Valpo Parks Friends and Legends annual event was held at Butterfield Pavilion in Valparaiso on October 6. Complete with complimentary hors d'oeuvres, refreshments, and live music, this event serves as a celebration to honor those who help make their community a better place to live.
John Seibert, executive director of the park foundation and director of parks, noted that this event has been held every year since 2009 and keeps going strong.
“We have sponsors who help support this event, so it’s free of charge,” Seibert said. “It’s really a celebration of the selflessness of people who give back to their community.”
Tim VerSchure, park board treasurer, hopes this event will make an impact to raise awareness for new project collaborations and make Valparaiso even greater for its citizens.
“One of the big initiatives we have right now is raising money for a skate park,” VerSchure said. “The more awareness we can raise, the more money we can raise, and the more likely we are to develop that project for the children, youth, and adults in the community.”
Valparaiso has many opportunities for people to get involved in the community.
“We hold four events a year, whether it’s to say ‘thank you’ or hold a fundraiser,” VerSchure said. “You can come out and volunteer for the parks, join a committee, or you can donate.”
Three awards were presented at the Valpo Parks Friends and Legends event; the Community Champion Award, The Legendary Friend Award, and the Art & Irene Malasto Legends Award.
“As we celebrate, these people will be the first to tell you that most of them will never do this for applause or accolades,” Seibert said. “We hope that their example and hearing them express their humility about receiving the award will keep that selflessness alive.”
Matty and Dena Whaling, recipients of the Community Champion Award, expressed their gratitude and what this opportunity means to them.
“It’s beyond humbling,” Dena Whaling said. “We’re just happy to be a small part of any progress that happens in Valpo.”
Matty and Dena Whaling, unfortunately, lost their son, Keegan Whaling five years ago. They have been working tirelessly to raise funds to build a skate park for the children in Valpo.
“In conjunction with one of my friends in fourth grade, James Ulman, with James Ulman Prudential, we put together two successful years of a golf outing to help raise additional funds,” Matty Whaling said. “The funds go directly to the skate park; We’re excited to bring an opportunity to kids that haven’t had a place for that type of sport. It’s going to be really special.”
Keegan has been his parents’ biggest inspiration to bring something new and exciting to the community.
“We always say his life was too short, but his life was really rich in what he did,” Dena Whaling said. “It’s very important to keep moving forward and doing what you know is right, even when the world isn’t.”
The Legendary Friend Award was presented to Ashley Dickinson, CEO of Northwest Health.
“It’s an incredible honor; We’ve always felt like the parks and the parks foundation have been such a tremendous partner of ours in our community,” Dickinson said. “They do so many great things for the community.”
Dickinson expressed the importance of the parks and the promotion of healthy habits such as exercise.
“Health and wellness is such an important part of what we do every day at Northwest Health,” Dickinson said. “I think it has such a great tie into the park system with keeping people healthy and active.”
The final award, the Art & Irene Malasto Legends Award, was presented to Julia Hess, CFO of UFS Corporation in Valparaiso.
“We have something pretty special here; We have a lot of people who are committed to our community and making it the best place it could possibly be,” Hess said. “We’re on the cusp of getting this phenomenal skate park that’s going to be right here in town.”
Hess acknowledged the impact participation has on a community and the importance of hard work and effort.
“I think it stems from years of giving and being affiliated with the community,” Hess said. “It’s really humbling; It’s amazing what we can accomplish.”
“We are standing on the shoulders of the people that came before us; And these are the shoulders we’re standing on now that we feel were passed on to a new generation of leaders that will continue,” Seibert said.
For more information about Northwest Health visit www.nwhealthporter.com
For more information about the Valparaiso Parks and Recreation, visit www.valpoparks.org