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The NC Recre8'er - is the Blog for NC Recreation and Parks Professionals. We will feature posts from NCRPA members and staff about all the latest news, insights and tips in our field and around the state. Topics will include but are not limited to: Health and Wellness, Outdoor Recreation, Athletics, Advocacy, Aquatics, Therapeutic Recreation, Special Events, Marketing, Parks and Greenways, Cultural Resources and more! If you are interested in being a guest blogger please contact Matt at NCRPA or 919-832-5868. The opinions of The NC Recre8'er (NCRPA) blog contributors don't necessarily reflect the editorial position of North Carolina Recreation and Park Association as a whole.


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HOST Standards

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, March 27, 2017
Updated: Monday, March 20, 2017

Healthy Out-of-School Time, or HOST standards, were created by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation (AHG) . These standards give out of school time providers a great resource to offer healthy snacks and physical activity to children.

According to the AHG website, the HOST standards “gives out-of-school time providers a science-based framework designed to help create environments where youth are encouraged to eat healthier and move more.” The website continues to say “Our initiative works to support the staff, families, and youth at these sites (Afterschool programs, community centers, summer camps, and other out-of-school time settings) around the country in their efforts to help young people make healthy life choices.

To assist in the adoption of HOST standards in your department, there are a few steps to take. First, take the HOST assessment. This assessment helps your department identify current strengths and weaknesses for 11 Healthy Eating and Physical Activity standards.

The HOST Assessment lets test takers select “Yes”, “No”, or “Not Applicable”. When the assessment is completed, opportunities for growth and areas of strengths should be highlighted. These strengths and opportunities will allow your department to create an action plan on how to best adopt HOST standards moving forward.

The second step in the adoption of HOST standards is establishing an action plan. To establish your action plan, the AHG put together a five-step approach:

Step 1: Choose best practices/goals to work on (most sites do best when working on 1-5 best practices at a time).

Step 2: Review AHG implementation strategies, examples and resources

Step 3: Take notes on how you plan to implement healthy changes to meet this best practice.

Step 4: Revisit, review and revise! Update your progress, add more notes or mark an item complete to automatically update your Healthy Out-of-School Time Assessment.

Step 5: Add new items to your Action Plan as you complete other items! Share your progress with staff, parents, youth, and community members by posting on our Action Plan Poster.

To learn more about getting started with your action plan, check out this short video.

You may be wondering why your department should adopt HOST standards. According to AHG, “studies show that youth that eats healthier and moves more get better grades, attend school more, and have improved self-esteem, social-relationships, and leadership skills.” I think that HOST standards are extremely beneficial and adoption should be strongly considered for our recreation and park programs.

When adopting HOST standards, be sure to use the resources available to you. Whether you are on the AHG’s resources page or accessing the NCRPA Wellness Toolkit, these resources can help a lot. I hope that your department considers using the HOST standards in the future!

Until next time,


Tags:  NCRPA Wellness 

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Spring into Wellness

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, March 20, 2017
Updated: Monday, March 13, 2017

Today is the first day of spring! With the changing of the season, new wellness opportunities arise. Spring’s the perfect time to get outside, eat in-season fruits and vegetables, and enjoy the beautiful scenery. This wellness blog will give your department a few ideas to help celebrate spring in your community.

According to the NCRPA Wellness Toolkit, over 60% of NC Children do not eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Luckily, springtime means a variety of North Carolina produce comes back into season. From now until June, everything from asparagus to strawberries (my personal favorite) will be at their peak ripeness. A great resource I like to use to figure out what is in season is the North Carolina Produce Availability Chart. This local produce can become a great asset to your department.  To learn more about using local produce in your agency programs, check out the NCRPA Wellness Toolkit.

Another exciting thing about spring is all of the plants that come back to life in our parks. These plants hold a great opportunity to get people excited about coming out and enjoying your park. If your agency has any green spaces that a lot of wildflowers bloom in, there are a few easy tips to get people even more excited about coming to check them out.

An example of a great program idea to get people out to your parks is to hold a “wildflower pilgrimage” similar to the one that Great Smoky Mountain National Park holds annually. For 67 years, people have flocked to the Smokies to partake in the pilgrimage to see all of the wildflowers. Although this is an example of a large-scale program, your department can hold similar events. Find out when the wildflowers will be at their peak and invite your community out. Set up a few simple flower crafts, educate the public about the types of flowers they will be seeing, and offer additional springtime activities - the possibilities are endless! This type of event gets people up and walking around your park - something that is always encouraged!

Additionally, spring brings the opportunity to move programs back outside. I personally love this shift, and really enjoy getting back outside for athletics. One thing to keep in mind is the chance to take some traditional indoor programs outside. Yoga and pilates are great candidates for offering outdoor classes. If you are even more ambitious, try an outdoor basketball or dodgeball league. Not only can participants take in the scenery, but they can also take in extra Vitamin D from the sun. Doing something like this can inject new life into your traditional programming.

One tip that you can take to personally improve your health and wellness is to take advantage of the longer days. Daylights saving time kicked in and although we lost an hour of sleep, we gained an hour of sunlight. Use this extra daylight to get outside and active after your workday.

