Meet the Sterling Park District’s new marketing manager

Welcome to the Sterling Park District! My name is Janell Loos and I’m excited and grateful to serve the community as the district’s new marketing manager. It is truly a dream come true to grow professionally and personally here at the park district.

I’ve raised my family in Sterling for over 25 years and I grew up spending time with family along the Rock River and exploring parks. I am engaged to my best friend, Carl Tunk, and I have five children: Sean, Breanna, Andrew, Olivia and my stepdaughter, Lillian. Our two rescue dogs from Happy Tails, Moo and Traveller, and our most recent additions, two guinea pigs named Elliott and Marshall, complete our fun and loving family.

I’ve always been drawn to green spaces, and the Sterling Park District provides the community with an abundance of resources, including 14 parks, miles of bike paths and numerous facilities such as Westwood Fitness & Sports Center, Duis Center and Emerald Hill Golf Course, offering diverse, year-round activities for all ages and abilities. In a world where it is easy to feel disconnected from peers, friends and family, we have places and spaces that we, by nature, are attracted to. Westwood, Emerald Hill and the Duis Center can positively affect mental health by allowing for socialization, community cohesion, relationship-building and providing respite for those going through stress. Our parks and paths beckon people to walk, jog or ride their bikes, which helps decrease stress and depression.

My family had the pleasure of enjoying a 2-mile walk at Sinnissippi Park recently. We saw a herd of deer in the thickets, checked out the Frisbee golf course, saw squirrels digging up their food from last fall, watched the water trickle down the stream and talked. Remember what that was like? Connecting with family? I couldn’t help but notice so many more families that were out on that beautiful day enjoying nature like we were. We were all sharing the day with the natural world.

By Sterling Park District providing such amazing green spaces, we are allowing animals to move through urban environments safely, as well as providing them shelter. This benefits biodiversity by permitting species to thrive in areas they otherwise wouldn’t. Plants grow food that animals can eat. A mature tree will absorb more than 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen in exchange. Vegetation removes toxins from the air. Noise pollution, which affects the health and well-being of humans and other organisms, is reduced through green spaces. Plants deflect sound, which may promote relaxation for nearby residents, animals and children with their families visiting our parks. Other benefits to physical health can be created by viewing nature, being in it or being nearby. My family and I felt happy and energized by our walk. The Sterling Park District provides the tools and resources that can help enhance your quality of life and overall wellness within our community.

Westwood, the Duis Center and Emerald Hill golf course are here for you. Westwood has a 200-meter indoor track, a 60-yard indoor turf field, fitness turf and functional training equipment, indoor tennis courts, wood basketball courts, more than 35,000 square feet of fitness equipment and a boxing area. Plus, we offer a wellness center where you can relax and recover with saunas, compression therapy, hydro massage beds and more. All of these amenities are included with a Sterling Park District membership.

Group fitness classes, such as Unicus Functional Fitness and Total Body Toning, are free for our members or available to nonmembers with a drop-in fee. Classes are led by trained instructors, providing motivation and encouragement as you work toward your goals. Need child care while you visit Westwood? Our facility offers Kids Gym child care. Exclusively offered at Westwood, Kids Gym child care provides the opportunity for kids to have a healthy yet playful option while their parents use Westwood. Kids Gym is free for members. Start your fitness journey today by calling Westwood at 815-622-6201.

The Duis Center serves as home to our swimming and gymnastics programs and as one of our group/party rental spaces. The swimming pool offers an indoor 25-yard, six-lane lap pool and a separate diving well with a depth of 12 feet. The diving well also includes a 1-meter diving board. Swimming lessons, water fitness classes, lap swim and open swim are available. The Duis Center also is home to the Wahoos swim team. The first-floor gymnastics area features uneven bars, beams, vault and floor plus tumbling features such as Tumbl Trak and double mini trampoline. The second-floor “Little Gym” area features a minimountain inflatable, suitable for ages 3 to 6. For more information, call the Duis Center at 815-622-6200.

Emerald Hill Golf Course offers private golf lessons with golf pro Chip Staebell. Whether you’re new to the sport or a seasoned golfer looking to improve specific areas of your game, Chip can help. Chip believes everyone has the ability to learn the fundamentals and looks forward to helping players achieve their goals. Lessons are available for ages 9 through adult. Prices start at $35 per lesson. Call 815-622-6204 or swing by the Emerald Hill pro shop to schedule lessons with Chip!

Looking for a safe, clean, climate-controlled, entertaining place to have your child’s birthday party this spring and summer? We can help with that. The Duis Center and Westwood facilities offer a fun, kid-friendly environment. Duis Center parties include a swimming party, a gymnastics party and/or use of our multipurpose space. Our special-event areas offer ample room for fun activities by the hour. Our Kids Gym space is available for rental exclusively for your next event. Two-hour party block rentals are available Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Your group will have access to the entire room, including the mega playground, climbing wall and interactive fitness equipment. Chairs and tables also are accessible.

Party space is available for members and nonmembers! Book your next event by calling the Duis Center at 815-622-6200 or Westwood at 815-622-6201. Parties must reserve and pay in full at least two weeks in advance. To reserve your date, pick up a party request form at the front desk and return the completed form at the time of your booking.

We sure are looking forward to an exciting summer at the Sterling Park District! If you have questions or suggestions of topics you’d like to read about, please reach out to me at To learn more about the Sterling Park District and to view our newest Activity Guide, visit us online at and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

• Janell Loos is the Sterling Park District’s marketing manager.