There were no certificates handed out, no statuettes, no medallions or plaques. There were not even any gift bags or monetary awards received. In fact, the only lasting evidence that commemorates the occasion is a few plastic name tags fastened to a large metal panel in the center of the Conejo Creek North Park Gratitude Circle.
However, it was indeed a wonderful time to gather with family and friends at one of our local parks to recognize, share stories and past accomplishments, and express appreciation for a few special people who have contributed significantly to our community.
The Conejo Recreation and Park District (CRPD) board recently paid tribute to three very worthy individuals for their dedication to the residents of the Conejo Valley through various acts of service in recreation, parks and open space. This has become an annual event over the past ten years and is the highest honor bestowed by the CRPD. Only a select number of individuals have received it.
I arrived early to the event so I could browse the names of those in the Gratitude Circle who had previously been honored. It is an esteemed collection of individuals representing the best our community has to offer.
As I pondered the many contributions the honorees had made to our community, it struck me that the circle serves as a quiet place of solitude and reflection in the midst of busy park activities – where children are playing, families are picnicking and folks are out walking their dogs. One must choose to walk into the circle.
The small circle has a somewhat austere appearance, with wood chips, rocks and trees defining its scope. Some large metal panels, rusted over time, are spaced around the perimeter. The design itself, in a way, reflects the honorees. None sought recognition – they just did what they loved, blending in with their surroundings. Yet, while doing so, they unassumingly endeavored to serve their community, making significant contributions of their time and talent. In doing so, they became stalwarts of recreation and parks in the Conejo Valley.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, I reflected on how each honoree had individually contributed to the benefit of my family and me. Each one, in their own way, made an important impact. For that, I am personally very grateful. Thank you, Scott Buchanan, Susan Holt, and Brian McQueeny! Your efforts are sincerely appreciated by many.
We are so blessed to live in a community where myriads of people share their time, talents and treasures. The Conejo Recreation and Park District is able to provide recreation, parks and open space because of those who had the foresight to preserve and provide amenities for our community. But it is the people behind those amenities who serve our community and make it even better.
While a simple ceremony and a small name tag may not seem to be much of a recognition, it is more about the honor itself. Thank you to all of the 2023 Circle of Gratitude recipients. Our community is sincerely grateful for your efforts.
Doug Nickles is a director/board member for the Conejo Recreation and Park District, the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency and the California Association of Recreation and Park Districts. The views expressed are his and do not necessarily reflect those of the district, agency or the respective boards. He can be contacted via email at [email protected].