I hope that this wellness blog has given you some ways to celebrate spring in your department! If your department has any unique springtime wellness programs, I'd love to know about it. Email me at

Tags:  NCRPA Wellness 

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Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, March 13, 2017
Updated: Monday, March 6, 2017

With Saint Patrick’s Day approaching, your department may be gearing up for an annual Saint Patrick’s Day event. I can remember attending my hometown’s Saint Patrick’s Day parade every year growing up. This wellness blog is intended to give you five healthy ideas to help you celebrate the day.

1. Healthy “Green” Smoothie

A great alternative to green colored adult beverages is a healthy green smoothie. Just throw spinach, pineapple, mango, and bananas in a blender with a little bit of water and you’ll have a great, healthy smoothie to enjoy. Whip up these smoothies and serve them in small, sample-sized cups to attendees to your morning programs.

2. Saint Patrick’s Day Gold Hunt

A cool active activity for Saint Patrick’s Day is to hold a Leprechaun “gold hunt”. Similar to an Easter Egg Hunt, hide plastic gold coins around your facility. Participants dressed in their favorite green attire can take their “pot-o-gold” and set out to collect the most gold coins. Participants can then take home their bounty, or exchange it for other appropriate Saint Patrick’s Day items. This activity is a fun way to get active and is an easy activity that does not involve unhealthy foods.

3. Leprechaun Walk/Run Event

Another way to get your community active is to hold a leprechaun walk/run event. Pick a route through your local park or community, and encourage people to come out in their favorite Saint Patrick’s Day outfits. Market this event in your community centers, parks, social media pages, and more to get the community out.

4. Four Leaf Clover Craft

In your children’s programs, a simple four leaf clover craft is a great activity for Saint Patrick’s day. After the craft is complete, take a trip outside to visit patches of clovers. Have children look for their own real life four leaf clovers! This craft gets you outside and is an alternative to unhealthy Saint Patrick’s Day foods.

5. “Green” Potluck Staff Lunch

Saint Patrick’s Day is all about green. This brings a great opportunity to incorporate healthy green foods into your diet. Have a healthy potluck lunch with your staff, where each person brings a different “green dish.” Encourage these dishes to be comprised of mostly green vegetables, and other nutrient-rich green foods. If you need some inspiration, click this link.


I hope that you have a happy and healthy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Until next time,


Tags:  healthy eating  wellness 

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March is Nutrition Month!

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, March 6, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, February 28, 2017

I can’t believe that it is already March! If you did not know, March is national Nutrition Month. Created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, national Nutrition Month is a nutrition education campaign that focuses on the importance of making informed food choices, sound eating habits, and physical activity. This wellness blog will give your department some ways to celebrate Nutrition Month, and why good nutrition is important.

Good nutrition is essential to health. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, “Unhealthy diet contributes to approximately 678,000 deaths each year in the U.S.” Additionally, “In the last 30 years, obesity rates have doubled in adults, tripled in children, and quadrupled in adolescents.”  

As recreation and park professionals, your department plays an essential role in providing nutrition and physical activity resources to the public. This Nutrition Month, there are a few resources you can use to promote healthy nutrition in your community.

One great resource for Nutrition Month is the Eat Right National Nutrition Month Celebration Toolkit. If your department is looking for easy ways to promote National Nutrition month, this is a great place to start. Some event ideas include:

  • Scheduling a story time with nutrition-focused books

  • Organize a National Nutrition Month presentation at your local park district or senior center.

  • Organize a food donation campaign for a local food pantry or shelter.

  • Hold a "healthy recipe" contest among employees.

  • Develop a program that involves kids drawing and creating a meal based on MyPlate, using the Choose MyPlate Coloring Page.

  • Organize a sports nutrition education session after school or during gym class.

Visit the National Nutrition Month Celebration Toolkit for even more event ideas!

If your department is interested in starting a healthy cooking course, check out or NCRPA November Wellness Webinar! This webinar shares some useful information regarding healthy eating and gives a few implementable ways to incorporate them into your department.

Additionally, the NCRPA Wellness Toolkit gives some cool resources on healthy cooking and nutrition programs. Please consider using these tactics in planning your department nutrition programs in the future.

I hope that this wellness blog has given you ideas on how to celebrate nutrition month in your department. If your department has a great nutrition program, I’d love to know about it. Email me at with any details!

Until next time,

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YPN Blog: March 2017

Posted By Eliza Kiser, Pullen Arts Center Director with Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources, Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Updated: Thursday, March 2, 2017

Leading Through Innovation As Young Professionals

As a child, I loved school, but I definitely fell victim to one of the trappings of performance-based academic systems; the perfectionist inside of me took over, and finding the “right” answer became the force that drove me. As I grew up and went out of the school system and into the world on my own, I struggled to make sense of my place in a messy world where there are so few right answers.

I’ll admit, the first gray hair I found a couple of years ago now has a few friends, and, with seven years in Parks and Recreation, I’m not as young a professional as I used to be. Still, it was a privilege for me to attend the NCRPA State Conference in October through the Young Professional Fellowship Program. It was my first NCRPA Conference, and I somehow got both myself and my inner perfectionist in with one conference badge! As an arts person in parks and recreation, sometimes I still struggle to make sense of my place in the profession. At the NCRPA Conference, I was again reminded of how wonderful the struggle to find your place can be, and I value the opportunity to share with you some of the questions and ideas that were sparked for me at the conference.

