Each year the Vermont Recreation and Parks Association presents the coveted Theresa S. Brungardt Awards to a professional, friend and organization who has made significant contributions to parks and recreation in Vermont. At the recent Vermont Conference on Recreation held at Lake Morey Resort, Brungardt Awards were presented to Thomas Hark of Williston (Friend), Local Motion based in Burlington (Organization), and Hartland’s recently deceased Recreation Director Ray Sapp (Professional).
Thomas Hark recently retired after thirty years of service as the Executive Director of the Vermont Youth Conservation Corp. Over the course of those 30 years, the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps flourished and now employs more than 350 young people each year. The VYCC has completed tens of millions of dollars’ worth of high-priority conservation projects throughout the State of Vermont, all under the passionate leadership and expansive vision of Thomas Hark. For thirty years, VYCC and Thomas Hark have provided transformational learning experiences to nearly 6,000 young people, and as adults, they are effecting positive change in their communities and the environment across the nation.
Local Motion was founded in 1999 to pursue the idea of re-connecting the Burlington Bike Path and the Colchester Causeway. In time, the organization broadened its sights on making the Greater Burlington area a better place to walk, bike, run and ski. The organization flourished and today Local Motion helps communities build more sidewalks, trails and safe streets; hosts events like Intervale XC Skiing and Great Ice to keep people active all year long; runs a community bicycle shop in Burlington's Old North End; operates the Causeway Bike Ferry; operates a Trailside Center on the Burlington waterfront providing maps, rentals and advocacy information; and manages the Trail Finder -- a free online mapping resource for all area trails. Just this past summer, more than 14,000 people rode the Island Line Bike Ferry between Colchester and South Hero.
The Professional Award was presented posthumously to Ray Sapp, Past-President of the Vermont Recreation & Parks Association and Director of the Hartland Parks & Recreation Department until his untimely death this past July. Ray was remembered for being a passionate professional who would coach multiple teams and officiate games within a single sport’s season, set up all the games and paint the fields where the games were played. Former employee and current VRPA president, Andy Cappello, recalled that whenever VRPA needed help, the organization could always turn to Ray Sapp. He was the only individual to ever serve the association as president for three years. Andy recalled that Ray applied careful measurements to all of his decisions and with tough decisions, Ray always sided with the child, making every effort to ensure that recreational opportunities were available to everyone who wanted to play. Ray’s son, Josh, accepted the award on behalf of his father.
Theresa S. Brungardt was a pioneer and outstanding leader of parks and recreation in Vermont. She was Vermont’s first state Director of Recreation, having been appointed by Governor Wills in 1943. She traveled tirelessly throughout Vermont to help communities with their recreation programs. Many of the community recreation departments could trace their origins back to technical assistance and inspiration provided by Mrs. Brungardt. She was nationally recognized for her expertise and in 1952 was elected the first female president of the American Recreation Society. She was inducted into the NRPA (National Recreation & Parks Association) Hall of Fame in 1997.
In 1975, the Vermont Recreation and Park Association, in cooperation with the Recreation Section of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, established the Theresa S. Brungardt Award – to encourage the improvement of recreation and park services in Vermont by recognizing outstanding recreation and park professionals, lay members, and organizations. The awards are presented to a professional, friend, and organization every year at the Vermont Governor's Conference.
Photo caption: 2015 Brungardt Award recipients with five of Mrs. Brungardt’s relatives. (far left) Sandy and Joshua Sapp, (center) Thomas Hark, and (far right) Emily Boedeker and Brian Costello from Local Motion.