Having a lengthy history of both coaching and community involvement, local resident Chris McKenna was recently honoured with a Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee Medal.
The medal was awarded for a career in outstanding work in the field of recreation and parks.
McKenna, who is the executive director of the Calgary-based Alberta Association of Recreation Facility Personnel, has extensive experience in coaching at both the high school and university level, and it’s a passion that has continued since he settled in the Sylvan Lake community two years ago.
“I’m coaching my grandson in minor ball,” he said. “He was in the U11 – I coached him last spring and I also coached him in football – the Sylvan Lake Tigers (Atom football team),” said McKenna, who is originally from Montreal and attended university in New Brunswick. He settled in Alberta back in the early 1980s.
On Dec. 10th, the medal awards ceremony was held in Camrose by the Alberta Recreation and Parks Association (ARPA) as a way to recognize outstanding service from Albertans in the recreation and parks sector.
Thirty-four recipients were in attendance with family and friends to receive their medals.
For McKenna, his role with the Association is certainly a fulfilling one and fits right in with his vision for supporting and instructing young people in their pursuit of excellence in sport through coaching.
It’s also a way to serve the community and ultimately ‘pay it forward’.
“It’s really about giving back – a lot of people did it for me on my way up and I just enjoy the competition and I’m really enjoying it again now that my grandson is playing all of these sports, too.”
He’s also aiming to coach his granddaughter next spring in soccer.
McKenna’s own interest in sports stretches back to his youth, when his folks encouraged an active lifestyle.
“I also played four years of university football – I’ve really enjoyed it my whole life.” Besides the physical benefits, he explained that the sense of camaraderie intrinsic to being part of a team is a huge part of the appeal as well. The sense of competition is also a big draw, as is the notion of continually challenging yourself to improve.
Meanwhile, established in 1978, the Alberta Association of Recreation Facility Personnel is a not-for-profit association that trains over 1,000 recreation facility operators each year in Alberta, Saskatchewan, B.C, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories.
Each year the Association provides arena, pool, parks and sports fields, custodial, building maintenance and leadership skills courses, conferences, and seminars.
“What we do is we train people how to operate recreation facilities,” he explained, adding that he’s been involved with the organization for 35 years.
“It’s also about the networking that we provide,” he said, adding that clients call him with any number of questions relating to facility management and if he doesn’t know the answer, he will locate someone who does. It all builds a strong sense of networking across the industry.
“We have a major conference every year with about 300 to 400 people, and again it’s all about networking, training, and bringing people together,” he explained.
Besides his current post as executive director, he was also president of the Association for two stints – in the early 2000s and also from 2017 to 2020.
As to the medal, McKenna was nominated by the board of directors of the Alberta Recreation & Parks Association (ARPA) for the accolade.
“I was quite honoured that they did that,” he said.