Mike Bardell and Diane Simon, both residents of Sun City Center, received Salt & Pepper Awards at Senior Connection Center’s Annual Rise & Shine Award Ceremony. Bardell received the award for Health and Wellness while Simon received it for Arts and Entertainment.

Senior Connection Center, the area’s aging and disability resource center, held its Annual Rise & Shine Award Ceremony on May 25. The event was held virtually this year and more than 250 people participated from home or work.

Patty Suarez, Senior Connection Center vice president, said, “We had to cancel last year’s event, so it was especially important to have a ceremony this year.”

Suarez added, “Even though we held it virtually, it was still exciting to recognize the award winners and share the heartwarming stories of the impact they have on their communities.”

The Rise & Shine Awards Ceremony is an opportunity to recognize outstanding achievements of local seniors by giving them Salt & Pepper Awards and to share the work Senior Connection is doing. It is also a way to pay tribute to the late Honorable Claude Pepper, who represented Florida in Congress and was instrumental in developing the Medicare program.

Awards are given in categories of Philanthropy, Community Service and Volunteerism, Arts and Entertainment and Health and Wellness.

Locally, Mike Bardell, a resident of Sun City Center and the chief of the Sun City Center Emergency Squad, was awarded the Health and Wellness Award. The Sun City Center Emergency Squad has been providing services to the residents of the area for 57 years. The squad has over 400 volunteers who provide a variety of services for free. These include ambulance transport, a wheelchair van service and lending equipment such as wheelchairs.

Bardell said, “I was flattered to win and was kind of surprised. I do not have a God-given talent. I was given this award as a result of the willingness and sacrifice of those volunteers who work for the squad. This was especially so during the COVID-19 pandemic. They continued to work despite the risk to their health.”

Bardell added, “This award is a result of all those who work for the squad. I am thrilled to get the recognition for the squad because they do so much.”

Diane Simon, another resident of Sun City Center, also received an award for Arts and Entertainment for sharing her artistic talent as a painter to benefit charity and inspiring others through her teaching.

Senior Connection Center is a private nonprofit whose mission is to help older adults and persons who have disabilities live with independence and dignity. Senior Connection Center serves Hillsborough County and four other counties.

For more information, please visit www.seniorconnectioncenter.org.

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