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2022 Honor of Distinction & Category Winners Stories

Honor of Distinction Winner: Anne Marie Copelin, Marriott Sanibel Harbour Resort & Spa

AnneMarie Copelin

Our 2022 Honor of Distinction winner’s consistent professionalism, compassion, enthusiasm and tireless work ethic is so incredible.

Anne Marie Copelin has an eye for the details. One nominator shared: “From our first visit to the tasting, to the week stay for the wedding this individual was simply amazing! She is the perfect example of what great hospitality should be. Her willingness to take time to sit with us and make sure she knew exactly what we were looking for on our big day, along with her attention to every detail the week of (welcome party, wedding rehearsal and wedding day), made our wedding week perfect and beyond any expectation we could have had.

Copelin received many additional sentiments of couples planning destination weddings who stated she was quick to respond, attentive, patient, dedicated, passionate and professional. She made each of them feel comfortable and secure knowing they would have a fabulous event with her at the helm.

Her colleagues have shared that she has leadership skills and a positive attitude that encourages them to never give up even when things get tough.

Copelin makes a difference in the lives of her colleagues and guests alike. A story was shared with us about a guest at the resort whose son had gone missing. She remained calm, gathered a team, and began the search for the little boy. After a long 20 minutes, he was located and reunited with his mother who was extremely grateful to our Honor of Distinction winner.


Accommodations: Allison Wood, Holiday Inn Express & Suites Fort Myers Airport

Wood, Allison

Allison Wood is a true professional in customer service.

In the early morning hours of April 2, 2022 thousands of travelers experienced canceled flights due to a variety of factors. This left thousands of people seeking hotel accommodations in the early morning hours. I was travelling with my two young boys and the situation was chaotic to say the least. The situation became a scary one for us as I am a single mom and disabled veteran and being in such a situation with my two young boys was terrifying. We contacted the hotel’s main toll-free number and were erroneously advised there was a vacancy at this particular location. We took an Uber to the location and the front desk representative regretfully advised us we were advised erroneously. My boys and I were near tears. We knew we couldn't go back to the airport as it was filled with people running around and trying to sleep all over the place and we were growing very scared at where we would go. Wood, seeing our distress, began seeking accommodations for us elsewhere at a pace I cannot describe in words. She was using both her computer and her phone at the same time and after some time she found us a hotel with a vacancy. We still do not know how she was able to find that hotel. It was very close to where we were and she helped all of us feel so much better. The next hurdle became trying to find a mode of transportation to that hotel as we were having a hard time getting an Uber to come to our location at 2:00 a.m., and once again this individual began trying to find us transportation.

While this was unfolding a man that was very hostile was trying to address getting a room with her and she handled THAT with grace and respect all while trying to calm me and my little boys down, find us a hotel and find us transportation. I am a retired military officer and I have not seen that kind of fast, calm action since I was deployed overseas in combat. She was the utmost professional and managed multiple tasks with a sensibility we all hope we might encounter under such circumstances. As a former commander I would tell my troops that we only truly know we are professionals when we are under pressure and tested. She went above and beyond, and she literally saved us that night. I am thankful to God for the blessing of being sent there by mistake. Without her help I don't know what we would have done, and I feared our safety would have been in danger. I am forever grateful to her for being there for us in our time of need.


Attractions: Kaitlyn D'Alessandro, Casa Ybel Resort

D'Alessandro, Kaitlyn

Kaitlyn D'Alessandro is most definitely an innovator – using creativity, available resources and imagination to make each guests stay special.

One nominator simply said “you can always count on above and beyond customer service. She is creative, engaging, friendly, and problem-solving, and she’s great with customers of all ages.”

Another shared “We have been coming to the resort for 35 years with our family. For the last six years, D'Alessandro has managed the recreation department. She is an exceptional service provider. She is fun, polite, professional, energetic and provides everything guests need. She remembers each guest from year to year and has things ready for them long before they get here and always remembers how her customers like their set ups to be. She is inclusionary. When there wasn’t any representation for our cultural background, she made sure to make decorations that made everyone feel included in our holiday celebrations. She goes out of her way to do special things for every individual she serves. She’s always smiling, she’s down to earth, the children love her! She makes sure that she has special activities for them. I’ve seen her deal with clients who I thought were awful to her and yet she dealt with them by being direct, polite and professional. If there’s ever a problem that we have on vacation this individual is the person that will fix it. In short, our vacation would not be the same nor would it be anywhere near as good without her and all the hard work she puts in and making sure her clients have a good time. We absolutely love her!”


Restaurants: Kyle Kuhn, The Island Cow

Kyle, Kuhn

This individual inspired an entire establishment of patrons while creating a memory that will last a lifetime for this family!

