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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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Wellness Community Partnerships

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, May 15, 2017
Updated: Monday, May 8, 2017

This week, the wellness initiative interviewed Greg Walker, Director of Fletcher Parks and Recreation about their numerous community partners in wellness. Special thanks to Greg for providing his answers. Read the interview below, and get inspired to create & sustain wellness partnerships in your community!

1. What partnerships in wellness does the Town of Fletcher currently offer?

We partner with the following companies to provide community wellness programs at Fletcher Community Park:

  • Foot Rx Running holds a $5.00 community 5k run the first Wednesday of every month with proceeds going to local non-profits.

  • Fleet Feet Sports holds monthly training runs for beginners with their “no boundaries” program on Saturdays.

  • Park Ridge Health sponsors community wellness events at the park and provides nutritional expertise for participants.

  • Burn Fitness is currently offering free community HIT classes on our outdoor fitness center, once a month.

2. Any suggestions for unique, outside the box wellness partnerships that agencies can pursue?

Look to partner with area non-profits (YMCA, Boys & Girls Club, etc.) to provide community gardens or walking clubs.

3. What is the most effective strategy you use to establish partnerships in your community?

I visit with local community wellness providers to find out any needs they have, to see if I can provide solutions by partnerships.

4. What are some of the challenges that come along with establishing these partnerships?

Breaking down old “turf” issues. To overcome this, remind potential partners that we are all in this to provide a better quality of life for those residents in our community.

Example:  We use a YMCA yoga instructor to teach our yoga classes at the Town Hall during the winter season.

5. What is the biggest value in your eyes that these partnerships bring to improve community wellness?

Partnering is a great way to begin collaborations in your community, and as a local government, we should lead the way.

6. What do you think is the best quality in a partner?

I look for partners that want to impact people, not make money off them. You have to have the same vision for community service.

7. Any other advice for departments seeking wellness partners?

Get out of your building or park, have lunch with potential partners and do not be afraid to ask them to assist you to serve others!

Thanks again to Greg Walker in Fletcher for providing us with more information about the town’s wellness partnerships! If your department has any cool wellness partnerships, i’d love to know about it. Email me at to share!

Until next time,


Tags:  NCRPA Wellness  wellness 

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Employee Wellness: Stand-Up Desks

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, May 8, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Thanks to a grant, NCRPA was able to purchase stand-up desks for our team. So far, we are all loving the change! This wellness blog will cover the health benefits of stand-up desks, and how your department can adopt the change.

Sitting for long periods of time is commonly known to be bad for overall health. According to the Washington Post, risks of sitting for prolonged periods include heart disease, sore shoulders and back, and poor circulation in legs. This can cause problems for those of us with jobs that require us to sit down.

Stand-up desks have been around for ages. They are a great way to avoid sitting down for the majority of the day, but still be productive in an office setting. According to, stand-up desks can have a variety of benefits on your health:

  • Reduced risk of obesity

  • Reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes and other metabolic problems

  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease

  • Reduced risk of cancer

To read the full article on regarding stand-up desks, click this link.

In addition to health benefits that standing up more can provide, there are also productivity benefits! According to a study referenced in the Washington Post, “employees using stand-capable desks were more productive than their colleagues in standard, seated desks.” The study goes on to state that  “Researchers noticed a difference in the workers’ comfort, attitude about work, and how they felt about themselves.”

If you are interested in starting to use a stand-up desk, there are a few things to consider. According to, sitting and standing should be alternated back and forth every “30 minutes of each for most people” while adjusting to your new set up. The article also provides an infographic that shows the correct posture to use when standing.

There are a number of different types of stand-up desks options that can be adapted to your office space. If you have an office big enough to fit multiple desks, a non-adjustable stand-up desk can be added. However, if you have a smaller space, an adjustable stand-up desk may be right for you. These desks can be adjusted to standing and sitting height by the turn of a crank.

Once you have your desk in place, there are a number of different fitness equipment that can be added to your daily work routine! At the NCRPA office, the grant also covered a desk elliptical trainer. I love using the pedals for a few minutes each day while I’m sitting down to get my heart rate up.

Enjoy these photos of the NCRPA team up and using our stand-up desks! Nicole and I have the adjustable variety, while Matt, Wanda, and Michelle have the non-adjustable type. We hope to see you all up and standing soon!

