The Valpo Parks Foundation invited the community to celebrate their annual awards reception, Friends & Legends, Thursday May 2. The evening focused on fellowship, honoring four special individuals with prestigious awards. Guests enjoyed hor d'oeuvres by Pikks Tavern of Valpo and entertainment by Valparaiso High School Jazz Band. The awards—Legendary Friend Awards, Community Champion Award, and the Malasto Legends Award—were presented to individuals who dedicated their time, hearts, and talents to the Valparaiso community through The Valpo Parks Foundation.
Valpo Parks Executive Director John Seibert said it is the 10th year that the foundation honored people who have contributed to the Foundation. He said the awards are based not only on service, but who the recipients are at heart.
“Values are timeless,” Seibert said. “At Friends & Legends, we celebrate what those values are and what makes Valpo unique and exceptional.”
For Seibert, Valpo Parks is a reflection of the Valparaiso community. It takes more than one individual to make an impact, and through volunteering, the community joins together to create outstanding facilities and programs.
“It shows that [the community] cares for each other,” Seibert said. “By celebrating that, it’s telling the next generation, ‘This is what we do—we care for each other.’”
Jamie Sulcer, Valpo Parks Foundation Board President, was happy to honor hard-working individuals who dedicated so much of their time and hearts to the parks of Valparaiso. Sulcer said the recipients exemplify the Foundation’s mission.
“I loved seeing everyone get together and rejoice in this community,” Sulcer said. “Tonight is important to let everyone know what’s happening, what has happened, and what’s going on for the future. We want to showcase the people who are behind the scenes.”
The Community Champion award was presented to Dr. Robert Behrend. The dentist said he was thankful that his parents chose to move to Valparaiso in the ’70s. Behrend said that he convinced his wife to move, and she jokes that he bleeds green and white.
"It's been a wonderful experience growing up in Valparaiso, and I have a great city to call home," Behrend said. "I hope that I've instilled in my kids the importance of community involvement and that they are lucky enough to live in a city like Valparaiso."
Sharon Swihart, Clerk Treasurer of the City, is in her 37th year of service and retiring this year. She has attended many of the Friends & Legends receptions in the past, and feels honored to be among the recipients of the Legendary Friends Award.
“I’ve seen a lot of things happen in Valparaiso, things just keep getting better all of the time,” Swihart said. “I will always be involved as long as I’m around.”
The Malasto Legends Award was awarded to Mayor Jon Costas, who said he felt privileged to be accepting the award among a city full of legends.
“This community has a plethora of leaders that work together,” Costas said. “It’s been my pleasure to work among the best.”
Legendary Friends recipient Bill Oeding, City Administrator for the City of Valparaiso, said that he had fond memories of parks growing up. From sledding to baseball, anything that got him active was a staple of his childhood. He feels fortune to have a strong parks department in his community and that the leaders of the past prepared Valpo to be a leader to other cities in Indiana.
“I think my time in the parks department really shaped me as a person,” Oeding said. “The quality of life in Valparaiso starts with the parks. We are grateful for so many things, but the parks department really sets the tone.”
For more information on the Valpo Parks department, visit their website here.