Every year in our annual report, we highlight the accomplishments made by NRPA members through our partnerships and programs. These numbers are impressive and are a great way to show the collective impact parks and recreation makes across the country.
For example, this year, through partnerships and programs, NRPA members have impacted their community members in the following ways:
- 1,049,563 people with improved access to healthy food
- 13,030,166 healthy meals and snacks served to children
- 521,620 people with increased access to physical activity
Numbers can be cold, however. That’s why we emphasize the importance of storytelling through programs like Park Champions. And luckily, we don’t just collect numbers, we collect stories too.
Before our Annual Conference this year, the NRPA marketing and communications team worked with “The Water Coolers” on a survey to determine your proudest moments and biggest pet peeves. While the pet peeves were certainly relatable (“Your job must be so fun!” or “Is it like the TV show?”), it was your most gratifying moments that really took our breath away (and made this author pull out the tissues).
- A violent teen involved with a gang was kicked out of a rec center. The teen later came back and thanked staff for being kicked out because it made him change his destructive habits. The teen went on to law school.
- A resident told elected officials that the new greenway literally saved his life. His doctor told him he was in bad shape if he didn’t change his ways. Now, a year after the trail opened near his house, he is in great health.
- A summer camp took on a kid with severe issues that other programs had turned away. The child made great friends, had the best summer and was excited about returning to school.
- Park staff worked with the community to stop a gravel pit from being placed near homes and, instead, passed a tax-rate increase referendum to acquire the property and preserve it for open space and park land.
- A park employee, upon locking up a park at night, had a long conversation with a suicidal subject. The park employee was able to convince the person to seek professional help and allow law enforcement to help that night.
- A rec center employee taught a girl CPR as part of a babysitting class. Fast forward 10 years and the girls saves her friend’s life while out to dinner, crediting the rec center employee for the knowledge that allowed her to do so.
These are just a small, small handful of the stories every park and recreation professional carries with him or her. Each individual story is powerful enough on its own, but when you add them all up, the magnitude of our collective work is impressive and awe-inspiring to say the least.
This holiday season, we hope you remember the great gifts you give to your community every day. Even when things seem dreary, know that you are brightening the lives of the people you serve — even if you aren’t fortunate enough to personally hear their story.
Thank you for the great work you do and for fostering happier, healthier communities that serve all people.
Happy Holidays from all of us on staff at NRPA!
Roxanne Sutton is NRPA's Senior Marketing and Communications Specialist