Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Celebrating Recreation and Parks Month

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Celebrating Recreation and Parks Month

Article excerpt

Highlighting just a few of the ways that NRPA members leave it better than they found it.

With July being Recreation and Parks Month, we thought NRPA members would like to pause from serving their communities--not for too long, of course-to read about the successes of a few of their peers. These stories highlight a mere fraction of the ways in which NRPA members make every month a celebration of the benefits of parks and recreation.

For several years, the children and adults of Johnson County, Tenn., dreamed of having a youth contact football league at the Johnson County Recreation Department. "Every year, several parents and kids begged us to have a league," says Maria Thompson Newsome, director of the Johnson County Recreation Department. "Our response always had to be the same: 'I'm sorry, we just don't have enough money in the budget right now for such an expensive program.' I really dreaded having to tell them that!"

That dread turned into glee when, last year, Johnson County received an NFL/NRPA football grant. Newsome combined the grant money with support from local sponsors. Suddenly, she says, "I did not have to dread anything! I was so excited to be able to inform the children that we were able to have a contact football program."

The program served approximately 70 boys in 5th and sth grade; the boys were split into four teams. "The middle school usually allows 6th-, 7th- and 8th-graders to play football," Newsome explains. "However, due to the physical size difference, drop-out rate and less playing time of sth-graders compared to 7th- and 8th-graders, the school agreed to support the new program to provide the 6th-graders an opportunity to increase their self-confidence by playing with children more their size, and playing in the game more instead of sitting on the bench." The set-up also allowed for more one-- on-one coaching for the young players.

"There was not one child that dropped out," Newsome says. "They really learned a lot about the basics of football. One child commented, 'I love football-I'm going to be the best player in the world!' Comments like this prove that our new football program was a great success. Our goals were accomplished."

No Bells, No Whistles, Just Results

A low-key walking program improve community health

About five years ago, Ann Gillespie started noticing a lot of people walking on a 1-mile outdoor trail. Gillespie, a recreation specialist for the City of Irving (Texas) Parks and Recreation Department, wondered if there was something she could do to help these individuals stay motivated. Over the next year, as more trails were completed throughout the city, Gillespie established a simple, but effective means to improve community health-the Elite Feet Walking Club.

The walking club is an honor-system, self-motivated program for people 13 years and older. Participants log their miles on one of several municipal trails, and then turn in their accumulated mileage tallies monthly. Miles amass indefinitely as the participants work toward 100-mile, 300-mile and 500-mile goals, each of which nets the participant an award certificate and other signs of recognition. Gillespie organizes quarterly meetings, at which milestone reachers are honored and speakers on topics such as nutrition further help attendees live more healthfully.

Residents pay a token $5 per year to participate. Gillespie says that 30 to 40 Irving residents are actively racking up the miles at any given time. One-time events, such as a Humane Society walkathon, populated by two- and four-legged ambulators, draw more participants. Although Gillespie doesn't have much in the way of resources to devote to advertising the program, it continues to gain notice among other health promoters in the region. …

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