2016’s conference theme of “Leading Through Innovation” was a nod to both the excellent programs highlighted during sessions and the outstanding professionals that are making them happen. The further I get from the conference, though, the more I see the statement as something bigger with more important implications.

Leading through innovation is a concept for us to embrace as young professionals not only in the ways that we carry it back to our cities and towns, but also in the ways that we approach finding our places in the profession.

Our profession has been around for generations and each day I’m grateful for and reliant on the work that has come before me.  As a young professional, how can I honor the legacy of our profession, learn from where we have been, and remain relevant in a changing world? How do I find the balance between stewardship and entrepreneurship that is key in our profession?

I think the answer lies in each of us.

From where I stand at the intersection of being a young professional and having some experience under my belt, the best thing about being a young professional is the gift of not having your path set for you yet. At this intersection, there’s plenty of room for innovation, not only in the realm of programming, but also in the ways that you can develop as a professional. Embracing the struggle to find your place can force you to ask questions about yourself and your goals that an easy, clear path might never force you to ask.

At the conference, Dr. Deb Jordan presented a session on program evaluation entitled “What we do: does it matter?” The more I’ve thought about Dr. Jordan’s concepts and best practices for program evaluation, the more I’ve come to think they could be interesting tools for a different type of evaluation. What if we began leading through innovation by taking an innovative approach to our professional development? What if we used these tools to evaluate and map our own professional growth? What if these were the questions we thought through as asked for guidance from our supervisors and mentors on our journey toward leading through innovation?

Here are Dr. Jordan’s program evaluation tips that I’m going to use as tools for my designing my own professional development:

Don’t ask questions if:
You already know the information.
You’re not going to use the information.
The information won’t matter.
You can’t do anything about it.

Why are you asking the question?
Will potential answers tell you what you want to know?
Will you get enough information to be able to make a decision and take action?
How are you going to analyze the responses?

As young professionals, are we asking the questions we need to figure out where we are, where we want to go, and how to get there? Are we asking enough questions of ourselves and our line of work?

In her conference keynote, Dr. Maureen Dougherty defined innovation as empowerment plus creativity. As young professionals trying to develop and lead through innovation, how can we seek empowerment from our leadership and how can we prepare to give empowerment as a gift to the next generation of professionals? What would happen if we set goals and performance measures for our own ability to empower the people we lead? What would happen if we set goals and performance measures for our own creativity as leaders and as public servants?

As stewards of public resources, we have to strive for efficiency and performance, and, especially as a young professional, it’s easy to put your full effort into trying to find the “right” way to handle the messy business of serving human beings. In pursuit of a “right” way to serve our communities, are we getting stuck in the weeds and missing the big picture? Are we trying so hard to find the “right” answer that we sometimes fail to realize that the question has changed? Do we think too much about our profession and not enough about the world that’s changing around us? Where’s the right balancing point?

As young professionals, we have choices.  Will we stick to trying to find “right” answers?  Or will we embrace our messy world and its lack of right answers and do our best to serve by growing and developing ourselves as leaders through innovation?  What impact will our choice have on our profession and all of the young professionals who come after us?

I can’t wait to find out.

Meet the Author

Raised on a farm in rural NC, Eliza Kiser graduated from NC State University’s College of Design and started her career working as a project manager at an exhibit design firm. Eliza was born a public servant but took a winding road to find herself today serving artists of all ages as Director of Pullen Arts Center for Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources. A child who loved playing with blocks, Eliza continues to enjoy trying to put ideas, people, tools, and resources together in new ways to build cool stuff.

Eliza can be reached at or 919-996-6126.


If you are interested in being a guest author for the YPN Blog, please contact Nicole at or 919-832-5868.

Tags:  conference  innovation  leadership  young professionals  ypn 

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Pokemon Go Update

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, February 27, 2017
Updated: Monday, February 27, 2017

 Pokemon Go fever is back! In July of 2016, the mobile smartphone app Pokemon Go launched for download in the United States. Since the launch of the smartphone game, it has attracted millions of players, making it one of the most popular mobile apps. The initial popularity of Pokemon Go took a decline in recent months - but with the game's biggest update yet, players are expected to come back out.

For those of you who don’t know, Pokemon go is an “augmented reality” mobile phone app. The player’s location is tracked with an avatar on their phone screen, and fictional Pokemon characters are superimposed all around them. Players are required to get active to explore their surroundings in order to catch Pokemon characters, battle other users, and collect items to be used in the game at “Pokestops”, which are usually well-known landmarks in many of our parks.

The Pokemon Go update includes the long-awaited release of 80 beloved Pokemon characters to be caught. The release of the new characters into the game has garnered a lot of excitement. Players who previously captured all of the available Pokemon, (or have gotten bored with the game) now have extra incentive to get out and catch the next batch.  

As the wellness blog discussed in August, Pokemon Go has some great health benefits.  The whole premise of the game is based around the idea of getting outside and exploring in order to obtain in-game items, capture new Pokemon, and interact with other users in Pokemon training gyms. Additionally, the game requires players to walk certain distances to hatch Pokemon from eggs and to gain rewards to make their current Pokemon stronger.

Pokemon Go has recently added more features to encourage players to get active. A few months ago, a wearable device called Pokemon Go Plus  was released. Pokemon Go Plus connects to the user’s smartphone and keeps track of steps. It also vibrates when a Pokemon character is nearby. Additionally, Pokemon Go has added support to the Apple Watch. It allows users to track their workout while playing Pokemon Go.

