Cypress Junction Montessori Staff Member Wins 6th Annual Celebrity Lip Sync Battle
by James Coulter
Anyone who knows ReNata Baker knows she is a true survivor. She works hard, and her effort more than pays off. For that reason, she performed “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child at the SixthAnnual Celebrity Lip Sync Battle.
For three years, Baker has been attending the annual fundraiser for Cypress Junction Montessori and the Public Education Partnership (PEP). This year, she was honored to win first place for judge’s choice, a true testament that she is a “survivor,” much to her performance’s sake.
“I told my boss that I was going to get it for him, [that] we were going to bring the trophy back again,” she said.
Baker serves as an executive administrative assistant and athletic coordinator at Cypress Junction Montessori. Not only is it an honor for her to have performed at their fundraiser for three years, but to win first place this year.
She owed her success to her backup dancers for accompanying her, her colleague, Carlos, for setting up the routine, and her mother for creating her dresses for her performances.
Baker performed “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child during the second act of the show. Her first performance that evening was “Just Fine” by Mary J. Blige.
“I loved ‘Survivor’ because I am a survivor,” she said. “I love the atmosphere and kids [out here]. I just love being out here, and it is just wonderful.”
The Sixth Annual Celebrity Lip Sync Battle was hosted at Chain of Lakes Stadium in Winter Haven. The annual fundraiser allows local celebrities to compete against each other to see who can put on the best performance while lip-syncing to popular songs.
Baker won first place in the judge’s choice. Second place went to Heather Reuter, senior planner in the City of Winter Haven planning division. Third place went to David Nicholson, an employee for the City of Winter Haven.
The winner for the audience’s choice went to Heather Reuter, who dressed up as Dolly Parton and the King himself, Elvis Presley, during her performances of “9 to 5” and “Jailhouse Rock” respectively.
“I have been a diehard Elvis fan ever since I was young, so this was a dream come true,” she said. “And who doesn’t love being Dolly?”
Reuter loved being able to perform that evening with her team and dressing up in many colorful costumes. She also loves participating in such a great event that gives back to two great local organizations.
“I am a member of the board for Cypress Junction Montessori, and all three of my sons go there,” she explained. “So this has been an exciting endeavor to help them personally as well as anyone else involved with the public education partnership.”
Also participating that evening were Maude Graham, a third-grade reading teacher at Rosabelle W. Blake Academy and the 2021 Polk County Teacher of the Year, and Frederick Heid
Superintendent of Polk County Public Schools.
Throughout the year, the contestants helped raise money for the fundraiser. This year’s event raised a fundraising record of more than $37,564. The contestant who helped raise the most was David Nicholson, who raised $9,476.
This year’s event exceeded their fundraising goal from last year, and it sold as many tickets as last year, explained Katrina Hill, Board of Directors for Cypress Gardens Montessori and Public Education Partnership.
“Really, it is the contestants that allow us to be successful,” she said. “We have local celebrities that compete for us every year and do all of our fundraisings. So the credit for the fundraising and drawing in the crowd and making it entertaining goes to them.”
For the second consecutive year, the event was hosted at the Chain of Lakes Stadium. Last year’s event was also hosted outdoors due to the COVID-19 crisis.
“Everybody loved being outside so much we brought it back this year outdoors instead of going back into the theater and having a bigger crowd,” Hill said. “It is great to be back together again.”