Kirsten Schmitt turns 15 in November.
Her family — mom Charlene, dad Robert, and big brother Derek — were among the first 50 families who moved to the Ranch 15 years ago.
Soon after the family moved in, Kirsten was born at Blake Medical Center; Lakewood Ranch Medical Center didn’t exist then.
Kirsten has the distinction of being the first baby raised in the new community.
When I first met the Schmitt family, it was August 2001. Kirsten was 5 and preparing to start kindergarten at Braden River Elementary School.
Her interests back then? Barbie, Powerpuff Girls and ballet.
Over the years, we’ve bumped into the Schmitts at Easter egg hunts, swim meets and more.
Now Kirsten is an eighth-grader at Braden River Middle School, plays volleyball, is an honor student and serves on the yearbook committee.
“She’s a sweet girl with very good grades. She’s grown up nicely and we’re very proud,” Robert Schmitt said last week.
The Schmitts no longer live in their original Summerfield residence, but they still live in Lakewood Ranch.
“It was our intent to raise our two kids at Lakewood Ranch. We have no plans to move at this point,” he said.
The Schmitts are a friendly young family, outstanding in their own way, but in many respects representative of their community.
We mention this today because Lakewood Ranch is preparing to celebrate its 15th anniversary from 4 to 9 p.m. Fridayat the polo grounds.
The public is invited to enjoy music by the Billy Rice Band, a hay maze, roping contest, pumpkin patch, bounce house, Charlie Brown movie and more. Admission is free. Food, beer, wine, soft drinks and water will be available for purchase.
Anyone who brings nonperishable food for people or pets — for Meals on Wheels or Honor Sanctuary — will receive a chance to enter Grow Financial’s money machine.
For a kid, 15 years must seem like an eternity. Pretty remarkable how a kid, or a community, can grow and change in that period of time.
Happy birthday, Kirsten. Happy birthday, Lakewood Ranch.
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It’s good news anytime you can save a life.
Lt. Steve Fortune of East Manatee Fire Rescue District credits Dr. Bruce Lipskind of Bradenton Cardiology Center of finding not a heart problem, but his kidney cancer.
Because it was caught early, and the cancer removed, Fortune, now in his mid-40s, is hopeful of having many more years of life.
Fortune said he might have been dead within the year if the cancer had gone undetected.
Fortune, who has a history of heart problems, came to Lipskind with problems that he thought might be heart-related.
“I ordered a CT scan. I wanted to make sure he didn’t have an aneurysm or a problem with his aorta,” Lipskind said.
Instead, the test at Manatee Memorial Hospital, came back as a kidney cancer diagnosis, caught early.
“We were very fortunate,” Lipskind said, calling it an incidental finding.
“I see it as a glass half-full because it’s an opportunity to cure someone,” Lipskind said.
Surgery to remove the cancer was a success.
“It’s hard to tell someone they have cancer, especially someone as young as Steve. The great news is that we can cure it.”
Fortune is so grateful for his second shot at life.
“It’s my medical miracle. How do you repay something like that?” Fortune said.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.