Until next time,


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Tags:  Employee Wellness  NCRPA Wellness  Wellness 

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YPN Blog: May 2017

Posted By Laura Rice, Henderson County Parks and Recreation, Monday, May 1, 2017

Working in the public service setting can make it difficult to find ways outside of work to connect and be involved with the community. As recreation providers, we are often in the midst of community events and programs, which can make it feel like we are extremely tied into all the happenings within our towns and cities, despite a whole new world of areas to explore outside of the circles we frequent.

Luckily, I find myself involved with many community projects within the scope of my job as a Recreation Program Supervisor in Henderson County, which is exciting but comes with a few downsides. As I’m sure many of you can relate, the demands on our time and energy in public service sometimes leave us without the time or energy to be involved in the community outside of work hours. Those very unique work hours we keep (“we work when you play!”) can conflict with projects that we would otherwise eagerly jump into.

As I’ve found my rhythm and groove in my position and settled into the demands on my time, there are a few ways I’ve found to be more involved within my community, network, and reach beyond the sometimes seemingly all-encompassing world of public recreation:

- Local leadership course: Here in Henderson County there is a program called Vision Henderson County that exposes participants to the history, culture, commerce, and general make-up of the area. From visiting the local history museum and hearing stories of Main Street fires to touring an innovative plant grafting facility, I’ve learned more about my community in the past 9 months than in all the years spent growing up here. Plus I’ve met a lot of really interesting people and developed relationships with other professionals from a wide range of sectors.

- Find your local young professionals meet-up: It can be a little intimating going to a new meet-up group but with the support of a friend or co-worker it’s easy to jump in! These events are usually designed to be low stress, fun, and informative, plus many offer an opportunity to plug what you do and any upcoming fun your department has planned.

- See what local committees have vacancies:  Is there a wellness committee or walk/bike planning committee that you could serve on? Perhaps there are ways to integrate recreation resources and support, and it provides an avenue to reach out to other departments. For example, our department has representation in our local healthy living committee, juvenile crime prevention council, and Special Needs Olympics committee.

- Check the local college for seminars or special conferences: Many community colleges or universities offer continuing professional development or small business support. It can be easy to overlook these resources since public government is run much differently, but they usually offer courses on social media, marketing on a budget, leadership development courses, and more. Plus it provides another opportunity to connect with local business owners and expand who you know!

- Keep an eye out for work trainings or seminars through other departments such as Human Resources, the library, or the health department. Even if it doesn’t directly relate to what you are doing now, it may in the future, or may help you get a bigger picture of your community.

- Connect with the local Chamber of Commerce for after work events, networking, and professional support groups. They can also make great partners for future programs!

- Check out the local Tourism Development Authority. Our TDA hosts Tourism After 5 each month at different locations around the county that are always fun, interesting, and help you explore where you live.

- Finally, always make time for fun! Join a local recreation club, sport league, or team. Make sure to keep fueling your energy, interests, and passions outside of work hours!

There are so many different ways to learn about where you live, work, and play. Don’t try to do it all at once, but keep an eye out for new ways to connect and be involved outside of your official position in your city or county, and who knows who you’ll meet or what you’ll find!

Meet the Author

Laura Rice works for Henderson County Parks & Recreation Department as a Recreation Program Supervisor overseeing the Recreation Youth Soccer Program. After spending high school working as a soccer referee she found her calling in public recreation and attended Mars Hill College for her undergrad and completed the NCSU Online Parks, Recreation, & Tourism Management program in 2015 for her master’s. Outside of youth sports, community programs, and continuing to learn as much as she can about just about everything, Laura is a competitive cyclist, competing in cyclo-cross and other cycling events.

Laura can be reached at or 828-697-4885.


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

Tags:  community involvement  young professionals  ypn 

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May is Water Safety Month!

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, May 1, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, April 25, 2017

In case you did not know, May is Water Safety Month! Water safety month was created by the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals, with support from the National Recreation and Park Association and The American Red Cross. According to the National Water Safety Month website, May is designated to “bring safe, enjoyable aquatic activities to the American public, from home pools and spas to waterparks and resorts, to public swimming and water recreation facilities.” This wellness blog will give your department some ideas on how to celebrate.

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), an average of about 10 people per day in America die from drowning accidents. The NSC goes on to elaborate that drowning is a leading cause of death amongst Americans - with the greater risk being posed to younger children.

As recreation and park providers, your department may be a leading force in the community in offering water events. From open pool days in the summer - to kayak rentals at the local lake, the variety of water-based programs that can be offered are endless. It is very important that these programs are done in a safe manner.

