From high school and college positions at Gill Family Aquatic Center in Danville, Lora Helmick charted her parks and recreation career path early. She always wanted to be the director of a parks department, and for the last six years, that’s exactly the role she’s had.
When she saw the Director of Washington Township Park position posted, originally she hesitated to apply. She wasn’t sure if she’d worked in parks and recreation long enough yet.
“It was my brother who encouraged me to go for it,” Lora said. “I knew of Washington Township Park because I grew up in Avon, and I knew that there was a lot of potential to grow the department. I took a gamble and I’m so happy that I did.”
Her role as the park director suits her because it is never the same on any given day. It keeps her curious and seeking new solutions. Right now, she focuses much of her time on the new Murphy Aquatic Park. This new outdoor aquatics facility’s design centers around inclusivity with features like an inclusive playground, zero depth entry into each water area, a wave pool and the first-ever ADA accessible water playground in Hendricks County.
Lora emphasized that the Parks Foundation of Hendricks County (PFOHC) is an advocate for the parks in the community by identifying philanthropic opportunities to offset the costs to the taxpayers.
“A donation to the Parks Foundation of Hendricks County is a donation back to yourself,” Lora said. “It is similar to investing in your community. Every dollar that you donate is going to go back into improving the quality of life for the citizens of Hendricks County.”
Murphy Aquatic Park at Washington Township Park will be one of those special spaces that improves the lives of those in the county. Of course, Lora’s favorite park in Hendricks County is Washington Township Park, and her favorite trail is the Vandalia Trail near where she lives. It’s an important outdoor space available to the Mill Creek community that has limited outdoor recreation space. When Lora is not working, she enjoys camping, kayaking and fishing with her three boys and husband.
It’s her own zest for adventure and the outdoors that keeps her inspired to help the entire community make memories they will cherish for a lifetime.
“I think of the mom who attends Sensory Santa, who has never gotten to take her special needs child to see Santa for fear of a tantrum,” she said. “I think about the dad that remembers taking their son and daughter hiking on the trails because his dad used to take him.”
It’s National Parks & Recreation Month, and Lora wants to convey how important it is to celebrate our parks. Parks do so much for the community to improve the quality of life for all of its citizens.
How will you celebrate parks this month?