Inclusion Manager Celebrates 10 Years of Service

Heather Specht, Inclusion Manager, celebrated 10 years of full-time service with the association on March 22. Through the years, Heather has managed various areas of the association’s services. She began her career at SSSRA as a Recreation Specialist. She then was promoted to a Program Coordinator responsible for part-time staff and Inclusion services. Heather’s current responsibilities include: managing Inclusion services, overseeing and training Interns, development and enhancement of the Volunteer program, assisting the Superintendent with outreach contacts and events, and supervising one of our Recreation Specialists. Congratulations Heather on celebrating 10 years!

Welcome Alex!

SSSRA would like to welcome Alexandra Szymanski, Recreation Specialist, as our newest team member. Alexandra completed her Undergraduate work at Western Illinois University with a Bachelor of Science in Recreation, Parks and Tourism Administration.

Alexandra completed her internship at Presence St. Joseph Medical Center in the Behavioral Health Unit. She also gained experience at the Helping Hand Center, in Hodgkins as the Recreation Program Specialist.

Alexandra began working with SSSRA on February 29, and we are excited to have her as part of the SSSRA team.

Recent Grants and Contributions Received

Due to the generosity of the following foundations, service clubs, and individuals, program expenses for select programs will be covered, and programs fees will be lowered or free for our residents during 2015 and 2016:

Sarkisian Foundation, Naples, FL
$5,000 for early childhood programs

Suburban Service League, Frankfort, IL
$1,000 for early childhood gymnastics program

Aileen S. Andrew Foundation, Orland Park, IL
$5,000 for transportation services

GKN Foundation, Woodridge, IL
$1,000 for early childhood programs

Andrew and Alice Fischer Charitable Trust, West Dundee, IL
$3,000 for Healthy Minds Healthy Bodies program

Ecolab, Inc., Joliet, IL
$2,400 for early childhood programs

Eisenberg Foundation for Charities, Arlington Heights, IL
$4,000 for early childhood programs

Chicago District Golf Association, Lemont, IL
$1,506 for Special Olympics Golf program

St. Margaret Mary Parish, Naperville, IL
$2,500 for early childhood programs

The Peder Hedberg Foundation, Homewood, IL
$12,000 for early childhood and youth programs

Edmond & Alice Opler Foundation, Oak Lawn, IL
$10,000 for day camp transportation services

Ms. Gwendolyn Bohannon, Flossmoor, IL
$1,000 for Camp Pinewood

Herb and Nancy Dollarhide, New Lenox, IL
$250 for scholarships

Kye and Cindy Stockwell, Walpole, MA
$1,000 for scholarships, transportation, and part time staff and volunteer recognition

Walmart, Orland Hills, IL
$1,000 for early childhood programs

Many thanks to these groups and individuals for their assistance to our participants, and for their continued support of our valuable mission.

Welcome Rob!

SSSRA would like to welcome Rob Hentschel, Recreation Specialist, as our newest team member. Rob completed his Undergraduate work at Illinois State University with a Bachelor of Science in Recreation and Parks Administration. Rob completed his internship at the Normal Parks and Recreation Department and the Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal.

He has been a part-time staff at SSSRA since May, 2010 and a Recreation Leader at the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District since September, 2009. SSSRA is excited to have Rob as part of the team.

Association’s Growth in Inclusion Services Results in Position Changes

During the last three years, SSSRA has experienced growth in Inclusion Services. SSSRA recognizes that a park district or recreation department program may better serve an individual’s needs. The association assists in this process by: assisting with communication, conducting training, securing support staff, providing adaptive equipment and behavior management plans, and doing whatever needed to insure success. During the past three years, SSSRA has assisted with an average of 75, and as many as 90 Inclusion placements per year.

To better serve these participants and our member agencies, the association has created an Inclusion Manger position. Heather Specht, who has been handling Inclusion will continue to do so. Katie Lucas, Support Staff Manager, will now be overseeing Part-time staff for SSSRA programs.

Congratulations Katie!

Congratulations to Katie Lucas on her promotion to the Support Staff Manager Position. Katie will be responsible for recruiting, hiring, training and overseeing the association’s Part-time staff.

