PRPS Storytelling Ambassadors

Every day, park and recreation professionals provide essential services and maintain essential infrastructure that supports and improves the health and well-being of the public. We need your help in communicating the importance of our work to Pennsylvanians and our funding partners, including the state Legislature. Storytelling Ambassadors naturally communicate the value of parks and recreation and PRPS through story.

Doug Knauss, Director, Susquehanna Twp. Parks & Recreation

After multiple majors in college, I came across a degree in Recreation Leisure Administration at York College and quickly found my future.  The recreation field quickly became what I was meant to do, and after breaking the news to my parents that I was once again changing my major and getting a comment from my father that I was going to college to learn how to play games, I quickly was able to change their minds by getting an internship in Japan working for MWR (Morale Welfare Recreation) for the United States Army.  Upon graduating I was able to secure a job in the field and have since made recreation a way of life both personally and professionally.  

From small beginnings working for the City of Harrisburg as a Sports and Special Programs Coordinator, to becoming the Director of Parks and Recreation for Whitemarsh Township to now being the Parks and Recreation Director for Susquehanna Township in a field where colleagues become friends and mentors.  It has been a truly amazing adventure with more to come.  I have been fortunate to be a part of a profession that encourages people to be active and involved in their community, and being one of the many people to promote those activities and help provide the facilities need is truly a rewarding experience.

Offering programs that are for all ages, interests, and abilities has been not only an educational process for me but a rewarding process, especially when you see individuals go beyond what you are offering and expanding their participation in an activity.  Watching people become more involved in the community through recreation either by volunteering or just participating brings the sense of community back to our busy and hectic lives.  

Recreation is not just a profession but as many professionals will agree it is a way of life.

Todd Roth, CPRP, AFO, Aquatics Supervisor, Centre Region Parks & Recreation

As a youth I nearly drowned.  Twice.  Once when I was three I walked off the edge of a dock and fell right into the Susquehanna River.  At age eight I was floating on a raft in the ocean and got carried pretty far from shore – when my raft started to sink. 

I didn’t join the swim team until I was 11, but was soon enamored with all things aquatics.  I swam competitively in high school and was voted captain of the swim team my senior year, then switched to water polo in college.  I’ve been coaching swimming and water polo ever since, and have had the joy to work around swimming pools my entire professional life.

I thoroughly enjoy the screams of delight as kids discover their own love for the water, and I cherish those special breakthrough moments around the pool that people remember their whole life.  A toddler swimming on their own for the first time, a water polo player scoring their first goal, a swimmer getting a best time, a lifeguard making their first save – all of these moments are so formative in a young person’s life, and I am truly grateful to be able to share in them!

Courtney Meehan, CPRP, Director, Lansdale Borough Parks & Recreation

When I was studying Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management at Penn State, my goal was to be a recreation director for a cruise ship or resort. What could be better than living in paradise and getting paid to have fun?! During my internship at an oceanfront resort on Hilton Head Island, my fellow interns and I did just that – we were having the time of our lives!

Every day we would show up to work and greet new guests on vacation for a long weekend, or maybe a week. Staff would rotate between the towel hut, shaved ice stand, bike rentals, and kid’s club. The kid’s club was always my personal favorite. For a hefty fee, parents would drop their kids off with the recreation interns and we would play on the beach, throw diving rings in the pool, and feed them all the shaved ice their little hearts desired. Some parents would leave their kids with us every day on their “family” vacation.

By the time August rolled around, I couldn’t wait to go home. The job had lost its appeal. The rotation of families and guests made it hard to build relationships. We would see different guests check-in and out every few days, but they were all the same. It started to feel like Groundhog’s Day.

I came back to Penn State that fall to finish my final semester. I now had absolutely no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. On a whim, I applied for a job with YMCA of Greater Seattle. It was a seasonal job teaching outdoor and environmental education at a residential camp on a tiny island in the most northwest corner of the US. I was only supposed to stay on the island for three months but ended up staying for six. I then got hired to work full-time in the camp headquarters in downtown Seattle.

This, I thought, THIS is what I wanted to do! The camp was not just for wealthy families that worked for Amazon or Microsoft; the YMCA provided financial aid that made it possible for kids from the poorest Seattle neighborhoods to attend camp. Kids that would typically never get to experience kayaking in the San Juan Islands or hanging out 30’ high on a ropes course, had the opportunity to do so.

My time at the YMCA laid the groundwork to working in the public sector. We might not have white sand under our toes, but now I get to provide everyone in the community the opportunity to enrich their lives and improve their health. The best part: it never feels like Groundhog’s Day!