Suzette Springer: THE CIRCUS COMES TO TOWNMany kids dream of joining the circus, but Suzette Springer actually did it. In the 1980s, she performed with Cirque du Soleil as a contortionist and served as a member of the Big Apple Circus.

“It was a time for learning how to approach not just the arts, but life,” she says. “No complaining, no whining — just incredible amounts of practice and absolute devotion to your goals.”

Springer began dancing when she was 10; by the time she reached high school she was studying for half her days and dancing the rest. A prosperous professional career in dance and teaching followed; now she’s about to fulfill her longtime dream of teaching at her own studio.

Harold Watson, executive director of Programs for Exceptional PeopleHarold Watson, executive director of Programs for Exceptional People, has a difficult time talking about himself. He briefly mentions his prolific 30-year background with non-profits and church ministries before he changes the subject to his No. 1 cause. “I find a great deal of fulfillment in working with adults with intellectual and mental challenges,” he says of his work with PEP.

Founded 15 years ago by a small group of parents of disabled adult children, PEP provides a place where special-needs adults can take classes, participate in community programs and socialize with peers. “Members have goals to help increase their independence, whether it be at home or in the community,” he says.

Carrie HirschWhen Carrie Hirsch started working on the battered old “Little House” on Gumtree Road, she wondered what the neighbors were thinking.

“I thought, ‘Everybody’s going to think I’m a Realtor,’” she says, recalling how she’d drive over to the abandoned shack if she had a free hour and work to clear  brush from the site that would be transformed into the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island. “People would ask me what I was doing. Eventually I knew everybody by name, they knew me by name and I felt like they were watching out for me. I don’t know if they’ll ever know how much that meant to me.”

What’s intriguing about Hirsch, 49, is that she is so passionate about preserving a piece of history that holds no place in her personal history. She isn’t a native islander. She isn’t even a native South Carolinian. She’s a Hilton Head resident by way of New York City who stumbled upon the island’s true wealth while on vacation here several years ago.

Chris GarniewiczBluffton Fire Capt. Chris Garniewicz’s usual firefighter uniform can be described as inspiring, yet creatively uninspired. But the colorful costumes he and his wife, Lara, make in their free time are worthy of sugar plum fairies and mouse kings.

Chris and Lara have been sewing and designing costumes for “The Nutcracker” ever since their daughter Hayden, now 10, joined the Dance Theatre seven years ago. This year, they created the delicate ruffles and glittering baubles on nearly every costume in the show. “I get some odd looks sometimes when I tell people I make tutus,” says Chris. “The guys at the fire station take it in stride because they’re also asking me to alter pants and fix tears. I just got done sewing zippers back on some sweatshirts.”

Roy Goyochea: No LimitsTeen turns his life around and spreads message of hope

To go from being in a gang to quoting Gandhi is a long road for most people, but it’s a path 17-year-old Roy Goyochea has walked and lived. One of his favorite quotes is by Gandhi: “Whatever you do in the present is going to affect the future.” Goyochea “gets it” in a way many teens might never understand.

His quiet confidence arrives in a room almost before he does. As he mentors other kids and coaches soccer at the Hilton Head Island Boys & Girls Club, it’s hard to imagine just how far he has come.

mayorHilton Head Mayor Tom Peeples

As the summer season draws near, we have been hard at work to complete several new capital projects on the island. These projects will provide our residents and visitors with improved infrastructure and a new emergency service facility. 

weston-newtonOn Oct. 3, Hurricane Todd came ashore in Beaufort County, wiping out homes and businesses all across Hilton Head Island, Daufuskie, Bluffton, Beaufort, Sheldon, Fripp and St. Helena. Power was lost and government facilities were destroyed. Roadways became impassable due to severe flooding and the large number of uprooted trees piled up across the asphalt. High winds of 129 mph hurled debris into the air like missiles and left it scattered in huge stacks of rubble, completely trashing the beautiful Lowcountry landscape.

What makes a person intriguing?

Intriguing People of the Lowcountry

According to Webster’s Dictionary, it’s someone that has the capacity to fascinate us, to arouse our curiosity. The people profiled here range from a liberal and a conservative columnist to a man who’s bringing rap and rockn’ roll acts to the Lowcountry to a 92-year-old golf starter. They also include a sailor, a pilot who flies sick children to get the help they need, a woman who works diligently to help single moms, another woman whose Down Syndrome child inspired her to help others, an architect who came about his calling in an unusual fashion, and a man who brings his Caribbean music to local children. There’s also the doctor helping Hispanic women with prenatal care, a businessman who had his “aha” moment and is now helping teen girls as they recover from substance abuse, and the solicitor who has changed the face of law enforcement in our community.

Santa Claus. Photo by Ben Ham.It’s rare to score a few minutes with the big man this time of year with his busy schedule of supervising elves and last-minute tweaks to the naughty and nice list, but once we told him he was Hilton Head Monthly’s Most Valuable Person this month, he quickly obliged.

DB: Hello, Mr. Claus. Thanks for taking a few moments to speak with me today.
SC: No problem. Please, call me Nick.

DB: In order to ensure you’re the real deal and not some shopping mall imposter, I need to ask you a quick question to verify your identity. What did you give me for Christmas in 1986?
SC: The original Nintendo, of course. How could I resist with that lovely spread of milk and cookies and that adorable, poorly-written ‘thanks in advance’ note you put out? Man, you loved Duck Hunt.

For 10 years, Hilton Head Heroes has provided vacations for families with sick children

Lindy and Gregg Russell, who founded the nonprofit in 1999.Like many couples, Gregg Russell and Lindy Ellison Russell like to flip through photo albums and reminisce about family vacations.

But some of their most precious scrapbooks don’t contain a single photograph of the Russells, or of a faraway location. Instead, they’re filled with snapshots of other families on Hilton Head Island — all kinds of families with one thing in common: a child who has been diagnosed with a serious illness.

In the pictures, these “hero children,” as the Russells call them, are frail, but beaming nonetheless.