Meet Chelsea

A young girl with talent and a promising future

I was recently at St Matthew’s House after corresponding with Fawn Volkert, the Director of Development there. She told me there was someone she wanted me to meet and talk to. She “used to play the viola” and having had a discussion about the Gobble Gobble with her and finding out that the Race Director was in the Naples Philharmonic she had reacted with great interest.


Chelsea at St Matthew’s House with Race Director Matthew Sonneborn

I sat down in a chair and was introduced to a beaming, optimistic, charismatic articulate young 27-year-old individual named Chelsea. What happened next I can only begin to describe after I simply invited her to tell her story. Fawn and I were in tears for a good part of the interview. I had no idea how much of her story had direct ties to some of my colleagues and workplace, and what a seemingly bright future she had in front of her. As a member of the Naples Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, she was selected as a soloist and performed with Naples Philharmonic on several occasions.

In addition to having considerable talent as a musician, she was also a ballet dancer and had danced with Miami City Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. She also at one point had danced with the Boston Ballet in a summer program.


Things were not completely what they seemed

In her school years, problems were with an eating disorder which she didn’t attribute to the pressures of being a ballerina (which can be considerable) but from a character trait she became aware of later. Her self-esteem and body image issues that she had felt warranted this type of behavior, but early on largely slipped under the radar.

It wasn’t until she graduated with this glimmering bright career ahead of her, already having shown considerable talent in music and dance as a gifted artist that she made her way to her first 6 months of college at Kent State.

“I found myself quickly in relationships that darkened me being betrayed and affecting my self-esteem.The pain was too much and I just wanted to feel numb. I was not the type of drinker that wanted to have one beer or even to enjoy alcohol. I wanted the quickest route to not feeling anything there was and being extremely petite it took very little for me to black out.

That was all it took for what follows in the next part of life to open up a rabbit hole she has been trying to crawl back out of ever since. I wish I could tell you, she slept it off, got up the next day went to school and became the Principal Violist of the Cleveland Orchestra or is now a member of the Juilliard String Quartet on tour in Japan.  Life was not like that.  Try to believe in the possibility of a much better life for Chelsea now, that forgiveness is possible and that these miracles happen for people at St Matthew’s House over and over again.

Things take terrible turns for the worse. Addiction and consequence.

Chelsea was in and out of failed relationships and that lead to binge drinking to numb the pain.
“I found myself driving the wrong way on highway 41 in the rain barely bypassing a lake and cannot remember how I got myself to my boyfriend’s house after at the time.”
As she puts it, “I almost wish I had gotten a DUI then.” Three months later on December 27 of 2009, she had her first tangible consequence as she drove while blacked out trying to numb her pain. Chelsea’s DUI involved nearly killing two pedestrians. It was not only a miracle they lived but that they testified in her defense to not serve a significant prison sentence. She bonded out of jail only to experiment with more drugs. She felt so much shame and humiliation. She couldn’t understand why she didn’t get hurt nor could she remember. As she put it, “I began dissociating and became clinically insane at the moment when using: it was like visiting hell. I didn’t love myself or who I was. I was stuck in a stronghold in a pit.” She couldn’t logically understand why she would want to revisit and keep repeating this process that was making her miserable, but the cycle did just that.

“Not long after, I was caught driving with a suspended license, I faced 17 years in prison, but was able to get out after 9 months with 5 years probation. I became pregnant with my first child. The hardest thing was having my first child in prison. When I left the hospital I called my family who cared for the baby and I just had to leave him. My mom took him and luckily my mom is a nurse anyway.”

Transitioning to freedom with addiction.

Though it was a great start, giving her the freedom after she had done her time was not enough:

I fell into drinking and back into bad habits.I found myself now with a child and another on the way. I went into counseling and got some help. I felt the pregnancy was the reason for me to get straight. I managed through AA and Southwest Florida Counseling to stay sober to have the child in July of 2014. My addiction still proved too difficult to manage with children. I found myself arrested for child neglect. The arrest was a blessing and yet another wake-up call. I had no contact with them. When I was in jail was when I heard about Justin’s Place. It has been the best thing I have ever done. My life is committed to Christ, my kids are back in my life.

Her mother has been caring for them in the meantime. That was back on December 1st of 2014. She will graduate from the program within the next few months. Currently, she is a barista at St Matthew’s House’s M25 Cafe and had prior experience as one in her youth for many years and is helping to train others.

