How Our Community Grows at the Park District: Part 2

July 20, 2023

In Part 1 of our 3-part series on “Where Community Grows,” we presented five stories from members of our community who play, work, make friends, stay fit, and enjoy the real sense of community that the Park District provides. In Part 2, we have more inspirational stories from your friends and neighbors.

Where It Begins

So many of the parents who spoke with us talked about how great it was for their kids to see friends and to meet other families at programs like Safety Village, at events like Touch a Truck and Pumpkin Fest, and at favorite parks like Sunset Woods. Roxie Haery’s two sons, Kyle and Ryan, participated in preschool programs and music classes at the West Ridge Center, and she and her husband were always “very comfortable leaving our children with the Park District staff, because they are organized, professional, and always treat the kids with respect.” Respect and inclusivity come up a lot when talking to people about the Park District community. We’re proud of that.

The Haery’s boys have also been playing tennis at Deer Creek Racquet Club, where “the instructors work so well with kids of all ages,” and “we truly feel that our children are getting a very high level of instruction,” said Roxie.

Many families will tell you about the Park District baseball programs, particularly the Fall Classic League which practices and plays games at Sunset Woods Park, West Ridge, and Lincoln Park. Roxie Haery specifically mentioned that the volunteer coaches are the dads of the players on those teams, and the feeling is “inclusive and family oriented, so you will always see parents, grandparents, and siblings at the games.” Community is not the ballfield. It’s the people.

Chase Sears, who started in Saplings, graduated from Mighty Oaks in May. “He LOVED it!” said his mom, Samantha. “It was an amazing program and he learned so much. Miss Samia and Miss Jenny are such special people, and everyone raves about them!” Sam was impressed with how the teachers communicated with her every day, showing the projects Chase made. “They are all so warm and loving, and the curriculum is great.” Community is about being welcoming. At your Park District, all are welcome. It’s part of our DNA.

Where it Grows

When Beth Pieti and her family moved here almost 11 years ago, it was the word of mouth from family (her sister) and neighbors that led her to the Recreation Center, as well as so many other Park District facilities, programs, and events. One of the things that Beth likes best about being a Rec Center member is that she has met lots of new friends in the Group Fitness Classes. They connect before class, and then they stay after class to chat some more. Finding things for her three children to do all year at the Park District was easy, because “they offer so many great programs.” Zoe, Emma, and Luke “went to summer camps and loved the Touch-A-Truck event among many others.” They enjoyed the parks–especially Sunset Woods–and, of course, Rosewood Beach, where they would take friends whenever they came from out-of-town. When you have a great community, you want to show it to everyone.

The Next Generation of Community Builders

Do you know Mac Ludington? You should! And if your child is one of our 5th-grade Crew Campers, we bet you’ve heard them talk about Mac. Maybe about her swimming career at Highland Park High School and her impressive IHSA State Championship times. Or that she’s been a Chef Instructor at Sticky Fingers Cooking. Or that she’s been a pianist for 15 of her 19 years. Or maybe it’s that when Mac talks enthusiastically about being a camp counselor, she makes sure you know that Crew Camp is “the quintessential day camp, where we are just being outside and having fun!” As a kid, she always went to sleepaway camp, and about those days she says “I. Loved. Camp! I loved my counselors.” Her enthusiasm is infectious. It makes you smile. She’s a counselor you want your kids to spend the summer with, learn from, and look to as a role model. And, as an Athlete with Disabilities (AWD), Mac is well aware that “most kids don’t know how to act around disabled people.” So she’s bringing that extra piece of information to camp, helping kids go back out into the community with the knowledge that since their “super-cool camp counselor was also disabled, and that’s not a bad thing,” they are now more aware, more understanding of people, and more inclusive. That’s the way to build a better community.


Did you recognize yourself, a family member, a friend, or a neighbor in these stories? We hope so. And, we hope you’ll share your story of “Where Community Grows” with us. You can find out about everything we do here on our website and take a minute to watch our “Where Community Grows” video.

See you around the parks!