Pup Lit

Sonia Cordero-Kueng is touching hearts with the help of four paws and one book.

To write a book is an act of giving back. At least, that’s what bestselling children’s author Sonia Cordero-Kueng would tell you. A radiant presence to children and animals alike, Sonia’s journey began in early childhood education, where she first began spreading her warmth through volunteering, donating, and advocating for animal rescues. Now, she illuminates the hearts of children through her books, fostering their understanding of the world.

“I worked in early childhood education for 20 years, so I have a passion for children, and more importantly, giving the gift of reading to a child. But it wasn’t until 2017 that I bought my first ‘How to Write a Book’ guide,” she shares with a giggle. “I retired in 2021, which was very difficult for me. However, I now had time to commit to my writing; incidentally, it was about the same time we rescued Luna from New York.”

When Luna, an inquisitive Dalmatian, needed a new home, Sonia and her husband welcomed her with open arms. Their belief in rescuing animals resonates strongly: “Save a life, don’t buy one.”

With her newfound family, Luna began to enjoy roaming and exploring in her backyard. “She never chases anything; she happily watches the animals and bugs meander by.” Recently, as Luna sat beside a butterfly bush, Sonia wandered over to snap a photo. Amazingly, a butterfly perched perfectly on Luna’s nose. “As I got closer, the butterfly flew away, and Luna serenely watched as the butterfly circled above her. It was an extraordinary moment,” Sonia recalls.

“That evening, I was telling my husband about what I saw, and the idea hit me: ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to write a children’s book through Luna’s eyes?’” With a journal in her hand and a fixed eye on Luna, ideas began to flow.

“That’s how my children’s book, Today’s the Day! Luna Meets Lily, came to life. Luna, feeling lonely in her new home and seeking understanding, meets Lily, a growing caterpillar, and the two become friends,” Sonia explains gleefully. With hundreds of raving reviews on Amazon and a recent placement on The Best Seller List this past April, Luna has met countless new friends who eagerly await her next adventure.

Driven by her dedication to children and animals, Sonia eagerly gives her book to the students and teachers at the school she visits. She also volunteers and donates to local animal rescues. “I am in a place in my life where I can give back and make an impact through my books.”

Luna, Sonia’s faithful companion, joyfully accompanies her to book readings, book fairs, and schools, spreading their heartwarming story of butterflies, patience, and friendship. Sonia reflects on her experience, “For me, it’s a full circle—blending children’s education with a loving and gentle rescue dog. There’s nothing better.”

West Orange Trail

Paved with history

The West Orange Trail, a 22-mile paved path along the former Orange Belt Railway, is a cherished local gem. Originating from the Rails-to-Trails program, this trail transformed the abandoned railway into a vibrant recreational corridor.

Opened in 1994, the first phase converted a 4.5-mile section from the Lake County line through Winter Garden. Subsequent phases extended the trail to Oakland and Apopka, creating a continuous route through Plant Street. This 14-foot-wide trail, ideal for biking, skating, jogging, and strolling, showcases scenic views and historical landmarks.

The trail’s development was challenging, requiring extensive land acquisition and community backing. It will soon be part of the 250-mile Coast to Coast (C2C) Connector Trail, linking Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the West Orange Trail has invariably enriched the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.

Market Watch

Market Must Haves

We’re taking a fresh approach to our Saturday Market, and this month, we asked local vendors to share their favorite products with us. Get ready to discover a curated selection of the very best from our market.

Angel Afton
Trish’s Orchids

“The Vanda Orchid is our favorite. It’s beautiful, easy to care for; plus, it bestows multiple blooms per year.”

Julie Dimas
Handcrafted Just for You

“The Clary Calm roller bottle is my top-selling product for women. It’s convenient, affordable, and perfect for promoting a sense of calm and relaxation.”

The Morgan Center

The Morgan Center: Where preschool meets positivity.

Founded in 2003 by Nancy and Rod Zuch, The Morgan Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization providing a safe, stimulating preschool environment for children undergoing cancer treatment. Inspired by their daughter Morgan, diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at two and a half, the Zuchs created this haven to offer children normal preschool experiences without infection risks.

