Creating Steps to a Healthier You through WalkWorks

Walking—we do it every day. When we want to get somewhere, we walk. Sure, we may incorporate other modes of transportation into our lives, such as driving a car, riding a bike or using public transit, but we start and end every trip by walking.

We also choose our walking speed. When we have to get somewhere quickly, we speed walk. When we take the dog out or want to experience the outdoors, our pace slows. Walking is one of the simplest and easiest forms of physical activity – it’s free and requires no special equipment or athletic skill.

Yet, in 2017, one quarter of Pennsylvania adults indicated participating in no physical activity in the past month, while more than two thirds of adults were overweight or obese. Walking is an important part of our lives and can improve our overall health. Health benefits of walking include helping to control weight, reducing the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and enhancing mental well-being.

Why don’t we walk more?

In many locations across Pennsylvania, lack of access to areas where residents can safely walk or bicycle is cited as one of the reasons for poor physical health. Communities and their streets were rarely designed to enable simultaneous, safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders. However, streets designed for all modes of transportation, called Complete Streets, make it easier to cross the street, get to school, walk to shops, or bicycle to work and, therefore, are associated with increased physical activity. Complete Streets not only promotes good health and creates health equity, but it can also stimulate the local economy, improve road safety, reduce the amount of air pollution and improve mobility for children and older individuals.

WalkWorks – What is it?

To encourage walking and help more Pennsylvanians meet the national guidelines which call for adults to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week, the Pennsylvania Department of Health developed WalkWorks. WalkWorks seeks to encourage communities to support physical activity by promoting active transportation through the implementation of community-based walking routes and the development of plans or policies related to active transportation. Here are two upcoming opportunities to partner with WalkWorks:

WalkWorks affiliate program

Local community-based organizations interested in improving the health status of their communities can apply to become a WalkWorks affiliate. Joining the 89 walking routes in 21 counties across Pennsylvania, selected community-based partners:

• Identify a walking route and points of interests;

• Engage community stakeholders;

• Collaborate with community organizations; and

• Organize a kick-off celebration.

While a specific date to release the affiliate application has not yet been determined, it is expected to be released in August or September. To see if the application has been released, please visit the WalkWorks website.

Marcus Hook walking route, Delaware County

WalkWorks funding for active transportation plans or policies

Municipalities and similar types of local government organizations interested in enhancing active transportation through plans or policies can apply for WalkWorks funding to develop plans or policies that begin to prioritize active transportation. This funding opportunity, which will open on or around August 1, creates or enhances pedestrian and bicycle connections to common community destinations that allow people to recreate, shop, explore or socialize safely and conveniently. To view the application or apply, please visit the WalkWorks website after August 1.

Whether you are a community resident looking for opportunities to increase your physical activity or a local government official looking to improve the walkability and connectivity of your community, WalkWorks has resources, guides and funding opportunities that can help improve the overall health of your community.

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Ways to stay informed with PRPS

PRPS strives to keep our members up to date with the latest parks and recreation news and trends through a variety of communication outlets.  Here are several ways we keep you informed:

  1. The SCOOP – This weekly email newsletter includes the latest news, new members, upcoming education & training announcements, member requests for peer collaboration, Dig It! blog posts, legislative alerts, member news and more. If you want to include something, the deadline is each Monday. You can view past SCOOPs on prps.org under Resources/Publications, and then select Archives. It is a members-only page, so you will need to login to gain access.
  2. Pennsylvania Recreation & Parks – Our semiannual magazine provides articles on playgrounds, aquatics, trails, leadership, unique program ideas, professional development, and current trends. Issues are sent each spring and fall. Our magazine archive can be found at prps.org under Resources/Publications.
  3. Membership Directory and Buyers Guide – This is our largest publication, and features individual and agency members contact information, the buyer’s guide vendor listing, and other professional references. It is printed each spring, and provides advertisers unique and on-going exposure.
  4. Districts and Branch News – The Resource Branch Newsletter is developed by the Park Resource Branch and includes articles from the Resource Operations Workshop and more.  The Aquatics News offers new resources and alerts of certification changes/requirements. Each District sends out news regarding their regional educational workshops and socials.
  5. Website – PRPS.org is updated frequently to reflect current news, resources, professional development opportunities, partnerships, and job center. Be sure to login when you visit, so you can access all of our members-only content, resources, and online directory.
  6. Social Media – Engage with PRPS on the following social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. Facebook is used the most to add events; share related articles, member news and other news. If you are interested in taking over one of our social media accounts for a week, let us know.
  7. Mobile App – Download our popular Conference & Expo app to view the conference schedule or search for exhibitors, speakers, socials, maps, sponsors, and attendees.
  8. Direct Mail – Workshop brochures, publications, postcards, Conference & Expo Guides.
  9. Annual Report – This report highlights the many accomplishments of PRPS, its volunteers and supporters.
  10. Dig It! Blog – Our blog covers a variety of topics including Advocacy, Funding, Leadership, Maintenance, Operations, Personnel, Wellness, Programming, Volunteer, Communication, Internship and Trails. If you would like to be a guest blogger, let me know at eschnellbaugh@prps.org.
  11. Digital Email – Professional development opportunities, legislative alerts, and other important notices are sent through our email distribution list.
  12. Media Kit – Produced at the beginning of the year, this guide includes all advertising and sponsorship opportunities available to vendors and supporters.