The unwritten chapters that lie ahead..

Her goals now involve getting back to her viola. “I feel I have a God-given talent and that I can inspire others. It is pure joy. Music is eternal. God forgives me. I just want to play for God’s glory.” She hopes to play at the celebration of hope with her sister who is a professional violinist who went to Kent State where Chelsea’s scholarship was.

One of her goals is to someday run in a half marathon and complete it. Running has been one of the most positive things in her recovery. We want to help Chelsea do that. We will be calling on our resources and follow up with her to get her an entry and a training schedule and check in on her progress towards achieving her goal. She has already entered the Gobble Gobble Four Miler with Development Director Fawn Volkert so we look forward to the celebration of seeing them this Thanksgiving together at the race crossing the finish line. We also send regards from members of the viola section of the Naples Philharmonic who send their best wishes and are so proud of her for her efforts in recovery.

The coming chapters are yet to be written. We wish the best for Chelsea knowing that the odds are not necessarily in her favor. It takes the right influences habits and faith that stick a lifetime to complete her journey. At St. Matthew’s House they transform lives.

I can report a happy ending so far for our friend and Justin’s Place graduate Jonathan Hargrove who ran the Gobble Gobble last year and we will check in with him for a full report. Wedding bells, employment, clean and happy is the spoiler alert.

Jonathan and Brittany

Please consider donating to Director Fawn Volkert and Chelsea’s page to raise funds for St Matthew’s House or when you register for the Gobble Gobble.

Got parking questions?

We’ve Got Answers! Everything you wanted to know about parking but were afraid to ask!

Getting In Early?

If you are on the early side, we have a lot of space in La Mer which is 250 yds from the start line. Nice!

Carpooling with 4 or more?

If you happen to have four or more in you vehicle, park at Venetian Village directly in the Carpool Only lot—Sweet!

Want to save your energy for the race?

If that is too far a walk, Park at Northern Trust or Trianon Center (across the street from Northern Trust) and hop on one of the 3 continuous shuttles — no waiting, practically door to door service. (It is a little under a mile if you decide to walk/jog if you prefer that. On Race Day that is a perfect warm up for serious runners). Practically Door to door!

Don’t mind a little walk before the race?

If you want to try and park at St John’s Episcopal at Crayton and Parkshore before 7 it is less than you would walk to a subway station in New York perhaps. Approximately .4 Miles walk. Fuggetaboutit..I’ve got this!

Biking it in?

Be green and use the bike valet. Show up having gotten a nice bike warmup in and leave whenever you want, no worries as our free bike valet personnel from Trek Bicycles of Naples get you your bike. Anyone who has done this has absolutely loved it!

Friendly Reminders

A gentle reminder that under no circumstances is it OK to park on neighborhood lawns. Please be respectful to area residents.

As with any race we always recommend you getting there on the early side to feel warmed up, have time to pickup your packet if you didn’t get to or register, use restrooms, find your start areas and get acquainted with your surroundings.

Packet Pickup on Race Day starts at 6AM. Have a friend or family member that can pickup your packet early on Wednesday 11/26, or can you be there? We highly recommend this option. (see packet pickup info here)

Northern-TrustTrianon St-johnsparking

Re-Cycle Project just launched!

It is a privilege to announce that with the help of Naples Velo, Tish Kelly, and yours truly (Matt Sonneborn, Race Director) an effort is launching to help those in need in our County. The Re~cycle project wants to re-purpose your gently used bicycle equipment for those in need here in Collier County.


While the Gobble Gobble Four Miler™ champions green initiatives through cup free racing and encouraging participants to ride their bike to the race, we are very aware of the current local bicycle safety issues. One of the “hot spots” for accidents in Naples is near one of our charity recipients, St Matthew’s House.

Residents of St Matthew’s House must often utilize bikes as their principal form of transportation. We want to make sure that this necessity is also safe choice. A great start to this is providing them with helmets, ways to be visible, using lights at night, and bikes that are well maintained. We are asking people to donate your gently used bicycle equipment for those in need in Collier County. This could be anything from helmets and chains to pedals and wheels. There are many in need in our community to consider: many depend on their bikes for transportation to work, commuting during hours without daylight.