The Pokemon Go update has major implications for recreation and park departments. If your local facilities have experienced a decline in Pokemon Go player traffic, you can expect to see more players out in the coming weeks. After the update, Pokemon Go climbed back to the top on the Apple App Store’s highest grossing applications. I went out to play the weekend of the update and saw big numbers of players out.                                                     

There are a few easy tactics that your department can use to encourage players to responsibly play Pokemon Go in your facilities. First, use social media to post messages encouraging the public to come out to play Pokemon Go in your parks. Make sure to emphasize that new Pokemon species have been discovered in your park.

Additionally, use Pokemon Go themed signage to communicate any specific rules to players in your park. Place the Pokemon Go logo on flyers to garner the attention of Pokemon Go players. Then, post any rules your department has regarding Pokemon go on the flyers. Place these flyers around “Pokestops” and “Pokemon Gyms” to ensure they are in spots where players frequent. Rules such as staying on marked trails, park hours, and no playing Pokemon Go while driving could be included.

In September 2016, myself and NCRPA Fellow Nicole Miller presented on Pokemon Go at the NCRPA Wellness webinar. The webinar gave an overview of Pokemon Go, explored the health benefits of the game, and detailed additional ways to make the most out of the application in your department. To view a recording of the webinar, click this link.

I hope that this blog post has given you some additional information regarding the Pokemon Go update. In regards to Pokemon Go and other augmented reality games, it is important for recreation and park departments to stay aware of the current trends. It is my opinion that these games are going to be increasingly popular in the future, and will help get people active in our parks. An increased awareness of these trends will help your department maximize the benefits brought to the public.

Until next time,


Tags:  Wellness 

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NRPA Commit to Health Initiative

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, February 20, 2017

Commit to Health is an NRPA initiative that supports the implementation and evaluation of healthy eating and physical activity (HEPA) standards in parks and recreation departments throughout the country. This blog will give a brief overview of the Commit to Health Initiative, the HEPA standards that must be upheld, and how your department can get involved.

The Commit to Health initiative encourages departments to improve access to healthy foods, increase opportunities for physical activity, and to connect children to their natural environment. A sub-group of children, staff, and parents who went through the initiative participated in focus groups and surveys, finding valuable information regarding the success of the program. The evaluation measures found the following:

  • Children showed statistically significant increases in knowledge of nutrition topics

  • Child and adult healthy eating behaviors can be improved from summer camp programming

  • Children's behaviors changed to include eating new fruits, vegetables, and whole grains

  • Parents reported eating new fruits, vegetables and trying new foods, cooking/plating

  • Staff confirmed that many parents and children shared that their eating habits had changed throughout the programming.

According to the NRPA website, “The HEPA standards were created by a national coalition of out-of-school-time leaders to create evidence-based, practical values that foster the best possible nutrition and physical activity outcomes for children in grades K-12 attending out-of-school time programs.”

The HEPA standards cover a wide range of healthy eating and physical activity guidelines. The healthy eating standards include serving a fruit or vegetable at every meal/snack, providing potable water to all staff/participants for no charge, and serving no soda or sports drinks to elementary/middle school students. No access to television or movies, ensuring physical activity takes place outdoors whenever possible, and limiting digital device time to less than one hour per day are some of the physical activity standards in the HEPA standards. To view a full listing of the HEPA standards, please refer to this table.

If you would like to pledge to commit to health, please click this link. If your department decides to take the pledge, it is committing to:

  • Implement 19 HEPA standards at your park and recreation site over a five-year period.

  • Complete the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Out-of-School time inventory annually.

  • Submit documentation, if requested to verify implementation of HEPA standards.

Additionally, NRPA has put together a webpage of resources to assist in maintaining the HEPA standards. I hope that this blog has inspired you to take the commit to health pledge. If your department is interested in taking the pledge, I would love to hear about it! Please contact me at to share!

Until next time,


Tags:  NCRPA Wellness  Wellness 

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Happy Valentine's Day

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, February 13, 2017
Updated: Sunday, February 12, 2017

Happy Valentine’s Day! Valentine’s day usually goes hand-in-hand with chocolates and other unhealthy foods. Whether you are exchanging candy with a loved one or eating a high-calorie romantic meal, it can be hard to stay healthy on the big day. This wellness blog will give you and your department some ways to promote healthy Valentine’s Day behaviors in your community.

According to the National Retail Federation, American consumers are expected to spend an estimated $1.7 billion on candy this Valentine’s Day. This equates to almost 50% of all American consumers.

In an article found on, Valentine’s Day is the second-busiest day for restaurants in America. Couples indulge on many different international food options, with Italian and French restaurants gaining the most interest. The article also pointed out that this spike in restaurant orders isn’t just limited to couples. Individuals who are single are more likely to order indulgent food such as fries, wings, and pizza on food ordering websites such as GrubHub.

I’ll be the first to admit that my Valentine’s Day plans include a bit of candy and a trip to the local Italian restaurant. However, it’s important to partake in everything in moderation and make smart choices. Instead of the giant candy heart box, try a smaller version to express your love.

