Downers Grove-based SEASPAR recognizes outstanding participants, partners at banquet

Collective efforts enrich lives of individuals with disabilities

SEASPAR, the South East Association for Special Parks And Recreation, recently hosted its annual Believe & Achieve Recognition Banquet at the Sheraton Lisle/Naperville. The event was a celebration of the participants, community partners, staff and volunteers who have made significant contributions to SEASPAR’s programming for individuals with disabilities, according to a news release.

Participant recognition

Emily Kula, a resident of La Grange, was honored with the Cultural Artist of the Year award. Having actively participated in SEASPAR’s Actors Guild program for almost a decade, Kula showcased her talent in numerous plays and musicals, according to the release. Her dedication to the cultural arts, coupled with her supportive attitude toward fellow actors regardless of their abilities, earned her the prestigious recognition.

Allen Rosete from Darien received the Athlete of the Year award. Rosete consistently has demonstrated commitment as a participant in SEASPAR’s Special Olympics volleyball and swimming programs. As a core server for the Spartans volleyball team and a competitor in the 50-meter freestyle and backstroke swimming events, Rosete exemplifies excellence, good sportsmanship, teamwork and a positive attitude. Upon accepting the award, Rosete gave “a big thanks to all the coaches, volunteers, who help me [be] a better athlete.”

The Rising Star award, which recognizes an outstanding youth participant, was given to 10-year-old Joseph Lyerly of Woodridge. Joseph has spent five years participating in SEASPAR programs such as karate, Lightning softball and Special Olympics athletics and swimming. A creative and kind person, Joseph has found great success in Special Olympics sports, including recent gold medals in athletics and swimming regional competitions, sending him to the Special Olympics State Summer Games in June, according to the release.

The Shining Star award, which recognizes an outstanding adult participant, was bestowed upon Liam Heraty of Lisle, acknowledging his involvement in SEASPAR’s programming. Heraty’s infectious smile and enthusiasm are evident in SEASPAR programs, including Social Club West, bowling at Lisle Lanes, Soup or Salad, Spartans Golf, Cooking with SEASPAR and Yoga with Jen, according to the release. Heraty also is a valued member of the Darien EAGLES Adult Day Program.

Staff and volunteer recognition

Micaela Bjarnson of Downers Grove was recognized with the Leading Light award, an accolade presented to a part-time staff member at SEASPAR for three years or less. Bjarnson’s commitment and dependability are evident in her assistance with leading multiple weekly programs and special events. She actively engages in athletics and special events, as well as youth and adult activities, fostering a positive environment for participants and fellow staff members. “I absolutely love what I do, that’s why I work all the time,” Bjarnson said as she accepted her award.

Cheryl and Jason Steed of Downers Grove were honored with the Super Star award, which celebrates part-time staff members of three years or more. The couple have worked SEASPAR programs for more than 30 years and were recognized for their dedication and support to participants. Their commitment to working so many programs and providing valuable input to enhance them has made a significant impact. When presented with the award, the Steeds expressed their gratitude for the fulfilling experiences they have gained through their involvement with SEASPAR.

The Naberhaus Volunteer of the Year award was presented to The Home Depot volunteers of Downers Grove and Woodridge for their volunteer work at SEASPAR’s volleyball tournament, swim meet and New Year’s bash. These volunteers, motivated by their passion for helping others, have consistently shown their willingness to lend a hand wherever needed, according to the release.

Donor recognition

The Pauley family of Downers Grove was awarded the Donor of the Year award for a family for their long-standing support of SEASPAR. Their contributions over the years have made a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals with disabilities.

The Donor award for a service club or foundation was bestowed upon the Knights of Columbus Robert P. Connelly Council 5918. Recognizing their ongoing commitment to supporting organizations that serve individuals with disabilities, the award acknowledges their long-standing donations to SEASPAR.

SEASPAR also recognized The Morton Arboretum of Lisle as the Donor of the Year for a business. The Morton Arboretum’s collaboration with SEASPAR, particularly through the Nature Play for All event, is based on accessibility in nature for all. SEASPAR families were invited to participate in the free two-day family event.

The Believe & Achieve Recognition Banquet was a testament to the dedication, talent and collaborative spirit of SEASPAR’s participants, staff, volunteers and community partners. Their collective efforts have enriched the lives of individuals with disabilities and fostered an inclusive and supportive community.

For information about SEASPAR and its recreational programming for individuals with disabilities, visit

SEASPAR serves the communities of Brookfield, Clarendon Hills, Darien, Downers Grove, Indian Head Park, La Grange, La Grange Park, Lemont, Lisle, Western Springs, Westmont and Woodridge.

Shaw Local News Network

Shaw Local News Network

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