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Garrett Johnson

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Men Making a Difference

Four Men Who are Making a Difference in the Winter Garden Community

Our community is made up of some amazing people. These four men are just a few of the hundreds of incredible men that make an impact in Winter Garden. There is always more we can do as a community to help serve one another. If you are looking to get more involved, reach out to anyone featured in this issue and they will help get you started! 

Garrett Johnson

Garrett is a born and raised Winter Garden local. He played football his whole life and went on to have a successful career at the University of Kentucky and then played professionally in Chicago. Ultimately, his football career ended and he knew he wanted to work with the youth.

In October of 2019 he established Built on Faith Sports. All his life he had coaches preparing him for the next step in athletics, but no one ever prepared him for what to do once athletics fell away. He feels as though preparing athletes for life outside of athletics is even more important.

With Built on Faith Sports, Garrett holds practices and workouts working on their skills and overall athletic performance but, he also gives young athletes mentorship. Mentoring is important to Garrett because it’s something he wishes he would have had. “Football, and all sports, isn’t going to last you forever. But everything you are doing at practice like showing up on time, giving your all, being a good teammate, taking that extra rep, is preparing you for life,” Garrett said. Garrett’s goal is to continue serving the WG community and help shape the next generation. “There are so many things we can’t control in life but you can always have Faith. Faith is bold, it isn’t lukewarm. So, whatever your purpose is, make sure it’s built on a solid foundation. Faith is what got you on this journey and it’s what is going to help you continue this journey.”

Matthew Krug

Southern Cross Service Dogs (SCSD) has only been established for 2 years, but in that short time, they have made big strides. Matthew Krug and Brandon Marquez teamed up to build a nonprofit organization that will change the lives of thousands. Brandon is a former USMC Special Operations Command Dog Handler (MARSOC) who has a service dog of his own to help with his PTSD. In fact, his dog, Shimanski just received a National Medal of Bravery a few months ago. He and Joey Samuels, who is also a MARSOC and has helped train working dogs for the Royal Family, are the primary service dog trainers at SCSD. Matthew, who is former NYPD, helps with the networking and fundraising for the organization. Their goal is to enable an enriching and fulfilling life by pairing exceptionally trained service dogs with exceptional people to provide an increase in independence and self-reliance. “72% of veterans who have been given a service dog, have already attempted suicide” Matthew said. “Service dogs change these veterans' life. They open the floodgates for them to receive more help from others.” With sponsorships from many celebrities like Bon Jovi and Johnny Damon, a feature on Netflix special “To Be of Service”, they have goals to eventually open a large facility to house and train 20 service dogs a year right here in Winter Garden. However, they still need local support. They held their first fundraising gala this past January, where they raised over $200 thousand dollars. Their galas are named “Always Beside You” which comes from a slogan MARSOC uses for a fallen teammate, “Never above you. Never below you. Always beside you.” SCSD plans on having a celebrity golf tournament and another “Always Beside You” Gala in Orlando in April of next year. “Charity begins at home,” Matthew stated. “Winter Garden is amazing, and the people have opened their hearts to us.”

Mark Kirkland

Born and raised in Apopka as one of 9 kids, Mark has always been a part of this community and had a passion for baseball. “I have a really strong foundation in baseball and family but also community and service” Now that his son plays at WGLL, Mark realized there was a need to revitalize the entire brand. With a background in business development and negotiation, Mark knew he could help WGLL. His idea was to build all artificial turf fields, but it was so much more. This is something our community can take pride in. This is Winter Garden, where good things grow. Mark was able to negotiate to have Legacy Construction build all new synthetic turf fields at an incredible cost, saving thousands. While Mark is the catalyst of this project, he wants everyone to understand there are so many people who have been an integral part of this story. Our city manager, Jon Williams, and Laura Caur, director of parks and rec, were both very involved and a major reason they were able to accomplish this so fast. There were many others including Mayor Rees, James Mooney, president of WGLL, Bo Stock, who redesigned the new WGLL logo and exterior of the concession stand, and Julie ONeil who remodeled the interior of the concession stand. “This is a small example of the amazing things we can accomplish in our own communities when we work together for the benefit of others,” Mark stated. Field one was completed in time for spring season, and they had Mayor Rees throw out the first pitch on opening day! The remaining fields are set to finish at the end of the year.  Since the finish of field one, WGLL has been awarded to host the State All-Star finals in July. “All of this is for the kids,” Mark said. “Some of my best memories growing up were playing baseball with my friends and dad. I saw an opportunity to provide the kids with fields we all wish to play on and thankfully it worked out.”

  • SCSD Always Be With You Gala
  • Matthew Krug and Brandon Maruez
  • Mark and Bre Kirkland
  • New WGLL Turf Field
  • Built on Faith & Next Level Camp
  • Garrett Johnson
  • Garrett Johnson
  • Garrett Johnson
  • Mark Kirkland and Family