Reston, VA

On Nov. 19, The Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce held its 2020 Awards for Chamber Excellence (ACE), recognizing the most engaged businesses, members and committees of the Chamber community over the last year.

In past years, awardees are honored in June at an annual membership meeting luncheon, according to a press release from the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce.

However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the luncheon could not take place. Instead, the Chamber held a virtual event to recognize and appreciate the honorees for their hard work and contributions. 

The 2020 ACE Award Winners are:

The full list of ACE sponsors and nominees can be viewed on the award website

The 2020-2021 Chamber Board of Directors was also announced after being confirmed by membership in June.

Image courtesy of the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce

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Voting is officially open for Chik-fil-A’s True Inspiration Award.  Cornerstones of Reston was chosen alongside five other finalists competing for up to $150K to help support local families. 

The finalists for this award, chosen in October, must provide community support in education, fighting hunger and diminishing homelessness, according to a statement from Chick-fil-A North Point Village. 

Cornerstones has served the Northern Virginia community for more than 50 years, and they primarily reach communities of color.  The non-profit was nominated by the North Point Village Chick-fil-A for their service to the community and action on the three pillars listed, according to the statement. 

“There is no better organization than Cornerstones, that we as a community-based restaurant (Chik-fil-A) should partner with,” said Larry Everett, the Operator of Chick-fil-A North Point Village. “I am honored to know that Cornerstones will possibly receive up to $150,000 to continue impacting the Northern Virginia Area.”

Voting can be completed through the Chick-fil-A app until Nov. 21. The Grand Prize winner will receive $150K, while three other winners will receive from $50K to $100K for the Northeast Region. 

Chick-fil-A also committed to give more than $5 million dollars this year to local organizations whose primary focus is on communities of color through education, hunger and homelessness, according to the statement. 

Photo via Chik-fil-A/Facebook

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Reston Community Center’s YouTube Channel was a named recipient of an award at the 65th annual Virginia Parks and Recreation Society Conference this week.

Virginia Recreation and Park Society is a nonprofit and professional organization designed to unify all professionals, students, and interested laypersons engaged in the field of recreation, parks and other leisure services in Virginia. Its annual conference, hosted remotely this year, is a five-day event with different workshops, a keynote speaker, and awards ceremony.

RCC’s YouTube channel was awarded on the third day of the conference for “Most Innovative Marketing Strategy” for 2019 (population 50,001-100,000).

Created last October, RCC’s YouTube channel was designed “to bring more content to patrons and tell the story of RCC through video,” according to Fairfax County’s press release.

Here’s more from RCC on the award:

The five-minute films look at RCC’s founding by involved community members. The way the local community theatre organization enjoys RCC’s professional theatre; how RCC supports low-income and recent immigrant communities; how RCC impacted the assimilation of one family who emigrated from Peru 20 years ago; RCC’s role in producing free, offsite community events such as concerts, art installations and children’s activities; and all that happens – from free Community Coffee to professional performing arts productions – on a busy Saturday at RCC.

RCC was one of 97 applicants for 14 different award categories. The awards given honor those who exemplify excellence in programming, personnel, marking, and more, the press release said.

Other categories included Outstanding New Professional, Distinguished Volunteer Service, Best Health and Wealth Initiative and more.

Photo via Charlotte Geary

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Escape Room Herndon was named one of TripAdvisor’s 2020 Travelers’ Choice Award winners for Fun & Games. 

The winners are decided based on a full year of reviews and are known for constantly receiving great player feedback that places them in the top 10 percent of hospitality businesses around the world, according to a press release. 

Escape Room Herndon is located at 406 Elden St., and was also rated the #1 Escape Room in Virginia by TripAdvisor, according to their website. The business closed its doors on March 16th with the onset of COVID-19 but was able to reopen to the public on July 3rd after restrictions eased. 

The facility has put new protocols in place to ensure safety when playing, including restricting the number of groups at a time, glove and mask requirements and more time between games to clean.

“We put in a one hour gap between games so we can extensively clean as much as possible, as well as allowing the room to ‘breathe,'” said Omar Aru, the owner of Escape Room Herndon. 

