March Newsletter: Adventure + Inspiration + Wellness with Jill Wheeler
Big Ideas + What to do with Them
Photo: Mary Carol Photography
Jill Wheeler with her girls and the Wellfit Girls Challenge girls
I’m just going to say it like it is. I was afraid to move to Florida seven years ago. Leaving Boulder, Colorado, I felt like I was leaving an appendage behind, a part of me. Actually, my entire identity. My biggest fear was moving to a place that was retired. The vision I had of Florida was a place where people turned off their brains to relax and frolic in the sand, water and sun. I also knew that it was dead flat, and as a climber, mountaineer and trail runner, that seemed beyond boring, and I believed I would not meet anyone I could relate to. I truly believed I’d either be surrounded by bingo and bunko playing retirees or bouncing babies on the laps of trophy wives and young stay-at-home mothers who got their M.R.S. in marrying up. I have never admitted this out loud, but it’s true. I was afraid I wouldn’t fit in. I also believed I had to leave everything I loved behind because I couldn’t balance motherhood with my passions and interests.
Having lived in Boulder for nine years, and Santa Cruz before that, I was accustomed to the vitality of university communities, progressive ideas, and eco-conscious activism, not to mention having access to live music, art, dance, knowledge and adventure.
At the time we decided to move, I was a new mother (and wife for that matter) and I decided having less distractions, like hills full of rocks to climb every day, live music every night of the week and favorite friends to play with, would make me a more focused and better mother and wife. While I had a bigger goal in mind–a transition from me world to we world–I struggled for years with my sense of belonging in SWFL.
It was my ego and attachment to external measures that caused my suffering. Holding on to the notion that I should be somewhere else and doing what I used to do wasn’t allowing me to be my full self where I was in the moment. I’ll never forget the last moments leaving Colorado in my friend’s driveway. She said, “you’re going to make new friends, it’s going to be great.” Through tears and sobs I replied, “no I won’t. I don’t want any friends. My friends are here.” It was messy and pathetic. Granted I had a 1 year-old baby and another bun in the oven, so I must have been a hormonal train wreck on top of the self-imposed despair of leaving Boulder.
Q + A with Mary Carol
Mary Carol Fitzgerald is a lifestyle portrait, event & travel photographer. With a love for creation and embracing what inspires us most, Mary Carol is drawn to those with passion. Whether it be an athlete exemplifying the art of perseverance and dedication to a painter in mid-stroke of a masterpiece, from a musician sending vibrations of energy into a crowd, to an entrepreneur following their dream and owning their own business, all of this intertwined is what makes us who we are as human beings, with what we thrive to become leading us into the universal flow of life.
It’s in the mere moments and details within that we capture this essence of living.Born in Park Ridge, Illinois, Mary Carol moved to Naples, Florida with her family in 1988. After graduating from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida with a B.A. in English Literature and a minor in Writing and Australian Studies, she moved back to Naples and joined her family working in the real estate field. As a favorite pastime of hers was spending endless hours in the high school darkroom, she knew that photography was her true passion, and she picked up her camera again and started shooting.
Today, Mary Carol can be found footing the streets of Chicago, boating on the Gulf of Mexico waters or exploring around the globe, photographing every aspect of her journeys whether it be for business or pleasure.Whatever your photographic needs may be, contact MC! She’ll work with you to provide quality and timeless photography with a genuine smile and an artistic touch.
How did you get interested in photography?
A friend that I recently re-connected with asked me this the other day. It just so happened we were looking at another friend’s collage of images under a piece of glass on her coffee table and I suddenly discovered a deeper layer of how I initially started taking photos. Growing up, in my parent’s home, there were big panoramic style framed collages of family, real old-timey style. These collages were also found gracing the walls of both sides of my grandparents’ and aunts’ and uncles’ homes.
Looking at the glass coffee table, I suddenly realized that when I was in the 6th grade, I started photographing friends at school—on field trips, adventures with the Girl Scouts, and so on. I would then create my own collages by getting poster boards and making memory masterpieces of my own. From then on I became obsessed with this form of hands on creation while also interacting with friends in another dimension of the creation process. Soon after I discovered this craft, I joined the yearbook staff in middle school where I was then able to showcase my photos along with my writing. Thanks to an incredible yearbook teacher, Ms. Mitchell (at the time), this led me to the head photographer position in high school being a part of an award-winning yearbook every year in a row.
What is lifestyle photography and/or the kind of photography you do?
