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TRANSFORMATION Explore • Engage • Connect 1

contents SPRING 2019

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Jumanah Alsaffar found herself at a crossroads and chose a path to health, strength and happiness. Today, she and her family call the Monon Community Center their home away from home.


Time to get your imagination on at Inlow Park! A new playground is coming this spring.


Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation is connecting the community to nature, fostering citizen scientists to carry on the important dialogue about the importance of our natural resources.


Adaptive programming is building awareness, self-esteem, inclusivity, and independence.


Jack Brummett visits natural world wonders for the trip of a lifetime. And it all began with a trip to the Monon Community Center to improve his swimming skills.

We encourage you to share your stories!




I hope the stories within this inaugural edition of Park Conversations will inspire and inform you of the exceptional experiences and lasting memories that unfold every day in your award-winning park and recreation system. The impact of parks and recreation can truly be transformative! Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation is fortunate to offer something for everyone. We encourage you to explore the science of nature, engage in our adaptive programs, connect with others on the playground, or find a better you through fitness and wellness. Whatever you choose, we look forward to being the best part of your day! Share your own story with us to keep the conversation going!

Michael W. Klitzing, CPRE Director of Parks and Recreation

We all have a story to tell. What’s yours?



TRANSFORMATION When you sit across from Jumanah Alsaffar you can’t help but be drawn in by her beaming smile, her glowing face, and endless enthusiasm for life in general.

What you don’t realize until a bit later in the conversation is that it really isn’t her outward appearance that makes Alsaffar so engaging, it’s the beauty and drive from within that makes her so special. She literally “leans in” when sharing her story—and you can’t help but “lean in” too. She admits, over the past few years, she hasn’t felt as comfortable in her own skin as she does today. “I moved to Carmel with my family in 2012. I was eight months pregnant with my son Idris and had no family nearby and no time to make friends before giving birth,” shares Alsaffar. “That was tough and a little bit isolating.” When she arrived at the hospital to give birth and was weighed so that the appropriate dose of medicine for her epidural could be given, there was no mistaking the number on the scale — it hovered around 300. “I was shocked,” Alsaffar admits. “I had been very ill during my pregnancy and lost quite a bit of weight in the beginning. But, as I felt better, I gained back the weight I had lost and then some. It was really a jolt to see the actual number on the scale.”


With no family nearby and a husband who traveled quite a bit, Alsaffar found herself homebound in a new city with a newborn and learning the ropes of motherhood on her own. Not long after the move and birth, Alsaffar was faced with profound life changes and found herself raising two children, searching for a new job to support her growing family, and most importantly finding herself.

He is very specific about the measurements which can be scary as you see the reality in numbers. But it is also so rewarding to see how far you’ve come when you measure again.”

I feel like Wonder Woman, I feel so centered and healthy and strong. There really isn’t anything that I’m not ready to conquer.

In spring 2017, she made a purposeful effort to take care of herself first. By committing to a healthier lifestyle, she was determined to be a “better everything” including mother, partner and employee. “It is hard for women to say they are going to put themselves first. It sounds so selfserving. As mothers, we just don’t do that. But, for me, it was absolutely life-changing.” Alsaffar and her family began to make Carmel their true home and she made the Monon Community Center (MCC) her personal support system as well. She began with a PiYo® class and noticed a gradual weight loss and the increased mobility that allowed her to do things she hadn’t done in years. She added in other exercise classes and a cardio workout to her routine. At about that same time, she had noticed a friendly face in the MCC workout area and began to ask personal trainer Steve Koebcke a few questions. He was kind and helpful and she shared with him that she was at a plateau and couldn’t seem to lose any more weight. ADDING A FITNESS SUPPORT SYSTEM Soon Koebcke began working one-on-one with Alsaffar and she shared that adding a personal trainer to her routine got her weight loss moving again. “Steve showed me how important it was to benchmark where I was at the beginning of my journey by doing a body composite measurement.

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AT A CROSSROADS “After the move and birth, I just went on auto-pilot: Work, take care of the kids, eat, and sleep,” remembers Alsaffar. I don’t think I ever took any time for myself and my mind and body were paying the price.” She was at a crossroads and needed some soul searching and most certainly a life change.

“By training with Steve, I was able to set realistic personal goals and I realized there isn’t a magic pill. It is hard work—but it is so rewarding. Steve had said to me that ‘If you want this, then you have to put in the work.’ I’m nearing my goal weight after a year of commitment to this healthier lifestyle and exercise plan. Working out is something that is non-negotiable in my life. It is happening.” WONDER WOMAN EMERGES Alsaffar’s life is back on track with a new job, a supportive life partner and she’s stronger than ever.

