National FFCMH 28th Annual Conference in Orlando

National FFCMH 28th Annual Conference

This event is hosted by: National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health

Did you know that 1 in 5 children in America experience social, emotional and behavioral challenges? One undisputed constant in our society is that all children who survive childhood and adolescence will become adults. For children who experience untreated behavioral health disorders, this typically results in adults who continue to struggle with symptoms, who become parents and who perpetuate this cycle. The impact of this reoccurring cycle is felt throughout our society.

For over 25 years, the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health has been the nationwide advocacy organization with families as its sole focus, playing an important role in helping children, youth and their families whose lives are impacted by mental health challenges. This important work is supported largely by the generous donors like you who contribute to our cause.

Our 28th Annual Conference will feature many great workshops and speakers this year, joining hundreds of mental health advocates and professionals from across the nation as we work to educate and empower children, youth, and families!

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Arts Season Preview: Six events for an arts lover's serious side

Of course, not everything arts-related is meant to be jolly. Here are a half-dozen events from the 2017-18 arts season that dive into weightier issues while they entertain.

•"Baggage Claims": In this Orlando Museum of Art exhibition, an international group of 18 artists explores the mobility of global culture, especially in regard to the humanitarian, economic and political concerns of those fleeing conflict or other hardships. The title refers to physical travel, but also to "emotional baggage" that people cannot leave behind. (Sept. 15-Dec. 31,

•"La Boheme": Opera Orlando forgoes the iconic comedy mask for its companion – tragedy. "La Boheme" tells the story of impoverished friends in 19th-century Paris. At its center is the love of Mimi and Rodolfo, a romance derailed by illness. (Nov. 15-19,

•"Romeo and Juliet": Another case of love gone tragically wrong takes the stage as Orlando Ballet presents a dance adaptation of Shakespeare's best-known romance, set to a score by Prokofiev. The young couple are torn apart by their warring families with disastrous consequences. (Feb. 9-11,

•"American Roots": This Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra concert features two works by the great U.S. composer Aaron Copland. His "Quiet City" is an ode to New York – and the lonely people who inhabit it. The thorny issues of politics, love, death and religion inspired his "Old American Songs." (April 2,

•"Writings on the Wall": NBA superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will speak at Rollins College's Winter Park Institute this spring. Although his basketball playing was serious business, don't be surprised if the six-time league MVP has more important things on his mind. An activist and best-selling author, Abdul-Jabbar regularly contributes to The Washington Post and Time magazine, where he writes on socially relevant and politically controversial topics. (April 4,

•"African-American Masterpieces": Marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park presents a concert of three symphonic spirituals: "Negro Symphony," "And They Lynched Him on a Tree" and "The Ordering of Moses." (April 21-22,

Top 10 places to go in Florida

1. Walt Disney World

Wait. Walt Disney World? That’s about as Lonely Planet as a trip to Branson, Missouri (no offense, Branson). Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it! Sure, there will be lines a mile long, and sure, you’ll spend more money than you intended on a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt that you would never have dreamed of buying before you came. But no matter how much of a hard-core traveler you claim to be, there’s something here that will soften you – something that will spark your inspiration and imagination. Maybe it’s the children’s awestruck faces illuminated by the fireworks above Cinderella’s Castle. Maybe it’s a particular turn in a particular ride. Maybe it’s the corny (but endearing) joke told by the guy who drives the horse-drawn carriage down Main Street. Whatever it is, once you’re there, you’ll admit it. Walt Disney World’s got you.
2. Miami

What was once a little citrus town is now a pan-American mosaic, the most Latin city in the world north of Mexico. A vibrant mix of Cuban, Haitian and Colombian cultures (just to name a few) splashed against a pastel backdrop of distinctive art deco architecture, the turquoise waters of Biscayne Bay kissing the sands of South Beach, it’s this diversity that makes Miami more quintessentially American than the cutest Mid-Western Main Street.
3. Key West

Feeling like mainland Florida is just too tame for your taste? Time to ship out to Key West, where the high- and low-brow mix it up with a devil-may-care attitude. There’s always a party to be found here, and the vibe is decidedly tolerant: the Key West motto is 'One Human Family', which translates to acceptance and mutual respect for people of all colors and religions, gays, straights, and everything in between. It’s all love – and rum punch – here.
4. The Everglades

