Emanuel "Chris" Welch received the Legislator of the Year award. From left: Jackie Iovinelli (park district executive director), Chris Welch, Roy Sansone (park board president), Matt Walsh (park board commissioner).

The Park District of Forest Park’s 16-inch No-gloves National Softball Tournament has been around since 1969. The Illinois Park and Recreation Association (IPRA) awarded the park district the Outstanding Special Event Award at the Illinois Parks Conference on Jan. 24.

“It’s a great honor,” said Jackie Iovinelli, the park district executive director. “It’s a reflection on the community, not just the park district.”

Iovinelli said she decided to nominate the park district for the award during last summer’s tournament, the first in which she was involved — and the 51st in the park district’s history. After the event, Iovinelli said she was amazed by the participation and community involvement.

“I told staff I was so impressed with the planning and the passion from the community. I said, ‘We need to tell people about this.’ It was such an outstanding event, and people should know what we can do and what we are doing,” Iovinelli recalled.

The nomination process included an application with five questions, answered in 300 words or less, which included information about volunteers and community participation. IPRA placed great importance on those two elements, said Iovinelli. “They really want to see how events bring together volunteers and the community.”

Last year, the park district won the outstanding facility award for the Roos Recreation Center. “That, too, was not just an honor for the staff,” said Iovinelli, “but for the community as a whole.”

Emanuel “Chris” Welch, Illinois 7th district state representative, was also awarded the Legislator of the Year Award by the Illinois Association of Park Districts (IAPD) at the conference for his contributions to, and support of, park districts.

“He’s been a spokesperson for Forest Park and other park districts,” said Iovinelli. “The IADP nominated him for his work and dedication to IADP and to local park districts.” She added that he has been helpful to the Park District of Forest Park any time they’ve reached out to him with questions about grants or finances.

“He loves Forest Park,” she said.

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