Waukegan Park District Honored with Two Awards from the National Park and Recreation Association

May 22
Wednesday, May 22nd 2024

Waukegan, Illinois (May 22, 2024) – The National Recreation and Park Association recognized the Waukegan Park District’s SwimSmart Initiative with the Innovation in Health Award and Javier Martinez, Manager of Fitness & Aquatics, with the Robert W. Crawford Young Professional of the Year Award. The national awards highlight the efforts of those who go above and beyond to make a difference in the community.

The Innovation in Health Award recognizes a park and recreation agency leading an innovative project that fosters a culture of health in their community. The Waukegan Park District partnered with North Shore Gas and the Waukegan Parks Foundation and launched the SwimSmart Initiative to offer free swim lessons to first and second graders in Waukegan. The partnerships have resulted in comprehensive swim instruction and water safety awareness among children at an early age. The initiative is a transformative approach to promoting health and wellness through aquatics, emphasizing swimming as a life-saving skill and form of exercise. Anthony Strack, Recreation Supervisor of Aquatics, provides leadership that supports the initiative and ensures that children have a positive experience with swimming at the indoor aquatics center.

The Robert W. Crawford Young Professional Award is presented to an individual who has shown qualities and skills needed to attain positions of leadership through their contributions to advancing the field, their creativity in creating or managing programs, and their participation in professional organizations, such as the National Recreation and Park Association. Since joining the Waukegan Park District in 2018, Javier Martinez has overseen innovative recreation programs related to nature, culture, fitness, and aquatics and has been instrumental in the success of the SwimSmart Initiative. Javier was also selected as one of the 2024 30 Under 30 honorees by the National Recreation and Park Association’s Young Professional Network and Parks & Recreation magazine. The recognition program honors thirty top young professionals in the field of parks and recreation.

Anton L. Mathews, President of the Waukegan Park District Board of Commissioners, stated, “I am incredibly proud of the Waukegan Park District’s SwimSmart Initiative and Javier Martinez. The awards are well-deserved honors for an innovative initiative, and an exceptional leader making a difference at his employer and in his community.”

Jay Lerner, Executive Director of the Waukegan Park District, stated, “The national awards for the SwimSmart Initiative and Javier Martinez are a testament to the Waukegan Park District’s commitment to excellence. The Innovation in Health Award exemplifies the power of partnerships with corporate and community organizations to make a lasting impact in the community and the Robert W. Crawford Young Professional of the Year Award recognizes Javier’s outstanding contributions to the park and recreation industry.”

About the Waukegan Park District

Established on December 26, 1916, the Waukegan Park District (WPD) has 53 properties and more than 742 acres of land, including the 18-hole Bonnie Brook and 9-hole Greenshire Golf Courses. Properties are managed to the highest environmental and conservation standards. Facilities operated by the WPD include the Field House Sports, Fitness and Aquatics Center, Waukegan’s Greg Petry SportsPark, Waukegan Skate Park, BMX Track, SplashZone, Percussion Playground, recreational centers, disc golf course, dog exercise area and agility course, outdoor sports fields, picnic areas, playgrounds, splash pads, and sports courts including basketball, tennis and pickleball. A full range of programs and services are offered year-round for all ages, from infants to seniors, as well as special need populations. Healthy lifestyles, wellness initiatives, and a connection with the outdoors and nature are integrated throughout programs, services, and special events. Arts and cultural activities are provided by the Jack Benny Center for the Arts, Waukegan Symphony Orchestra and Concert Chorus, and the Waukegan History Museum. We offer something for everyone!

A member of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), Illinois Association of Park Districts (IAPD), Illinois Park and Recreation Association (IPRA), and the Park District Risk Management Agency (PDRMA), the WPD employs 73 full-time and 219 part-time, seasonal, and temporary employees and is recognized by the IPRA as an Exceptional Workplace.

Nationally accredited by the NRPA Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA) and State accredited through the IAPD Distinguished Agency Accreditation, the WPD has received the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) Triple Crown Award for receiving the GFOA’s Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting, Popular Annual Financial Reporting Award, and the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award. The WPD was awarded the NRPA National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management in 2013, and was named a Gold Medal Finalist in 2012, 2013, 2019, 2021, 2022, and 2023.

Media Contact
Josue Pasillas, MPA
Communications Supervisor
Waukegan Park District
(847) 360-4789