She shared her hope that other moms, or anyone for that matter, know that they can do this too. There is always a way to keep yourself healthy and to make yourself a priority. She credits the Monon Community Center and KidZone with helping her carve out the time to work out and finds comfort in knowing that the kids are safely nearby. “The MCC has become a home away from home for the whole family. We are here all the time and by setting a healthy example for my kids—they will incorporate exercise, swimming, hiking, and all the features of this facility into their lives as well. The support system here has been key to my transformation.”

YOUR OWN PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION STARTS TODAY! At the Monon Community Center, we pride ourselves on an outstanding personal training program. We want to set the gold standard for personal training—5 out of 5 stars. Your personal trainer is here to drive you toward success, and along the way, they should also be your personal cheerleader. Your transformation starts at just $30 for a 30-minute session. Learn more at

You may find Alsaffar next to you working out at the MCC, taking a class, or enjoying one of the many trails throughout Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation’s many park settings. If you recognize Alsaffar, say hello and “lean in” to let her share her personal journey with you. You’ll be inspired. She’s active most days running, taking classes or working with Kobecke—in motion, constantly moving. “I feel like Wonder Woman,” laughs Alsaffar. “I feel so centered and healthy and strong. There really isn’t anything that I’m not ready to conquer.”


INLOW PARK An Inclusive Community Adventure A unique and exciting hands-on experience awaits explorers of all abilities at the newly renovated and expanded Lawrence W. Inlow Park with the addition of three adventure-themed play pods, situated on a new safety surface, and twice the size of the previous one at the East Main Street location. Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation’s (CCPR) objective with the project— beyond expanding the footprint and improving safety—was to embrace the concepts of graduated and 360-degree play while fully engaging the imagination, according to Melissa Guffey of Recreation InSites and a representative for Kompan Playgrounds. CCPR is working diligently to finish construction on the new and improved playground for a much-needed upgrade for the community. The new playground is divided into three adventure-themed play pods for children of all ages and abilities that include areas for fun and exploration. Twice the size as the original playground, it comes complete with rubberized safety surfacing, similar to other surfaces at Central Park’s Westermeier Commons and Founders Park. Safety surfacing ensures an enjoyable experience for all users and provides ease in moving from one experience to the next.

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As visitors enter the park, they will see one of the truly innovative and unique pieces—the Skywalk, an enclosed 32-foot-long,16-foot-high rope walkway, slides and numerous rope climbing structures. This piece was designed to bring a child’s imagination to the sky. The only structure similar to it in the United States is located at the Seattle Center in Washington. While the Skywalk is the focal-point of pod three, children can also explore the tipi carousel, satellite binoculars, megaphone, and Spica—a unique piece of rotating equipment that requires a lot of experimentation to master and control. Michael Krosschell, RLA, is a senior project manager for The Schneider Corporation who provided the landscape architecture plan for the park. Inlow’s natural assets—an established tree canopy incorporated into its existing park—inspired a spectacular update for the 10-year-old playground.

Supernova: Pod 1

Built for individual, competitive or cooperative play by harnessing gravity with a unique slanted ring configuration. Also includes spinner bowls, swings and toddler wave.

Explorer Dome: Pod 2

“While being tucked back in the tree line had many perks, it was also hard to observe,” says Krosschell. “We wanted to get kids up into the tree tops and take advantage of that wooded setting; opening it for easier viewing led to the structure we chose.” One highlight of the first pod is a Supernova, which is built for individual, competitive or cooperative play by harnessing the effects of gravity with a unique slanted ring configuration. When a child engages the attraction, the product reacts to their movements and multiple games can occur. The combination of social interaction and movement makes it one of the biggest attractions on the playground. Pod one also has spinner bowls, expression and embarkment swings, and a toddler wave—an obstacle course for children ages 2–5.


Spinning Training Experimenting Rocking

Swinging Pretending Gathering Climbing Bala

A freestyle climbing structure with layers of play and three-dimensional climbing options including ropes, ladders, and nets. Also includes the Rope Screw.


Spinning Training Experimenting Rocking

Swinging Pretending Gathering C

Skywalk: Pod 3

The focal point of pod two is the Explorer Dome, a freestyle climbing structure with layers of play and three-dimensional climbing options. Ropes, ladders and nets encourage kids to stretch, sway, balance, hang, bend and twist. There is no limit to the variety of movements this sculpture inspires among young acrobats. Young adventurers will also be challenged by the Rope Screw, a twisting net that rotates 180 degrees, requiring skillful maneuvering to master. CCPR is excited about the new memories that will be created on the cutting-edge playground located at 6310 E Main Street. Keep an eye out for updates via social media and

An enclosed 32-foot-long, 16-foot-high rope walkway with slides and numerous climbing structures. Also includes a carousel, binoculars and megaphone.