One way to help implement water safety practices in your community is to offer water safety courses. These courses can range from swim lessons that emphasize pool safety rules, to safe boating practices. The American Red Cross offers courses that will teach these rules in a number of different capacities. Click this link to find a provider near you!

The official National Water Safety Month website shares a lot of resources to help in the adoption and implementation of safe water programs. Below, I have listed a few easy tips to emphasize to users of your facilities:

  • Keep pool toys not in use away from the pool

  • Implement the “buddy system” for use

  • If a child is missing, look for him or her in the water first

  • Flotation devices are not meant to serve as a water supervision device

In addition to the list of tips to keep in mind when offering water based activities, the National Water Safety Month website put together a great toolkit of resources. These resources will help bring awareness to Water Safety Month and help to make your facility safer.

Planning a water safety fair is also a great way to introduce safe water practices into your community. The National Water Safety Month has arranged a guide to help in implementing water safety fairs. To learn more about how to implement a water safety fair in your community, click this link.

I hope that this blog has given you some ways to celebrate Water Safety Month! If your department does a cool water safety program, I’d love to know about it. Email me at!

Until next time,


Tags:  ncrpa wellness  wellness 

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April Showers

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, April 24, 2017
Updated: Saturday, April 15, 2017

Everybody knows the old adage: April showers bring May flowers. Sometimes, the rain can wreak havoc on your outdoor recreation programs. This wellness blog will give you some easy tips on how to stay active indoors when the weather's not cooperating.

Spring in agencies across North Carolina usually means the return of outdoor athletics. Soccer, baseball, and softball are some of the major athletics that are coming back outside. When rain strikes and field conditions become unplayable, players are often sent home in disappointment without engaging in any physical activity.

If your department has any facility availability, there are a few indoor activities you can offer athletic participants instead. When communicating with athletic leagues regarding cancellations, be sure to refer them to this “rain-out” plan. Provide your youth league coaches with the following skill drills that can easily be conducted indoors:

Soccer Drills:

Baseball/Softball Drills:

The internet has tons of athletic drills that can be easily implemented indoors. Depending on your indoor facility availability, a quick search can allow you to adapt indoor drills to fit the needs of your athletic leagues.

The internet can also be very useful when your plans of exercising outdoors get ruined by the bad weather. In September, the wellness blog wrote about online fitness and provided some great resources to make the most out of your indoor fitness routines.

Additionally, springtime brings an increased chance of severe weather in our state. Be sure that you are aware of your department’s severe weather plan to ensure everyone’s safety. It may also be a good idea to invest in a few outdoor thunder strike monitors. These little pagers will notify outdoor staff when a lightning strike has occurred, and how far away it is.

I hope that this wellness blog has given you some ideas on how to approach rain cancellations in the future!


Tags:  NCRPA Wellness  Wellness 

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Underwater Egg Hunt - Mecklenburg County

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, April 17, 2017
Updated: Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation holds an annual underwater egg hunt at one of their indoor pool facilities, Ray's Splash Planet. When looking for creative and active egg hunt ideas, I could not miss out on reaching out to the facility for more details. Luckily, Daniel Leatherman, a facility manager at Ray's Splash Planet was kind enough to answer a few questions about their event that took place on Thursday, April 13th. Check out our interview below to get some great ideas on how to incorporate a similar event in your community!


1. How did the idea for the underwater egg hunt come about?

Ray's Splash Planet is open year round, and through the years we have added multiple special events. Our main three events are Easter, Halloween, and Christmas. We like to embrace the fact that we are one of a few indoor water parks in the area, and try to incorporate a fun water aspect into all we do. This is evident with our Swim with Santa, Haunted Pool Deck tour, and of course the Underwater Egg Hunt.
2. What other activities do you offer at the hunt?

The main attraction is obviously the egg hunt, but we do offer a few other activities. A temporary tattoo station, coloring, and craft areas are staples at our special events. The Easter Bunny and the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation mascot, RAY will be making the rounds all night. The facility opens to participants at 6:00 pm and the hunts start at 6:30 pm. This year will be our very first ‘Duck Drop’ for adults. Each adult that stays until 7:30 pm will be assigned a number that corresponds to a rubber ducky, and we will race all the ducks down the slide and around the lazy river.  Three winners will receive a prize basket.
3. What prizes are included in the eggs? Is there a mixture of floating and sunken eggs?

