We Planted the Seeds...

The First-Ever Veg Fest in Southwest Florida occurred in January 2017 at Centennial Park in downtown Fort Myers. Although the weather in the morning was cold and rainy, the 5K race was a huge success and the crowds began to arrive for Veg Fest around 10AM. The sun came out, and a good time was had by all:  Cooking demonstrators, excellent speakers, and over 80 vendors offering healthy and compassionate products. 

From its inception, SWFL Veg Fest has been a team effort. The core team formed quickly and has extraordinary talent. This group demonstrates what a small group of passionate people can do!

We are grateful to the many other volunteers who help with planning and event day activities and made the fest what it is. Do YOU want to volunteer for SWFL Veg Fest?  Volunteer signup will be available online soon!

We look forward to growing our fest in year two:

Sunday, January 28, 2018 – River Park in Bonita Springs, Florida

Mike Young is the Founder of our SWFL Veg Fest, aPlantBasedDiet.org 501(c)(3) Non-Profit, TriangleGrapeVine.org, FloridaGrapeVine.org, and Director of Pod Operations at PlantPure. He’s the type of person that’s continually in search of improvement and doing the best he can do with everything. Mike has always been a forward thinker, and this has propelled him into leading a whole foods plant based lifestyle. He believes there’s nothing more important to do today than spread the good news of this lifestyle since everyone and everything benefits! Mike can be found perpetually on social media.

Mary Ann Parsons – SWFL Veg Fest Project Manager and Budget Chair.  Before retirement, Mary Ann was a Manager at Lucent Technologies Bell Labs, has a degree in teaching and an MBA. She is currently a Lee County Master Gardener and teaches the University of Florida’s program “Florida Yards & Neighborhoods” – environmentally friendly landscaping. She is a certified instructor for CHIP – Complete Health Improvement program – and enjoys coaching people to feel and be the best they can be through proper nutrition. She promotes veg*ism for human health, for the planet, and because it’s one of the most effective ways to help animals.

Dr. Sal, Veg Fest Speaker Coordinator,  is a specialist in Internal Medicine since 1993 with a passion for preventive health care. He is currently completing a fellowship in Anti-Aging with the Metabolic Medical Institute with an emphasis on Lifestyle management as a way to keep people healthy. In addition to his work as the Medical Director for the Wellness Centers and the Employee Health department at Lee Memorial Health System, he provides education to the community through lectures about preventive health care and shares his knowledge of simple and effective ways to age gracefully and healthfully.

Kara Scofield is a member of the Core Planning Team and Coordinator for Venue, Website, and Branding for the SWFL Veg Fest. Although raised in meat-centric Texas, she became a vegan convert – after a short stint as vegetarian – with her husband in 2013. Their transition was prompted by both health and humane reasons, and they’ve been thrilled with the changes they’ve seen in their physical and mental well-being. Kara has a B.S. in Biomedical Science from Texas A&M University, and spent 5 years working in the environmental field. She currently holds an administrative position at Natural Awakenings Publishing Corp, both for the national office and local magazine. Kara also dedicates much of her free time to her passion for dance, and has been teaching and performing bellydance for over 10 years.

Donna Bradish, Veg Fest Volunteer Coordinator, was the Director of Volunteer Resources and Auxiliary Development for Lee Memorial Health System (LMHS) for 22 years before retiring in January 2015. Three years ago, prior to her retirement, Donna was chosen to participate in the Complete Health Improvement Program (lovingly referred to as CHIP) offered to Lee Memorial Health System employees. CHIP is an affordable lifestyle enrichment program designed to reduce disease risk factors through the adoption of better health habits and appropriate lifestyle modifications. As a result of her participation in this program and the health benefits she has gained, Donna became a CHIP facilitator for LMHS, providing the program to other LMHS employees. Living in Cape Coral with her husband, Joe, Donna enjoys reading, traveling, playing pickleball, promoting plant-based eating and spending time with her four grandchildren.

Kathy Reynaert Randall At 30 years of age, Kathy Reynaert Randall embraced the principles of plant-based nutrition and raised six healthy children according to those principles. As the Complete Health Improvement Program’s State of Florida Area Developer (CHIP) and as a Food for Life instructor, she has seen a reduced need for medication, improved blood work results, and a heightened sense of well-being in students who fully embrace the principles of this plant-based lifestyle. Those are only a few of the exciting accomplishments she has made in educating and encouraging people to lead a plant strong lifestyle. She is one of the most passionate promoters of this lifestyle and uses every chance she can to engage with the community to enhance their health and whole-person wellness.