As you can see PRPS offers a variety of ways to keep in touch. You can manage your communication preferences when you login to your account at prps.org.  If you are interested in something listed that you are not receiving, or need help finding something on the website let us know.

Have an idea to share?  Please consider volunteering as a guest blogger, social media contributor, or to author a magazine article.  You can receive Professional Service Experience Points (CEU equivalent) toward your professional certification renewal by submitting articles for publication in Pennsylvania Recreation and Parks.

What information and resources would you like to see?  We are always looking for new topics for articles, blog entries, and resources to share with our members. If you have ideas to share and would like to be on the Communications & Marketing Committee, email me at eschnellbaugh@prps.org.

“It is what it is……..”

“It is what it is”………… One of my favorite sayings shared with my previous supervisor. It is that time of the year, when all of the sudden everything is crazy, phones are ringing, schedules need completed, clearances are due, the weather is not cooperating, and there is no water in the pool! Summer is right around the corner……..it is what it is and summer is here!

Are you overwhelmed, overloaded, and overworked? It is what it is, but you need to rejuvenate daily or you won’t make it to July 4th let alone the end of the summer. You can’t put it off until your vacation, or a weekend trip. Real rejuvenation takes place by adding beneficial practices to your life by improving your energy, productivity, and focus, so you can accomplish more in an efficient manner.

How can you rejuvenate daily?

Get outdoors. We all know it, we all read it, but do we all do it? Time outside leads to happiness, less stress and clears the mind. Take a quick walk around your office, a change of scenery and a breath of fresh air go a long way.

Check your soul. Take a few minutes during the day to just shut your eyes, meditate and connect with yourself. Refocus, and redirect your mind to a positive thought or direction.

Get Up. If you are sitting all day, the best way to rejuvenate is give yourself the gift of movement. Get moving, get into action. Sign up for an exercise class, go for a bike ride, or take a walk. Keep it simple, but keep at it and make it a daily routine.

Get to Sleep. This is usually one of the easiest ways to rejuvenate, as the percentage of individuals getting more than 7.5 hours per night decreases, causing many health concerns. You will notice increase energy, better focus, and a better diet if you increase those zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz’s.

Action steps to increasing the time for get outdoors, check your soul, get up and get to sleep: Time management/ organization and my personal favorite, turn off the TV. Time management is actually taking the time to analyze what you do with your time during the day. Try making a graph of every fifteen minutes and what you personally are working on, you will be amazed at the changes you will be able to make to allow for more time to accomplish the rejuvenation techniques. Lastly, decrease all screen time. It is what it is, so turn on your app that tracks your time on the screen, you will be again astounded at the potential everyday changes leading to a new you!

Pennsylvania Park and Recreation Professionals Day is July 19

PRPS_Park&Recreation_ProfessionalsDayIt’s a safe bet we can all agree on the following. That when:

•   you visit a park, it is clean, safe, and ready to use.
•   your family goes swimming, the lifeguards are well-trained and the water quality is optimal.
•   your grandchild visits the playground, you know it is maintained to all safety standards.
•   your loved one with a disability wants to camp, swim, paddle or fish, all facilities are well-marked, well-maintained and easily accessible.
•   you attend a public festival, all safety and security systems are capable and functioning.
•   your elderly parents look for enriching and companionable activities, they can always find them.
•   your children attend day camp, you are certain of their safe and appropriate physical, cognitive and social development.
•   you visit urban woodlands, gardens and greenspaces, the attractive assets are well-cared for and healthy.
•   your teens participate in youth sports, they thrive in the coaching, playing, and growing.
•   you want to bike to the park, grocery store, library or work, you are able to make those connections, free from all hazards.

I believe we can agree that these are all reasonable expectations of our park and recreation facilities and programs. And since they are, it is fitting to credit the park and recreation professionals who provide them.

