Nadea, summer staff (Courtesy Park District of Oak Park)

As executive director of the Park District of Oak Park, I reflect upon the past 18 months and think about the numerous summer staff who served the residents of Oak Park under conditions that none of us could have imagined in 2019. Our staff rose to the occasion and provided amazing, fun, safe and supportive programming, facilities and parks for all of our residents. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank them for an incredible job, well done.

Summer positions at the park district are the first job for many of our youth. Over the summer, our full-time staff work closely with the summer team to help grow them as individuals as well as excel in their position. Trust me when I say that these staff members are faced with a variety of challenging scenarios, and they do an amazing job navigating each and every situation.

Summer camps in both 2020 and 2021 were filled with health screenings, face-coverings and social-distancing activities due to the pandemic. Yet camp counselors stepped up, engaged the kids, and created many wonderful memories. Whether the kids were doing nature hikes, water days, crafts, or group games, they had smiles and we definitely could tell that they were glad to be in camp. And for this I thank them.

Also to the amazing pool staff who worked long hours in both cold (think May) and heat (think August) during the three-and-a-half-month outdoor pool season. The lifeguards not only trained differently this year due to COVID-19, but started the year with face-coverings while guarding the pools. The guards and supervisors came to work each and every day ready to serve and ensure a safe and fun pool experience. The swim instructors also had a different training experience and worked closely with participants to teach water safety and swimming skills. The pool maintenance team ensured that the facility stayed clean and the water quality was maintained. The cashiers greeted our swimmers and made sure our occupancy limits were maintained. Each of these staff members made it possible for there to be a 2021 pool season and I thank them for their commitment.

Our parks team went above and beyond, taking pride in our parks like it was an extension of their own backyard. They worked tirelessly to keep the restrooms clean, grass mowed, small trees watered, and litter removed from the parks. These staff members are essential to keeping the parks and playgrounds clean and safe during the busy summer season. 

Last but not least, the Conservatory team did an amazing job beautifying our parks. This team grew, planted and maintained the plantings and flowers throughout the parks, as well as pulling more weeds than they would like to remember.

It takes a lot of dedication from these summer staff members, and I want them to know that their efforts are appreciated and our community benefits from what they do. 

Thanks team, I hope to see you back in 2022.

Jan Arnold is executive director of the Park District of Oak Park.

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