Your department may be holding a Valentine’s Day event at some point this week. In after-school programs, the day is likely to be celebrated. Instead of focusing solely on Valentine’s Day Candy, try to include other Valentine’s Day activities such as crafts. The children in your program then give these Valentine’s Day crafts to their loved ones. Activity sheets such as this one are great to help children celebrate Valentine’s Day while learning a bit about their health.

Another idea to promote a healthy Valentine’s Day in your community is to encourage couples to take advantage of your department’s parks. Encourage couples to take a romantic walk on a trail or park. Pick the suggested trail or park strategically - think about facilities that have a great view of the sunset, field of romantic winter flowers, or just a beautiful view. Once you have a facility in mind, advertise it through flyers, social media, and other mediums to attract couples to come out. This could be a great way to get people active in your parks, while still celebrating the romantic day.

Additionally, if your department holds any cooking courses, a special couples cooking class sometime around Valentine’s Day could garner a lot of interest! Couples could be taught how to cook an affordable, healthy, and romantic dinner at home instead of going out to eat for the night.

Valentine’s Day serves as a great day to remember that February is Healthy Heart Month. Last week, the wellness blog covered Health Heart Month extensively, but Valentine’s Day really drives home the point of loving your heart. This is a great time to promote and implement programs regarding heart health in your community.

I hope that this wellness blog has given you some ways to promote a healthy Valentine’s Day in your community. If your department has any health related Valentine’s Day programs, I’d love to find out more. Contact me at with any information! Have a safe and Happy Valentine’s Day.

Until next time,


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February is American Heart Month!

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, February 6, 2017

If you did not know, February is American Heart Month. This wellness blog will give your department some statistics regarding the prevalence of heart disease in our communities, as well as some program ideas to help combat the problem.

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death from American men and women - with 1 in 4 deaths each year being attributed to it. Additionally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 735,000 people each year suffer a heart attack.

Heart disease is commonly known to be associated with a variety of risk factors, including stress, high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity, smoking, and poor diet. Although there are additional risk factors such as family history and heart valve issues, the majority of these factors are controllable by individual lifestyle changes. This is where your department can make a huge difference.

One strategy to prevent heart disease, as recommended by the CDC, is to maintain a healthy physical activity level. The surgeon general recommends two hours and thirty minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity for adults.

Maintaining a healthy diet is also an effective strategy in preventing heart disease. The CDC suggests limiting sodium and sugar in your diet and increasing the amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables. For ideas regarding creating healthy eating programs in your community, please check out our November Wellness Webinar.

All of our recreation and park departments offer many opportunities for adults to get out and get active. Although it may seem like common sense that physical activity can help to prevent heart disease, some individuals may need an extra push to get started. Spread the word in your community that your facilities and programs can help in the fight against heart disease!  

One way to spread the word in your community is to post flyers around your facilities detailing the issue of heart health. Make sure to include recommendations to improve heart health, including physical activity and the programs/facilities you offer to achieve this.

The U.S Department of Health and Human Services created a Toolkit to help raise awareness about American Heart Month. It contains great resources to share with your respective communities, including sample social media tweets, infographics to share in community spaces, and ideas to get your workplace involved.

Your department could also suggest specific programs targeted towards improving heart health. Existing physical activity and healthy eating programs could be advertised with an emphasis on the heart healthy aspects they provide. In program guides, a simple “heart” icon can be placed next to said programs to allow them to be easily accessible.

A number of departments offer their staff the opportunity to become CPR and AED certified. If your department does not offer this training (or hasn’t in some time), American Heart Month is a great time to consider. The skills taught in a training course like this could help save someone’s life. To find your local American Red Cross, as well as instructors in your area, please click this link.

I hope that this wellness blog post has gotten you thinking about the issue of heart disease in our society. Whether you know it or not, your department likely already offers a program or facility that will help combat against this issue.


Until next time,


Tags:  NCRPA Wellness  Wellness 

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Wellness Update

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Thursday, February 2, 2017


Here is a quick review of our wellness content from January:

The new month started with a wellness initiative review of 2016. Martin Luther King Jr. Day rolled around, and we discussed ways that volunteerism is good for community health. Additionally, the wellness blog covered two topics regarding starting a park prescription program: needs assessment & implementation and evaluation. Finally, guest blogger Dr. Marissa Tomasic joined us to discuss the role that parks and recreation professionals have on health initiatives.

Our January Wellness Webinar was a great one. Chamreece Diggs and Jason McCray of High Point Parks and Recreation joined us to discuss their Kosmic Dodgeball program. Click this link to check it out!

I hope that you have enjoyed the content of the NCRPA Wellness Initiative thus far!  If you would like to contribute to any wellness content in the future, we are always looking to showcase new voices. Feel free to email me at with any inquiries.


Until next time,


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YPN Blog: February 2017

Posted By Vicky Harley, Kernersville Parks and Recreation, Monday, January 30, 2017

Importance of an Internship

Hey y’all! With the new year underway, that means college has started back for some possible interns for your department! With that in mind, I wanted to stress the importance of an internship – a quality internship. Like Jared said in the November blog, we all most likely had one at some point in our parks and recreation career. You either knew what you wanted to do, you were testing the waters, or you needed something so you could graduate; whatever that reason may be, we were all there. My internship experience actually landed me the job I have now! I know some of you are thinking, “What does an internship have to do with me, I’m already in the field?” Well YOU can help your interns get the most out of their experience.