The third Friday in July is Pennsylvania Park and Recreation Professionals Day. It honors the men and women who work tirelessly behind the scenes to provide the high quality programs and facilities we desire and expect in our parks and public spaces.

On July 19, we invite all Pennsylvanians to visit a park and enjoy its facilities and services in a tribute to all our park and recreation providers. And just perhaps they’ll mention a little thanks to the programmer, manager, maintainer, landscaper, facilitator, lifeguard, coach, event organizer or caretaker.

If you have a public event on or near Friday, July 19, we encourage you to make it an official Park and Recreation Professionals Day celebration, with special promotions and publicity. Invite your elected officials and allow them to eye-witness and publicly acknowledge your value to the community at large. Download the resources of the promotional toolkit here to assist in your local preparations. 

Park and Recreation Professionals Day is celebrated during National Park and Recreation Month, and is a function of the Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society.

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The “We” in Fundraising

I was recently asked “What is the one piece of fundraising advice you would give me, if you could pick only one?”

And I answered “Stop using the word WE.”

Now, that takes a little bit of explanation, but I promise, it’s a game-changer.

Let’s explore this…

You sit down to write a fundraising letter or marketing materials… what do you want to tell your potential donors? About your successes, about your accomplishments and credentials, how you’re different than other groups, your mission, and your needs…

This translates on paper and gets sent to the donor, who – I promise you – skims rapidly through your letter. What they see in their skimming is this:WE image

“We have reached our goal of… we offer programs to… we exceeded our project with… we meet the needs of the community… we need your help to move to the next step.”

Now, put your donor hat on and re-read that. Where do I (the donor) fit into this, other than to pay the bill?

Donors often say that they feel like an ATM machine, only contacted when someone needs money. The WE where we talk about the importance of our work is leaving out the very person we hope will help us.

Ah…. That brings me to the next important point. Watch out for the “Us” as well.

Writers think “us” sounds inclusive and will make people feel like part of the group, but it rarely does.

You may wonder why I would write a whole blog post on this – but remember, its my #1 choice top advice to give about fundraising when asked. There is an identified psychological element to the wording used in fundraising messages and how the donor responds.

I recently got a post card that said “Please help us build our new Park!”

Again, think like the donor… an engaged citizen who cares about the community and the recreation agency, or has children who benefited from recreation programs, but is also a tax payer and very busy person with bills and a life etc.

“Please help us (the parks agency) build our (the park agency’s) new Park!”

This sounds a lot like “We need money and you should give it to us.” Or as I like to explain it “Please help us pay our bills”

Now, this is not just my opinion. I particularly am fascinated by the language used in fundraising, copy-writing, and the psychological connection. If you want to learn more, research Donor Centered Fundraising.

So, let’s wrap this up: What would work better, make the donor feel included and welcome, and bring in dollars?

Original: Help us build our new park!

Instead: Join us! Let’s build a new park!

Note that “us” in this example feels inclusive, us all together.

Original: “We need your help to build our new playground!

Note here that the writer means for the “our” to be inclusive, everyone will feel excited about our new park, but it does not come across that way. Instead it sounds like “help us pay our bills”.

Instead: A New Community Playground! Will you help?

Better yet, try to include the word “you”. You the donor are vital to the success of this community project, you the donor can join this cause and be special, you (donor) can be a hero to so many kids!

Now do you feel the energy?

You can enjoy the new expanded playground with your family (future feeling) or You can make a big difference (feel like the hero).

As you’re writing, put yourself in the donor’s shoes and think carefully about the we-us-you’s that you use in the writing. It can really make a big difference!

An Appreciation of Inspiration

Recently CBS News shared an infographic defining generation guidelines. Curiously, Gen X was missing from this graphic. This omission led to some online fun.

NonGenX

As often is the case with internet funnies, I went down a rabbit hole of Gen X jokes and ended up taking an online quiz to see which Gen X characteristics I inhabit.

  • Independent/ Self Sufficient– Check! That’s totally me.
  • Results oriented– Brushes shoulder off.
  • Embrace hands off management style– Nailed me!
  • Work/Life Balance very important– Yup!
  • Casual Disdain for Authority– Looks over recently brushed off shoulder. Uhh…
  • Cynical– Well….

That last characteristic is a double edged sword. I had fun taking this quiz, but because of that trait, I’m skeptical of its accuracy.

As silly as these tests are, it is beneficial to be self aware of your shortcomings. For me, I realize that if I’m not careful, cynicism can close me off to new experiences as well as inspiration. I’ve found that they often go hand in hand. A new experience can lead to a jolt of inspiration.