Morgan, now a volunteer, emphasizes, “The majority of the brain develops by age 5; this program is crucial for social growth and academic support.” Nancy adds, “We equip children with social, emotional, and academic skills, preparing them for kindergarten and giving them a sense of normalcy—it brings such positivity during a dark time.”

The Center’s rigorous safety protocols ensure each child has individualized supplies and a clean environment, enabling them to enjoy learning and play. It also fosters a supportive community for parents, offering mutual support and understanding. “We get to give these kids the childhood I couldn’t have,” Morgan shares. “Seeing the children socialize, learn, and play safely is incredibly rewarding.”

Expanding with programs in Florida and 15 other states, The Morgan Center relies entirely on donations and fundraising. Morgan’s journey, now extending to helping others with chronic illnesses post-cancer, underscores the lasting impact of this unique program. The Morgan Center remains a beacon of hope, restoring childhood joys and developmental opportunities to children battling cancer.

To get involved:

themorgancenter.org

Wilder at Heart

East Winter Garden’s beloved matriarch, Charlie Mae Wilder, immortalized in the renaming of a landmark city park—a fitting tribute to her enduring legacy.

At 91 years young, Charlie Mae Wilder is a force to contend with. Fondly referred to as Mother Wilder, she has been a stalwart advocate for East Winter Garden since 1976. In June, her unwavering commitment was recognized with a remarkable tribute from the City of Winter Garden: the inauguration of Charlie Mae Wilder Park at the intersection of Plant Street and West Crown Point Road.

She’s done it all—chaired the Code of Enforcement Board, juggled responsibilities with the Community Redevelopment Agency and the city’s Recreation Board, and to top it off, slid into the District 3 City Commissioner seat in 2006 because she simply wanted to serve.

But that’s not all. Charlie Mae didn’t stop at governance.She went full throttle, planting the seeds for the Neighborhood Center for Families at the Mildred Dixon Activity Center and pioneering the community garden on Ninth Street in ‘08. And get this—she taught Sunday school for a staggering 54 years, nurturing bodies and souls like a true pro.

Charlie Mae Wilder: a force of nature in Winter Garden, proving that age is just a number when you’ve got passion and grit on your side.

Dive into the heartbeat of our community with Vocal Locals, where we turn the spotlight on our neighbors, bringing out the laughter, stories, and unique charm that make our town truly special!

suni
Suni Maharaj
AntiquiTEAs

Best thing about Winter Garden: I love the mom and pop vibe; Winter Garden always feels so homey.

Favorite thing to do in the summer: The beach, Playa Linda.

Sunrise or sunset: I can’t choose between the two—they both make me cry!

fischer
Fischer Johnsons
Harrell’s Hot Dogs

Summer or Winter Olympics: Summer.

Best thing about Winter Garden: The Chef’s Table restaurant: I always ask for their veal sweetbread.

Favorite thing to do in the summer: Swimming every day.

Sunrise or sunset: Sunset.

anna
Anna Crawford
The Hive Boutique

Summer or Winter Olympics: Summer.

Best thing about Winter Garden: Shopping­—I’m a shopaholic, and The Hive Boutique is my favorite. *wink*

Favorite thing to do in the summer: Shopping for sweaters, even in the summer!

Sunrise or sunset: Sunset.

Gilly and the Girl

From a chance encounter to cruise ship stages, this duo blends smooth tunes and authentic chemistry.

Meet Gilly and the Girl, a musical duo born of serendipity and shared passion. Their story began in Japan, where Mike, an actor at Universal Studios in Osaka, met Charity, a talented vocalist. Sparks flew, and they quickly fell in love, married, and soon after, they were making beautiful music together.

Charity’s gentle nudge led them to serenade audiences on cruise ships around the globe. Mike’s smooth James Taylor-esque guitar playing, paired with Charity’s versatile voice, struck a chord with fans far beyond the silver seas. “Mike has slight performance anxiety,” Charity explains. “I talked him into doing it professionally because he was so good at playing guitar and singing well.”

