NEWINGTON – Newington Parks and Recreation is achieving statewide recognition.
Two individuals and one program representing the department recently received awards at the CT Recreation and Parks Association (CRPA) Awards Luncheon at Mohegan Sun Casino.
“It is truly an honor to be represented in front of our colleagues,” Newington Parks and Recreation Superintendent Bill DeMaio said. “It is so heartwarming to have our department recognized in a very competitive group of parks and recreation departments from many towns and cities in the state.”
Newington’s first honoree was Elliot Markman, who joined the town’s department as an intern in June 2021. Markman, who is currently studying sports management at Southern Connecticut State University, received the CRPA’s Dorothy G. Mullen/George Sanford Student Scholarship.
DeMaio actually worked with the late Mullen and Sanford during his long career in parks and recreation. Remembering their work ethic, moral compass and passion for the industry, he said they would be “very proud” of Markman.
“Elliot himself has said that he loves recreation because of its ability to bring people together and create communities, and it’s impossible to miss that love of the field when watching him work,” DeMaio said.
Markman was the first staff member to operate Newington’s trackless train and was appointed director of the department’s increasingly-popular Cornhole League. The league has grown to include over 30 adult teams over the summer.
Now in his second internship with the department, Markman was appointed director of the Exercise the Right Choice program and Creative Playtime Preschool Program.
Newington’s Night of Lights, an annual event that takes place downtown each December, received the CRPA’s Program of Merit Award.
“The event has been a tradition for so long that its inaugural year is uncertain,” DeMaio said.
Over the years the Night of Lights has grown to include Christmas caroling led by Newington High School’s Chamber Choir, a fire truck parade with the presentation of Santa Claus, tree lighting and hay rides around Mill Pond Park.
Lastly, the CRPA’s Volunteer of the Year was Newington resident Tony Palermino.
Palermino and his family donated thousands of dollars to Newington Parks and Recreation’s Round-Up Program, which provides its summer Camp RECreate to children in need.
The donations were used to create a scholarship fund subsidizing fees for families who otherwise would not be able to send their children to summer camp. Palermino also personally sponsored the entire eight weeks of camp for three different youths in particular need of this enrichment experience.
“The Camp RECreate program gives children the opportunity to continue learning and growing while making new friends,” DeMaio said. “Because of the Palermino family’s generous donation, 60 campers were able to enjoy a total of 413 weeks of camp in those two years (2018-19). In addition to this, over 100 people benefited from this scholarship fund to obtain pool passes.”
DeMaio recalled how Palermino once walked into the department offices and handed him an envelope.
“‘Do something nice for kids through your department,’” he said. “We opened up the envelope and it had a check in the amount of $15,000.”
The money was put to good use with the addition of live petting zoos, clowns, magicians and stilt walkers at several big events.
“Tony Palermino is a true friend of the Newington Parks and Recreation Department,” DeMaio said. “Not only does he give his own money to our youth, but he volunteers at every special event we host.”
The all-volunteer Parks and Recreation Commission oversees activities and serves as liaison between elected officials and the department. Board member Eileen Francolino submitted an editorial to local media in recognition of all the good works accomplished by Newington Parks and Recreation.
“The Newington Parks and Recreation Department is a valuable resource for individuals, families, and our community,” Francolino said. “The department provides opportunities for physical activity, promoting mental health, protecting the natural environment, and offering economic benefits. Investing in the Newington Parks and Recreation Department is crucial for maintaining the health and well-being of our community.”
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at email@example.com.