Pinball Wizard, a Leadership Bonita Success Story

It’s hard to believe that one day can be a turning point in your life, and everything can change in that moment.  It did for Chris Griffith, a graduate of our Leadership Bonita Program.  For those who do not know, Leadership Bonita is a 9 month program which provides quality leadership training and introduces participants to how the interconnected engine of our community runs.    

Four years ago, during a tour of the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida with her Leadership Bonita Class, Griffith sighted an out-of-order Spider Man pinball machine in the corner of a small room in the Chrissy Brown Inpatient Hematology/Oncology Unit.  For months the hospital had been searching for someone who could repair the machine, and Griffith happened to have a contact. 

When looking at the count of total plays, it was determined that the machine had literally been played until it could run no more, a total of 21,332 times.  Three weeks later, after hours of repair and $1,000 worth of parts, the machine was returned to its home at the hospital.  The machine motivates young patients to get back on their feet and have some fun, and is also a light-hearted encouraging way to give the support staff and family of patients a recreational activity to participate in.

What is now a successful charity, Project Pinball, was spawned from the influx of stories shared by others after the pinball machine was returned to the hospital that day four years ago.  The charity maintains and repairs the pinball machines at the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.  While, Griffith never saw her life taking this turn, she is now listing off dates of upcoming pinball tournaments by heart and even has a machine in her office! 

So, after hearing Griffith’s story, the challenge is on and we pass the torch to YOU!  What will you do or what have you done as a graduate of the Leadership Bonita Program?  We encourage you to share your success stories with us.


July 22, 2014 at 3:52 pm Leave a comment

Bonita Springs Area Young Professionals Have Me Impressed!

Have you noticed the recent awakening of the Bonita Springs Area Young Professionals group? While I am admitting to being over qualified age-wise, I had to see what the buzz was about. So last week I attended the YP social event at Burger 21 in Gulf Coast Town Center and was monumentally impressed. Over 70 professionally-dressed energetic young adults were in attendance shaking hands, exchanging business cards, enjoying food and drink samples, and most importantly building relationships.

There is something important to be said about this energized new group. I think the entire business community could actually take a few lessons from these budding leaders. What I observed I would classify as ‘efficient networking.’ It appeared as if attendees were incorporating their so called millennial fast-paced lifestyle into a new age of relationship building. They made their way around the room like seasoned networkers, but with a heightened zest for the ‘sport.’ And, there was something for everyone. I heard people talking about the next professional development seminar for first-time home buyers, and looking forward to the outing on the beach in August because, true to form, millennials crave solid work life balance!

I am most proud, however, to announce that our Bonita Springs Area Young Professionals has started building regional community partnerships. In June, they built a mutually-beneficial annual partnership with the Florida Gulf Coast University Alumni Association. In our Chamber world, we like to say partnerships are created when ‘our mission’s match’ and I think these two groups are two peas in a pod. If you don’t know, five of my nine staff members have graduated from FGCU in the past eight years, two with both undergraduate and master’s degrees. This is just another example of how the FGCU Alumni Association’s mission goes beyond caps and gowns, and we are proud they chose to align themselves with our team.

The connections happening in this age demographic are vital for our region in relation to community building, workforce retention and successful economic development. Join me in applauding the Bonita Springs Area Young Professionals Steering Committee for their exceptional efforts building this essential component to southwest Florida’s economic engine.

Get involved today in this happening group of up-and-coming leaders! Learn about the Bonita Springs Area YP’s on Facebook at To be added to their email list, reach out to And, if you don’t fit the 21-40 age group, please encourage the young professionals in your company to get involved! It truly will enhance the success of your organization.

By: Christine Ross, MBA, MS, CCE ,IOM, President & CEO, Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce and Executive Director, Bonita Springs Estero Economic Development Council

July 18, 2014 at 3:32 pm Leave a comment

Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce Hosts Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for Elite Payment Systems, LLC

The Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting ceremony for Elite Payment Systems, LLC on Wednesday, July 9th to help welcome them to the Chamber. They are located at 2338 Immokalee Road, Suite #242 Naples, Florida 34110.