Mike laughs, “Charity really crowbarred me with it. But I’m glad she did because, you know, I just love our lives.” Their loving chemistry radiates both on and off stage, enchanting audiences with their genuine connection and musical synergy.

From intimate gigs to grand cruise ship stages, Gilly and the Girl continue to charm audiences with their harmonious blend of love and music.

Gilly & the Girl
perform live at the Embassy

The Local/Em Agency team enjoys a mini office concert.

Ravings!

Sean O’Neill, the man behind the area’s rowdiest
Facebook group reshares some standouts.

“Huge Rave!! Just finished up dinner at X Sushi and ended it with some milkshakes at frozen cow. Great date night.”

—Rave posted by Kat Inocencia on 6/12

“RAVE: Color Me Mine pottery painting by Stoneybrook Publix. Grand Opening is today and they were ready to go. Relaxing environment, good music, and a nice selection to choose from. Check them out!”

—Rave posted by Tracy Briones on 6/1

“RAVE for Dr. Patel & GAYA Wellness. She is an expert in all things women’s health related but also offers a weight loss program. It can be difficult to take the first step for something like this—it makes a world of difference to have her guiding you and helping reach your health goals.”

—Rave posted by Leah Gratton on 6/11

“RAVE for Sweet Peeks ImagingMy daughter is 6 months along now, and visiting Sweet Peeks has allowed us to able to watch the baby grow throughout her pregnancy. We’ll be going back a couple more times before the birth. We highly recommend Sweet Peeks!”

—Rave posted by Liz Struk on 5/22

Have a rave to share?

Here are five tips for posting a rave on WGRRR: 

1. Always include the business name and location! 

2. If it’s a restaurant, the more descriptive you can get is better. Pictures of the food are always good, and if you had great service, make sure you get the server’s name and mention them. That goes a long way.

3. If it is a service you received, be descriptive, mention the name and location of the business, and the person who helped you.

4. Try to make it short—maybe a paragraph or two. If you write a rave that is a book long, you’re going to lose a lot of the readers.

5. Remember, small businesses thrive with support. If that business has done a great job, they’d love to hear about it.

abc

Raise a glass! ABC Fine Wine & Spirits (@abcfinewinespirits) has uncorked its signature store at 4110 Winter Garden Vineland Road, complete with whiskey and wine tasting.

peach

Sweet news: Peach Cobbler Factory (@peachocoee) is cooking up a second location in Ocoee. Your taste buds will thank you!

moody

While you wait for that opening, we suggest swinging by Moody Desserts (@moodydessertsorlando) for delectably moody treats. Can we just say, “Eat Your Feelings” may be the best tagline ever.

babbi

Craving savory instead? Babbi Babbi Korean Kitchen (@babbibabbikorean) is sizzling on Daniels Road.

antojitoslocos

Taco aficionados will be thrilled to know, Antojitos Locos (@antojitos_locos_fl) is now open in downtown Ocoee.

Jcew

Fashionistas, rejoice! J.Crew is strutting into WG Village.

queen1

Jackie Siegel (@queenofversailles) is bringing designer fashion to Ocoee Thrift Mart. Proceeds go to the Victoria’s Voice Foundation (@victoriasvoicefoundation) so you can shop ‘til you drop guilt-free.

color me mind

Unleash your inner artist at Color Me Mine (@colormemine_wintergarden) pottery and painting, next to Beth’s Burger Bar in Stoneybrook.

mamba

Need some TLC? Say hi to  Mamba Physician Care (@mamba.physician.care), a concierge primary care office. Inspired by Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Mentality, Dr. Akram’s ‘Philosophy of Care’ is all about relentless improvement.

heritage

And for our history buffs, the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation’s (@wgheritage) updated Winter Garden History Hunt is just the ticket. Grab a treasure map from the Heritage Museum or the Railroad Museum and embark on an adventure downtown.

Good News to share?

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