As the nominator shared: Kyle Kuhn has touched so many of our guests’ lives throughout the years. Last week he had a party of 10 people who were celebrating their son’s departure to the military and this nominee, being an air force disabled veteran, took a very personal interest in this boys future. He rang the bell and announced this boy’s achievements and what his future was going to hold. All our patrons and staff of over a hundred people stood up and applauded. The whole place was emotional as was my nominee, who had a hard time finishing his speech. As the night was coming to an end the family was so gracious and very moved by Kuhn's recognition for their brave son.


Transportation: Diane Phillips, Lee County Port Authority

Phillips, Diane

Diane Phillips is the definition of an innovator! Each and every day she works to reunite the traveling public with their lost items. This nominee can often be seen on a mission at RSW tracking down a lost item – always with a smile.

One nominator shared: “During season this spring, a small clutch purse was turned into the information booth and I brought it to this nominee. She carefully documented every item in the purse and found the owner's driver's license was missing. Using the owner's name on credit cards, she was able to use her detective skills to find a local address and phone number for the owner. She contacted the owner's husband who was thrilled to learn that his wife's purse had been found with all its contents. Phillip's then arranged for the husband to pick it up. His poor wife had flown out that morning with just her driver's license and three dollars in her pocket. She saved the day for another passenger! She is truly an amazing and dedicated asset to RSW!

She takes care of each individual that enters her office with patience and kindness no matter if their lost item is a trinket or an heirloom.


Other Services/Businesses: Clare Harris, Billy's Bike Rentals

Clare Harris

Luckily for this visitor, Clare Harris happened to be in the right place at the right time.

The visitor shared, “Several months ago, I was riding my bike over the Sanibel Causeway and rode over some debris which caused both of my tires to flatten beyond repair. As I was walking my bike on the causeway, Harris generously stopped and asked me if I was ok. After seeing my flattened tires, she loaded me and my bike into her truck and took me to the bike shop.

I told her that I had no money with me, and she insisted on repairing my tires nonetheless-- which she did excellently.

She clearly went above and beyond when it came to helping me.


Good Samaritan: Michael O'Connell, Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa


Some people make a huge impact on your life, this Good Samaritan does that on a daily basis.

As the nominator shared – Taking care of employees and coworkers is as important a job as taking care of our guests. Michael O'Connell is close to a foster parent to one of our employees, Fred, who is hearing and speech impaired. It is not what he does during the time the employee is at work, but what he does outside of his area of responsibility! O'Connell assists Fred with errands, takes him to dinner once a week and helps drive him places. He offers his time, and many times also funds, to look after the employee, and never asks for anything in return. Earlier this year Fred had issues with his special ADA phone! O'Connell took it upon himself to get it all taken care of for Fred, even though it was not one quick phone call, but days and weeks of talking to companies, visiting shops and offices. He did not rest until this was resolved and completed, and Fred could once again make calls. In another instance, Fred got a note that the rent for his apartment would rise to a level that he could not afford to live in the area any longer!! A story just too common lately. Once again, O'Connell came to the rescue! He assisted his employee in finding a new place to rent, physically helping him move, and get settled with his new roommate.

O'Connell continues to drive Fred to and from work and is currently helping to arrange transportation. It is incredible to think about all the little things he has done for Fred over the last years. He is making a difference in a person’s life that is not as fortunate as we all are!


Tourism Boss: Yevonne Ellerbee, Lovers Key Resort

Ellerbee, Yevonne

Here are a few good reasons why Yevonne Ellerbee was chosen —


  • Is encouraging, uplifting, always wears a smile and pushes her staff both professionally and personally to be the best versions of themselves.
  • Fosters an inclusive, well organized and family-oriented work environment
  • Never fails to jump in and help ANY department when needed. She will get her hands dirty, by helping housekeeping clean rooms or fold laundry, hands on with checking in guests in the guest services department, and guests always love to see her helping maintenance by skimming the pool in heels.
  • Somehow finds the time to cook or bake something for the staff weekly. Whether it be southern boiled peanuts, full course meals, or her *nearly* famous banana pudding, this individual will make sure we have fuel to stay energized throughout our shifts.
  • And last but not least celebrates random days of appreciation, where she takes the time to individually make handwritten cards, make muffins, and our favorite, potluck Fridays, are always a special treat.


Tourism Boss: Bill Waichulis, Pink Shell Beach Resort & Spa

Bill Waichulis

Bill is dedicated, leads by example, offers a listening ear, and encourages employees to be the best they can be. Here are just a few examples of why he was chosen as our second winner. 

His colleagues shared that he…

  • Fosters a culture and work environment that makes you want to get up and go to work and encourages employees with monthly luncheons, reward programs, and an annual awards gala.
  • Has an open-door policy and invites one person from every department to attend a monthly meeting and share concerns, ideas and opportunities. 
  • Offers a pick me up via an old, restored candy machine that sits in front of his office. All he asks for in return is a “hello!”
  • Treats his employees fairly and with respect
  • Is approachable, a good listener, and believes no idea is too outrageous and that you can dream big.
  • Finally, his focus is to foster the team spirit with all departments of the resort and he supports and encourages each department head to come up with their own team events, outings, and rewards.