There is nothing more important to a community than those who strive every single day to make a difference. People make a community. The actions of those who selflessly go about being heroic in whatever endeavor they choose create a lasting definition of a community. In Highlands County, there is certainly not a shortage of those heroes.

Last year, the Highlands News-Sun decided to create the Highlander Awards to recognize people in specific categories nominated by you, the citizens of this county. Additionally, AdventHealth immediately jumped on board to be our sponsor for these prestigious awards.

We are up to 18 categories this year and each category is sponsored by a local business that shares our enthusiasm for awarding those who put themselves out there and help define our community.

The categories and sponsors are as follows:

Presenting Sponsor — AdventHealth Care; Man of the Year — Alan Jay Automotive Network; Woman of the Year — Alan Jay Automotive Network; Teen of the Year — Champions for Children; Physician of the Year — AdventHealth Care; Surgeon of the Year — AdventHealth Care; Nurse of the Year — AdventHealth Care; Male Coach of the Year — Bugs Beware-Curb and Scape; Female Coach of the Year -Bugs Beware-Curb and Scape; Financial Representative of the Year — Superior Concrete Décor; Realtor of the Year — MidFlorida Mortgage; Educator of the Year — Highlands Urgent Care; Volunteer of the Year — Palms of Sebring; Agricultural Person of the Year — Highlands Urgent Care; Philanthropist of the Year — All-State Insurance; 501c3 of the Year — Lakeshore Mall; Veteran of the Year — Geneva Financial; Senior Citizen of the Year — Palms of Sebring; and First Responder of the Year — McPhail’s Auto.

Getting nominations for these awards by our citizens is an incredible honor and your participation truly tells us just how important these people are to our community. We thank each of you who nominated this year, and last, for taking a few minutes or an hour to recognize those who impact Highlands County. Without these nominations, we could not do it.

We are now past deadline for nominations for 2018, but we do accept nominations for next year’s awards all year long, just send us an email at

The process to get to the 2018 winners now begins and we will be announcing the three finalists for each category soon. It is an exciting time as we get closer to the event.

This year we decided to move to a larger venue as we sold out last year and had to turn people away. In marketing an event, that is usually a good thing; with a community event such as this, that is a not such a good thing.

This year we will recognize the finalist and award the winners at Seven Sebring Raceway Hotel’s Banquet facility. The hotel is located at the Sebring International Raceway and is large enough to accommodate all who wants to be a part of this event this year.

We are now accepting reservations for the 2018 Highlander Awards dinner and awards ceremony on July 18, 2019. You can reserve one of two ways: call 863-385-6155, ask for Nancy Whirley and she will reserve your spots or come by our new location at 321 N. Ridgewood Drive and we will take care of you.

Tickets are available at $60 plus tax. It promises to be the most rewarding event of the summer. Come join us as we present 18 deserving people, the Highlander Award.

Tim Smolarick is corporate publisher and vice president of D-R Media and Investments LLC, as well as publisher of the Highlands News-Sun.


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