National Recreation Inclusion Conference Takes Place in Schaumburg, Ill.

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NRPA Educates, Enlightens and Empowers at 2010 National Institute on Recreation Inclusion

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For our 11th annual NIRI, we hope all attendees benefited from the information, ideas and collective energy, in order to educate, enlighten and empower their local communities. Together, we will all work toward a more inclusive nation.

Last week, more than 230 people from around the U.S. gathered in Schaumburg, Ill., for the 11th annual National Institute on Recreation Inclusion (NIRI). Hosted by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), NIRI is a three-day event, which provides hands-on learning though workshops and training, as well as a forum for discussion on inclusion and accessibility issues related to parks and recreation.

“Inclusive recreation is one of the fastest growing needs in more and more parks and recreation agencies across the United States,” said Elizabeth Kessler, 2009-2010 NRPA president. “For our 11th annual NIRI, we hope all attendees benefited from the information, ideas and collective energy, in order to educate, enlighten and empower their local communities. Together, we will all work toward a more inclusive nation.”

At the Opening General Session on the morning of Monday, Nov. 8., keynote speaker and Paralympic champion and attorney Linda Mastandrea presented her life story, from growing up as a child with a disability who had no opportunity to participate in sports, to ending up as a Paralympic and world champion athlete. From 1990-1999, Mastandrea represented the U.S. at two Paralympic Games, three World Championships, the Pan American Games and the Stoke-Mandeville Wheelchair Games, winning 15 gold medals and 5 silver medals in wheelchair track.

Excellence in Inclusion Awards, honoring people, organizations and programs who have rendered service to the inclusion process, were presented to one individual, Mark Bowland, community services manager for Kansas City, Mo., Parks and Recreation, and one agency, the Park District Risk Management Agency (PDRMA) in Wheaton, Ill.

“Guided by the principle that recreation is a primary building block for individuals, Mark works diligently to advocate for the people of his community and ensure that recreation is provided to all of Kansas City’s residents,” said Mary Bowie, 2010 NIRI Awards Committee chair, and therapeutic recreation coordinator for the Maryland-National Capital Planning Commission in Mitchellville, Md. “We are pleased to honor him for his many achievements.”

“PDRMA has helped lay the groundwork for strong inclusion programs in the U.S. and has helped countless individuals and agencies navigate through challenging situations to achieve positive outcomes,” said Andy Fernandez, 2010 NIRI Awards Committee co-chair and manager of adaptive recreation services for Eugene, Ore. “We are honored to recognize PDRMA’s excellence in serving the field.”

The 2010 Gonzaga da Gama Award—named after the professor and inclusion advocate of the same name—was awarded to Dr. Stuart Schleien, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

“Dr. Schleien has been a pioneer in studying and promoting inclusion of people with disabilities in leisure services before most of us even knew it as inclusion,” said award presenter and 2009 da Gama winner Dr. Mary Ann Devine, associate professor for Kent State University. “He mentored many of today’s researchers and practitioners on studying and providing effective inclusive services, promoting the rights of individuals with disabilities in leisure settings and challenging the status quo.”

At NIRI, attendees benefited from a large variety of education sessions, covering inclusion topics relevant to every area of parks and recreation, including: recreation services for returning military personnel from overseas, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), adapting activities for therapeutic purposes, agency inclusion strategy and policies, and accessibility.

For more information, go to the 2010 NIRI Web site at

About the National Recreation and Park Association
The National Recreation and Park Association is a national, not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing park, recreation and conservation efforts that enhance quality of life for all people. Through its network of 20,000 recreation and park professionals and citizens, NRPA encourages the promotion of healthy lifestyles, recreation initiatives, and conservation of natural and cultural resources. For more information, visit For digital access to NRPA’s flagship publication, Parks & Recreation, visit

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