SALUTING THE PPFF 2021 COVID-19 CHAMPIONS:
Through their efforts, the challenging effects of increased interest in the outdoors and the changing circumstances created as we all tried to navigate what the pandemic would mean in our everyday lives were eased. The Champions kept right on doing what they do and we were all the better for it!
A virtual awards program streamed live on May 12th on the PPFF Facebook page and YouTube channel. Sponsored by REI’s Bedford Distribution Center, the ceremony featured an enlightening presentation by Geisinger’s Dr. Michael Suk, one of the country’s earliest and leading proponents of the health benefits of nature. Dr. Suk is currently System Wide Chairman of the Geisinger Musculoskeletal Institute for the Geisinger Health System and a board trustee for The American Medical Association. The slides from his presentation offer a fascinating look at some of the research.
View the presentation
2021 COVID-19 CHAMPIONS:
Read more about the winners and their accomplishments in a downloadable program presentation booklet.
Brandi Aulston, Hike + Heal (Philadelphia): Not only a COVID champion, but a champion for Women in the Outdoors by offering safe, socially-distanced group hiking opportunities, as well as community building and nature focused opportunities, for diverse Philadelphia women.
Ryan Beltz, Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy (Montgomery County): Working to achieve mission goals that are volunteer dependent added a layer of complexity during COVID. Ryan sought new means to connect with the volunteer base, reimagining the PWC programs to create safe environments for volunteerism.
Angelina Capozzi, Upper Gwynedd Township (Montgomery County): When COVID restrictions took effect, Angeline took it as a challenge to create new ways to offer educational opportunities from story walks to sensory walks to providing students with items that they needed to create a food pantry. (Sponsored jointly by Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and The Honorable Liz Hanbidge)
AeLin Compton, Philly Parks and Recreation (Philadelphia County): When budget cuts made operations challenging, AeLin went above and beyond to develop new programs to engage volunteers to support the park.
Amanda Galvan (Bedford County): 2020 presented many challenges, yet Amanda stepped up to the challenges with a smile on her face and a can-do attitude. She made over 200 masks for DCNR employees, participated in ongoing trail work, did many solo clean-up projects when parks and forests were hammered with litter, and worked with PPFF to organize a tree planting.
Cindy Hogeman, Capital Area Greenbelt (Dauphin County): A founding member of the Greenbelt, Cindy has taken volunteerism to new levels after assuming management of the Five Senses Garden, a beloved place of respite on the Greenbelt. In addition to structural changes, she updated gardening practices, created a safe place for outdoor weddings during COVID, facilitated a partnership with the Harrisburg Keystone Rotary Club for updates to the Martin Luther King Garden, and built an expanded volunteer base. (Sponsored by Stahl Sheaffer Engineering).
Onnolee Jansen, Kings Gap Environmental Education Center (Cumberland County): Only in her second year as Program Manager for the park, Onnolee pivoted when COVID restrictions limited in-person programming. She created a storybook trail and a virtual summer camp for children and their families, as well as other virtual programs.
Gary Kirk, Friends of White Clay Creek Preserve (Chester County): Gary is trail master for the Friends and in 2020 went above and beyond during a time of heavy storms, heavy use, and decreased volunteerism. Without Gary, trails would have been unsafe and potentially closed.
Maintenance Supervisor Cody Miller, French Creek Complex (Berks and Chester County): While Cody always goes above and beyond in his work, this year presented particular challenges which Cody rose to meet. In addition to leading the maintenance program at the complex, he responded to needs across the region, offering expertise and additional staff. (Sponsored by AFSCME).
Luke Miney and Georgetta Frederick (Westmoreland and Cambria counties): Luke was one of PPFF’s first Stewards of Penn’s Woods, taking on the task of monitoring and cleaning Beam Rocks in the Forbes State Forest. During the pandemic, graffiti in our parks and forests grew. Luke not only continued to steward Beam Rocks, he inspired a new steward for Wolf Rock in Gallitzin State Forest, Georgetta Frederick. Together, they raised funds for a massive clean-up, inspiring others to join in their efforts.
Mike Teeter (Bedford County): Mike and his family have always been passionate about the outdoors, spreading the message on the health benefits of being outside. During the pandemic, this enthusiasm benefited others, as he shared his vast knowledge of where to go and what to do with less experienced people seeking to find health and connection in the outdoors.
Ranger 1 Hannah Wilson, Colonel Denning Complex (Perry County): Nominated by a visitor, Hannah was the only ranger remaining after two left the complex to accept different positions. She coordinated campers, provided camper services, and kept smiling through it all.
Park and Forest Rangers (across PA): Recognizes all 232 rangers who kept people safe and addressed increased issues in our parks and forests during the pandemic.
DCNR Communication Team (Harrisburg): Recognizes the 4-member communication team in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources who empowered safe outdoor recreation during the pandemic through communication, videos, and other timely information to disperse recreation, thus ensuring social distancing and safety. (Sponsored by Art Communication Systems)
Incident Response Team 53 from the Bureau of Forestry, Division of Forest Fire Protection: The Team’s skills were called upon for additional assignments to address COVID-19 challenges, such as setting up testing sites, maintaining testing sites, assisting county emergency personnel, and supporting logistical operations at PEMA.
Friends of Beltzville State Park (Carbon County): In a regular year, attendance at Beltzville State Park exceeds capacity. In 2020, that number soared even higher, putting inordinate pressure on the park, the resources, the roads, and the temper of local citizens. The Friends of Beltzville stepped up to assist in any way that they could—from picking up trash, directing and educating visitors, and serving as a resource. They did this at some personal risk, as some locals defined them as “enablers” for the new visitors.
Friends of Trough Creek/Warriors Path (Bedford and Huntingdon Counties): The Friends didn’t let the closure of their events stop the work of this newly formed group. They pivoted and looked for other ways to assist the parks, from providing campfire wood sales to stewardship activities, and restoring stone fireplaces throughout the park.
PPFF Mask Brigade: When the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources reached out to PPFF to ask for assistance in procuring masks for park and forest employees, PPFF put out the call. Volunteers responded. In about two weeks, over 2,000 masks were produced and shipped to essential workers.
Tookany-Tacony/Frankford Watershed Group (Montgomery County through Philadelphia): Understanding the important role that the outdoors were playing for community health, the TTF Watershed Partnership got to work developing new protocols and programs to engagement and education, expanding virtual programing and socially distanced ways to volunteer.
The employees of our virtual awards sponsor - REI's Bedford Distribution Center - offer you a look at their commitment to the outdoors