Florida Focus: Busch Boulevard fatal accident, more

In this Florida Focus News Brief: a seventeen year old student dies after being hit by a car; the search is on for a driver accused of hitting and killing a man; Tampa has had six fire-related deaths in three months; a road rage confrontation lands one man behind bars and another in the hospital; Hurricane Joaquin has brought adoption-ready puppies to Florida; and a 40-year tradition is ending today under the Golden Arches.


University of South Florida game still remembered today

TAMPA- University of South Florida played in its biggest game over eight years ago when they played against the West Virginia Mountaineers on Sept. 28, 2007.

The Mountaineers were ranked No.5 in the country and the Bulls were coming off big wins against North Carolina and an over-time thriller at Auburn. Tickets for the game sold out fast. Tampa Bay officially had Bulls Fever.

“There are sell outs and there are legitimate sell outs,” Jim Louk said. “And this was a legitimate sell out. You could not find a seat.”

When game time came around, the stadium was filled to the brim, and the crowd made their presence known. Over 67,000 fans were at the game. It is still the largest crowd that has filled Raymond James Stadium that wasn’t a Super Bowl game.

As the game kicked off the crowd was loud. It was the loudest stadium USF ‘s Matt Grothe had ever been in.

The Mountaineers led in every offensive stat. They outgained the Bulls 437 to 274, led in time of possession and had more first downs, but the Mountaineers lost 21-13.

The game was strange, there was a combined 10 turnovers between the two teams. None bigger than USF Ben Moffit’s interception return for a touchdown.

Late in the last quarter, West Virginia’s Pat White dropped back to pass and was picked off by Moffit who took it for six points. The crowd exploded. Grothe said the crowd reached near seismic levels.

Both Louk and Grothe said the crowd was loudest when the game ended. Fans stormed the field.

USF had officially arrived. Grothe believed it was a turning point for the program.

“It was just the beginning of the next few years that made everybody think differently about USF,” Grothe said.

The bulls are far from the glory days and hope to get back to their short-lived success. The game still resonates for players and fans alike.





St. Pete Artists Paint the Town

Over the past two years, muralists Sebastian Coolidge and Chris Parks, also known as Pale Horse, have began to transform the city walls from a blank slate to vibrant, colorful pieces of art.

Coolidge has been a St. Petersburg resident since 2008, which is the same year he created his first mural. Since then, countless creations of his have made their way all over the city, and people constantly stop to admire his work.

“Sometimes I have no idea what I am going to paint until I get to the wall and have a brush in my hand,” Coolidge said.

The young artist, 26, did not go to school specifically for art, but he did always have a strong passion for it.

Another successful artist taking part in the creative community is Chris Parks. Parks attended the Ringling School of Art and Design, and he is now a graphic designer who works with major companies on a variety of works. He has several murals around the area as well which also get admired by the public.

“I love to explore. I travel to new countries all the time to learn and submerse myself in their culture so I can broaden my style.” Parks said.

While both artists have different varied backgrounds, they are both part of the same community and their artwork continues to leave a colorful and creative legacy on the walls of St. Petersburg.


Assault Survivor Empowers Women With Self-Defense


Hot Ninja Defenders creator, Caroline Portugal is changing the game for women empowerment throughout the area.

She has developed her own personal defense training specifically designed for women since she first started her business in 2013.

Portugal hosts everything from six week training courses, to personal training, to private women’s classes to teach women to protect themselves.

“Hot Ninja Defenders is a self defense course that I created specifically for women so that they can defend themselves if they were ever to be attacked,” Portugal said .

Her business was a success and made her Hot Ninja Defenders feel empowered, confident and most importantly, safe.

“Before taking these classes I had no idea how important it was to understand the technique behind it and it’s very important that women know these strategies,” gym goer, Bobbie Freitage said.

Portugal also hosts art classes and charity events to help raise money and awareness to women who have been personally affected by street assault.

“If one person comes out of this seminar utilizing one of the techniques that I taught them and it helped saved their life, then I know that what I do for a living is everything that I’ve always wanted to do,” Portugal said .

Find classes near you at ninjadefenders.com.

Chiari supporters walk for cure



Bay area residents flocked to Al Lopez Park Saturday to raise awareness for Chiari, a disease largely unrecognized by the medical community.

Conquer Chiari Walk Across America took place at over 85 locations across the country and raised a combined total of $750,000. 80 percent of the funds raised at the walk will be used to fund research.

“Every year I get the calls from people who have never had the chance to meet someone else with Chiari,” said Serenity Harper, the organizer of this year’s walk. “It’s a parent struggling with making a decision to have surgery for their child and this is a great outlet and time for them to talk to other parents or talk to another person with Chiari and feel like they are not alone.”

Harper said Chiari malformation has become a much bigger part of her life than she ever anticipated.

“I was diagnosed in 2002 and unfortunately both of my biological children also have Chiari,” said Harper.

Local walker, Kimmy Smith, was diagnosed last year. Smith said while Chiari may not be well known, it is estimated the disease affects 300,000 people in the U.S.

“It is a disorder, a defect neurologically where your brain is,” said Smith. “Unfortunately, (your brain) a little too big for your skull and it herniates out and presses on the spinal cord. It can block your CSF fluid and just causes pain, headaches, imbalance and it can have a big negative effect on your life.”

Smith and her family members participated in their first walk to raise money for Chiari research, but for the individuals affected by the disease, the sense of community is the biggest reward.

“Unless you’ve gone through something like this, it’s kind of hard to comprehend something like chronic pain,” said Smith. “So to just be surrounded by everybody just makes me really happy to know that there is just so much love and support for the community.”

Though perhaps no one knows the depths of the Chiari community like veteran walker Brittney Clark, whose team of 60 people raised over $3,000 this year. Clark has undergone four surgeries for Chiari, suffering a stroke in the last one. She is the epitome of the nickname “Chiari Warriors” given to survivors of the disease.

“I am out here at the walk every year trying to raise awareness,” said Clark. “To be able to come out and meet others with the disease, it was just amazing to not feel alone after all the years and to see others who have experienced the same things as me…it’s just priceless.”





USF student creates meaningful art

Inspiration takes people in many directions. When you mix it with raw talent, great things usually happen.

21-year-old Jeanine Patrick, a business marketing major at the University of South Florida, hails from Orlando, Florida. She has always been interested in art and creating.

“I’ve been doing art since I was a little kid, probably like five or six, but I began taking it serious four years ago when I entered college,” Patrick said.

Recently, her casual hobby has turned into something much bigger—6 feet, to be exact. Her paintings are large, detailed and filled with rich colors. Some pieces even have three-dimensional aspects.

Patrick uses oil paint to create her art on large canvases that she buys in stores or makes herself. The pieces range from tasteful nude portraits to conscious pieces about the criminal justice system.

“I gain inspiration from things I see in my daily life. My pieces are abstract with realist themes,” Patrick said.

Patrick’s work has been showcased locally in the Tampa Bay area through art galleries and live painting events. After graduation, she plans on creating art full time.