Getting Results Award winner honors veterans with annual cruise, salute

Mount Dora Patriot Cruise and Salute becoming Veterans Day tradition

Rozann Abato and Carroll Jaskulski are this week's Getting Results Award winners. 

Abato and Jaskulski are the founders of the Mount Dora Patriot Cruise and Salute. The annual Veterans Day celebration takes place on the shores of Mt. Dora's Gilbert Park.

Each year between 10 and 30 veterans and their families are treated to a two-hour recreational boat tour on the Harris chain of lakes. The celebration continues with a color guard salute and prime rib lunch.

"It hit me that we need to do something to give back," Abato said. "Freedom is not free. Someone paid for it and it's our veterans who payed for this and it was given to us."

Abato laughs when she thinks about how the event started back in 2012. The inspiration came from a TV news segment she saw showing a similar cruise in Northern Virginia. Patients from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center are taken for an afternoon ride down the Potomac River every July Fourth.

"I thought, you know we have plenty of patriotic Americans in Lake County, we have Gilbert Park, we have public docks down there," Abato said. "If there's ever a place that's set up better to do this than Mt. Dora I don't know where it could possibly be."

There was just one problem.

"My husband came back from the gym and I said 'Here's what I saw on TV do you think we should do this?'" Abato recalled telling her husband.

Her husband Carroll Jaskulski replied, "Well other than the fact that we don't own a boat, we don't know anybody that owns a boat and we don't particularly know any veterans, yeah, I don't see why we couldn't do this."

Just as Abato predicted, they found plenty of volunteers willing to help and in less than six months the first Mt. Dora patriot Cruise and Salute was held on Veterans Day.

"It's a peaceful place to be, you just float around and it's just a feel-good time," Abato said. "I think that's what our veterans get out of it, they can relax out here." 

Abato was nominated for the Getting Results Award by veteran Oscar Morris, who participated in this year's cruise.

"It's no easy task to do what she does to put this together," he wrote. "She has chosen the best of the best volunteers. They made us feel like royalty."

Abato is already planning next year's cruise but says the event is about as big as it will get. She says the small sense of community is what makes it special.

"We're out there on the docks taking pictures, the firetruck and waterfall, the big flag hanging down, all these people waving American flags," Abato said. "Yeah, it feels good."

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