Inspiration comes from unexpected places. I was recently at a club to see Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, an English musician with an insanely entertaining live show. I enjoy a wide range of music, but especially appreciate the smaller acts, the more intimate clubs, and the comradery those venues foster.

I came into the show already expecting to be entertained based on past experience. Little did I know that the opening act would accelerate my enjoyment of the evening. I’m a sucker for blending classical instruments with more traditional rock, and punk elements, and the opening act had a cellist that knocked my socks off. It was a performance I had never experienced. I thoroughly enjoyed their set, and was inspired…to purchase some of their music.

*Paying for music, total Gen X thing to do.

One of the last times I was inspired, was at the Annual Conference. Now what traits do a professional conference share with going to a show? For me, I believe the inspiration comes from a place of passion, authenticity and talent. I’ve never walked away from a conference, not being inspired by a speaker, a peer, or a late night chat at a social. Often I find inspiration at the Awards Banquet. (Free plug for submitting awards nominations!) It is such a joy to see and hear what everyone is doing in their communities. New Professional and Agency of the Year acceptance speeches are often highlights for me, and almost always a source of motivation. I could list multiple individuals that have moved me with their words.

But I won’t.

It’s almost Summer and I’m trying to keep the word count reasonable! The talent to implement the programs and projects that propel our members to be recognized is evident. The passion to push through all the hurdles, the red tape, the bureaucracy, the long days, finding a kernel of positivity from a flop, are all part of this formula. Most importantly, I think the authenticity of those that put all of themselves into this profession go along way in penetrating this Gen Xer’s waning cynicism, and breed the inspiration that I’m so immensely appreciative of.

Your Alma Mater Wants YOU!

Attention college and university graduates!  Your alma mater needs you.

This isn’t a request for money although alumni donations and financial support are always greatly appreciated.  This is about you.  This is about your talent, your experience and your expertise helping to enrich the university offerings.   To quote Uncle Sam, we want you!

Participating in a university alumni association offers the graduate many benefits.  The alumni network can be an asset in your career development, in building your connections in the field and in expanding your social network.  Moving to a new town?  Taking on a new role in your career?  Your local alumni association can often provide resources, both formal and informal, to help you in that transition.  Alumni associations are increasingly offering other services such as career support, special events and other opportunities to remain connected to your alma mater.  Some alumni associations even offer alumni travel programs.   For example, in 2017, Penn State’s Recreation, Park and Tourism Management (RPTM) faculty led an Alumni Travel program through Yellowstone Park entitled “The Wolves of Yellowstone.”  The week-long trip included educational sessions, faculty led discussions and social time.  Faculty shared their expertise and research related to the National Parks while alumni expanded their knowledge and understanding as well as their social network.  Ironically, none of the alumni participants in that program were RPTM alums!

But, it isn’t just Penn State.  Whether you attended Lock Haven, Slippery Rock, Cheyney, York College, Cal State, East Stroudsburg or Temple – or other schools within or outside of Pennsylvania – universities want their alumni to stay connected.  Alumni can and do help faculty and staff with the university mission of teaching, research and service.

There are a variety of ways that a strong alumni network enriches an academic program.  First, alumni contribute through class participation.  Having “professionals in the classroom” can offer first person, real life experience, stories and examples of theory and practice that are covered in the curriculum.  Further, by providing sites for projects, events, or other collaborations, students begin to make the transition from course materials and book learning to practical experience in real world recreation, parks and tourism service delivery.

Second, alumni help with student development on an individual level.  Many universities, including Penn State, have Alumni-Student mentoring programs.   Students who build relationships one-on-one with alumni in their intended careers report that it deepens their understanding of the field.  The alumni mentors often offer suggestions on courses, help with resumes or as a sounding board for questions about the profession.

Finally, having an alumni advisory board or an affiliated alumni group can help the academic program with both academic and social programs.  In Penn State’s last RPTM curriculum review, the data we collected from alumni and from the agencies who have accepted our interns offered important information to help us adapt and modify the new curriculum.   As we plan social events like tailgates, socials at conferences and other places for students, faculty and alumni to “recreate” we look to our alumni for guidance.

A strong partnership between universities and their alumni can also lead to support at your agencies from faculty in research, program evaluation, and other collaborations.

Check out what your school and department is doing on social media.  Say “yes” when you are asked to speak in classes.  Sign up to be a mentor.  Attend a university function.  Maybe even make a donation!  A relationship between a university or college and their students and graduates that continues beyond commencement is of benefit to all.