My interpretation for the kind of lifestyle photography I do is capturing real people in their real environment—showcasing individuals in their ‘style’ of life. As my work started to develop professionally, I realized a common theme was that I was helping other individuals develop their personal or business brand at the same time through my photography. Whether it’s for work, pleasure, or both work and pleasure, generally, my client’s purpose in being photographed is to visually tell their audience who they are as authentic individuals in the sense of how do they want their visual brand to be perceived?
We then go from that point forward in terms of location scouting, wardrobe, etc.Other than photographing engagement sessions and special events, whether I’m photographing athletes & entrepreneurs, to corporate business headshots for corporate businesses, or single professionals in need of a profile update, I offer lifestyle portrait shoots that can be customized for anyone.
What made you want to be a part of the Wellfit Girls Challenge?
When I learned about the Wellfit Girls Challenge, it immediately caught my attention. I had recently returned from Peru, which was a life changing experience—a spiritual quest and photographic journey led from my heart and soul. When Jill approached me about getting involved in WGC, I practically heard angels singing.I had desired to get involved in something to be of service, with what I knew how to do best, and be able to share not only my knowledge about photography, but my excitement for life and the unending belief that we can really do anything we put our mind to…even more so, if our heart and mind are in sync. We have all the power in the universe to have, be, and do anything we wish. I learned this along my journey to discovery of self within the past several years after moving to Chicago on my own. My Peru experience was a reinforcement of this empowerment on many different levels—spiritually, mentally and physically…I made a decision to make a leap to follow my passion of having my own successful entrepreneurial business photographing, writing, and exploring the world.
Everything I have learned, believe and have accomplished is by my own proof of experience and came to me by the power of thought. Any knowledge I have now has always been there. It took me a little while to realize the switch to the Light was there the entire time. It was a matter of me wanting badly enough to get out of the darkness. I only hope to share and to make a difference with others who are in a prime state to receive this gift of knowledge and who are open to a push in the right direction to know that they can be, do, or have anything they want in this life and beyond.
What are your top 3 favorite places you’ve visited?
As a traveler since the age of 15, I wouldn’t want to make other places jealous but I would have to say some of my most favorites are all near the sea…The Turks & Caicos Islands where I can sink my toes into white sand beaches, dive deep into the crystal clear turquoise waters hearing the pure serenity of silence below, and enjoy what I believe to be the freshest cracked conch ceviche on the planet.
A rugged beach town in the Southern Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica still echoes in my mind. The taste of salty ocean air consumes my senses hearing the crashing waves, and feeling the warmth of ocean breezes sift through my hair.
I also loved Panama, Peru, Italy, and Greece
Where and what do you enjoy photographing the most?
My senses are on high…I use them all. I embrace the sight of texture and color as much as I feel a brick wall when I set my hands to touch it. I embrace the entire scene of a setting and focus in on the details as they are the foundation of the bigger picture. It is about the story that is to be told with all surrounding elements.I love exchanging energy through the lens with my fitness gurus and entrepreneurs just as much as it sets me in motion when I have the opportunity to capture the details within and the backdrops of our surroundings.
The joy of children running on the beach in Costa Rica, the potcakes (stray dogs) of the Turks & Caicos Islands, old Italian men sitting in the shade outside of a café playing cards—a close up of the old Italian men’s hands holding the cards, a fisherman in Panama steering a rustic wooden boat, the planks of the rustic boat, the Caribbean color of homes that set a backdrop to the island pups, the plaid shirt and USA ball cap worn by the kids seeing their reflection in the eye of the lens.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Making a decision to move to Chicago, and immersing myself into a new life. It’s all about making a decision. Moving to a big city can be pretty intimidating. Coming from the small southwest Florida town of Naples, it really didn’t take me long to realize that Chicago is a really big town and Naples is really simply a small city. No intimidation factor necessary.
That decision has led me to feel the energy of city life in my veins, it has taken me on travels through my being that I never imagined, blessed by a world full of life, love and wonder while still being able to travel back and forth to Naples to spend quality time with family and friends continuing to build upon my dreams of being free, working for myself, photographing the life of the world.
Who has been your greatest role model and inspiration and why?
My greatest role model and inspiration would without a doubt be my father. His awesome calm demeanor has been reflected throughout my life. He puts his family first. He lacks judgment of others. He never discriminates. He always congratulates. And he has always had the mentality of stand up and try again—and again—and again. He is a wise man. He has gone through the battles of life and continued to have the courage to stand up and ask for another battle until he got it right. His message of “This too shall pass” when times are tough, is a sign of keep pushing forward. Any obstacle or ‘temporary’ hardship is simply that…it does not last forever.