Since reopening, business has been slower than in past summers, according to Aru, with numbers at about 30 percent of that of last year. Fewer players and fewer games each day contribute to the downturn. However, Aru said guests report feeling safe the whole time. 

In addition to in-person fun, Escape Room Herndon also offers an online game called Back To The Present with 5-10 minute puzzles to play from home. 

“I think it’s more important than ever to find fun and safe activities to break away from screens and the current monotony for everyday life to create positive memories we can hold onto,” said Aru. “Escape Rooms present an immersive engaging game that gives you a chance to forget about the outside world just for a little bit and have a fun shared adventure.”

Photo courtesy of Omar Aru

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The Fairfax County Park Foundation (FCPF) will honor The Friends of Riverbend Park (FORB) with the 2020 Eakin Philanthropy Award at a virtual ceremony in November for its support of Riverbend Park programs and projects.

 FORB has donated more than $85,600 through the Park Foundation, according to a statement from the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA).

The donations have funded forest restoration and environmental field trips to Riverbend Park for the education of Title I school students. FORB has also paid for multiple summer intern awards and unfunded needs of Riverbend Park staff, as well as equipment for the park, according to the statement. 

FORB was formalized in 2018 by ratifying a Fairfax County Park Authority Friends Group Memorandum of Understanding with the Park Authority Board.

The FCPF created the Eakin Philanthropy Award in 2009 to honor the Eakin family who donated the first parcels of the parkland to the Park Authority more than 50 years ago, according to the statement.

The award is given annually to recognize individuals and organizations whose financial or in-kind contributions have supported Fairfax County parks through the foundation.

Photo via the Fairfax County Park Authority

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Leslie Painter, a volunteer at Frying Pan Farm Park, is one of three recipients of an award honoring volunteers at Fairfax County parks.

The county announced the winners of the Elly Doyle Service Awards last week. “The purpose of the award is to publicly recognize a volunteer or group of volunteers for outstanding contributions to Fairfax County parks,” the announcement noted.

From the announcement:

Leslie Painter has been a volunteer at Frying Pan Farm Park for more than a decade. As secretary of the Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park Board, she has provided a wealth of technology support for the Board and park staff.

The avid horsewoman also teaches equestrian sessions, helps manage shows at the park, and is quick to volunteer when any work needs to be done — from serving meals to cleaning the barn to running major events. She has made a major impact on the Friends’ fundraising efforts by increasing participation and managing the paperwork and responses to the group’s many donors.

The other winners included volunteers with Colvin Run Mill and the Olander and Margaret Banks Neighborhood Park.

The award is named after a former Fairfax County Park Authority board chairman, who helped preserve parkland and create natural and recreational areas in the county.

The county plans to honor the three winners during a virtual ceremony in November.

Photo via Fairfax County

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Reston Hospital Center ranked as the 14th best hospital in Virginia, according to rankings released by the U.S. News & World Report.

The hospital also ranked high in cardiology, heart surgery, and orthopedics.

Rankings are determined by analyzing data from 5,000 medical centers and survey responses from more than 30,000 physicians.

The University of Virginia Medical Center ranked as the best hospital in Virginia.

“We are committed to the care and improvement of human life,” said John Deardorff, President and CEO of Reston Hospital Center and HCA’s Northern Virginia market. “Our medical staff and care team live this mission and strive for excellence in everything we do. We are proud to receive this national recognition from U.S. News.”

The rankings were determined based on pre-COVID-19 metrics. 

Reston Hospital Center is a 231-bed medical facility that is part of the HCA Virginia Health System.

Photo via Reston Hospital Center

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Two Reston companies were recognized in D.C. Inno’s 2020 Inno on Fire, which recognizes people, companies, initiatives and organizations driving innovations in the area. 

SOC Telemed is a Reston telemedicine provider that found new success with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and the increased need for telehealth, according to the writer of the article, Sara Gilgore. By March, SOC Telemed had 600 health systems and counting looking to start emergency medicine programs. As a result, the company continued to grow its team. SOC is run by interim CEO Paul Ricci.

