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The Man Behind HK Rec Dept: Meet Frank Sparks III

Written by Meghan B. Peterson.

Are you in a Haddam Killingworth Recreation Department program? Do you have children enrolled in a few summer activities? Do you know people who have signed up for the various offerings the Haddam-Killingworth Recreation Authority makes available? If so, you have seen the handiwork of its founder and soon-to-be-retiring director, Frank Sparks III.

frank sparksFrank is one of those trailblazers who builds things from scratch. In 1976, he was a newly-minted college graduate with a Master’s in Parks and Recreation Management from Southern Connecticut State University. After seeing a job posting for a Haddam-Killingworth Recreation director, Frank knew what he wanted to do. He was given an office, typewriter, and instructions to build the department from the ground up. He comprised the staff of one. The first person to fill this role, Frank possessed the freedom and energy to form the H-K Recreation Authority. As Frank describes the beginning days, he hit the “ground running.” The continued, growing success of the H-K Recreation Department attests to that.

Fall of ’76 saw Frank’s creation of the soccer program. With winter, came the basketball program. In the early 80s, Frank was able to hire an assistant director as well as a secretary. Soon thereafter, women from the Haddam and Killingworth communities requested that the Board of Selectmen look into providing child-oriented programs to accommodate working mothers. Receptivity for such a program at the governmental level was variable. However, Frank saw the need and envisioned increasing demand for such a program. Subsequently, Frank created the after-school child care program – one of the “first of its kind” in the area and hired a director. Frank explains that for him, the after-school child care program represents a focus on child safety as well as enabling children to play and learn in a secure, fun environment while their parents are working.

Growing the department and fashioning it into what HK Recreation is today took hard work, dedication, vision, and a “closely-knit” team. Frank points out the longevity of his staff. Both Administrative Assistant Sheila Benoit and Assistant Director Robyne Brennan have worked at the department for 20 years. Director of Child Care Jen Saglio has been a part of the team for 15 years. According to Robyne Brennan, who will succeed Frank as Director, the Recreation staff “truly is a mini family.” She adds that Frank helped to cultivate an environment of loyalty and dedication – to each other and to the community. That kind of commitment has enabled Frank and his staff to oversee the department’s impact on and service to, Haddam-Killingworth families. That kind of impact can be felt in the staggering array of programs HK Recreation offers – over 120 – each year. Frank is also proud of the fact that HK Recreation generates 80% of its operating expenses.

When asked about the vision Frank developed over the decades for the department, he identified three key components or priorities. One is the emphasis on making recreational opportunities available to all ages. Two is the focus on providing safe, reliable childcare. He again notes the “cutting edge” nature of the H-K program at the time of its inception. Three is the vast impact on thousands of children and adults over the years. Frank describes the many examples of community children who participated in H-K’s various programs, found employment as camp counselors or assistant instructors there, and returned as adults to volunteer for the department. Frank observes the importance of the collaborative relationship between the department, Haddam Board of Education, and community.

A joint statement by Dan Colonia, H-K Recreation Authority Chairman and William R. Bowles, Authority Member reads as follows in honor of Frank and his work:

“The Haddam-Killingworth community has been blessed for almost 40 years to have had Frank Sparks as Director of Recreation.  Frank molded, constructed and administered H-K Recreation from its infancy as a division of Region #17 to an independent Authority providing recreational opportunities for residents of all ages, child care for working families and summer & school vacation camps for school age kids.  H-K Recreation has been not only the source of rewarding recreational experiences for the children of our communities, but, as they have grown, become the largest employer of our young working teens (for many their first job) for our Towns.  It is with the utmost respect and appreciation that the Authority bids Frank farewell and extends our best wishes for health and happiness in his retirement.”

Looking ahead to his upcoming retirement on June 30, 2015 Frank says he will miss the staff and his years of service. He is, however, excited to begin a “new chapter.” The best of luck to you, Frank. Here is to wishing you a very happy and much deserved retirement!





5 Responses to The Man Behind HK Rec Dept: Meet Frank Sparks III

  1. Sue Craffey

    June 27, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    Frank, Thank you for enthusiasm and work ethic that provided our children with the greatest selection of activities throughout their formative years. Our girls graced many a program and in turn worked for HK Rec as life guards and swim instructors for many years, which put them through college. Good luck in your well deserved retirement!

  2. June Lucas

    June 30, 2015 at 11:50 am

    Frank, The HK Rec Dept. was an important factor in our decision to buy a house in Higganum 33 years ago. Our son, Tim, and daughter, Erika, both benefitted greatly from participation in the programs you created. Above and beyond that, words cannot express how much our friendship with you and Robyn meant to us. I think about her every day! Enjoy your retirement in Florida!!

  3. Loretta & Geoff

    June 30, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    Well done, Frank! Haddam will be losing a bright and shining star.

    Best wishes for good health, great fun and laughter and much happiness in your next chapter.

  4. Alan & Patricia Cecchini

    July 7, 2015 at 9:52 am

    Dear Frank, Congrats on a job well done, we go back a long way, actually all the way. We have been able to enjoy not only your ground breaking work at the rec. dept. but an enjoyable social life as well with you and your family. Good luck in your future endeavors and please keep in touch.

  5. Brian Thayer

    July 12, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    Hey Frank ,
    All the best to a well deserved and well earned retirement !
    You have doe a great service to our community and are leaving behind a big shoes to fill .
    Enjoy all that your new adventures have to offer !
    Thank you ! !
    Sincerely , Brian Thayer