Believe in yourself. Keep pushing. Don’t stop running in the fog when you think you have had enough just because you can’t see the finish line because it could be three feet in front of you. Keep going. You have it in you. Never. Give. Up. He thinks with his mind. He changes his world with his thoughts. He comes from the decedents of the Fighting Irish. He is a fighter and a survivor. He’s a healer. He is a believer in God. He is gentle with his touch. He is kind with his words. He is loving with his thoughts. He is my father. He will forever be on the forefront as my greatest role model and inspiration to know and to love in this life and beyond.
When you think of the word passion, what comes to mind?
A burning desire…
In three words only, describe yourself:
Free Spirited, Outgoing, Determined
Be a part of something that is inspiring and changing lives
Peaks Foundation Wellfit Girls Challenge is well underway. We kicked off our five-month wellness, fitness and leadership program in January in Naples and began filming our documentary, but Wellfit Girls Challenge is more than just a movie, it’s a movement.
The 11 carefully selected girls are doing great, and learning about fitness, yoga, nutrition and preparing for our expedition to Peru in May, but most importantly, they’re empowering themselves and their community.
Our hope is for the film to have a global impact, spreading the Wellfit Girls Challenge mentality that women and girls can change the world.From depression to insecurities to poverty, these girls and teen girls around the world face real issues and challenges in their daily lives.
The Wellfit girls have each agreed to share their story and transformation along the way. Their lives will be forever changed with new relationships and experiences. Through these adventures, these unlikeliest of heroes will share a new sense of discovery and achievement together and as individuals. They are certain to undergo personal transformations, finding inspiration that will help to shape the future of their lives.
We ask that you consider making a financial contribution to our program. No amount is too small. Every dollar will go directly to the program and set a foundation for future expeditions. Please take a moment to visit our First Giving Page. Here you will find more information about Wellfit Girls Challenge and more on ways to share our message.
All donations are secure and sent directly to Peaks Foundation Wellfit Girls Challenge by FirstGiving, who will email you a printable record of your donation.
Please share our page with any of your friends and family that may be inspired to donate as well.
From Left to Right
Top Row: Angelica, Andrea, Alexis, Kendall, Maria, Guadalupe, Daisy, and Selena
Bottom Row: Evelyn and Eloisa
Not Pictured: Riley
FOLLOW Wellfit Girls Challenge on FACEBOOK
BENEFITING WELLFIT GIRLS CHALLENGE
Join us Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 6 p.m. for unlimited caviar, sushi and wine at OSETRA in Downtown Naples
$60/person benefiting WELLFIT GIRLS CHALLENGE!
RSVP AND PAYMENT AHEAD OF TIME REQUIRED
Milos: 646-361-7279 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Colby: 715-297-6233 or email@example.com
Adventure Speaker Series
Inspire + Entertain
PRESENTED BY WELLFIT INSTITUTE
RYAN VAN DUZER
Television Presenter, Cyclist and Travel Video Journalist and Flimmaker
FREE | LULULEMON ATHLETICA
Wellfitinstitute.com | 239.595.3199
Save the Date!
Upcoming Wellfit Adventure Events
3RD ANNUAL EVERGLADES BIKE + YOGA ADVENTURE
8:30 A.M. – 3:00 P.M.
$125 INCLUDES gourmet, organic Wellfit lunch, bike rental, yoga, + ADVENTURE!
SPACE STILL AVAILABLE
Wellfitinstitute.com | 239.595.3199
JUNE 26-29, 2014
THE ULTIMATE GIRLS WEEKEND ADVENTURE
Upscale camping in Vintage Airstreams on a Boulder estate
Cutting edge cuisine, cocktails on cruiser bikes, hiking, rock climbing, live music, art, yoga + wellness
LIMITED NUMBER OF OPENINGS
INQUIRE DIRECTLY TO DISCUSS APPLICATION PROCESS
Wellfitinstitute.com | 239.595.3199
DECEMBER 4-9, 2014 | $2,095
6 days/5 nights in Bahia Salinas, Costa Rica
Experience kiteboarding from a yoga mindset in the culturally, ecologically and spiritually rich Costa Rica
Enhance mind, body and spirit through adventure sport, nutrition, yoga and friendship
LIMITED NUMBER OF OPENINGS
INQUIRE DIRECTLY TO APPLY
Wellfitinstitute.com | 239.595.3199
Mention this newsletter and receive $150 off your registration if you book before March 31