Volunteering Yields Park Award

Volunteering Yields Park Award

Decked out in a butterfly costume in front of a bunch of gawking toddlers was not Kelly Hogan's idea, but she went along with it in the spirit of volunteering, which has earned her this year's Elly Doyle award in the student volunteer category. She shrugged off the checked wings and springy antenna dangling from her head.

"I like working with the kids, the summer camps. Now, they volunteered me for this," she said.

The "they" was the Hidden Pond Nature Center staff, which put on monthly classes at the Fresh Fields Whole Foods market at Keene Mill Center, near Hidden Pond. Mike McCaffrey, the assistant manager at the park, led the discussion.

"She's a monarch. Who wants to be a butterfly?" he asked the group of preschool children and their mothers.

Three-year-old Sara Kincaid piped in.

"I want to be a butterfly," she said.

Hogan fluttered around from table to table while the children touched her wings and looked at the displays.

Sara’s mother, Holly Kincaid, noted the value of the volunteers and park staff giving the lessons.

"It's great for them to learn things from people other than mom and dad," she said.

HOGAN'S VOLUNTEERING started in 1998, fulfilling a requirement at West Springfield High School, where she is starting her senior year.

"I needed service hours for one of my classes. I just sort of stayed," she said.

She grew up in Springfield but wasn't even aware that Hidden Pond Nature Center was there. It is located in the middle of the neighborhood across Old Keene Mill Road from Whole Foods/Fresh Fields.

"I didn't know the park existed until my friend told me in eighth grade," she said.

As a volunteer, she has participated in many classes, played a role in the "Slug Festival" skit, did face painting, and handled snakes around the nature center. She volunteers about 10-15 hours a week and does as much as 30 on some weeks.

"Sometimes I'll take out a snake and show them," she said.

She is also a park employee at other times, putting in about 10-15 hours a week cleaning up the grounds. She intends to continue through the school year and is taking a class at West Springfield affiliated with her park experience.

"I'm in the morning for program, and I clean in the afternoon. I'm taking an AP [advanced placement] class next year," she said.

McCAFFREY TALKED about the parks dependence on teen-agers who volunteer.

"The volunteers enhance the programs. It's a good way for younger kids to see teen-agers in a positive environment," he said.

Fairfax County Parks and Recreation spokesperson Judy Peterson looked at the significance.

"It's definitely our top award. It is very prestigious. We couldn't do what we do in the parks without the land and donations from the individuals," she said.

Several Elly Doyle award-winners have been from Hidden Pond, according to McCaffery.

"She's the fifth single winner from Hidden Pond through the years," he said.

His daughter, Eileen McCaffrey, 14, works alongside her father and Hogan on a regular basis.

"I've been working with Kelly for four years. It's always fun to work with her, I'm really happy for her," she said.

In addition, Fresh Fields Whole Foods Market of Springfield was praised as one of the 2002 special-recognition honorees.

There will be a reception for Hogan and other award-winners on Thursday, Sep. 12, at 10 a.m., at Green Spring Farm Park and awards will be formally presented in a "Green Tie Gala," on Nov. 22 at the Fairview Park Marriott. The top winners were Thomas B. "Bo" White Jr. for membership on the board, Clemens Galliot Jr. for his contributions to the county golf program, and the Friends of McLean Central Park for restoration of the park. In addition to Fresh Fields Whole Foods Market, Friends of Huntley Meadows and Dr. Robert O. Ruhling, for a column in ParkTakes magazine, were included as 2002 special recognition honorees.

The Elly Doyle Park Service Award was created by the Fairfax County and Northern Virginia Regional Park Authorities in 1988 to recognize "citizens, groups, or businesses for outstanding contributions to the park systems," as stated in their literature. Elly Doyle was a local individual recognized for more than a decade of outstanding service in the area. The award was created by Fairfax County, which invited the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority to join in the award program.