Park District of Highland Park Wins at Illinois Parks and Recreation Association

January 30, 2023

The Park District of Highland Park had a significant presence at this past weekend’s Illinois Parks and Recreation Association’s (IPRA) Annual Conference, winning multiple awards and recognition. The Park District was presented with the Illinois Park and Recreation Association’s (IPRA) Outstanding Program Award for its Dia De Los Muertos special event. It is the association’s top award given to one agency out of over 2,000 from across Illinois for outstanding and unique achievements in developing and implementing a program. The Park District received several other top State of Illinois awards, including first place for best website, two first-place and two second-place awards for photography, and third place award for the best logo for The Preserve of Highland Park. 

The IPRA Board of Directors also presented the Park District of Highland Park staff and Board of Commissioners with its Annual Chair Award, recognizing the Park District for the exceptional care and support it provided to the Highland Park community in the hours, days, weeks, and months following the tragic shooting at the July 4th Parade. IPRA Board Chair Trisha Breitlow presented the award and shared the following:

Fred Rogers had an innate ability to reinforce positive interaction between children and adults. I believe one of his quotes has a particularly profound message for those who choose parks and recreation as a profession: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.””

The Park District of Highland Park exemplified this beyond comprehensible magnitude, after the terrifying events during their 4th of July parade.  This award is not being presented to bring additional attention to the terrible events of that day, but to recognize the helpers that were there and sprang into action instantly. These are our friends and colleagues who continue to take care of their community members, visitors, and each other.  That day, their immediate actions provided shelter, safety, assistance, and reassurance to thousands of people. The grief and pain that followed impacted the park district directly, but while dealing with that, they worked tirelessly to be a continued support and origin of assistance for the community and for their own staff. They were a source for widely communicating resources, support, and services available to their community.  They knew the importance of providing opportunities for physical and mental solace by re-opening their golf, boating and recreation facilities within days, yet also balanced this with extreme caution, taking care of their young staff and giving extra time to re-open camp. And the enthusiasm, resilience and excitement for those services was amazing.  The leadership at the district also made sure to take care of their full-time staff, providing compassion, patience and grace. All while they continued to provide outstanding award-worthy services and facilities serving as a pillar in their community. 

Collectively, our profession cannot thank you enough nor provide the recognition you truly deserve as you represented our field and what we do with such resilience and humility, providing unmatched examples of what parks and recreation provides. I am proud and honored to be part of this profession for many reasons, but words cannot express how proud we all are of Highland Park.