Parabon NanoLabs is a small Reston DNA company that has been involved in identifying suspects and aiding in police cases, according to Gilgore. This year, the company got its own TV docuseries called “The Genetic Detective” on ABC. The show follows the genetic genealogy division and the head of the unit, CeCe Moore. Two years ago, Moore was hired to build the division, and since then the company has helped in about 500 police cases and has identified 109 positive suspects, according to Gilgore. 

D.C. Inno finalists are found from nominations and editorial coverage and then selected by the D.C. Inno team, according to Gilgore.

Photo via Parabon NanoLabs

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The Washington Post has named Jesse Kraft, the principal of Coates Elementary School, the principal of the year.

Kraft was selected from a group of 19 finalists who lead schools in Virginia, Maryland, and the District. His leadership during stay-at-home orders was highlighted by staff and community members who said that Kraft worked to ensure mental health resources were available students. He also used the school’s Facebook page to share lessons when the school system faced major hurdles with its rollout of distance learning.

Here’s more from Fairfax County Public Schools on Kraft:

 “Jesse has taken strides to make our community feel welcome and to partner with them as much as possible,” says nominator Josie Mani, gifted education teacher. “He has made Coates more inviting and welcoming to all. We have bright, colorful murals and artwork inside, and welcoming signs and banners outside. Jesse invites community members, such as churches, businesses and the Coates family.” And Kraft has worked with these community organizations to encourage their involvement at Coates, including mentoring students.


“He is the face that welcomes these new students to our school,” adds Mani. “He maintains an active social media presence and even learned some Spanish so that he could further connect the school and community. Coates’ parent liaison writes,”Mr. Kraft is always there to listen and support ideas and make them a reality. His example of humility, a love of learning, and care for others motivates everyone at Coates ES to be better employees, parents, and students.” The combination of diverse programs for parents has drawn many additional parents to volunteer at the school.


Kraft is a frequent visitor in classrooms, where he observes, encourages, and teaches.  Math and reading resource teachers are called upon to help build teacher capacities and enhance their practices. Still a teacher at heart, Kraft teaches Positivity Project lessons, quarterly grade-level assemblies, and is teaching upper level students the fine art of public speaking in a series of lessons dubbed “Talk Like a Boss.”

Kraft, who has been the principal of Coates ES since 2016, began his career in FCPS as a teacher at Newington Forest Elementary in 1996. He then served as assistant principal at Westlawn Elementary and Oak Hill Elementary. In 2009, he was the principal of Providence Elementary. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and was named FCPS Outstanding First Year Principal in 2010.

Photo via FCPS

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Reston Association’s tennis programs are getting a nod from a national organization next month.

The Professional Tennis Registry, a South Carolina-based organization that aims to educate and certify tennis teachers around the world, named RA the “Public Facility of the Year.”

Here’s more from RA on the award and its tennis offerings:

RA tennis programming had a solid 2019, with 550 junior (ages 3-17) lesson-takers from beginners to 4.5-level advanced players. More than 350 adults took lessons. RA works hand-in-hand with the USTA to hosts tournaments for all age groups and levels of play. More than 350 players participate in GWTA, NVTL, Reston Team Tennis and senior leagues. The associatioon also promotes tennis via its scholarship program.

RA has 52 tennis courts across more than 1,300 acres of land, including six permanent courts for children’s tennis.

PTR will present the award at a symposium in South Carolina next month.

Photo courtesy of RA

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If the person next door is always ready to lend a helping hand or make your day better, Town of Herndon officials want to hear from you.

The town is accepting nominations for its Good Neighbor Award. The deadline for submissions is Jan. 31.

Only town residents can nominate a family member, friend or neighbor how makes noteworthy contributions toward the quality of life in local neighborhoods, according to the town. Recipients must be residents of the Town of Herndon and cannot have performed acts of good neighborliness for paid employment.

The town mayor and council will recognize Good Neighbor Award recipients at a future public meeting and all recipients will receive a commemorative gift.

Nominations can be submitted online.

The award is part of the town’s Cultivating Community initiative, which aims to encourage beautification and the enrichment of quality of life in the town’s neighborhoods.

Photo via Town of Herndon Government

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