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2023 Don Quijote Awards Finalists Announced



2023 Don Quijote Awards Finalists pose for a group photo. Photo: Hispanic Chamber Metro Orlando.
2023 Don Quijote Awards Finalists pose for a group photo. Photo: Hispanic Chamber Metro Orlando.

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Hispanic Chamber of Metro Orlando and Prospera, the two largest Hispanic economic development organizations in Central Florida, proudly revealed the names of finalists of the four Don Quijote Awards categories, along with this year’s Lifetime Achievement and Hispanic Community Champion award recipients, during a press conference that was held at the Winter Park Library. The press conference was sponsored by Walt Disney World Resort, Wells Fargo, and OUC – The Reliable One.



The Don Quijote Awards recognizes and celebrates outstanding achievements and contributions made by individuals and businesses that have demonstrated excellence, innovation, and leadership within the Hispanic business sector. The winner of each category will be announced at the 26th Don Quijote Awards Celebration on Saturday, December 9, 2023, at Epcot’s World Showplace Pavilion from 6:00 pm until midnight.


Yamile Luna, Chair of the 26th Don Quijote Awards Gala and Chief Operating Officer at AdventHealth Winter Garden and Clermont announced finalists during a press conference at Winter Park Library, Tuesday, November 14, 2023. Photo by J Willie David, III / Florida National News

Yamile Luna, Chair of the 26th Don Quijote Awards Gala and Chief Operating Officer at AdventHealth Winter Garden and Clermont revealed the names of the following finalists and honorees (in alphabetical order per category):



BOLD Hispanic Marketing Agency, represented by its owner, Ana Carolina Salazar

Hispanic Insurance Specialists, LLC, represented by its owner Luis Vargas

Wintermere Pointe Animal Hospital, represented by its owner Dr. Pedro Santiago


CG Dentist Orlando, Represented by its owners Dr. Carlos Gurreonero and Dr. Susan Cruzalegui

Competitive Edge Partners & Consulting, represented by its owner Debbie Rodriguez

Mecatos Bakery and Café, represented by its owner Edwin Lurduy



Dr. Cyndia Muñiz, Senior Director of Hispanic Serving Institution Initiatives and Partnerships at the University of Central Florida

Diahann Smith, Director of Marketing and Business Development Communications at Florida Dairy Farmers

Felipe Sousa-Lazaballet, Executive Director at Hope CommUnity Center



Dr. Isis Artze-Vega, College Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs at Valencia College

Melissa Marantes, Executive Director, and co-founder of Orlando Center for Justice

Dr. Maria Vázquez, Orange County Public Schools Superintendent

The Don Quijote Awards Selection Committee uniquely chooses the Hispanic Community Champion and Lifetime Achievement awards recipients.




This award is given to a non-Hispanic individual who has led by example in supporting the progress of the Hispanic community in Central Florida. The recipient of this award is chosen by the Don Quijote Awards Selection Committee, focusing on contributions to the Hispanic community; evidence of promoting Hispanic professionals, executives, and board members within the nominee’s respective organization and in the general community; demonstrated leadership or community involvement to benefit the Hispanic community; and honors or awards.

The 2023 Don Quijote Hispanic Community Champion Award winner is
Jeff Hayward, President and CEO of Heart of Florida United Way (HFUW) – Since 2016, Jeff has led HFUW Central Florida’s largest supporter of local health and human service agencies. He oversees more than $50 million in total resources invested in the community to provide support in education, health, financial stability, and basic needs. Immediately after Hurricane Maria, Jeff established a close working relationship with his counterpart at Fondos Unidos de Puerto Rico.

In response to the needs identified, HFUW sent 5,000 solar lights, 3,000 reusable water filtration units, and 1,000 solar phone chargers. A Welcome Center was established at Orlando International Airport, and HFUW and about a dozen other organizations greeted and assisted evacuees, with 1,800-2,000 arriving every day. HFUW provided transportation, emergency housing, security deposit fees, and utility deposits.




This award recognizes an individual who has made significant and lasting contributions to the development and empowerment of the Hispanic community in Central Florida. This year’s Lifetime Achievement goes to Jan Aspuru, Retired Orlando Utilities Commission Senior Executive.