The first milestone is letting these students know you exist. We, the Young Professionals Network, want to reach out to area schools and colleges, so let’s make it count. Most guest speakers I had were wedding planners, a GIS analyst, and more wedding planners (my concentration was Commercial Recreation and Event Planning mind you). Not that I didn’t enjoy the information they passed along, but those fields weren’t something I was interested in and didn’t create a broad enough impression of the Recreation and Park Management major. Let these students know a little bit about your sector and what you provide to your town or city. Personally, I had never heard of the town I currently work in, or what working in a “traditional” parks and recreation department meant. As far as parks and recreation went for me, it meant trees, plants, and wedding planning – that’s it. Parks and recreation is so much more, from special events to athletics to outdoor and indoor facilities, parks and recreation is a plethora of programs and events that offer the community a great way to be safe while promoting health as well as protecting the environment.

Now when the interns start, they’re a little nervous – whether they show it or not. Be the person to help them ease into their new role, give a few pointers here and there like: “Tom doesn’t mind questions, so ask away.” Encourage them to be proactive to achieve beyond just their objectives. Say they want to attend a meeting; push them to attend a staff meeting, an advisory board meeting, a town/city department head meeting and every level in between. While at the meeting, also engage and participate in that meeting. This helps them know the full scope of what you do all the way up to how it affects your citizens and other departments. This also expands their knowledge and opens them to other positions and aspects they may take interest in.

Lastly, everyone talks about networking, and while it took me a while to get the hang of it, it is truly important to maintain those relationships. Phones and e-mails work both ways; if a previous intern reaches out to you, make sure to respond even if it’s only, “Hope you’re doing well!” What these interns know is important, but how they use this knowledge makes the biggest impression! So if they have made an impression on you and there is a job opening, email or call them and say, “Hey there’s a position that I think you should apply for.”

Parks and recreation is a big family in my eyes. We all make a difference. You can make an impression on a student by pushing them and treating them like a true professional during their internship and keeping in contact with them after the internship has ended. That’s just my two cents!

Meet the Author

Vicky Harley is a Recreation Administrative Specialist with Kernersville Parks and Recreation, where she did her internship. She has a B.S. in Recreation and Park Management with a minor in Business from UNC: Greensboro. Vicky was born and raised in Columbia, SC (Go Gamecocks!) and currently lives in Greensboro with her fiancé and rescued fur baby Sasha. Favorite Sport- VOLLEYBALL! Played at UNCG and miss it dearly. Favorite Hobby – Cooking and Arts & Craft, Pinterest is my best friend. What’s new – Wedding Planning *woot woot* All those tips from guest speakers are helping out!

Vicky can be reached at or 336-996-3062x3.


If you are interested in being a guest author for the YPN Blog, please contact Nicole at or 919-832-5868.

For more information on the importance of internships as well as useful resources, don't forget to check out NCRPA's Intern Connection at

Tags:  intern  internship  internships  young professionals  ypn 

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Recreation and Park Professionals Play Pivotal Role in Health Initiatives

Posted By Marisa Tomasic, Ph.D., Monday, January 30, 2017

January 23, 2017

Marisa Tomasic, Ph.D.


The benefits of nature continue to gain recognition among health care providers. A good dose of the outdoors are finding their way into the prescriptions for a variety of medical conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, weight issues, fatigue, diabetes, and cancer. Healing from surgery has also shown to be enhanced by engaging with the outdoors (FoodTrients Recipe for Aging Beautifully).


Nature therapy, also referred to as “ecotherapy” and “green therapy,” has been shown to yield significant benefits in the areas of mental and emotional health as well.  Various measurements of stress, including pulse rate, blood pressure readings, and stress hormone levels, have been found to move in positive directions in studies of the health benefits of the outdoors. Stress, anxiety, and depression are known to improve when outdoor activity is incorporated into treatment plans. The exposure to sunlight that outdoor activity brings has long been recognized as a healing force for depression, with the sleep- and energy-enhancing properties of natural light assisting in elevating mood and feelings of well-being. (FoodTrients Recipe for Aging Beautifully) Exercise, frequently thought of as one of nature’s antidepressants, appears to produce more robust health benefits when conducted in the outdoors!


This exciting wave of research underscores the value of our state’s parks in promoting mental health and wellness.  Recreation and park professionals have a unique role to play in these initiatives as people take to the great outdoors to have fun, de-stress, and enhance their physical and mental wellness. Penn State University’s School of Health and Human Development suggests that park and recreation professionals have gained greater recognition in recent years as key players in health and wellness partnerships.

With this in mind, there are a variety of ways for park and recreation professionals to engage in mental health promotion. Activities to consider as participants in mental health initiatives throughout the state’s park and recreation departments include:

  • Educating communities about the health-promoting aspects of nature and the outdoors

  • Organizing walks, hikes, and fun-runs for children and adults

  • Inviting yoga and exercise studios to periodically move their classes outdoors

  • Conducting park and nature retreats for residents of urban areas

  • Leading older adults in walks and exercise classes in the park

  • Developing after school park activities which foster appreciation of nature

  • Planning “art in the park” exhibits and classes

  • Offering geocaching activities and competitions for all age level

  • Partnering with physicians who offer “nature prescriptions” to their patients

  • Teaming up with corporate wellness programs and incorporating outdoor components

  • Participating in Health Impact Studies when possible

  • Encouraging park and recreation involvement via robust social media presence

  • Engaging with psychologists and other mental health professionals to offer stress management classes in the park and to consult on an ongoing basis

The benefits of nature therapy are vast. Hopefully, your department can embrace this practice and find ways to spread it with the community.