Often dismissed as a swamp, the Everglades are arguably more beautiful than all the sin and flash Miami can produce. Forget what you’ve heard about airboats and swamp buggies. Come and canoe, bike, kayak or walk around the park. Get to understand the delicate ecosystem that has endured forever here. Stand still long enough to see an alligator’s back surfacing above the black water and take in the unbroken vistas of wet prairie, big sky and long silences.
5. St Augustine

Saunter along cobbled roads, linger at charming cafes, and learn about the city’s rich history at countless museums. Cap it all off with dinner at a gas lamp-lit restaurant and a horse-drawn carriage ride through the Historic District. Europe? Oh wait, we’re in Florida. Epcot? No way, this is the real deal. Founded by the Spanish in 1565, St Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the US, preserved for centuries and awaiting your discovery.
6. Sanibel Island

This beautiful barrier island is the perfect beach escape: scout for seashells along the porcelain sand, spot night herons, anhinga and alligators at JN 'Ding' Darling National Wildlife Refuge, and dine on delicious fresh seafood at one of the quaint beach-shacks. If you’re without a car, don’t worry about it – with 23 miles of dedicated paths, you can bike around the entire island.
7. Caladesi Island State Park

Located in the Tampa Bay area, Caladesi Island State Park ranks at the top of national surveys for the best natural beaches. Reach it by canoe or take a ferry from nearby Honeymoon Island (also worth a visit). In addition to nature trails and an unspoiled, palm-lined 3-mile beach, it’s the perfect spot for a lazy day of swimming and picnicking.
8. Amelia Island

Home to Fernandina Beach, a charming shrimping village with 50 blocks of historic buildings, delightful eateries, and unique B&Bs, Amelia Island is a moss-draped southern fantasy. Prefer a swanky resort to the quaint B&Bs? They’ve got that too, as well as miles of shark-tooth covered shoreline and a commanding Civil War-era fort anchoring it all.
9. Apalachicola National Forest

The largest of Florida’s three national forests, Apalachicola occupies almost 938 square miles of the Panhandle, from just west of Tallahassee to the Apalachicola River. Hike and bike this otherworldly forest of cypress hammocks, dunes, swamps, sinks and karst terrain.
10. Sarasota

If you’ve ever wanted to run away and join the circus, Sarasota is the place to go. John Ringling (yes, of Ringling Brothers fame) made Sarasota the winter home for his circus. His legacy lives on here in the Ringling Museum Complex, which includes his former home, a fine art museum, and of course, a circus museum. The circus doesn’t stop there – the entire town is obsessed. Enroll your kids in circus classes, go to the church that the circus built, or check out one of the many shows in town.

Orlando's 5 Strangest Attractions

1. Gatorland

Part of Florida's great charm is its penchant for local kitsch, and Gatorland certainly fits the bill. For more than 60 years, this quirky spot has entertained travelers from the moment they stroll through the park's enormous, alligator mouth-shaped entrance. The 110-acre theme park is the self-proclaimed "Alligator Capital of the World," and houses hundreds of gators which you'll see up-close on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Alligator Breeding Marsh, or during one of the parks Gator Wrestlin' or Gator Jumparoo (yes, gators can jump) shows. Adventurous visitors can ride the 1,200-foot-long Screamin' Gator Zipline, whizzing past hungry gators down below. If you still don't have your fill of reptiles, the Trainer for a Day program allows you to hold baby alligators.

2. Holy Land Experience

Billed as a "living, biblical history museum," the Holy Land Experience easily wins our award for the most unexpected Orlando attraction. This Christian-themed park recreates the ancient city of Jerusalem. You'll enter the complex through an archway modeled after the Damascus Gate, then wander past 40 exhibits, including a Middle Eastern marketplace complete with touts dressed in period garb, and a replica of the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were unearthed. Interactivity is key at the Holy Land, and guests can watch live entertainment in the Temple Plaza, take part in a Baptism ceremony, or even watch a live reenactment of the Passion of Christ.

3. The Presidents Hall of Fame

Sure you can trek all the way up to Washington D.C. for a lesson in White House history – or, while you're chilling in Orlando, you can make your way to the President's Hall of Fame, which pays homage to the nation's capital, as well as its monuments and history. Visitors can stroll past miniature recreations of sights like Mount Rushmore, the Lincoln Memorial, and of course, the White House. In fact, the White House has been so lovingly designed that there are representations of each room of the house during every president's residency there – yup, all 43 of them. These White House displays rotate regularly. Other exhibits include recreations of First Lady inaugural ball gowns, animatronic presidents, china patterns, and even a dresser that once lived in Caroline Kennedy's bedroom.

