Dyer Difference Award Supports Start Right Event!

Going back to school in August is as intimidating for some students as it is exciting for others. Polk State College understands the challenges faced by many families in our area and the trepidation so many young students and their families feel, and they’ve come up with a way to help. On July 29, 2023, Polk State College will be hosting an event called “Start Right.” The goal of this program is to reduce bullying, enhance students’ success rates in the classrooms, and increase self-esteem.

Because so many families struggle meeting their own basic needs, extras for the start of the school year like haircuts, school supplies, and proper clothing often fall by the wayside, leaving students depressed and vulnerable to bullying once school begins. Start Right was created to remove those barriers for low socio-economic groups. This year’s event will help distribute 700 backpacks full of school supplies, offer free haircuts for students, and a massive food pantry the length of two parking lots dedicated to ensuring no families miss a meal. Helping students start off on the right foot and with all the tools they need to achieve success is important to all of us, and this month’s Dyer Difference Award recognizes and applauds the efforts of Polk State College to address this important need in our community.

           Polk State College 

                                     Dyer Difference Award Recognizes KT’s Sunshine Foundation

Just as the rest of the world was going into lockdown in March, 2020, Kaitlyn Kinard’s family was falling apart for a completely different unexpected disaster. The 22 year-old Kinard was killed in a car-crash involving a wrong-way driver, a crash which also critically injured the love of her life, Landon. A nursing student who was just about to graduate and begin her life of helping others, Kaitlyn’s journey ended suddenly and sadly. But her family and friends knew that Kaitlyn’s special gift for lighting up a room would not end when her own candle dimmed, and they created KT’s Sunshine Foundation, which focuses on assisting families in the community who have suffered tragedies and providing students with scholarships. To help raise funds to provide scholarships and spread a little of Kaitlyn’s sunshine, the organization hosts and annual Southern Sunshine BBQ and Music Festival every year, and this month, the Dyer Difference Award honors Kaitlyn’s sunny disposition and her family’s efforts to share that light with others.

                            Dyer Difference Award Celebrates Inclusion and Opportunity!

For the past 23 years, Circle of Friends Ministry in Lake Wales has been helping to meet the needs of families and individuals throughout Polk County. Whether it’s through instruction in independent living for differently-abled individuals, advocating for employment opportunities, housing, and even caretaking, the Circle of Friends has proven to be a true friend and has consistently lived up to its mission to “Equip, empower, and provide inclusion to individuals with intellectual and developmental differences.” The organization was created when Mertice Fehringer had a strong desire to “see people with disabilities given a safe platform to learn, grow, and thrive.” The June Dyer Difference Award in Polk County will assist two high-risk, disabled adults with proper care and opportunities to experience inclusion with local peers as contributing members of the community by helping to provide materials, supplies, food, training, and even trips as part of the organization’s day program.

Left to Right:  Sales Manager Corey Clough and General Manager David Dlugokecki present the Dyer Difference Award to Ginny Castle of KT’s Sunshine Foundation

                                     Dyer Difference Award Recognizes No Limits

Nearly every parent knows how costly it can be to have children involved in sports. Between the registration, equipment, cost of transportation, meals, and even the time commitment, the price can become prohibitive. No Limits Volleyball in Polk County helps to bring affordable, Christian-based sports to all youth in Polk and surrounding counties. With a firm belief that no child should ever be denied access to opportunities for sports for financial reasons, the organization helps 2,500 children each year. The goal of the team at No Limits Volleyball is to help develop great people who are strong in their faith and exceptional athletes who are leaders in their communities and their classrooms. The March Dyer Difference Award recognizes this goal and the efforts of No Limits to achieve it.

Polk Sheriff's Charities Inc.

Circle of Friends Ministry in Lake Wales

No Limits Volleyball

                                   A Home Run for the Dyer Difference Award

The baseball program at Winter Haven High School helps keep baseball alive all year long through year-round camps for youth and younger student athletes in Polk County. In addition to the 45 student-athletes supported through the program at Winter Haven, the entire school population of more than 2,600 students, and indeed, the entire community benefit from the opportunity to cheer on the youth as they strive to reach individual and team athletic goals and success. This year, the group is working on fundraising for a new scoreboard to help share the score and other vital information with players and attendees, and the April Dyer Difference Award will help the students to reach their goal and see their names and scores in bright lights.


Ginny Castle of KT’s Sunshine Foundation



 Empowering our communities, accelerating the future. 

Winter Haven High School


Photo:  General Manager David Dlugokecki (left) presents Dyer Difference Award to Daniel Hill, Dylan DeLeo, Coach David Schafer, Daniel Butler, and Mike Parsain

                                    Dyer Difference Award Recognizes Polk Sheriff’s Charities

Since 2006, Polk Sheriff’s Charities have been supporting first responders and members of the community in a variety of ways that show dedication, commitment, and loyalty to Polk county residents. What started as a response to the murder of Deputy Matt Williams and K-9 DiOGi after a routine traffic stop, has blossomed into a veritable font of kindness and compassion for the community. First responders who are facing tragic and unexpected events in their lives, like the families of Sergeant Ronnie Brown, who died as a result of injuries incurred in the line of duty and of Sergeant Wes Whitmore, who was hit and killed by a motor vehicle during a routine traffic stop.

It's not just the families of first responsders receiving support from Polk Sheriff’s Charities, either. Children from Polk County’s most economically-challenged neighborhoods have been surprised with holiday gifts, youth organizations have been gifted with team jerseys, victims of domestic violence have received support and assistance, and of course, the organization worked to replace K-9 DiOGi and other K-9 partners. This dedication to service and community have earned Polk Sheriff’s Charities a round of applause and recognition from the February Dyer Difference Award.


Photo:  General Manager David Dlugokecki (right) presents the Dyer Difference Award to Andy Oguntola

LtR: General Manager David Dlugokecki (left) and Bobby Ruis (right) present the Dyer Difference Award to Polk County’s No Limits Volleyball representative Steve Ousley

L to R: :  General Manager David Dlugokecki presents the Dyer Difference Award to Polk County Sheriff’s Deputy Sanders.



Polk County Award Recipients 2023