Preparing the Next Generation of Park and Recreation Professionals

  • Eldridge Park, Elmhurst, IL

Some little boys want to be a firefighter or a police officer when they grow up. But 6-year-old Patrick “Paddy” Payne has another profession in mind. He wants to be a Director of Parks just like his dad!

Dan Payne has been in the parks and recreation industry for 17 years and has been with the Elmhurst Park District for the last nine. And over the years, Paddy has seen how much his dad enjoys his job.

“He thought I worked at a playground for the longest time,” Dan laughed.

But this summer, Paddy took a greater interest in Dan’s job.

“I jokingly told him I was bringing him to work with me for Park Palooza,” Dan said, “He was so upset when he found out that I was kidding around and that kids couldn’t work the event, so I promised him I would bring him to another event, and I thought the Eldridge playground opening would be perfect.”

When Director of Facilities Angela Ferrentino heard Paddy was coming to the Eldridge Park playground opening on September 24, she knew she had to make the experience memorable for him. So she created a special work order, gave him a parks t-shirt, and “supervised” him throughout the event. Paddy’s work order included inspecting the playground (which meant trying out the new slide), ensuring there was no garbage on the ground, and even removing signs and helping clean up after the event. To reward him for his hard work, Park District Carpenter Scott Dohnal gave Paddy a $5 bill, and he was treated to some snacks.

Seeing Paddy in his Park District gear helping at the event was a proud moment for Dan and gave him a glimpse into his son’s future.

“He did a great job and was very helpful,” Dan said, “All the staff were so kind to Paddy, and Angela and Scott really made it a special moment for him. I was very proud of his willingness to help out with the event and it was also fun to watch him enjoying the new playground.”

It’s safe to say that the future is bright for the next generation of parks and recreation professionals!