Look for the bins at most area bicycle shops within the week. Trek Bicycles of Naples managing our bike valet once again this year and sponsoring the Gobble Gobble.

We will also collect these items at Packet Pickup at Fit2Run and at the Gobble Gobble race day at Venetian Village. As always if you have canned goods or can take a look at their current needs page here! Please do bring an item for St Matthew’s House and we’ll make sure and get it to them after the race.

The bigger conversation we need to have on bike safety will be ongoing. Our state has the unfortunate ranking of being the worst and deadliest in that category at that moment. Let’s remember to give our friends and neighbors out there a couple of extra seconds to pass safely and respectfully in a motor vehicle. To cyclists, let’s continue to be smart, courteous and respectful so we can be good “spokespeople.” We can all learn a bit more about what the laws in place are.

Let’s show them that Naples cares! Pitch in that gently used old gear to make a potentially life changing difference.

Fit2run hosts 2014 Packet Pickup

Fit 2 Run Packet Pickup
Gobble Gobble Packet Pickup is at Coastland Center Mall at Fit2Run on Wednesday Nov.26th from 10 am-6:30 pm

There will also be Race Day pickup, if necessary, at Venetian Village on the day of the race. Early Pickup for friends is greatly encouraged. Be sure to park on the Fleischmann Blvd side as pictured above (click image to see enlarged detail).

Fundraising Challenge!

Attention Foodies!

We are proud to announce that Chef Brian Roland and Chef David Robbins have teamed up for a truly amazing Fundraiser prize! This year’s winner of the Fundraising Challenge will have an amazing meal prepared in their home by these great Chefs. You must raise at least $1000 for the charities to be eligible, the top fundraiser takes the prize.

Setting up a fundraising page is simple.

Visit this link and follow the instructions:
We invite everyone to set up a page and compete! Everybody wins, all donations are linked directly to the individual charity’s accounts.

Chef Brian Roland

Chef Brian Roland

The celebrated Executive Chef of M Waterfront Grille in Naples, Chef Brian owns two new innovative businesses: He is president of Florida Food Consultants, a networking concept designed to improve the restaurant industry. His second endeavor, “Crave Culinaire by Chef Brian Roland”, introduces an ultramodern take on catering.  Crave Culinaire’s elegant services span from full event planning, catering events, to chic, artistic private meals prepared for the most prominent palates.

Visit his site for more information:

David Robbins

Chef David Robbins

David works with FoodSense Culinary Consulting and Concierge Services (Including: Professional Consultant to Mereday’s Fine Dining at Naples Bay Resort, rated the #1 restaurant in Naples, FL 2014 – Gulf Shore Life) 
Visit his site for more information:

In the words of Emeril Lagasse, let’s “turn it up a notch” to help our local charities. Thanks in advance to these Naples Top Chefs!

Three types of recovery?

Matt Reedy of Leapfrog Athletics recently posted about the three types of Recovery. Every runner should know about, and be incorporating, these key principles.

Check out this short video or visit the full blog post at Leapfrog Athletics.

Meet Elite Events


We feel privileged to once again have Elite Events as an official sponsor of the Gobble Gobble Four Miler, helping us manage equipment and the finish line. Their assistance and professional expertise is invaluable. I sat down to chat with Jaeden Hamernik and asked him to tell me how Elite Events came to be.

“I used to come back from college in the summers and there was really only a 4th of July event during those months. My family all loves to race so we decided to start a summer series back in 2010. We were really just trying to fill a void in the community during a time there were no other events scheduled.”

In addition to family events, they also saw a need for triathlons and duathlons since there were so few of these types of events in and around Naples. During the first year, Elite Events had around 400 participants and have since grown to a number of over 4000 participants annually, amazing in so short a time span.

“At our events, we like to have music, and create a festive and social atmosphere. We go 5 deep with awards, and take great care and thought to make our website user friendly. We even developed our own registration system.”

Naples Fall Classic Half Marathon

Since then, they have added mud runs, a marathon, and a second half marathon. It has been a labor of love for the Hamerniks. Their Inaugural Naples Fall Classic Half Marathon on November 23 should be a gorgeous new course:

“The New Naples Fall Classic Half Marathon features miles of scenic waterfront views, brand new nature trails, bridges and so much more.”