We use both floating and sinkable eggs at this event, and all of our eggs are empty. To make this program more cost-effective and sustainable, we have decided to have all kids trade in any eggs they find for a prize pack. The prize pack is an age appropriate goody bag similar to what you would see at a birthday party. This year we will have a special golden egg hidden for each hunt, and the finder will receive a special prize.
4. How do you staff this event?

All hands on deck. We have scheduled four full-time staff: Facility Manager, Pool Supervisor, Front Desk Supervisor, and Admin. Assistant. We have 10 dry part-time staff handling front of house including two cash registers, crafts, concession stand, and crowd control. We have around 20 wet part-time staff to include photographers, pool crowd control, traditional lifeguards, and characters.
5. How do you market this event to the public?

In the past we have had a live morning news crew on site, which is great - except for the tough part of recruiting kids to play in our pool at 6:00 am to advertise. Additionally, we do Facebook, targeted participant emails, a press release, and around 20 free online posts with blogs/event calendars.
6. Are there any notable challenges that occur when trying to plan an event like this?

Our pool area capacity is 555 people, and our goal is around 300-400 total people for this event. We would hate to turn away anyone, which is often not a factor with most outdoor hunts. Starting each egg hunt is also challenging - as one errant whistle by a lifeguard to stop a patron from running can set off an entire flock of 3-4 year old’s. Once the first kid commits, the hunt is on. Parking is a major challenge onsite. We have around 180 spots including our overflow lot, so parking can be tight when you factor in 34 staff plus 400 participants.
7. What has been the biggest success of this event?

This event is super fun. As with most egg hunts, the “hunt” only lasts 30 seconds, but it is an intense 30 seconds. We do allow the public to use the other parts of the pool (big slide, lap lane, lazy river) during hunts, and also encourage the craft areas and bunny pictures. The night is full of fun, and we have had great success with this annual program.


Special thanks to Daniel and Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation for sharing their great event with us! If your department conducts any cool and active special events, I'd love to know about it! Email me at to share. 

Until next time,


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Tags:  NCRPA Wellness 

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Healthy Egg Hunts!

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, April 10, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Springtime is officially here! Last weekend, your department may have held your annual egg hunt event. These traditions are likely a huge part of your communities celebrations. This wellness blog will give you some healthy ways to celebrate this year and in the future.

According to CNBC, Easter outranks both Valentine’s Day and Halloween for the number one candy consuming holiday. The article states that in 2015, $823 million of candy was purchased in just the week before Easter!

It’s safe to say that community holiday events and candy go hand in hand. Whether it’s eggs filled with jellybeans at an egg hunt, or baskets delivered by the bunny with all our favorite treats, the candy keeps on flowing.

Although eating candy in moderation is probably fine for most individuals, binging on candy should be avoided. One way to assist in this candy moderation is to get create when stuffing your eggs.

We all know that plastic eggs are typically filled with candy, but there are a number of different options that your department can substitute. From Goldfish crackers to small toys, the possibilities are endless. Below, I have included a list of some of my favorite egg stuffers, and where to purchase them:

It is important to choose appropriate stuffers for different age groups. Unfortunately, a lot of non-edible stuffers will be too small for children under 3 years old. For these groups, use things such as stickers and tattoos. This could be a simple way to reduce the amount of candy consumed in your community.

If you are also making baskets, these same techniques can be applied. Subbing out candy for these fun items is sure to make any kid happy.

I hope that this wellness blog gave you some ideas on how to hold healthier holiday events! If your department has already integrated these tactics into your programs, I’d love to know about it! Feel free to email me at


Until next time,


Tags:  NCRPA Wellness  Wellness 

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April is National Gardening Month

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, April 3, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Happy April! If you did not know, April is National Garden Month. National Garden Month was first celebrated in April of 1987, with President Reagan signing it into a proclamation. The National Gardening Association encourages “everyone to grow gardens, give plants to others, and help beautify our communities.” This wellness blog will detail the importance of gardening, and give your department some great resources to consider using in starting or improving upon a community garden.

To many, gardening is very therapeutic. Research tends to back up this claim. According to the Michigan State University extension, “Gardening has emerged in recent years as a scientifically proven stress reliever.” Additionally, a study done by the Journal of Health Psychology determined gardening gave test subjects a higher decrease in stress levels than reading.

Gardening even has some surprising physical benefits! 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. Gardening can increase physical activity in children, and has also been linked to greater physical activity and life satisfaction in seniors.”

