Marilyn Thordarson has just taken the reins as president of the Spokane Parks Foundation Board. I sat down with her to find out a bit more about what brought her to us and why she has remained involved!
What brought you to the Spokane Parks Foundation?
Over my lifetime, public parks have been the setting for many memorable times: growing up in Grandview, Washington – the city parks offered play days, church picnics and outings, the place to learn to swim or just to hang out through grade school and high school, and even today, my high school class reunions. In college years in Tacoma, romantic times with my future husband were spent near Narrows Bridge City Park, as our children arrived and we moved throughout the Northwest – Easter egg hunts in Boise, Idaho’s city park and ultimately Spokane, where Manito and Comstock Parks provided a “walk to” playground and swimming pool for our growing family or a meditative place to take a walk in later years. So…how could I resist when the Spokane Parks Foundation asked if I would help with its endeavors in behalf of our 90 plus city and county parks?
What interests you most about our work?
What attracted me to the Spokane Parks Foundation was its purpose: to ensure that the parks that we have enjoyed in the past and today will be maintained, improved, expanded, and that they will be our legacy for future generations. Parks, while taken for granted, don’t take care of themselves and they need to change over time to meet the needs of children, adults, the elderly, and the physically challenged. Foundations exist to insure the sustainability of those things that benefit our lives today and in the future. Foundations are like savings accounts, perhaps not exciting or of the moment but critically important in meeting the needs of tomorrow and the things that we value.
What did you do before retirement?
I am retired from health care, and served as Public Relations and Marketing Director. And following “retirement,” I was the Foundation Director Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center from 1978-2005. After my second retirement I continued in consulting and fundraising roles with nonprofits. I’ve had the privilege of serving on a number of boards to include Spokane United Way, American Cancer Society, American Hospital Public Relations Association, Public Relations Society of America, Spokane’s Ronald McDonald House, Women Helping Women and Community Minded Enterprises and most recently the Spokane Parks Foundation board.
What would you like to see happen during my year as president?
The growth of the Endowment Fund is fundamental to sustaining our ability to not only maintain, but improve our city and county parks into the future; education about planned giving and growth in that area is one of my goals for this year. Another is related to the Parks Foundation important role in providing grants to enhance and improve parks throughout our region. The Foundation’s discretionary dollars never are enough to meet the requests that we receive; it would be gratifying to see this resource grow through an increase in unrestricted contributions.
In its marketing and public relations activities, we are working toward demonstrating the relationship of health to outdoor recreation in parks and public schools. Our wonderful network of parks, accessible throughout the city and county, provides the environment to healthy activity for children as well as adults. Some medical professionals have embarked on substantiating the relationship between time spent outdoors in the activity provided in our public parks to improved health indicators in children. I would like to see more of that kind of information in the hands child care providers, teachers and youth directors as well as the public at large.
The incidence of swimming injuries and drownings in our area exceeds national averages (due to the preponderance of lakes and rivers in our region) and needs to be more aggressively addressed. The “Make a Splash” program, a project of the Foundation, Spokane Parks and Recreatio Department as well as other community partners, plays an important role toward that goal with swim classes and pool admission for those families where the cost is a hardship. Growth in the funding for this endeavors is always at the top of the list for the year.
Thank you Marilyn for all that you bring to the Foundation - we are looking forward to a fabulous year with you at the helm!