4. American Ghost Adventures

Too often, visitors arrive in Orlando and only experience the thrills of the city's shiny, new attractions, when in fact, the town has a storied history that's also well worth exploring. The City of Orlando was founded in 1885, and today, people can see some of that history in the original building of Church Street Station and on historic tours. One unique way to dive into the city's past is on a haunted tour with American Ghost Adventures. Guides with a penchant for the paranormal lead guests on a hunt for the hereafter's (mostly friendly) spirits. You'll trek through some of the city's oldest hotels and buildings, passing by notorious haunted spots. During the latter half of the tour, guests are given EMF detectors, so that they can witness some of the electromagnetic oddities in Orlando's buildings for themselves. A haunted pub tour is also available, for those in need of liquid courage.

5. Wonderworks

No, you're not seeing things; the Wonderworks building actually is built upside down, and plopped smack on the street in Orlando. This "amusement park for the mind" serves to spark the imagination and broaden the intellect with more than 100 interactive exhibits. Legend has it that the space was once a top-secret laboratory in the Bermuda Triangle, but after an experiment when terribly wrong it was flung through the skies and landed upside down on International Drive. Visitors will have the chance to experience an earthquake in the Disaster Zone, lie on a bed of 3,500 nails, experience hurricane-force winds of 71-mph in the Hurricane Shack, and climb into a replica space capsule.

The 10 Most Underrated Places In Florida That You Must Check Out

1. Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area

Flickr/Jeff Kraus This campsite at Flagler Beach, FL, is a gorgeous stretch of beach that is adored by campers with both tents and RVs. You can stay right on the beach and watch the sun rise over the ocean.

2. Bok Tower Gardens

Flickr/Rick Schwartz Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales in Central Florida is right out of a fairy tale. The 205-foot tower is not only a work of art, it holds some of the world's finest carillon bells. The surrounding gardens are lush and expansive. This is one of the most relaxing and romantic places in Florida.

3. Ancient Spanish Monastery

Flickr/Brook Ward This 12th-century Spanish monastery was purchased in the 1920s by newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, whose plans of moving it to California were sidetracked by shipping complications. It ended up in storage for decades until it was purchased again in the '60s and moved piece by piece to North Miami Beach.

4. Rainbow Springs State Park

Flickr/Darryl Kenyon This park in Dunellon, FL, has been drawing visitors for decades with its crystal blue waters. It's hard to find natural waterfalls in Florida, but the man made ones at this park are a lovely substitute.

5. St. Augustine

Flickr/Mike Flickr/Steve Beger People who don't live in Florida usually think of the our bigger cities like Orlando and nightlife Miami and don't seem to realize the oldest city in the country is right here. There's so much to see in St. Augustine, including the Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine Alligator Farm (opened in 1893), Anastasia Island, plus lots of great shops and restaurants.

6. Solomon's Castle

Flickr/Sam Howzit Solomon's Castle in Ona, FL, is one of those wacky roadside attractions Florida was once famous for. Built by a single individual from found materials, Solomon's Castle stands as a testament to what a person can do when equipped with creativity and determination.

7. Paynes Prairie

Flickr/Meredith Leigh Collins Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park in Micanopy (near Gainesville) is a National Natural Landmark with winding trails for walking and cycling. Come and check out the alligators, wild horses, and even bison up close.

8. Chantilly Ridge Alpaca Farm

Flickr/VISIT FLORIDA Editor These fluffy cousins of the llama are prized for their super soft coat, but did you know they're also quite friendly? Visit Chantilly Ridge in Port Orange, FL, for a farm tour like you've never experienced before.

9. Caladesi Island State Park

Flickr/Pinellas County As one of our few completely natural islands, Caladesi Island is perfect for those looking to get away from the crowds and rapid development of our ever-expanding state. It's located near Dunedin, FL.

10. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens

Flickr/Kim Seng Located on 83 acres in Coral Gables, FL, this garden has an extensive collection of rare and unique tropical plants and fascinating exhibits. They also offer education for plant lovers of all ages. Have you been to any of these amazing places? What are some of your favorite underrated spots in Florida? Please share your comments with us below. Thank you!

Top 10 Things to Do This Summer in Orlando

With the help of our Facebook fans, here's our list of the hottest summer "must-dos" in the Orlando area.

