Father of a teenage boy killed in a tragic accident roots for the movie made in his son’s honor.

ORLANDO – Steve Abbate has been on a whirlwind tour to let people know about the movie “The 5th Quarter,” an independently-produced feature length film that’s played in Orlando. It’s a movie Abbate is passionate about, which is why he’s working so hard to get the word out about it.
“We were on the Mike Huckabee show (on Fox) last week, and we did an interview CNN on Monday,” Abbate said.
Abbate isn’t a filmmaker, though, or an actor in the movie. In fact, actor Aidan Quinn portrays Abbate himself in the movie, which is not only a true story, but is rooted in a terrible incident that devastated the Abbate family: the death of their teen-age son Luke in a car accident.
“He was a kid who did something very purposeful,” Abbate said. “No other kid should go through that.”
“The 5th Quarter” opened on March 25. At the heart of the movie – and the true story behind it – is a portrait of how one family coped with the tragic loss of their son.
“ ‘The 5th Quarter’ is a story about family and faith,” said Abbate when he was a guest on The Freeline Media Hour on the Phoenix Network. “We’ve been having premieres, including one here in Orlando.”
In February 2006, their son Luke accepted a ride home from a classmate after lacrosse practice. It would turn out to be a tragic mistake.
Abbate said the classmate driving the car started to speed at 90 miles per hour, despite the protest of Luke and the other passengers.
“To scare his classmates, he went down a road going 90 miles per hour,” Abbate said. “He had done this before.”
Only this time, it ended in disaster. The car went down a 70 foot embankment, and Luke sustained severe head trauma from the crash.
“There was no blood flowing to his brain,” Abbate said. “He was virtually gone.”
Luke suffered irreparable brain damage and died in the hospital two days later – just four days short of his 16th birthday.
While at the hospital, the Abbate family made the difficult decision to allow doctors to utilize Luke’s organs as part of a nationwide organ transplant program.
“Five people received Luke’s organs,” Abbate said, adding that the five recipients were identified almost immediately, including a young woman suffering from a serious heart disease who shared an uncommon blood type with Luke.
Luke’s heart was flown to the young woman’s hospital, and the transplant saved her life.
Following Luke’s death, his older brother Jon thought about ending his football career – but instead decided to keep playing, and to honor the younger brother who looked up to him.
Jon asked his coach for permission to change his long-standing number from 40 to 5 – Luke’s number. The team also dedicated the new season to the memory of Luke.
“Jon wasn’t sure he wanted to go back and play without his brother,” Abbate recalled. But when he did, “The team and the stands all did the same to honor Luke, and we won that game. That’s really how the movie ‘5th Quarter’ came about.”
As a result, the Abbate family formed the Luke Abbate 5th Quarter Foundation to educate young people nationwide about the dangers of irresponsible driving.
Press coverage of this story caught the attention of producer/director Rick Bieber, who thought it would make an inspirational film. He met with the family and set out to tell Luke’s story as honestly as possible.
“We decided we wanted to honor Luke’s life and death,” Abbate said. “We signed on really a napkin to have Rick investigate the opportunity to write a script. A year later, he came back to us with a script. There were very few things we asked him to change.”
Watching the movie, Abbate said he was struck at how accurate it was.
“That’s 94 percent of our words coming out of the actor’s mouths,” he said. “It’s kind of surreal to see what happened to our family in a 90-minute film. To me, it’s almost healing.”
They also saw an opportunity through this movie to show how tragedy can bring a community together, and also to send a positive message about the importance of organ donations.
“That’s our desire, that the movie will spread awareness of organ donations,” Abbate said, noting that the young woman, Casey, who got Luke’s heart has met the family.
“When the movie was actually filmed, we had not met Casey, the heart recipient,” he said. “Then we had an opportunity to meet Casey. She is doing quite well. It was an honor for us to meet her.”
And meeting her, he added, reminded the family that “Part of Luke is still alive today. It’s one of those ‘Wow’ moments you hope for.”
Abbate said he hopes those messages get through to young people.
“Who wants to go see a movie about a boy who died? There has to be something more to it than that,” he said. “What the movie shows is that the entire community wanted to support Jon, and they knew how much it meant to him to win that game. It is very uplifting.”
To learn more about the movie, log on to http://the5thquartermovie.com/ or check out the movie’s Facebook page to learn what theater it’s playing in.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

Poinciana’s transition from bedroom community to jobs generator may owe much to a new online site.