As the first Hispanic to serve on the C-level suite of theOrlando Utilities Commission, Jan Aspuru has paved the way for many Hispanic professionals in the utility industry. As Vice President of Electric and Water Generation and then Chief Operational Officer, he designed, developed, and implemented OUC’s innovative Fuel Price Hedging Program, which manages market price volatility of OUC’s $300 million to $400 million annual fuel budget. He oversaw the construction and commissioning of the $220M Stanton Unit B project that began as a coal-gasification plant and turned into a 300-megawatt naturalgas-fired combined cycle facility, and he enhanced and expanded OUC’s generation portfolio and set in motion the methodical growth of the chilled water operations while improving OUC’s water quality and control, and management, among many more accomplishments.




The Don Quijote Awards are made possible thanks to the support of Walt Disney World Resort, Wells Fargo, OUC- The Reliable One, 1st SOS Staffing, AdventHealth, Bank of America, Duke Energy, Florida Blue, Universal Orlando Resort, Orlando Health, Travel and Leisure, VyStar, Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, Ana G. Mendez University, JP Morgan Chase, The Catholic Foundation of Central Florida, Neurology One, Orlando Magic, iHeart Media, Florida National News, El OsceolaStar, Orlando Business Journal, La Prensa Newspaper, Telemundo 31 and Univision Orlando, among many more. For more information on the Don Quijote Awards, please visit

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ICON Park Honored with “Harris Rosen Philanthropic Award”



ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – ICON Park in Orlando, Florida, has been honored with the prestigious “Harris Rosen Philanthropic Award” by the I-Drive Chamber of Commerce. This accolade recognizes ICON Park’s outstanding dedication to philanthropy, enhancing both the local community and beyond. Previous recipients of this esteemed award include the Orange County Convention Center and Universal Orlando Resort.

At the recent Chamber meeting and award ceremony, attended by numerous tourism leaders, ICON Park President and CEO Chris Jaskiewicz accepted the award on behalf of the organization. Maria Triscari, president of the I-Drive Chamber, emphasized ICON Park’s significant impact, describing it as a vital pillar within the greater Orlando community.

Five years ago, under Jaskiewicz’s leadership, ICON Park was transformed into a communal hub with free admission, fostering community spirit and celebrating Orlando’s vibrancy. Reflecting on his inspiration for ICON Park’s philanthropic initiatives, Jaskiewicz highlighted his deep-rooted ties to Orlando and his belief in tourism’s transformative power.

ICON Park’s commitment to community support is exemplified through various initiatives, including lighting The Wheel in custom colors to raise awareness for causes, hosting safety training exercises for fire rescue teams, and providing observation opportunities for conservation groups. The park also offers its venue for charity events and fundraisers at reduced or no cost, and has established the “ICON Park Hospitality Scholarship” at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality.

In the past year alone, ICON Park has donated over a quarter of a million dollars to local organizations and facilitated more than 80 on-site events. Looking ahead, the park continues to expand its presence with Merlin Entertainments acquiring the Orlando Eye and preparing for the return of Blue Man Group to Orlando in a new theater development.

ICON Park’s receipt of the “Harris Rosen Philanthropic Award” underscores its ongoing commitment to making a positive difference in the Orlando community and beyond, embodying the spirit of corporate responsibility and community engagement.

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GoDaddy Founder Reveals Untold Story of Traumatic Upbringing, Military Service and Entrepreneurial Journey



GoDaddy Founder Bob Parsons talks with Florida National News. Photo by J Willie David, III / Florida National News

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Everybody has heard of GoDaddy, but how many people know the real-life story of the highly successful, philanthropic, and colorful man behind the company? For the first time, GoDaddy and PXG founder Bob Parsons, in a highly confessional account, shares the story of his life, from his humble upbringing to his meteoric rise as one of early tech’s pioneers.

Fire in the Hole! The Untold Story of My Traumatic Life and Explosive Success (Forefront Books, May 7, 2024) by Bob Parsons is an unflinching, yet inspirational, account of his path to success, from a hardscrabble childhood to his combat service as a U.S. Marine during the Vietnam War — and beyond.

A descendant of coal miners, Parsons grew up in the 1950s in a blue-collar, working-class neighborhood in East Baltimore. Money was tight, given his parents shared a mutual fondness for gambling and were not particularly good at it. In his book, Parsons talks about the financial struggles his family faced, as well as the emotional neglect he experienced as a boy.

