Soulful Soother: Dr. Paul O’Leary
Seeing a chiropractor can be a spine-tingling experience, which is why Dr. Paul O’Leary eases his patients’ nerves with compassion. “I do a lot of listening and take plenty of time to go over questions,” says O’Leary, 37, who owns Total Health & Wellness Chiropractic in Jupiter. “It’s important to gain people’s trust and help them feel comfortable.”
In 2014, the Palmer College of Chiropractic alumnus opened his private practice after the doctor he had been working with for three years decided to move his facility farther north. Today, clients—who range from professional athletes to active moms— flock to his office on Toney Penna Drive for O’Leary’s empathetic care and specialized treatments like the “active release technique,”the gold standard in soft-tissue care. “My goal is getting people better quickly and seeing them as little as possible,” says the Jupiter resident.
Born near the Bronx Zoo in New York City, O’Leary was 5 years old when he moved to Palm Beach Gardens with his parents and older brother, Joseph. Living near the beach spawned a lasting devotion to the ocean and surfing, a soulful activity he taught himself. “Surfing has become an addicting hobby,” he says. “Nature has a certain energy that’s absolutely magnetic.” Maintaining equilibrium between his work and personal life is very important to O’Leary, who paddles out between the Juno Beach Pier and the southern end of the Jupiter Inlet whenever the swells are good.
When he’s not breaking waves or mitigating back pain, he can often be found playing piano and drums for local indie band Ghost Lion, which opened for One Republic at SunFest in 2019 and has toured with singer-songwriter Chris Daughtry. “Then chaos started and slammed the brakes on us,” he says, referring to the pandemic.
O’Leary also enjoys spending time at home with his pet, Liddy, a little box turtle that resides in his backyard. He once tried finding her a boyfriend, but the plan backfired. “She was ferocious, and I thought he was going to die of a heart attack,” he says, laughing. “I would love for her to have babies, but I don’t think she’s ready.”
RELATIONSHIP GOALS: “Honest and open communication” GUILTY PLEASURE: “Dark chocolate” FAVORITE ESCAPE: “Visiting my brother in Southern California. We just surf, ride motorcycles, and go exploring.” MOM ALWAYS SAYS: “‘Why do you have your hair long? You have such a nice face.’”
Sharp Shooter: Van Richardson
It was at a very young age that Van Richardson discovered the joy of music. “My brother played all the sports, so my mother said, ‘We’re going to do something different with this child—he’s going to play piano,’” says the 26-year-old Jupiter resident. Richardson learned to play songs by R&B artists like Alicia Keys and John Legend, and when he wasn’t tickling the keys, he was usually performing deafening drum solos in the garage.
While studying at Christian Life Academy, a now-closed private high school in West Palm Beach, he became fascinated by design and aspired to study architecture in college. But that all changed during his senior year. “I wanted to be an architect for the longest time, then I realized I only loved the visual side,” he says. “It’s a lot different when you’re actually the one designing it.”
He went back to his first love, music, and discovered the School of Music & Recording at Full Sail University in Winter Park. He toured the campus, took one look at the recording studios, and promptly enrolled in the recording arts accelerated program. “I went in thinking I’d work at a studio and do background work, but once I got into the degree and how much sound is involved in the industry, that’s what caught me the most,” he says. To combat the stress of late-night studies and long lab hours, he would indulge his visual-arts side, snapping photos with the Pentax camera his father had given him.
He wasn’t ready to relocate to a music hub like Los Angeles, Memphis, or New York, so he returned home with the hope of finding a studio job. But he soon realized Palm Beach County wasn’t much of a music center. “I would tell people what I had majored in, and most didn’t know what I was talking about,” he recalls.
As he searched for a transitory job to cover his rent and living expenses, he also wanted to work off the weight he’d gained at college. He joined Hard Exercise Works (now HEW Fitness) in Wellington, where he embarked on a five-week boot camp workout. After seeing his drive and results, the gym’s owners offered him a position to train members full-time. He completed a five-week internship, then began coaching one-hour interval-training classes that mixed condensed workouts like running and weight lifting.
During a career discussion with his boss, Richardson mentioned his background in photography and video production. “He granted me access to bring in my camera gear and take pictures of the clients,” he says. He also found side work as a second shooter with Robert Perez, Chad Andreo, and other photographers/videographers he had met at the gym.
Four years later (and with his boss’s blessing), he struck out to become a full-time freelance photographer/videographer. Today, he partners with new and established brands in the fitness, sporting, and retail industries and lends his creativity to bringing visual awareness to clients like Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts, Rosemary Square, The Related Group, and HEW Fitness.
Despite his busy schedule, fitness remains a top priority, as well as spending time with people who matter most—like his father, a retired officer with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Says Richardson: “A perfect weekend to me is hanging out with my pops in Port St. Lucie, just grilling, talking, and helping with little projects around his house.”
DREAM GIRL: “Someone with an independent spirit, a big heart, and passion for what she’s doing—who will sing her head off at a concert. I sing to the point where I lost my voice!” FAVORITE MEAL: “I’m a breakfast guy, so I’ll make a big batch of waffles or pancakes and probably use an unnecessary amount of syrup.” ON HIS EARPHONES: “Ben Bergeron’s podcast Chasing Excellence and anything by Jay-Z, J. Cole, and Nipsey Hussle” WOO MOVE: “If I’m with someone cool, I’ll probably want to photograph her all the time.”