Poinciana has long billed itself as a great place to buy a home. Now the community is ready for jobs, too.

POINCIANA – For years – throughout most of the community’s history, in fact – Poinciana was a bedroom community. People moved here to buy or rent a home, while working somewhere else, most likely the theme parks or in Orlando.
Now the community of 69,000 people, spread out across 10 villages in both Osceola and Polk counties, could be on the verge of having a much healthier mix of jobs and houses. The catalyst for the change is the fact that Osceola Regional Medical Center is planning to build the first hospital in Poinciana, and will break ground this year on the first part of that hospital, a medical arts building.
With those buildings on the way – and the promise of not just new construction jobs, but permanent medical and administrative positions as well — Leo Delgada is sending out the word to the residents of Poinciana: if you have a particular job skill, he wants to know about it.
“We have a new initiative on jobs,” said Delgada. “The hospital is to be built soon, and some of the other commercial buildings around it, and this has become a tool for finding employment in Poinciana. We’ve become a conduit for the developer and getting people into jobs. We’re pretty excited about that.”
Delgada is the president of the Poinciana Digital Village, a Web site that aims to become a creative way to unite the people of Poinciana, and provide them with news about their community and their own village, as well as a source for helping people find jobs. One of the resources available on the site is a section where people can post their resumes so future employers can tap into their skills.
“There’s always a lot of talent here,” Delgada said. “We can communicate between a job applicant and an employer, and we think it has a lot of potential here.”
Traditionally, Poinciana’s villages were mainly filled with residential units. That began to change during the height of the housing boom in 2005-2006, when a growing number of commercial strip plazas opened up, attracting businesses that wanted to provide services to all the new residents moving in here.
The Poinciana hospital, though, may be a game changer for the community, since it has the potential to generate a growing number of spin-off jobs related to the health care industry – or simply new businesses like restaurants hoping to serve the people working at the hospital.
Delgada said residents should act now to let the hospital’s builders know what kind of talent is available in the community.
“Basically, sign up for the site and we are the conduit between the employers and the residents by posting jobs when they become available,” he said. “People can post their resume and make it available to the employer.”
Delgada said he expects Poinciana to begin to see solid and steady job growth in the next few years, changing it from a bedroom community where people work somewhere else to a community where people can find jobs close to their home.
“I think the community leaders see this as an opportunity to have jobs for our people,” he said. “It is a big trend. I think the community has come of age.”
The Poinciana Digital Village was created by the Association of Poinciana Villages, the homeowner’s association for the community, as a way to create a central online location for the entire community, a place where they can get local news, traffic and weather reports, job resources, and more.
“We’re hoping that we become a source of bringing this community together and giving it an identity because it has been years without that,” Delgada said. “I went to a school budget committee meeting and I was amazed at the activities going on at the school, and they have no way to advertise that to the community. There may be volunteer opportunities with the schools and nobody knows this unless you’re right there in front of them.”
It also enables the homeowners association to reach out to more residents — assuming they sign up for the site, Delgada said.
“This is absolutely going to help even for the APV to communicate with people,” he said. “They don’t have a lot of email addresses.”

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

Orlando bicyclist starts a blog to chronicle his bike trips — and to pay tribute to the man who gave him that bike.

Dave McConnell has started a blog that will chronicle his activities on his mountain bike -- while also paying tribute to someone special.