He writes: “We were just getting by when Pop’s business failed … my dad racked up so much debt from gambling and credit cards that everything came tumbling down. In the end, he practically gave the business away. And, when he did, we went from not having much to having nothing. I mean absolutely nothing.”

An admittedly so-so student, he recalls the struggles he faced in learning, as well as the corporal punishment dished out by Catholic school nuns. But his early experiences reveal an innate resiliency that got him through a harrowing tour of duty in Vietnam, his early years at his first company, Parsons Technology, as well as his bold business decisions that would eventually make him one of the wealthiest people in the world. With a net worth of $3.6 billion, Parsons is No. 314 on the Forbes 400 2023 list of the richest people in America.

He’s an everyman who has made it. He’s authentic. And his reflections on life, business, and giving back are heartbreaking, heartwarming, humorous, and inspiring.

In the book, Parsons:

• Shares how he survived his grueling tour of duty in Vietnam with the U.S. Marines infantry.

• Reveals the struggles he has faced throughout his lifetime because of PTSD, as well as the efforts he has made to treat it, including novel therapeutic uses of psychedelics.

• Offers the lessons he has learned during his career, from the launch of his first business, Parsons Technology, to the creation of his present-day business empire, which includes YAM Worldwide and Parsons Xtreme Golf (PXG).

Since 2012, Parsons and his wife, Renee, have donated nearly $300 million to more than 96 charities and organizations worldwide. Having suffered from PTSD, he works to find new and effective treatments for himself and others. He strongly believes in paying it forward. And he is always moving forward, creating new companies, and re-creating himself. Fire in the Hole! encourages readers to dream big and imagine all that’s possible — even if the cards seem stacked against them.

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Orlando Area Residential Real Estate Snapshot for March 2024



State of the Market

  • Overall sales rose 17.7% from February to March. There were 2,559 sales in March, up from 2,174 sales in February.
  • The median home price for March was recorded at $386,500, up from $377,000 in February. The highest monthly median home price on record in the Orlando area was $387,000 in June 2022.
  • Pending sales increased by 9.4%, with 3,891 in February and 4,257 in March.
  • New listings rose 8.6% from February to March, with 4,124 new homes on the market in March, compared to 3,799 in February.
  • Inventory for March was recorded at 8,971, up 4.4% from February when inventory was recorded at 8,589.
  • March’s interest rate was recorded at 6.7%, up slightly from 6.6% in February.
  • Homes spent an average of 58 days on the market (DOM) in March – up slightly from February.
  • “The busy spring season for the real estate market is in full swing,” said Rose Kemp, Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association President. “We’ve seen a steady increase in sales, median home price and inventory every month this year. Our median home price in March was very close to our peak from June 2022, so it will be interesting to see how these high prices affect the market in the coming months.”

Market Snapshot

  • Interest rates rose from 6.6% in February to 6.7% in March.
  • Pending sales rose 9.4%, with 3,891 in February and 4,257 in March.
  • 23 distressed homes (bank-owned properties and short sales) accounted for 0.9% of all home sales in March. That represents an 8.0% decrease from February when 25 distressed homes sold.


  • Orlando area inventory increased 4.4% from February to March. Inventory in February was 8,589, and inventory in March was 8,971.
  • The supply of homes fell to 3.51 months in March, down 11.3% from 3.95 months in February. A balanced market is six months of supply.
  • The number of new listings increased from February to March by 8.6% – from 3,799 homes to 4,124 homes.

ORRA’s full State of the Market Report for March can be found here.

This representation is based in whole or in part on data supplied by the Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association and the Stellar Multiple Listing Service. Neither the association nor StellarMLS guarantees or is in any way responsible for its accuracy. Data maintained by the association or by StellarMLS does not reflect all real estate activity in the market. Due to late closings, an adjustment is necessary to record those closings posted after our reporting date.

ORRA REALTOR® sales represent sales involving Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association members, who are primarily – but not exclusively – located in Orange and Seminole counties. Note that statistics released each month may be revised in the future as new data is received.

Orlando MSA numbers reflect sales of homes located in Orange, Seminole, Osceola, and Lake counties by members of any REALTOR® association, not just members of ORRA.

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