Meet the Author

 Marisa McMillian Tomasic, Ph.D., was born and raised in Mount Airy, North  Carolina, and is currently a psychologist and freelance writer in Pittsburgh,  Pennsylvania.  She is the mother of two and loves the beach, the Carolina  Tar Heels, and spending time with  family.  


If you are interested in being a guest author for the Wellness Blog, please contact Diquan at or 919-832-5868

Tags:  ncrpa wellness  Wellness 

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ParkRx: Implementation & Evaluation

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, January 23, 2017

Monday, January 23rd 2017

The National ParkRx Initiative recently hosted a three-part webinar series about creating and sustaining park prescription programs in your department. I attended Part III: Implementation and Evaluation of this series and today’s wellness blog will detail some of what I learned.

According to the National Park Rx Initiative, “Park prescriptions are programs designed in collaboration with public land agencies, healthcare providers, and community partners to encourage people to utilize parks, trails, and open space for the purpose of improving individual and community health.”

When creating or strengthening Park Rx programs, implementation and evaluation are vital steps. This is the phase where partnership and needs assessment come together, to form a comprehensive Park Rx program.

The webinar covered a case study from a successful Park Rx program in Marin City, California. First, the Marin City program established partnerships with local health providers including the Marin City Health Department, as well as some local doctors. At-risk patients who visited partner health provider were identified to be good candidates for participation in a Park Rx program. With collaboration from the health care provider and the ParkRx program, the patients are prescribed different activities within the Marin City park system.

Throughout their attendance, the health provider sends someone to accompany the patient at their prescribed park, as well as debrief meeting afterward. Regular follow-up meetings occur to make sure the patient is meeting their goals and still participating in the program.

Marin City provided additional details regarding the implementation of their ParkRx program. Their “recipe for success” consisted of: Committed partners + Park + High Health Needs = Success. Sustaining success with the Marin City ParkRx program involved “ongoing regular meetings with backbone support.” This sustainability included regular communication and connection, updating each partner, and celebrating successes.

The example from Marin City did a good job of showing how the partnerships between health provider and parks and recreation department strengthened the implementation of their ParkRx program. It is clear that the program would not be successful without buy-in from the parks department, health provider, and patient.

Evaluation of ParkRx programs is crucial to determining how they can be improved. An example from Miami-Dade county’s ParkRx program found some interesting data-based conclusions, as well as some metrics you can use to evaluate your ParkRx program.

 Key areas of measurements are needed to be identified before an evaluation is done. The questions that the Miami-Dade County program asked included:


  • Who do we want to reach?

  • Who can we partner with?

  • What do you want to measure?

  • What would you like your ideal outcomes to be?

To collect this evaluation data, staff was trained to measure participant height and weight, waist and hip circumference, skinfold measures, blood pressure and pulse, as well as to administer the Presidential Fitness Test and a general knowledge test.

Overall, Miami-Dade County’s program found that school-aged students in their “Fit 2 Play” ParkRx program collectively maintained a healthy weight and BMI throughout the school year. Participants also lowered their blood pressure and improved their physical activity level and knowledge about nutrition. Finally, the evaluation also found that children with disabilities equally benefited from the program.

The data collected through the evaluation phase is helpful for a number of reasons. It creates concrete evidence regarding the effectiveness of the ParkRx program. This evidence can help tremendously in expanding your program or getting new people involved.

I hope that you find the information in this blog to be useful!  If you want to learn more about Park Prescriptions, please check out my write up of  Part One: Partnership, as well as Part Two: Needs Assessment.

If your department has or is planning to start a park prescription program, I would love to find out more information. Please email me at to share!

Until next time,


Tags:  Healthy Living  NCRPA Wellness  park prescription  Wellness 

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MLK Day - Volunteering for Health!

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, January 16, 2017

Monday, January 16th 2017


Happy MLK Day! With Martin Luther King Jr. being celebrated today, it reminded me of the volunteer opportunities in our community. Volunteering is not only good for the greater community but in many cases, it can also positively benefit individual health. This wellness blog will highlight some of the important health benefits of volunteerism, both mental and physical.

According to a passage found on the King Center’s website written by Coretta Scott King, “Martin Luther King Jr. Day is not only for celebration, remembrance, education, and tribute, but above all a day of service. All across America on the Holiday, his followers perform service in hospitals and shelters and prisons and wherever people need some help. It is a day of volunteering to feed the hungry, rehabilitate housing, to tutor those who can’t read, mentor at-risk youngsters, console the broken-hearted and a thousand other projects for building the beloved community of his dream.” The holiday always serves as a great reminder of the importance of volunteerism. There is no debate that volunteerism is good for the community, but let’s take a look at some of the positive health implications that come with volunteering.