1. Our Facebook fan Tiffany N. suggests Gatorland, and starting this month, experience 1,200 feet of high-flying adventure on the new Screamin' Gator Zip Line.

2. Explore The Grand Reef, opening June 10 at Discovery Cove. For a more exhilarating adventure, try the underwater walking tour, SeaVenture, which offers up-close encounters with schools of fish and rays. Don't forget to swim with the dolphins while you're there (from Facebook fan Allison W.).

3. Cycle through the treetops on the Cypress Canopy Cycle, a new ecotourism experience at Forever Florida that's the first of its kind in the U.S.

4. Spend your summer nights swaying to the tunes of live concerts at the Amway Center, House of Blues, Hard Rock Live Orlando or check out the summer concert series at Universal Studios (Saturday nights June 11-July 16) and Epcot (June 12 - July 30).

5. As our Facebook fan Constanze N. suggests, indulge in some retail therapy in Orlando's ever-growing shopping options, including The Mall at Millenia and Orlando Premium Outlets.

6. The summer must-do from Facebook fan Amanda P.? "EAT!" Well, treat your taste buds at one of Orlando's newest eateries like Pine 22 and Chico's Dirty Tacos and Tequila in downtown Orlando or Cocina 214 in Winter Park.

7. Beat the summer heat at Orlando's coolest water parks, including Aquatica - SeaWorld's Waterpark, Wet ‘n Wild - Orlando (from Facebook fan Justin E.), Disney's Typhoon Lagoon or Disney's Blizzard Beach.

8. If kicking back at cool pool is a must for your resort stay, check out the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, Nickelodeon Suites Resort, Lake Buena Vista Resort Village & Spa or Orlando World Center Marriott (editor's note: their pool was voted one of the World's Coolest Hotel Pools by Forbes!).

9. Celebrate Independence Day at SeaWorld Orlando, Universal Orlando Resort, Walt Disney World Resort or Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando for the Fireworks at the Fountain event.

10. Keep the family cool at one of Orlando's indoor museums like the Orlando Science Center, The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art or even Ripley's Believe It or Not! Orlando Odditorium (from Facebook fans Joe K. and Christi S.).


Eatonville, FL

DESCRIPTION: Twenty seven African American men, led by Joe Clarke, carefully planned and built the nation’s first incorporated, town for African Americans in 1887; though self sufficient with a post office, clean water supply, ranches, a railroad station, Hotel Eatonville and Hungerford Normal & Industrial School, this was not a sleepy industrious town all the time -- big name performing artists on the Chitlin’ Circuit played Club Eaton on Apopka Street; the town is most famous as the inspirational home of writer, folklorist, and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960), a true Renaissance sister; Zora, while interpreting life in Eatonville as fiction in her writing, is credited with exposing literary America and Europe to the realities of life for southern rural Blacks; she was also a great influence on Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison and Toni Cade Bambara; thanks largely to the Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community, the town is on the National Register of Historic Places and many original property lines and historic markers are in place allowing you to explore it at s leisurely pace; Thurston House, home to Zora Neale Hurston, located at 851 Lake Ave is now a Bed & Breakfast; the landmark Eatonville Water Tower is easily seen from I-4 Freeway

ADDRESS: Kennedy Blvd

Callahan Neighborhood

DESCRIPTION: Began in 1886, it is the oldest African American community in Orlando; civic leaders for the neighborhood led the efforts to restored and a establish historic markers for various sites in this post-Civil War community; in fact many Black soldiers from the Civil War settled here; how fitting that today the neighborhood center hosts many cultural events year round

ADDRESS: bounded by Colonial Drive, Central Ave, Division Street and Orange Blossom Trail  MAP

J.A. Colyer Building

DESCRIPTION: Built 1911 and housed the Colyer and Williams tailor shop, possibly the earliest African American business located among European American businesses in Orlando; it is currently a commercial establishment

Praise Wave Music Festival at SeaWorld Orlando 2017

January 14, 2017 - January 28, 2017
Location: SeaWorld® Orlando
Address: 7007 SeaWorld Drive, Orlando, FL 32821
Time: 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Admission: Included in daily admission
Phone: 1-888-800-5447

Description: Guests can enjoy live performances by some of the hottest names in Christian music and celebrate in an atmosphere filled with Christian friendship, thrilling rides and attractions. Performances include TobyMac, Francesca Battistelli and Skillet.

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