As the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) approaches its 60th anniversary, one thing is evident: the essential work done by our members is all around us. It can be seen in kids gaining confidence and making friends through equitable youth sports programming and events; pollinator gardens; pathways, greenways and trails; accessible playgrounds; and programs that advance health and wellness for everyone. NRPA members do it all, ensuring everyone has fair and just access to parks and recreation.

Moving toward this 60-year milestone, we can’t help but think of the countless stories of the people who have dedicated their lives to building healthy, resilient communities through parks and recreation. That’s why, in 2022, NRPA began work on a video-storytelling project with the goal of highlighting the history of the field of parks and recreation and what it means to the millions of people it affects.

NRPA spoke to dozens of professionals who bring the power of parks and recreation to life. We interviewed facility managers, agency directors, business partners and NRPA employees about what parks and recreation means to them and how it has made a lasting impact on their lives.

What becomes clear after watching these short videos is just how necessary and foundational good park and recreation programs are for individuals and communities alike. They cultivate lifelong friendships, memories and family bonds that people hold dear decades later. They instill a sense of belonging in children. They provide those same children with a fulfilling career path they can easily transition into if they so choose, as many of them do.

Within these videos the story of parks and recreation is told through the eyes of the people who have dedicated their lives and careers to the field – the profession that brings people together by making life better.

NRPA is proud of the work our members have done. We are grateful to all of you who make it happen every day, and we are excited to support your efforts and continue to tell your stories for the next 60 years and beyond.

We are releasing additional videos in the coming months, so be sure to keep an eye out for more of these inspirational stories.

 

The former NRPA president, Jodie Adams, looks back on an act of service that led to her realization that working in parks and recreation was a perfect way to make giving back her career as being a professional tennis player came to an end.

 

Angela Buckner, the Supervisor 2 for the City of Wichita (Kansas) Parks and Recreation, reflects on the role parks and recreation — and more specifically, basketball — played in her development as an individual, and how it led to a full-circle moment decades after it began.

 

Michael Clark, the Executive Director of Palatine Park District (Illinois), talks through the journey that led to him working in the field of parks and recreation, what he thinks the role of parks and recreation professionals is presently and in the future, and why he still goes to work with a smile on his face all these years later.

 

Carrie Fullerton, the Executive Director of the Arlington Heights Park District, shares the memories that made her want to pursue parks and recreation professionally and what she sees as the future of the industry.

 

Walter Johnson, the former COO of the NRPA, walks down memory lane and shares some stories from the sixty years he's been parks and recreation professional, how he came to be inducted in the Swimming Hall of Fame, and why he received a Chicago Cubs World Series ring after retiring.

 

Elizabeth Kessler, the Executive Director of the McHenry County Conservation District, explains the path that led to her career in parks and recreation as well as the impacts she still sees the field making today.

 

Kenneth Kutska, the Executive Director of the International Playground Safety Institute, fondly remembers neighborhood stickball games as a young boy that created lifelong memories and opened up a world of possibilities.

  

Ron Lehman explores the impacts he has seen parks and recreation make on young people's lives as well as the many wonderful professional opportunities that provide a fulfilling lifestyle for thousands.

 

Bill McAdam, the Executive Director of the Downers Grove Park District, reminisces on his career which started as a 14-year-old and culminated in a coincidental meeting at the grocery store with one of his former students.

 

William Nelson, the former Director of Rock Island Parks and Recreation, gets into the specifics of changes to youth sports he was a part of and the importance of building relationships with legislators.

 

Jennifer Nguyen, the former web content manager at NRPA, reminisces about memories of her late father that contributed to her wanting to work for NRPA. Jennifer is currently the park services brand manager at Fairfax County Park Authority in Virginia.

 

Paula Sliefert, the Senior Manager at The Toro Company, shares stories from her childhood, as well as a lifelong tradition that parks and recreation still plays a part of in her life today.

 

Sandra Whitmore, the former director of the City of Alexandria Park and Recreation Department, shares the many changes she has seen in the field of parks and recreation through the decades as well as emphasizes the importance of accredidation and continuing to learn as a professional.

 

Heather Wolf-Erickson, the Facilities Manager for the City of Tampa (Florida) Parks and Recreation, tells the story of a young gymnast in need and what she and her staff did to support the youth athlete and her dreams.