Bridge Elite Events

“The scenic course will showcase the brand new Isles of Collier Preserve neighborhood, Naples Botanical Gardens, East Naples Park, and Sugden Regional Park while finishing in front of the lake front stadium amphitheater full of fans inside the beautiful Sugden Regional Park.”

Half Marathon start

If you decide to enter the Half Marathon event, we will provide you a code to save 10% on the Gobble Gobble when you register for both events. Simply email your registration number to us at and we will provide you the discount code.

Why the Gobble Gobble Four Miler?

The Gobble Gobble is special to Jaeden, as it was the first race he ever ran in Naples. He loves the festive and friendly atmosphere, the beautiful course, and ongoing traditions with this event at Venetian Village.

Jaeden and Elite Events jumped in to assist the Gobble Gobble in 2013. Thanks to Jaeden and Elite Events’ assistance, the 13th Annual Gobble Gobble was still able to give nearly $25,000 to area charities last year, even with registration limited by construction in the area. They are dedicated to supporting this event, acting as sponsors and partners to make sure everything is professional, exceeding the quality you have come to expect from this fantastic event. They are also big fans of helping out charities on this special day, doing the right thing for their community. That has always been the focus of this event.

You can learn all things Elite Events at their website here:

Shameless plug for our Amazing Tech shirts!

tech shirts

We couldn’t resist sharing these amazing tech shirts with you. Not your ordinary cotton T-shirts, these high quality, sweat-wicking shirts will keep you dry throughout the race. The first 1500 registered gobble runners will receive one of these custom tech running shirts, a $25 retail value.

Register Today!

Meet Dr. Todd Vedder and the 95210 Kids on the Go! Program

Dr. VedderDr. Todd Vedder, a pediatrician for the NCH Healthcare system, also chairs the Safe and Healthy Children’s Coalition of Collier County. Here is his philosophy:

“If we can protect our children from tragedy and help children make healthier choices, we have done a great deal toward insuring these children will indeed fulfill their developmental potential and become the next generation of great individuals.”

In Collier County Public Schools, 23% of our school children are obese. As a pediatrician, Dr. Vedder became frustrated with the epidemic of childhood obesity. He realized that 20 minutes each year at an annual checkup was not going to be enough to combat this gargantuan problem. So Vedder, as he likes to say, “began to think outside the juice box.” (He likes to get kids away from sweet juices to water right away.)


The 95210 concept had been introduced to him at a conference in Boston years before. He began by reaching out to community partners to help focus on this growing problem. The coalition already had a great start addressing drowning prevention with education and pro-active swim lessons and a start on preventing deaths from co-sleeping or sudden infant death syndrome. 95210 was the arm of the program which would focus on addressing local inactivity and obesity epidemics threatening the quality of health of our youngest generation. The program also encourages breastfeeding.

Dr. Vedder at the Color RunDr. Vedder liked that the numbers were easy to remember: 9 represents the number hours of sleep a child should get each day, 5 signifies the number of servings of fresh fruits and veggies one should consume each day; 2 is the maximum amount of screen time – TV/ video games – a child should view each day; 1 hour of physical activity as mentioned and the 0 reminds children to avoid all sugary beverages and tobacco products. Also BFF= breastfeeding for the first year.

When asked how this program has changed his own family, he said this. “I realized that I had to stop drinking soda. I couldn’t very well be telling everyone to give up sugary beverages with a soda can in my hand.” He also mentioned that when out for dinner, his kids (without prompting) will choose a vegetable and drink water as their choice of beverage. It all starts with making little changes. He feels a lot better without the soda and a great weight has been lifted off his shoulders.

Dr. Veddar is excited for the future. A technology company has developed an affordable and motivating wrist band for kids that tracks exercise. Already, his son Charley is having friendly competition with Andrés, the son of SHCCCC’s Executive Director. (See the blog about Paula here)


The company is called ‘Movband’ and it tracks your number of ‘moves.’ The ‘Movband’ promotes a friendly and cooperative environment for competition between schools, teacher to teacher, student to student. The motivation is what really gets kids excited and technology speaks to them. The ‘Movband’ also provides new layers of data to track the effectiveness of the program. At $29.99/a unit, they are much more affordable than comparable devices. Since this 95210 program is in lower income schools and free for the kids, it is important we try to raise money to get enough of these out there for the kids to use. Learn more about Movband.

