By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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PORT ANGELES — Janet Young didn't see it coming.
The 73-year-old Port Angeles resident had no idea that last Thursday night's meeting of the Port Angeles Parks, Recreation and Beautification Commission, on which she serves as a commissioner, would bring her to tears.
She wasn't expecting to receive statewide recognition for her work in making the playground at Shane Park a reality and be recognized in front of family and members of the volunteer committee that helped organize fundraising for the playground.
“I had no idea; I was just overwhelmed,” Young said after the meeting as she dried what was left of her tears.
Citizen of Merit
Young learned at the meeting that she had been awarded the Citizen of Merit award by the Washington Recreation and Park Association, a nonprofit interest group supporting parks and recreation agencies across the state.
Corey Delikat, Port Angeles parks and recreation director, said the award recognizes ordinary citizens who have had a lasting impact on parks and recreation in their communities.
“This award represents not only Janet but everyone who helped out,” Delikat said.
Young will be formally presented with the award at the recreation and park association's awards dinner April 9 in Seattle.
“Janet always said, 'This playground wasn't about me,' but to us, this playground was about her and her story,” Delikat said.
Shane Park was named in honor of Young's son, Shane Fowler, who died of injuries suffered at the park while it was being built in 1973.
Young, who lives across from the park, had long envisioned playground equipment there — and, in 2010, she began fundraising efforts.
With the help of the volunteer committee, she raised $45,000 over the course of nearly two years to help build the state-of-the-art playground.
It is also the North Olympic Peninsula's first fully functional Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant playground.
Last year Young received the Clallam County Community Service Award for her dogged enthusiasm and tenacity.
Children were waiting
The playground officially opened on a rainy April day in 2013.
After a ribbon-cutting ceremony, more than 100 waiting children onto the slides, monkey bars, climbing towers and swings of the west-side park between Sixth and Eighth streets and G and E streets.
Delikat put Young's name in for consideration for this year's award in February and found out she had won Tuesday, two days before the regularly scheduled city parks board meeting.
With Young serving on the parks commission, Delikat said he wanted to take last week's meeting as an opportunity to gather the Shane Park playground committee volunteers together and surprise Young.
Members of the committee filed in silently near the end Thursday's meeting, and Young did not notice them sitting in the audience until Delikat pointed them out.
Young was brought to tears as she hugged each of the six committee members.
“We worked for almost two years, and they're like family,” Young said after the meeting.
“I could not have done any of this without these people.”
Committee members Amy Billings, Cindy Conner, City Councilwoman Cherie Kidd, Danielle Patterson, Julie and Ken Reandeau, and Brenda Tassie attended, as did Young's grandson, Benjamin Fowler.
Young said she loves to watch children and families enjoy the playground.
“It's just a joy to be able to see that every day,” Young said.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.