Elite Payment Systems, LLC opened its doors in Naples in 2006. This is their second location with their corporate office being in Brookfield, WI. With more than a half century of experience, they strive to take all payment solutions to the elite level. They offer a full line of payment services, including merchant processing, mobile device processing options and virtual terminal options. Elite Payment Systems, LLC is committed to customer retention by keeping costs low yet still setting a high standard of personal service.

John Maciosek, owner of the Florida office, has been in the business for over 25 years and is endorsed by the Florida Bankers Association. He takes pride in the work his company does.  Maciosek said, “We have been in this industry a long time and know it well. We take care of our customers and that’s why we have the reputation we do.”

For more information on Elite Payment Systems, LLC, visit their website at or call (239) 405-7604­­­­Elite Payment Systems Ribbon Cutting

July 10, 2014 at 6:23 pm Leave a comment

Did You Know?

If you look beyond the sunny, white beaches and stunning scenery you’ll see the Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce has fostered a new way of thinking for businesses throughout the region. They work hard to connect businesses by creating strategic alliances. Small to large businesses have sought out the guidance and resources of the Chamber not only to succeed, but to create strong bonds and visibility within the community.

One bond the Chamber is proud of is the new partnership between their Bonita Springs Area Young Professionals group and the Florida Gulf Coast University Alumni Association. The partnership has established an avenue for graduates to be connected to local businesses, find and build their careers, and become permanent fixtures in the community. Events held by the Bonita Springs Area YPs, such as Wake-Up Young Professionals Breakfasts and Meet-and-Greet Socials, enable graduates and students in their senior year at FGCU to be involved with the continued development of the City of Bonita Springs and surrounding communities.

Working closely with the Chamber, the Bonita Springs Economic Development Council (BSEEDC) is committed to building a regionally prosperous, sustainable, and economically diverse community. Whether a business is searching for a site to relocate to, or searching for detailed area demographics, the BSEEDC ensures longevity for businesses by standing beside them from the beginning.

On top of all the behind-the-scenes work, the Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce has redefined the motto “work hard, play hard”. Each month, networking events allow Chamber and community members to connect and showcase their services and products. The staff is dedicated to their members, giving them the sense that this is where they want to belong.

-Ginoux Casseus, Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce Intern

July 7, 2014 at 1:18 pm Leave a comment

Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce Welcomes CrossFit Fireball to Bonita Springs with Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

The Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting ceremony for CrossFit Fireball on Wednesday, July 2nd to celebrate the grand opening of their new fitness center located at 24551 Production Circle, Unit #4, Bonita Springs, FL 34135.

CrossFit Fireball opened its doors in Bonita Springs in June 2014. They pride themselves on offering the best training so that members, based on their fitness level, can learn how to correctly perform each movement.

With the fast growing CrossFit community in Southwest Florida, CrossFit Fireball differentiates themselves by catering to all fitness levels and offering an ‘On-Ramp’ class that covers all basic movements and slowly introduces the high intensity of a CrossFit workout so injuries do not occur. From there, they slowly build on the basic movements to get members ready for a CrossFit Group class. Owner, Cody Graffice said, “CrossFit programming is designed for universal scalability, making it the perfect application for any committed individual regardless of experience or current level of fitness. Every first timer at CrossFit Fireball is provided with the opportunity to learn about basic techniques, terminology, pre-workout, warm-ups, and exercises before participating in regular classes.”

In addition to owning CrossFit Fireball, Graffice works for a company called Trane, an HVAC manufacturer. Over the past seven years, Graffice has worked his way up in the company allowing him to have the opportunity to establish a distribution channel for Trane Equipment within Southwest Florida. After relocating to Estero, Graffice was introduced to the sport of CrossFit and has been hooked ever since.

CrossFit Fireball currently has availability on a first-come-first-serve basis for the first 25 joining members to become part of their exclusive, members only “Founders Club”. Members of the “Founders Club” will receive two free personal training sessions ($200 value), two free skill training sessions ($200 value), free admission to events and seminars held at the gym for the next 12 months ($135 value), one free nutrition consultation ($99 value) and a free “Founders Club” T-shirt.