You can make a donation to 95210 during your registration or become a fundraiser directly here on our fundraising page for 95210.

What are Principals and students saying about 95210?

Megan Leiti, Mike Davis Elementary School – Vice Principal

“The Kids on the Go (KOTG) program has been a huge success at Mike Davis Elementary. With recess time being slowly diminished, this program provides the opportunity for our students to get exercise every morning. The effects of this are two-fold. Our students are getting much needed exercise, and this increase in their blood flow is helping their brains get ready to learn. Our students love to go outside in the mornings and do their laps. Inerlda Antoine, a third grader says, “I go to the Running Club in the mornings because I want to get healthy. It makes me exercise and I want to be healthy. I used to be tired after running, but now my muscles are used to it.

This program has also been an amazing asset to the already wonderful things that are going on at MDE. Our students are exercising in the morning with our Running Club, which incorporates the positive effects of learning about 95210 and how they can use it in their daily lives and throughout their lifetimes”.

Gerry Shadely – Mike Davis Elementary School PE Teacher
“This year we have around 850 kids that attend our school. At Mike Davis Elementary, we offer three different clubs each morning, “Kid’s on the Go”, Science Club and Chess Club. Each one of the clubs is very popular. Many kids participate in all three clubs on different days of the week.

Our kids love coming out in the morning to get some exercise. “Kid’s On The Go” has been very popular at all grade levels, K – 5. In the last two months, a total of 531 kids have participated at least once. Each morning we average around 180 kids walking or jogging. A total of 270 kids that have walked/jogged at least 10 miles, and 165 more kids have walked/jogged at least 5 miles.

“Kid’s On The Go” is a fantastic way to get the morning started. Better yet is the life – long healthy habits that the 95210 massage is delivering on a daily basis to our kids and their families”.


Meet Jonathan Hargrove

Jonathan and BrittanyJonathan is a Communications Assistant at St. Matthew’s House. Jonathan is also a graduate of Justin’s Place at St. Matthew’s House and a rehabilitated drug user. He first came to St Matthew’s House in 2010. He was an addict, scared to reach out for help. He had gone from one place to another trying to find a solution to his problem. When he arrived at Justin’s Place he felt that he had found what he was looking for: happy people living a healthy lifestyle. “When I first came into the program we would go to the gym at 5am. I couldn’t stand it. I was the guy in the corner with a hoodie and a cigarette outside the gym. I couldn’t figure out why I was so miserable. I began to exercise and to run. I found something that I loved and my constant heartache and depression went away.”

September 24th marks the seven year anniversary of an event that left Jonathan feeling bitter, depressed, selfish and single minded. Life dealt him a tough blow when his hand got caught in a steel roller at work, leaving his hand permanently scarred. At the time, he tried to escape from everything and everyone.

He has come a long way from being the guy in the hoodie with smokes. Jonathan says that the irony is that now people look at him and think, why are YOU exercising at 5AM and can’t wait to do it? Not only does it help when he finds himself struggling but it also serves as a preventative therapy for him. Through fitness and the environment at Justin’s Place he has become optimistic, full of confidence and positive self esteem.

Jonathan and Joshua


Jonathan inspired his eleven year old son to start running, placing 3rd in the 2 Mile at a Cross County meet. When he began, his two boys would ride the bike along with him on runs. They saw him working so hard. Whenever Jonathan would go for a run his boys would say “yeah he’s going for a run!”. His 11 yr old son living in Georgia wants to be able to run with dad. He absolutely loves it. Joanthan says ,“It can be hard sometimes to find that common bond and this is a great one.”

Jonathan continues to work for St Matthew’s House, building and recovering lives with them. After hearing Jonathan’s testimony at Justin’s Place graduation, Fawn Volkert, the Director of Development, asked him if he could intern in development. He is now a crucial part of getting St. Matthew’s mission across through social media, website, and film. He is challenged everyday working at St Matt’s. His colleague with a background in broadcasting and video, Robert Burns, is training him well. They are a great team, passionate about capturing a great interview.

Gobble Gobble

Jonathan has signed up for the Gobble Gobble and has started his very own fundraising page.
Jonathan’s Fundraising Page (he must raise $250 for a free entry). Please consider helping Jonathan achieve his goal or start your own fundraising campaign here.