Empowering our communities, accelerating the future. 

                                                        Plaid is the New Black in Polk County

             Every spring when the rest of the world starts turning green, Lake Wales goes in a slightly different direction – we go plaid – specifically, tartan or orange and black. And we wear them with great pride and to help support the Highlander Booster Club. The Highlander Booster Club helps financially support athletic activities at Lake Wales High School and serves not only the 1,600 students at LWHS but generations of the school’s proud alumni. On April 30th, everyone will be proudly decked out and supporting the Second Annual Highlander Hall of Fame, and the Dyer Difference is helping to support the event and the Highlander Booster Club’s mission.

            The purpose of the Highlander Hall of Fame event is to celebrate the Highlander Athletic Program, honor the past success of Highlander Athletics, inform students and community about the rich Highlander Athletic Program history, promote school spirit and unity, and help reconnect alumni with the Highlander Booster Club and athletic teams. Because the Highlander Booster Club is so supportive of the youth of the community, to show our own Highlander pride, the Dyer Difference award and our iconic red exclamation mark might even turn orange and black – at least for one Highlander day!

                     Dyer Difference Award Recognizes Early Learning Coalition of Polk County

            Being a kid isn’t an easy job these days, and families need all the help they can get to ensure that our most precious resources are healthy, ready for school, and eager to learn and grow. Last year, more than 14,000 children benefited from the programs offered by the Early Learning Coalition of Polk County, including School Readiness, Voluntary Prekindergarten, and the Nurse Family Partnership programs. Each of the programs serves a different and critical need for children (and families) throughout Polk County, and each helps strengthen the bond of collaboration between parents, families, educators, and the community.

Helping to ensure that our children are healthy and school-ready involves leadership, direction, collaboration on many levels, and integrated resource management – all key ingredients in helping to make sure children are ready and eager when it comes time to start school. And though the Early Learning Coalition of Polk County did a terrific job of helping over 14,000 children in our community last year, there is still a waiting list for services and need to help even more Polk County children. The February Dyer Difference Award recognizes the work of the Early Learning Coalition of Polk County and supports the efforts to continue this noble work on behalf of our community’s children. 

                                     Dyer Difference Award Helps Throw a Little Shade

 Architect Frederick Law Olmsted may be best known for designing New York City’s Central Park, but his many creative accomplishments also included the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, and our own treasure, Bok Tower Gardens. Just before the Great Depression in late 1929, Frederick Law Olmsted and Edward Bok designed a master plan for Lake Wales, with plans to include small parks, plenty of trees, and a lovely place to stroll the downtown area. Nearly a century later, Lake Wales Heritage, which is an Olmsted Conservancy nonprofit organization, still hopes to see many of the original plans for Lake Wales completed.

On April 30, Olmsted Day in the Park will be held to commemorate what would have been Olmsted’s 200th birthday. The group is working to replant some of the thousands of trees included in Olmsted’s original plan for Lake Wales to help revitalize the beauty and reclaim the many psychological and environmental benefits they create. Lake Wales is the only city to host Olmsted landscapes and the April Dyer Difference Award hopes to help celebrate Olmsted’s genius in the field of design and wisdom in realizing how important nature is to success, commerce, and wellbeing. The April Dyer Difference Award will help fund the replanting of 34 Magnolia Grandiflora trees on Lakeshore Boulevard and help provide shade, ambience, and natural beauty to this community we all love.

Left to Right: David Shapiro , Tim Sanders and David Dlugokecki



L TO R:  Nicole Sealey, Robert Connors, General Manager David Dlugokecki, and Mary Walkup


L to R: : General Manager David Dlugokecki and Early Learning Coalition Chief Executive Officer Marc Hutek Ed.D.

 The Highlander Booster Club



Early Learning Coalition of Polk County

L to R General Manager Highlander Booster Club’s Shelli Davis with General Manger David Dlugokecki

                   Dyer Difference Award Recognizes Polk Sheriff Charities, Inc.  

            During a routine traffic stop in September, 2006, Deputy Sheriff Matt Williams and his K9 partner, DiOGi were gunned down after attempting to chase a suspect into a wooded area. Deputy Sheriff Williams was a twelve-year veteran with the force who had served most of his time as the Head Trainer of the Polk County K9 Unit. The outpouring from the community following the tragic deaths of these two officers inspired the birth of Polk Sheriff Charities, Incorporated, a nonprofit organization which provides monetary support to members facing unexpected, tragic events in their lives.

Examples of the organization’s work include assistance provided for the families of Sgt. Ronnie Brown, a Detention Officer who died as a result of injuries received during an altercation with a Polk County Jail inmate and Sgt. Wes Whitmore, who was hit and killed by a motor vehicle while making a routine traffic stop. The organization has also helped provide Christmas gifts for economically-disadvantaged children in Polk County, uniforms for local youth athletic teams, and assisting organizations working with victims of domestic violence. Polk Sheriff Charities also continues to support the Polk County K9 Unit which helped inspire its inception, and for this commitment to the community, the nonprofit organization has been recognized as the January recipient of the Dyer Difference Award. 


Polk County Award Recipients 2022