Embracing New Opportunities

February 1, 2015, Department, by Kevin O'Hara

Youths participate in Troops for Fitness kickoff celebrations at Los Angeles' Sylmar Recreation Center. Usually, these column inches are dedicated to updating you on policy or legislation that affects your work. This month, I’m taking a break from that to share a story that in my mind distills the impact that parks and rec has on communities.  

The Troops for Fitness Program is a three-year partnership between the Coca-Cola Foundation and NRPA intended to help park and rec agencies hire veterans as fitness instructors, provide fitness equipment and market these programs to the communities. Atlanta, Miami-Dade, Newark, Sacramento, Boston, Detroit, Honolulu and Los Angeles have been selected as host agencies, with a goal of hiring 200 veterans by the end of the program.  

Last month in Los Angeles, I had the privilege of representing NRPA at a kickoff event at Sylmar Rec Center. The event featured the wife and daughters of Army Maj. Aaron Shaw, a Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks (DRP) employee who is currently deployed to Guantanamo Bay-Cuba and is due back stateside in a few months. Maj. Shaw’s daughters kicked off the event and led the assembled in the Pledge of Allegiance, and his wife, Brenda, the recreation coordinator at Sylmar, shared a few words about how much it meant to her family to have the Troops for Fitness kickoff at her rec center. Maj. Shaw also sent a note to his DRP colleagues, and I asked him for permission to share his words with you.


It is with a deep sense of gratitude and heartfelt appreciation that I write to you. Please know that my wife, Brenda, has informed me of the Coca-Cola-sponsored event that is scheduled to take place in the valley at the Sylmar complex on 8 January.

My sincere thanks to you and all of our esteemed colleagues at Partnerships for recognizing us, men and women in uniform, and acknowledging our continued service to the nation. The Department's partnership with the Coca-Cola Corporation is a true testament to your enduring commitment to providing outreach to military servicemembers for the purpose of offering meaningful employment opportunities. This is undoubtedly shaping up to be a win-win situation for all involved, and I am very hopeful for the ongoing success of this endeavor...Thanks again for your tremendous support to the troops. For I could not be more proud of the momentous work that you all have set out to accomplish.

As the next several months come to a close, I will anxiously prepare for my return to the States, and will look forward to reuniting with the Department. Until then, I wish you well and Godspeed as you charter the path forward into this new year for the Operations Branch. Keep up the good work, and please share my sincerest regards to all.

Also when you have a moment, please render a courtesy phone call to Glenn Campaña (coordinator) at Highland, and encourage Glenn to keep up the fine work that he has undertaken during in my stead...It’ll be greatly appreciated.

Very best to you and the entire Department.


Troops for Fitness is about recognizing those who serve and giving them the opportunity to continue to serve when they arrive home. Honoring our veterans by providing job opportunities when they come home, and having these leaders help teach others the importance of a healthy lifestyle? Now that sounds like a real win-win.

Kevin O’Hara is NRPA’s Vice President of Urban and Government Affairs.