Aquatic Angel: Ryan Burgess
Before he moved to South Florida in 1993, Ryan Burgess had never given the cyan depths of the Atlantic Ocean much thought. At 16, the East Lansing, Michigan native moved to Palm Beach Gardens with his family and, at 16, started working for Whitecaps Watersports, an equipment rental company bookended between The Breakers and the former Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Palm Beach. On weekends, he would shepherd tourists and hotel guests around on Jet Skis and teach them how to surf, scuba dive, and parasail. “When I became PADI-certified [Professional Association of Diving Instructors], my love for the ocean took off,” says Burgess, now 37.
After graduating from Palm Beach Gardens High School, he attended the University of South Florida in Tampa for a while, studying business and marine biology. But pursuing higher education just wasn’t in the cards for him, he says.
He had always enjoyed playing golf, so he returned home and became a custom club fitter at the Palm Beach Golf Center. After eight years in the sporting business, he was ready to switch gears. His friend Mark Waite had recently launched Restoration Alliance, a company that restores edifices damaged by fire, water, and mold. In 2015, Waite hired Burgess as a junior estimator, and today the Jupiter resident is an estimator/project director with the company, now under new ownership as First Onsite.
In early 2018, another connection led him to what would become a huge part of his life. An ex-girlfriend sent him a link to Crossing for a Cure (now called The Crossing for Cystic Fibrosis), a charity race Piper’s Angels Foundation hosts to raise money for cystic fibrosis. A few weeks later, he met the charity’s founder, Travis Suit, at Paddlefest. Suit urged Burgess to participate in the 80-mile endurance challenge, which crosses the Gulf Stream beginning in Bimini, Bahamas and culminating in Lake Worth.
At the time, Burgess was only a recreational paddleboarder, but he didn’t need much convincing. “Travis has a way of inspiring people, and he’s so beautiful with words,” he says. “I went home and signed up. I was hooked.”
In the months that led up to The Crossing, he spent endless hours training at the gym and on the water. His family pitched in by dropping him off at random bridges around Palm Beach County to paddle the 5- to 25-mile distances back home. That June, he completed the transatlantic challenge in 16 hours—and he still feels pride in never having left his board to sleep or rest on one of the support boats.
After that, he was thirsty for more. “It’s the best thing in the world when you land on the beach after putting your body and mind through something so epic,” he says. “I’ve been crossing oceans ever since.” In 2019, he became Piper’s Angels’ director of mentorship, preparing the next wave of boarders for the annual odyssey. In January, he hosts a paddle that increases to 20- and 30-mile intervals over a few months, as well as weekend paddling events and training clinics, to condition paddlers for the long journey held in June.
Burgess regards his role advocating for those living with cystic fibrosis as one of his greatest achievements and plans on staying with the nonprofit for the long haul. “There are many things Travis and I want to do to give back and spread love and happiness around the world,” he says. “At the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.”
3 WORDS THAT DESCRIBE ME: “Waterman, driven, energetic” LIVES IN: “Board shorts and rash guards from Ocean Magic” GIVES ME BUTTERFLIES: “Cooking for me is the way to my heart!” WOO MOVE: “I open car doors and engage in real conversation. Being a gentleman is more important than taking someone to a fancy dinner.”
Flourishing Franchisee: Dan Steppling
Long before Dan Steppling became a successful restaurant franchisee, he saw a future mired in medicine. While attending Martin County High School, the Palm City native played football and wrestled while excelling academically in health science and communications. “My best friend at the time and I made a pact that he was going to be a pharmacist and I was going to be a doctor,” says Steppling, now 30. He went off to the University of Central Florida to study pre-med, but two years in he changed his career trajectory to business and switched to a marketing major with a minor in finance. “I was making good grades, but I wasn’t having any fun,” he says, explaining the about-face. “Life is too short to spend your life doing something you aren’t passionate about.”
Growing up, Steppling had worked at his dad’s Subway restaurants in Stuart, Port St. Lucie, and Fort Pierce, learning important business practices like setting goals and maximizing customer satisfaction. At 24, he cashed in on that experience and acquired two of his own Subway franchises (which he co-owned with his brother Josh), in Jensen Beach and Port St. Lucie. “My dad had called me about two failing Subway restaurants and said we should take a look because there were deals to be had,” says Steppling. “When a restaurant goes under right away, it can be super cheap if all you have to do is pay the rent and liens on the equipment.”
Nearly two years later, he purchased his brother’s shares and invested in two more Subways, in Sebastian and Vero Beach (he sold his Martin County properties in 2019). “I built a business model on buying failed franchises and souping them up,” he says. Then, in 2018, he crossed paths with Hurricane Grill & Wings owner Spiro Laskaris, who had recently launched a Greek dining concept called Spiro’s Taverna. Laskaris didn’t mind that Steppling’s experience was vested in fast-casual chains rather than casual-dining restaurants. “Spiro was adamant I could do it and took me under his wing,” says Steppling. “I trained at his Palm City restaurant and excelled fairly quickly.” Today, the Stuart resident owns two Subways and three Spiro’s Taverna locations (Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Melbourne) and plans to accrue more.
While his businesses keep him very busy, Steppling is also an advocate of altruism. He has given back to the communities he was raised in, donating to myriad charities including Citizens for Clean Water and Susan G. Komen Florida, and he sponsors high school clubs and sports programs around Martin and St. Lucie counties. In his spare time, he enjoys running and weight training, family barbecues at his father’s house, and playing two-man touch football with his three brothers.
3 WORDS THAT DESCRIBE ME: “Fun, ambitious, persistent” CURRENT READS:
“The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday and George S. Clason’s The Richest Man in Babylon” HOME-COOKED DINNER DATE: “Lasagna—because everyone likes it, and I can’t make much else” SIGNATURE SIP: “Jameson Black Barrel whiskey on the rocks or with a splash of Coke”