“I would like to thank the City of Bonita Springs for welcoming CrossFit Fireball with open arms. CrossFit is very tight knit community that is always looking to grow and help people in anyway shape or form. Being part of the Bonita Springs Chamber of Commerce reminds me of that community and the support that is fostered within it. I am excited to share with more people what CrossFit actually is and build mutually supportive system with fellow businesses in the Southwest Florida.” Graffice added.

For more information on CrossFit Fireball, visit their website at or call (419) 239-8330. ­­­­

July 3, 2014 at 1:21 pm Leave a comment

Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce Welcomes Budget Friendly Games to Bonita Springs with Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

The Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting ceremony for Budget Friendly Games on Wednesday, June 25th to celebrate their grand opening located at 10347 Bonita Beach Road Southeast, Suite #117, Bonita Springs, FL 34135.

Budget Friendly Games owners, Andrew and Tanya Brown, opened their doors to their location in Bonita Springs two months ago. They specialize in buying, selling, and trading video games and systems, as well as servicing and fixing video game consoles. They now are expanding their inventory to include DVD’s and Manga graphic novels. Budget Friendly Games’ focus is to provide a variety of high-quality games and systems to their customers at an affordable price.

The Browns moved to Bonita Springs from Indiana this past April. Both Air Force Veterans, they are passionate about video games from any era. They said, “We felt that in addition to the ribbon cutting, holding an arcade tournament with a food donation to the Bonita Springs Assistance Office would be a good way to introduce ourselves to the community”.

For more information on Budget Friendly Games, visit their website or call (239) 949-7992.

Displaying Budget Friendly Games Ribbon Cutting.jpg

July 1, 2014 at 5:04 pm Leave a comment

Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce Welcomes New Horizons of SWFL to Bonita Springs with Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

The Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting ceremony for New Horizons of SWFL on Wednesday, June 25th, to celebrate the opening their new Bonita Springs office located at 25300 Bernwood Drive, Suite #7, Bonita Springs, FL 34135.

New Horizons of SWFL has moved their administrative offices to Bonita Springs as of May, 2014.  This opportunity was made available to them as a new agency of Lee County United Way.  Serving over 300 K-12 students, they serve students at Estero United Methodist Church, Estero, Rosemary Park and 1st United Methodist Church in Bonita Springs and East Naples Baptist Church in Naples.  In its 12th year, New Horizons sees the results of long-term engagement in the lives of its students.  Executive Director, Debra Haley, says, “”We are grateful to live and work in a community that cares so much about the quality of the lives of its children.  We could not fulfill our mission without the support of companies, individuals, churches and foundations.  We want to take this opportunity to say thank you from our staff and students.”

New Horizons was founded in 2002 by Ellen and Bob Nichols to help meet the academic and life skill needs of at-risk children in the community.   Ellen serves as New Horizon’s Program Director and Bob as President and also owner of Horizons Yacht Services.  Through their after school tutoring and mentoring, which is provided at no cost to families through the Super Kids Club and Super Teen Club programs, more than 60,000 hours of remedial education and homework assistance are provided each year.  Currently, their summer camps are in full swing with over 240 students enrolled.  These summer camps provide the opportunity for elementary school students to improve their reading skills and for teens to build their leadership skills and enjoy a variety of community activities.

To date, New Horizons has seen 20 graduates from their programs and high school, with many more following in their footsteps.  These students each excelling and becoming young leaders as Vice President of their class, members of JROTC, and scholarship recipients including the competitive Take Stock in Children four year college scholarship, which has been awarded to 10 of New Horizon’s students.

“We are grateful to the Lee County United Way for making this space available and to the many donors who outfitted our office space.  Having these offices for our administrative staff has greatly improved our effectiveness,” Haley added.

For more information on New Horizons of SWFL, visit their website or call (239) 948-4146.


June 26, 2014 at 2:17 pm Leave a comment

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