Can We Borrow Your Rec Center?
By Bruce Bouchard
Recreation departments are under increased pressure to satisfy the demands for a broad range of leisure activities for participants of all ages. The demands on staff members, facilities, and resources are stressful enough, but when asked to accommodate commercial and non-profit users as well … can it be done? It most certainly can! However, forming a successful partnership of a local recreation department and a nonprofit organization also takes a willingness on the part of the guest to minimize any adverse impact on resources and staff members.
The Annual Prouty, in Hanover, N.H., is one example of how a non-profit event can rally an entire community to raise awareness and money to fight cancer, while minimizing the adverse impact on recreational resources and staff. The Prouty began in 1982 when four nurses rode their bicycles 100 miles to honor an inspiring patient, Audrey Prouty, who had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer nine years before. Unfortunately, Audrey died just before the ride. Supported by Audrey’s husband, John, the nurses rode through the White Mountains and raised $4,000 for cancer research. Today, produced by the Friends of Norris Cotton Cancer Center, The Prouty hosts more than 5,000 participants (cycling, walking, rowing, and golfing), 1,300 volunteers, and 137 corporate sponsors for a combined 33-year fundraising total of more than $22 million.
Through the years, The Prouty has owed a great debt of gratitude to the overwhelming support from event participants. Not to be overlooked, however, is the wide range of successful relationships with public partners, local towns, and recreation departments. In small and large ways, Hank Tenny, the director of parks and recreation for the town of Hanover, has witnessed the sustained growth of The Prouty firsthand. And for over “41 happy years” he has worked to form positive collaborative relationships.
By and large, the organization tries to function as an autonomous problem-solver, working hard to manage staff members, eager volunteers, and its own resources.
For those who partner with non-profit organizations and offer parks and recreation facilities for use during an event, here is a list of items to share to make it easier on the parks and recreation agency:
- Maintain open lines of communication and have a willingness to work closely with town administrators and personnel at all levels.
- Schedule pre- and post-event meetings to outline the expectations of both parties.
- Complete all applications, permits, and certificates of insurance well in advance.
- Be willing to share resources and facilities when scheduling conflicts arise.
- Stay in assigned areas and don’t use resources without prior approval.
- Avoid utility-service disruption by coordinating with a nearby dig-protection organization.
- Coordinate grass-cutting well in advance and have a weather back-up date.
- If large tents are to be used, chalk paint every tent-stake hole and make certain all surfaces are even when the stakes are removed.
- Rake high-traffic areas to help the grass recover.
- Minimize auto traffic on playing fields, especially when conditions are not favorable.
- Plan a thorough post-event clean-up of the grounds and interior facilities.
- Be careful not to overfill on-site trash and recycling containers.
- Inform surrounding homeowners and area businesses of the event.
- Say “thank you” by offering to buy lunch or share event T-shirts with staff members.
Once the event concludes, the painstaking review of all post-event evaluations begins, and efforts are made to implement appropriate suggestions for improvement. While it’s easy to focus on the event experience from a participant’s point of view, planners should be mindful not to overlook town administrators in evaluating ways to work together.
Bruce Bouchard is the Operations Manager for The Prouty. For more information on this event, visit http://theprouty.org.