A Thank You to Park and Rec Professionals

By Heidi Ham | Posted on June 27, 2017

blog june NAA

Greetings Park and Recreation Professionals,

What childhood memories contribute to your health and wellness today?

I often say I was raised by parks and rec — then joke sarcastically that my parents love that statement. This is no slight to my father. When I was young, he enrolled me in gymnastics, baseball (my brother's Little League team, pre-Title IX), basketball and swimming lessons, and made sure I had transportation to and from these activities — all offered through our town’s parks and recreation department.

As I got older, I was often the only girl at basketball camp or open gym. The support of caring adults — through opportunities and words of encouragement — kept me going.

I’ve benefited greatly from afterschool sports programs. Not only did I finance my college education through a basketball scholarship, I learned many lessons that help me today as an adult: teamwork, patience, accepting my uniqueness, how to talk sports, listening, learning and being coachable. And, of course, how to handle being the only female in a group of males (I’m often the sole woman on the golf course on a weekend morning!).

Afterschool activities gave me something to do until my dad was done with work. They helped me develop important skills I use today. This is my story of the positive impact of afterschool programs. There are tons of stories out there from others who benefited — and continue to benefit — from the work of people like you.

Last year, during a #girlsare campaign interview, I was asked: “If you could, what would you go back and tell your 10-year-old self?” My answer? “Be grateful!”

Thank you to the park and rec professionals who held programs afterschool and on weekends — even when my brother and I were the only ones there; to those who kept nets on the park basketball courts; to the community pool lifeguards who watched over our safety every summer day; to those who opened the gym every weekend; to my dad, who provided all the transportation.

These folks provided opportunities and experiences I’d have never had otherwise. Although I didn’t realize the significance then, I do now. I also know that parks and rec professionals like you and all who fight the good fight, ensuring equity and supporting the health and wellness of kids, families and communities—make a difference in shaping positive memories and a great future for all!

As a thank you, and in honor of National Park and Recreation Month, all park and rec or youth development professionals who sign up for a free ambassador level membership with the National AfterSchool Association (NAA) will receive complimentary copies of our two upcoming eBooks: Beating the Summer Slide and Summertime STEM. To claim your thank you gift, register here by July 15.

Look forward to connecting with you,

Heidi Ham
National AfterSchool Association
Vice President, Programs and Strategy