Last month, I had the pleasure of meeting Gayle Vasile, CPRP at the Florida Recreation and Parks Association annual conference. Gayle and I co-presented my education session, When Traumatic Events Impact Your Organization; Recovery, Support and Strength. Gayle is the Special Projects Manager for the City of Parkland, Florida and an amazing parks and recreation professional.  Gayle is also a member of an unfortunate and fast-growing club; a club of professionals in communities that are directly involved in the recovery after a tragic and traumatic event.

Lori and Gayle at FRPA

Gayle shared her story about the amazing work she and members of the City of Parkland Parks and Recreation staff did following the tragic shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.  Gayle also talked about the impact of this traumatic event on the staff.   Together, we talked about the power of parks and recreation programs and services in the recovery for an entire community.

Traumatic events, whether man-made or mother nature, seem to be occurring more and more often.  Being prepared gives you and your staff the opportunity to respond versus react.  In my article published in the NRPA magazine, Ready to Respond Versus Reacting, I discuss the importance of training your staff as well as having an up to date and realistic crisis response plan.  However, the most important piece for recovery is creating a help-seeking environment for you staff.  As Gayle stated, “While resources were available for staff, we were so engrossed in the immediate needs and what was going on, that we didn’t seek any help.  What we have since learned is to ensure staff knows how and where to get help. Talk to them. Make sure they are ok.”  It doesn’t matter what kind of traumatic event takes place. What does matter is creating a help-seeking environment.  It says to your staff their mental health is just as important as their physical health.  There are many ways to get help and support, including telephone and online sources of assistance, mental health services, peer supports, and other options.  Be proactive and find the necessary resources in your community.

Read more about creating a crisis response plan and the power of a help-seeking environment in my article.

Thank you, Gayle for sharing your story and the story of the parks and recreation staff in Parkland, Fla.