Volunteering often gets the community on their feet and active. One example of this is community gardening. In addition to the health benefits of the fresh produce that your garden will produce, the volunteers engage in physical activity.  According to the NCRPA Wellness Toolkit, An hour of light gardening can burn as many calories in the average adult as spending an hour walking 3.5 miles. If your community has a community garden, encourage people to volunteer at it! Although the weather may be too cold, now is the perfect time to start getting the word out about volunteering in the spring. Try highlighting these health benefits as well in your marketing efforts. For information on starting a community garden program in your community, check out the program idea on the wellness toolkit.

A department-wide volunteer day can also be beneficial. If your community has a park or area that is in need of some upkeep, hold a volunteer day where different departments come together to help in the cleanup. From personal experience volunteer events like this are great for teambuilding, and also are a great chance for some exercise. You could even try reaching out to a neighboring department to see if they have any upcoming programs or special events that require volunteers. Not only would this help another department, but will also give insight on how their programs are run.

Another option for group community volunteering is partnering with an existing volunteer-based organization, such as Habitat for Humanity. I really have enjoyed volunteering with Habitat and they can often accommodate large groups. Not only does a large build give you a great workout, but helping build a home for a family in need made me feel extremely proud. To find a Habitat for Humanity location near you, go to this website and type in your zip code.

In many of our departments, youth athletic leagues are coached by volunteer coaches. These leagues are extremely valuable for youth development and health, and could not be successful without the countless volunteer coaches. On this day of volunteerism, recognizing our department volunteers is very important. One way to both recognize and help strengthen volunteer coaches is to hold a volunteer coaching clinic. At these coaching clinics, proper methods for coaching our youth can be discussed. Extraordinary coaching jobs can then be recognized in hopes that the behavior can be mirrored in other coaches. Be sure to stress the importance of their role in community health, and that your athletic league would not be the same without them.

In November, the NCRPA Wellness blog discussed the issue of food insecurity in North Carolina. This blog post discusses some ideas for combating against this issue, as well as ways to volunteer at food pantries, and best methods for food drive collection. To read this blog post, please click this link.

Personally, volunteering makes me feel good. Helping those who are less fortunate & helping to preserve our world’s natural beauty allows me time to reflect on things that I am thankful for. According to an article published by,  volunteering is good for mental health. The article states that “volunteering may provide a sense of purpose” and help maintain social networks. The Time article also points to a study by PsycNet that suggested individuals over the age of 50 who volunteer regularly are less likely to developed high-blood pressure than individuals who do not volunteer.

On this Martin Luther King day, think about all of the reasons that volunteering is good for your mental, physical, and community health. Even if you are not volunteering today, this reflection time can guide you in the right direction for the future.

Until next time,


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ParkRx: Needs Assessment

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, January 9, 2017

January 9th, 2017


 The National ParkRx Initiative recently hosted a three-part webinar series about creating and sustaining park prescription programs in your department. I recently attended Part II: Needs Assessment of this series and found the information extremely interesting. Today’s wellness blog will detail some of what I learned from attending this webinar.

In case you are unfamiliar with park prescription programs, I want to first cover the basics. According to the National Park Rx Initiative, “Park prescriptions are programs designed in collaboration with public land agencies, healthcare providers, and community partners to encourage people to utilize parks, trails, and open space for the purpose of improving individual and community health.”

To create and strengthen ParkRx programs, a needs assessment is necessary.  This assessment allows for proper development of Park Prescription programs that fit community resources and needs. Once the needs assessment is completed, goals and objectives of your program can be tailored to fit the identified needs. Information found in the needs assessment can also be used to educate the public and ParkRx partners about your department's features.

As a part of the needs assessment, community trails and parks should be assessed. The National Park Service developed a useful Prescription Trails Assessment Worksheet to be used when assessing trails. This assessment details infrastructure such as trail parking, accessibility, surfaces, resting areas and more. When an assessment like this one is completed, it allows your department to recognize areas that could be strengthened, as well as areas to advertise to participants.

Community parks also need to be properly assessed to develop park prescription programs. For this assessment, a method similar to the prescription trails assessment worksheet is used. The Community Park Audit Tool was developed by Active Living Research and takes inventory on important metrics in your parks. This form asks a series of questions regarding your park with check boxes to select applicable information.

Community health assessment is also required in order to strengthen Park Rx programs. To accomplish this, the System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC) is recommended. SOPARC is an assessment system  designed to “obtain direct information on community park use, including relevant concurrent characteristics of parks and their users.” This assessment gathers information regarding park users physical activity levels, activity types, and basic demographics.  

SOPARC is conducted using momentary time sampling techniques. Data collectors head out to parks at specific times during the day and use these worksheets to record what park participants are doing. Activity level is determined and jotted down in the appropriate space. For example, if the park user is lying down in a hammock, they would receive a mark of “S” for sedentary. Vice versa, if an individual is jogging or playing a game of basketball, they would receive a mark of “V” for vigorous. The category walking or “W” is in the middle, meaning the individual is walking at a casual pace.

To learn more about SOPARC and how it accurately measures community health in parks, please click this link. It’s a great resource with some important information on collection methods, observation periods, and more.

I hope that you find the information in this blog to be useful!  If you want to learn more about Park Prescriptions, please check out my write up of  Part One: Partnership of this series at this link. Be on the lookout for my post on part three of this series in the coming weeks!

If your department has or is planning to start a park prescription program, I would love to find out more information. Please email me at to share!

Until next time,


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