Mark Blust, Sponsor Coordinator,  is the V.P. of Operations and Marketing for the Prawnbroker Restaurant Group. Self-proclaimed as PMAV (Pretty Much a Vegan) Mark is a Plant Based advocate for “Food as Medicine” He is a frequent Facebook poster of homemade vegan recipes and tips with a desire to someday become certified in nutrition and wellness. Mark is intimately involved with organizations and activities that recognize and preserve our special ecosystems and outdoor treasures as well as local charities that work to help the underprivileged in our area. In his spare time, Mark is a cyclist and triathlon competitor, he enjoys cooking, a good book by the pool and is active in the community promoting the benefits of a plant-based diet.

Graphics, Branding, and Web Design: Melissa Morris, CEO of Stormy Sea Studio, is a designer, illustrator, photographer and artist with a passion for travel and adventure. She brings a wealth of experience to every project having worked in numerous industries… everything from music and theatre to professional sports and construction. Translating abstract ideas into a visual story, Melissa is a creative problem-solver, involved in all aspects of her clients’ visual and social identities, creating and honing their brand identity.

Trish Reynaert Smith was raised with a mother who taught her and her five older siblings all the benefits of plant-based nutrition, but like many young adults, Trish rebelled against the lifestyle her mother raised her on. Because of the standard American diet Trish was consuming, she weighed 265 pounds at age 25. In hopes of regaining control of her health, Trish decided to come back to the plant-based lifestyle she was raised on. Since then, Trish has lost 100 pounds and is a proud advocate for the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle. As a certified facilitator for the Complete Health Improvement Program and as a Food for Life instructor, she has assisted in improving blood work results and weight loss in her students.

Vincent Zaleski, Vendor Coordinator  Last year, he volunteered with the Plant-Powered 5K that took place before the inaugural Veg Fest.  Vincent has been vegan for three years and competes in local and out-of-town races, including half-marathons.  He works for the School District of Lee County as a technology specialist for Heights Elementary, and is the Community Coordinator for the FL-Tarpon Fort Myers Kickball league.

Maria Menacho, Vendor Coordinator & 5K Race Director Maria is a Senior Acute Care Clinician at an inpatient psychiatric facility. She enjoys traveling, running, and is training to complete her first marathon in October-2017. Maria chose to be vegan to be part of a movement that promotes a healthy lifestyle and compassion for animals.

Rose M Garcia, Medical Coder with Lee Health Rose is also a Volunteer with Lee Parks & Rec for over 11 years, enjoying education of all, but especially children’s programs. She is also Education Officer for City of Palms Chapter of AAPC, and coordinates speakers, especially those with an emphasis on healthy living. Rose loves spending time reading, gardening, photographing “stuff”, traveling and spending time with friends & family.

Meredith McLean, SWFL Veg Fest Advertising Coordinator, is most passionate about creating a more compassionate world for all animals as well as raising awareness about the ethical, health, and environmental benefits of a plant-based diet. Prior to moving to Naples two years ago, Meredith served as the Visitor Programs Manager for Farm Sanctuary, which is the nation’s largest and most effective farm animal rescue and protection organization. Meredith is excited to bring her experience and passion to the SWFL VegFest! Meredith is very involved in her local community, which includes serving as president for the Pawfessionals board of The Humane Society Naples. On a personal note, Meredith loves to cook and although she is not a certified chef, she love to teach people all the goodness plant-based cooking has to offer. She is an avid outdoors person and you can often find her gardening, running the trails or paddleboarding with her beloved dog Kesha.

Gina Lacagnina, who is organizing our fitness and entertainment, is a Medical Aesthetician for the last 25 years. She not only focuses on helping women & men look beautiful on the outside but because of her passion for healthy living she helps them also become beautifully healthy on the inside. She has been enjoying a plant based lifestyle for the last four years and has been educating her clients on the benefits of healthy eating and how this impacts the health of the skin and hair; and how healthy nutrition slows the aging process. Over the last four years Gina has incorporated wellness into her aesthetician practice and has helped hundreds of clients to understand the benefits of plant based nutrition. She has attended several conferences sponsored by the American College of Lifestyle Medicine; and has spoken with and read many of the nutrition books written by nutrition authorities such as Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Joel Fuhrman. She is passionate about teaching all those she talks with about the health benefits she has felt as a result of her personal lifestyle changes.

Special Thanks for Making SWFL Veg Fest a Success...

Phil Parsons – for his great ideas and support

David Hintz, ACMA – Americana Community Music Association – for managing the Entertinment Area

Nancy Gresham 

Rosalie Hewins 

Gina Skaronea

Volunteers – without you there would be no SWFL Veg Fest!!