The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District Shenango River Lake partnered with local organizations to hold the 13th Annual Leslie Sparano Memorial Summer Fest July 22.
Summer Fest symbolizes the idea of living life, giving and the outdoors, according to the Leslie Colucci-Sparano Memorial Foundation and the Mercer County Behavioral Health Commission, who co-founded the event. Those ideals and the festivals namesake, for the 13th year in a row, have been the reason to rally behind the entire Sharpsville community where the event takes place.
Leslie Sparano was a Support Coordinator with the Mercer County Behavioral Health Commission and 28 years old when she was tragically killed in a car accident in 2004. According to the Leslie Colucci-Sparano Foundation “Everybody that knew Leslie loved her. She had a passion and zest for life that was unsurpassed.”
Hundreds of attendees who were willing to brave briefly inclement weather were treated to an immersive and activity filled experience, said John Kolodziejski, Shenango River Lake natural resource manager.
Activities included boat rides, fishing, crafts, games, a dunking booth, bingo, dancing, bocce ball, a full lunch and more.
Jubilation was in great supply as evidenced by the many smiles of attendees, all of which feed into the sense of community that made the event a success.
Throughout the day, the festive atmosphere was electrified by a DJ named David who has a special connection to the event. David is Leslie Sparano’s brother, and his participation is another example of how this event is a labor of “family love.”
The event succeeded in accomplishing its primary mission of enabling disabled residents a chance to venture into the great outdoors for some fun.
“The laugher, smiles and good times touch so many and in ways one might have never expected,” Kolodziejski said.
While there were several booths to visit and events to take part in, the event also offered a chance for community partnership with the district and its facilities.
"Our projects do not exist in a vacuum; they are part of the communities in which they are situated. Events such as this one are crucial to garnering public support of our missions and remaining relevant to the geographic areas we serve,” said Evan Skornick, supervisory operations project manager, northern area operations for the Pittsburgh District.
Serving the public through maintenance of the district’s project sites that exist within its boundaries, and providing access to use those sites for community events is the unique privilege of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
This privilege also enable partnerships similar to this event to connect with its target audience through the outdoors, said organizers.
“Summerfest is a perfect example of a great partnership. In this case Mercer County Behavioral Health Commission, the Leslie Colucci-Sparano Memorial Foundation and the Pittsburgh District work together to bring an average of 900 clients, family members and volunteers together for a day of outdoor recreation at Shenango Lake,” added Kolodziejski.
At the end of the day, these type of partnerships create a dynamic relationship with the community and offer a chance for some outdoor focused fun.
As far as the future of the event goes, Kolodziejski did not mince words, “2016 represented our 13th year and there is no end in sight.”
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