If there’s a common denominator between Carmel’s land developers and land conservationists, it is this fact:

Land is our most valuable resource. PUTTING THE PIECES TOGETHER “Working with the land is like a puzzle to find the right balance of conservation and development for the benefit of the environment and ourselves,” says Brittany McAdams, Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation’s (CCPR) first natural resources coordinator. “When you understand the soil, you can help make the best land management decisions possible.” In her role, McAdams is charged with connecting the parks and how they function with the local community through nature programs, open dialogue and citizen science. Joining CCPR last spring, McAdams has spent her first year like any dedicated scientist, researching where we’ve been, where we are, and what the future holds. HISTORIC PERSPECTIVE In 1837 when Carmel’s first settlers arrived at the city previously known as Bethlehem, they found young fertile soils formed from glacial till. These soils supported rich beech maple and oak hickory forests, prairies, and created wetlands that dotted the landscape. Settlers discovered the soil was perfect for farming, and over the years, depleted these fertile soils through intensive agriculture and row cropping systems, including timber harvest.

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Despite substantial growth and development over the years, Carmel residents still have several pristine forest areas with very old trees. These mature forests can be found within Flowing Well Park and West Park. Some of the oldest trees— sycamores and cottonwoods—grow along the quiet stream banks.

Sure, parks are pretty, but my hope is to help our community recognize their intrinsic value, and that everyone has a stake in it. Carmel may now be much more than a bustling farm community. Its soil and natural resources matter as much today as they did more than a century ago. “Whether you are deciding where to plant a tree, build a structure or obtain the best crop yield, soil science is at the foundation of all of those decisions,” says McAdams. “Yes, parks are pretty, but my hope is to help our community recognize their intrinsic value, and that everyone has a stake in it.”

MEET BRITTANY MCADAMS A native of Aurora, Indiana, McAdams received her undergraduate degree in environmental science and land use from Purdue University and her master’s degree from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in soil science. Her position with CCPR is the perfect marriage of her passions—land management practices and community involvement. McAdam’s enthusiasm—and smile—shine brightly in unique, hands-on educational programming rooted in citizen science. CCPR’s first BioBlitz was a big success. In September 2018, 73 participants, including park staff, local experts, students from University High School, and community volunteers met in West Park to become scientists for the day by helping with data collection and species identification. A multitude of important data was gathered, and community members were introduced to local organizations, such as the Hoosier Herpetological Society, where they can further get involved to enjoy the nature around them.

ENGAGE IN CITIZEN SCIENCE So what does being a citizen scientist mean? Citizen scientists make contributions for the greater scientific good. Exciting opportunities are on the horizon for 2019, including a series of classes that will help residents utilize free apps to gather data and give back to the natural resources that form the foundation of our park system.

Seasonal BioBlitz events, Monarch tagging and the popular ‘My Park’ series are in the mix to highlight the historical, ecological and scientific features of our natural areas. “Fun and exciting opportunities abound for all to apply what they have learned and give back,” said McAdams. “I hope to see you in our parks.” Learn more at


Adaptive programs enhance skills, foster independence.


hen Michelle Yadon joined Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation (CCPR) five years ago as its inclusion supervisor, she did so with the intent to bring transformation to the community. “I wanted our adaptive participants to achieve their wildest dreams through setting small, obtainable goals and working toward larger goals.”

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The result: An adaptive program that has grown substantially to include a diverse offering of activities and programs and was recognized with the Excellence in Inclusion Award from the National Recreation and Park Association. The program’s success has spilled beyond its participants, making a sizable impact on families of those with intellectual

and physical disabilities as well as the staff who regularly interacts with them. “It’s really been beautiful to witness so much transformation in our staff,” says Yadon. “From our lifeguards signing to those who need to communicate through sign or the front-desk staff using person-first language—the whole organization is not just following standards, they are embracing the concept that everyone should receive equal access on an equal playing field.” DIRECT IMPACT The inclusivity of the program is invaluable to parents like Mary Delaney. After her 23-year-old daughter Meghan finished high school, she became both anxious and depressed. “It was a very scary time,” recounts Delaney. “It’s so

great friendships, and she has a place to go. She looks forward to it.” TRANSFORMATIONAL PROGRAMS According to Yadon, Delaney’s experience is not a unique one. Feedback from family, caregivers and participants provides affirmation of inclusivity that builds independence and self-esteem.