Katie graduated from Eastern Illinois University in August of 2011, with a degree in Therapeutic Recreation. Prior to graduation, she completed her fieldwork experience at SSSRA, and her Internship at Shriners Hospital for Children in Chicago.

Katie started with SSSRA in September of 2011. In addition to her responsibilities of planning and running programs, she has supervised agency Interns and assisted with Inclusion trainings. In January, Katie received the Rising Star Award from the Illinois Therapeutic Recreation Section at the Illinois Park and Recreation Association State Conference. Katie is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS).

SSSRA Recognized for Continued Excellence in Safety and Loss Control

Jesse Kinsland (l); Pam Alvarado, SSSRA Safety Coordinator (c); Cindy Grannan, Vice-Chairman, SSSRA Board of Directors (r)

On March 26, the Park District Risk Management Agency (PDRMA) recognized SSSRA for continued excellence in their Loss Control Program. Jesse Kinsland, Risk Management Consultant, presented the association with two awards; one for Accreditation in 2014, and one for the Highest Overall Score in 2014.

PDRMA is an intergovernmental risk pool offering self-insured Property/Casualty and health coverage to park districts, special recreation associations, and forest preserve/conservation districts throughout Illinois.

Tammy McMahon Celebrates 10 Years of Service

Tammy McMahon, Program Coordinator, SSSRA (l) and Sandra Wolff-Chevalier, Superintendent of Recreation, Tinley Park-Park District (r)

Tammy McMahon, Program Coordinator, celebrated 10 years of full-time service with the association on January 17. Through the years, Tammy has managed various areas of the association’s services. Her current responsibilities include: managing our Special Olympics programs, managing our Day Camp programs, assisting the Superintendent with outreach contacts and events, and supervising one of our Recreation Specialists. Tammy is credited with introducing and developing our Healthy Minds Healthy Bodies program, and for strengthening the association’s relationships with many community groups, including: Park Forest Baseball, Tinley Park Bobcats and Bulldogs, Tinley Park High School Athletic Department, and the local Special Olympics Torch Run Officers. Events held with these groups have promoted Inclusion and community awareness of our services. Congratulations Tammy!

SSSRA Maintains Continued Excellence in Safety and Loss Control

Cindy Grannan, Director of Parks and Recreation, Oak Forest Park District (l) and Pam Alvarado, Program Coordinator, SSSRA (r)

During 2014, SSSRA went through a comprehensive risk management assessment, conducted by the Park District Risk Management Agency (PDRMA). The review included an examination of agency policies and practices, in both administrative areas and areas of special recreation service delivery. The association attained a score of 100%!

On November 20, the SSSRA Board of Directors recognized Safety Coordinator Pam Alvarado for her oversight of the safety program and leadership through the Loss Control Review Process. Pam has been at the agency since 2006, and has led the agency through 3 Loss Control Review processes. Along with serving as the association’s Safety Coordinator, Pam manages transportation services and secures facilities for all agency programs and special events.

PDRMA is a self-governed, member owned risk management agency of more than 150 public entities. PDRMA staff guide member agencies in taking proactive steps to improve safety and wellness across the organization. This results in safe programs for our participants and family members.

Strategic Plan Initiatives Result in Additional Services for Our Families

The association’s short-term Strategic Plan Initiatives, which were implemented over the past 2 years, have resulted in the following positive outcomes and expansion in program services:

    - A fourth and fifth transportation pick-up location located in Richton Park and Oak Forest has been added, in addition to original sites in Tinley Park, Homewood-Flossmoor and Lansing.

    - Seven weekly programs and 6 special events were expanded to a second location, date and time, in order to accommodate additional participants in popular programs.

    - A total of 54 programs and special events were offered free or at a discount during the past 2 years, in an effort to make participation easier for our families.

    - Eight Adapted Sports experiences were offered for our participants with physical disabilities, in the areas of Cycling, Sled Hockey, Golf and Boccia.

Would you like to receive our new bi-monthly e-newsletter to stay better informed about SSSRA news and events? Please visit our contact page or contact Public Relations Coordinator Anna Broccolo at (815) 806-0384, or at

If you have any questions about the association’s Strategic Plan, please contact Executive Director Janet Porter at (815) 806-0384, or at

Please download the SSSRA Strategic Plan here.