden Arches.
General manager Ernesto Izquierdo said it wasn't for a lack of commitment on the part of the restaurant, which took reservations and retrained counter employees as waiters to ramp up the romantic experience. Last year's event gained attention Friday when the popular website Drudge Report linked to a 2014 tampabay.com story about the event ( tbtim.es/e6a)....
02/11/15 Public Safety
TAMPA — Another inmate has died after suffering a medical problem at the Hillsborough County jail on Falkenburg Road, the second such death in less than a week, authorities said Wednesday.
Troy A. Zimmerman, 25, of Tampa was serving a 364-day sentence at the jail after his arrest Aug. 16 on burglary and assault charges, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said. He died at 2:45 p.m. at Brandon Regional Hospital....
02/07/15 Public Safety
TAMPA — An inmate died Saturday after he was found unconscious in his cell at the Hillsborough County jail on Falkenburg Road, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said.
Jeffrey L. Young, who turned 67 on Friday, was being held on a warrant for failing to appear in court after he was charged with driving with a suspended license in Sarasota County.
Jail medical staff making routine checks at 3:25 a.m. found Young unresponsive in his cell at the jail's infirmary. Staff tried to revive him and he was transported to Brandon Regional Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 4:02 a.m., the Sheriff's Office said....
02/06/15 Human Interest
TAMPA — Given that Gasparilla includes parades, a distance running event, and a lineup of music, art and film festivals, Christian Alvarez, a sailor at MacDill Air Force Base, figured it wasn't a stretch to add a kickball tournament.
So after a quick call to Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla and dozens of word-of-mouth invites to military members and their families, the Navy yeoman started laying the groundwork for a daylong competition....