The whole organization is not just following standards, they are embracing the concept that everyone should receive equal access on an equal playing field.

difficult for those with disabilities to maintain or create friendships once high school ends. After her diagnosis, we worked hard and fast to find social opportunities.” Meghan will compete in her fourth Adaptive 5K program this spring and enjoys events like the weekly Fantastic Fridays, where her peers can hang out, do recreational activities and have dinner. “I cannot even begin to say how much it has meant. She has been able to connect with people like her—which she didn’t even have during her school years,” says Delaney. “Meghan has developed

Yadon sites examples like the Adaptive FlowRider® program that fosters skills on Indiana’s only simulated surf machine. “Our participants have competed in the national FLOWTour Competition and have a FlowRider® Showcase each year. But we don’t see it

as inspiring that they are doing it; it’s the fact that they are able to participate, accomplish really hard tricks and learn new skills,” she says. Yadon’s own interests in drama spawned The Roundabout Theatre Troupe in 2015 that has evolved into multiple productions including a Barrier-Free Theater performance. “With drama therapy, people are able to try on roles they want to discover and shed those roles they don’t want,” explains Yadon. “I’ve witnessed so much transformation of abstract thinking, connection with others, self-awareness and communication. I have parents say to me, ‘I had no idea my child could do that.’” This year’s Barrier-Free Theater performance is scheduled during Disability Awareness Month on March 23 and 24 at the Monon Community Center. Tickets are on sale at


When you put the person first, you’re focusing on the individual, not the disability. Instead of saying handicapped or blind, say a person with a disability or a person with a visual impairment. Learn more at


preparing for the trip

Sea lions, reef sharks, blue-footed boobies and sea turtles—oh my!

If you are wondering where in the world you can travel to see all of these fascinating species in one place, 73-year-old Jack Brummett can tell you: The Galapagos Islands. In late November 2018, after the turkey had been eaten and the Thanksgiving dishes cleaned and put away, Brummett pulled out his suitcase to pack for the trip of a lifetime including visiting natural world wonders Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands. He would travel with his wife, his brother and sister-in-law during the almost six-week, bucket-list journey that would take his group snorkeling on nine different days in the Galapagos. “Knowing that this trip was going to be something very special, I wanted to set a goal to be as prepared a swimmer and snorkeler as I could be,” shares Brummett. “I wanted to feel confident and strong swimming in this beautiful yet unfamiliar place in unfamiliar water. I knew I’d feel more relaxed if I was confident in my swimming skills.”

It had been years since Brummett had been swimming and had remembered being an average swimmer. He thought he was a good swimmer, but maybe not good enough for this trip. Soon, he was asking around and found himself signing up for individual swim lessons at the Monon Community Center’s (MCC) indoor pool. Brummett shares that he knew right away after meeting his instructor, Hannah Yackey, that this was a fantastic place to come and train and the atmosphere seemed perfect to meet his goals.

“Hannah was incredibly patient. I never really thought I had the right stroke technique and Hannah was able to evaluate my swimming stroke and then provide a workout plan and instruction that would help improve my stroke so that I could become more comfortable swimming longer distances. I began to swim the length of the pool feeling stronger in the water and not exhausted and that was a great feeling,” says Brummett.

“One of the phenomenal islands we snorkeled and swam sported over 400 species of fish and other marine wildlife to see and experience. I knew I wanted to have the stamina to not miss any of the wonders that this trip had to offer,” Brummett says. “I am so glad that I came for the individualized lessons that were tailored to help me reach my goals. I can absolutely say that if I hadn’t prepared myself with the endurance water training that I would have missed out on some incredible sea life.” Brummett shares that he has grown to really enjoy the entire MCC facility—both the community and family atmosphere. “It really is night and day from when I started the training to what I was able to take with me into the water for the trip—both my swimming journey and my recent trip were absolutely transformational.”

GEARING UP TO SUIT UP! After a few lessons, Brummett was feeling more confident in the water. Next, Hannah would help him implement the snorkeling gear so that Brummett was also confident being in the water for a snorkeling swim, accustom to the equipment and aware of what to expect once he got to the Galapagos.

Who said swim lessons are just for the kids? At the Monon Community Center we offer adult swim lessons year-round. In addition to improving your skills, our certified swim instructors will help you feel more comfortable and confident in the water. Learn more at


Monon Community Center 1195 Central Park Dr West Carmel, IN 46032

at Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation, you’ll find


Profile for Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation

Park Conversations Magazine - Spring 2019 Edition  

Park Conversations Magazine - Spring 2019 Edition  

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