ORLANDO – About a year ago, Dave McConnell’s love for biking across Central Florida attracted the attention of his cousin Nathan, who had just bought a new Schwinn Mountain Bike.
“My cousin Nathan decided he wanted to get a bike and start riding,” McConnell said. “We rode one time, on May 1, 2010. We went out to Snowhill,” the mountain bike park in Sanford.
“That was the first time that I know of that Nathan rode his bike, and probably the last time,” McConnell said.
On Tuesday, McConnell, who lives in Orlando, started a blog, one he refers to as “a sort of online journal of my bike rides. Nothing extreme. Not making any Mountain Dew commercials.”
He plans to routinely update the blog with photos and narratives of his travels around Greater Orlando – “just me using a bike instead of a car whenever possible,” he noted on his Facebook page.
There’s a larger purpose to this blog than describing great places to ride a bike in a region where the auto is still king. The blog is being called, “Nate’s Bike,” because McConnell is now riding that same Schwinn Mountain Bike that his cousin Nathan bought last May. It many ways, the blog is a tribute to his cousin.
“I’m always riding a bike, so rather than my own, I want to ride Nathan’s,” he said. “I’m going to keep riding, but I want to take him with me. I’ll ride his bike for him.”
To Dave McConnell, this blog also says a lot about how close his family really is – and how much the family came together last summer, following a horrible tragedy that shocked not only the McConnell family, but the entire state.
Last August, McConnell’s uncle Elroy “Roy” McConnell, 51, a triathlete and accountant, was taking a beach vacation in St. Petersburg with his sons Elroy “Roy” III, 28, Nathan, 24, and Kelly, 19.
All four family members were tragically killed by a drunk driver ooperating a Chevrolet Impala who ran a red light, hitting the family head on. Demetrius D. Jordan, 20, the driver of the Impala, was later charged with four counts of DUI manslaughter, DUI causing serious bodily injury and possession of alcohol by a minor.
Dave McConnell, who also participates in triathlons, said it was his Uncle Roy who got him involved in this enhilarating outdoor physical activity.
“The whole reason I do these triathlons is Uncle Roy,” he said. “Uncle Roy got into these triathlons running and swimming. He was really big into it. When he died in that accident, my Uncle Jim, his brother, got into it as well. He spoke at Uncle Roy’s funeral, and one thing people kept asking me was, ‘Has this tragedy brought your family closer together?’ Uncle Jim said it best at the funeral – ‘We’ve always been close.’ ”
McConnell, a local educator, said it’s been difficult coping with this tragedy, particularly by taking the advice most people offer him: to moveg on.
“That whole move on thing … what philosopher or genius said ‘You have to move on,’ “ he asked. “I don’t believe it. Who is to say that the future is any better?”
If it’s been difficult to put the deaths, and the impact they had on his family, fully behind him, McConnell said he has drawn some strength from thinking about the way his late Uncle Roy viewed triathlons as being a spiritual as well as athletic mission.
“I got involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes with Roy,” he said. “It’s a global organization of athletes who, rather than compete for personal gain, use sports as a ministry. Uncle Roy, he was a good steward of what God gave him. Uncle Roy said, ‘I pray while I run.’ He was competing for Christ, that’s what he does. That’s the kind of guy Uncle Roy was.”
Is that why McConnell started the blog? Probably not, he said.
“This is not necessarily spiritual for me,” he said. “Right now, it’s Dave out riding, having a good time, taking Nathan’s bike with me.”
After Nathan’s death, he said, “his wife called me. Nathan had a lot of friends and a lot of things that went to a lot of people, and she called me and said, ‘You know he got this bike so he could ride with you,’ and she wanted me to have it.”
The blog, then, is McConnell’s way to share his love of biking – and to remember Nathan, his beloved cousin.
“Have you ever seen the bridge that goes over Semoran Boulevard? That’s a bike trail,” he said. “It’s a really cool view. You get to see and do a lot of cool stuff on a bike, and ultimately you get to shed calories.”
How long does he plan to keep blogging?
“I’m going to do it until the wheels fall off,” McConnell said. “That’s just me. I’ll do it until I can’t any more.”
To view the blog, log on to http://natesbike.blogspot.com/ and become a subscriber.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando @Gmail.com.

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