The CDC considers gardening a moderate level activity. “Gardening is an excellent way to get physical activity. Active people are less likely than inactive people to be obese or have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer, and premature death.”

So far, we have discussed the physical and mental benefits of gardening, but what about all of the nutrition benefits from all of the fresh produce gardening produces? According to, the benefits of gardening are bountiful for the following reasons. First, the food produced from gardening is the freshest you can get. Additionally, people who garden generally eat more fruits and vegetables than people who do not garden.

Interested in starting a garden in your community? The following resources will give you a great start!

The NCRPA Wellness initiative has a variety of resources regarding starting, maintaining, or improving upon a garden in your community. First, check out this great resource on the NCRPA Toolkit. Additionally, our wellness webinar from February 2016 covered community gardens and offers a lot of good ideas regarding starting, maintaining, and programming from a community garden in Black Mountain, NC.

Additionally, consider this resource from the American Community Garden Association which details 10 Steps to starting a community garden.

Another piece of advice is to reach out to other recreation and park departments throughout the state to hear about their garden programs. There are a number of community gardening programs run by our agencies, and they can offer great advice.

If your department has a successful garden program, I’d love to know about it! Email me at

Until next time,


Tags:  community gardens  ncrpa  ncrpa wellness  Wellness 

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YPN Blog: April 2017

Posted By Leanne Pressley, Winston-Salem Recreation and Parks, Friday, March 31, 2017

Speak about it! The Importance of Public Speaking

We all have had that moment when we were told or asked to present in front of others. So many questions come up:

  1. What topic(s) do I discuss?
  2. What do I wear?
  3. How long do I have to present?
  4. What is the setting I will be presenting in?

See, blog writing is easy; it does not involve the average person’s public speaking fears. We have the opportunity to address people from behind a computer screen. Don’t worry about what to wear. For all we know you could be writing this in the comfort of your home in your Power Ranger Pajamas - no judgments!  (The new movie looks good, but it sure can’t beat the original. GO, GO Power Rangers!) No worrying about how long or short to write about the topic of discussion. Remember the old build a burger trick?

  1. Bun: Topic Sentence (No need to get fancy with a brioche bun, an original sesame is just fine)
  2. Toppings: Supporting Sentence 1 (The classics)
  3. Meat : Supporting Sentence 2 (Veggie Patty)
  4. Toppings: Supporting Sentence 3 (Because we just can’t get enough of the good stuff)
  5. Bun: Conclusion sentence

See, no fears. Everyone likes a hamburger, and, oh yeah, you also made a dynamite paragraph for your topic of discussion.

Public Speaking can be nerve wracking, fearful, and can make a person feel judged, but the benefits of public speaking are rewarding, educational, and enlightening. If you feel stuck in a rut and can’t decide on what to speak about, no worries, here are some great ideas!

  1. Programming
  2. Internships
  3. Leadership experience
  4. Advancement in your professional career
  5. Community Involvement and Safety
  6. Fundraising
  7. Networking

In need of a setting to present?  I am so glad you asked!

  1. Your Alma Mater: There is no better feeling than walking through the doors that pioneered the way to your future.
  2. Conferences, and not just for the CEU’s, but also for networking with other professionals in your field of expertise or where you see yourself in the future.
  3. Webinars: Remember you are the voice behind the screen.
  4. In house with your department: This is a great place to start, by practicing with co-workers and speaking at staff meetings.

I had the opportunity to speak at my Alma Mater on March 29th. I admit I was nervous, scared, and even felt like I was going to pass out, but I had the chance to tell my story and what I love to do every day as a Senior Recreation Leader. That was all the fuel I needed to start my fire. I had the most common human moment, saying the word “um,” but I remained focused and continued to cover my topics.

Public speaking can be scary, but it can also be an opportunity to shine and inform the world about who you are, what you do, and prepare the next generation of young professionals to rise up. And hey, if all else fails, imagine everyone in their underwear!

Meet the Author

Leanne Pressley is a 28 year old Greensboro Native who works as a Senior Recreation Leader with the Special Populations Unit for the City of Winston-Salem Recreation and Parks Department. She graduated from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2014 with a B.S Degree in Recreation and Parks with a concentration in Community Therapeutic Studies. She is a Certified and Licensed Recreational Therapist in the State of North Carolina.  She is a very creative thinker and writer. She enjoys everything about nature and loves food.

Leanne can be reached at or 336-727-2423.


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

Tags:  public speaking  young professionals  ypn 

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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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