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Park District Board President, Fellow Coaches, Introduce Lacrosse To Girls

Volunteer coaches in Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills number in the hundreds. Over the past two weekends, I’ve had the chance to watch two of them in action with a bunch of little girls running around indoors getting an introduction to that amazing and fast-growing sport of lacrosse. I enjoyed the practice because I admired and was amused by the coaches’ patience and skill.

Leading these girls were Greg Johnson and Bill Santulli. Those names should sound familiar. Santulli because he is a well-known lacrosse dad and coach, whose children have gone on and are going on to play lacrosse at the college level, including his twin daughters who played lacrosse for National Championship winning-Northwestern University a few years ago. Johnson’s name should be familiar not because it is a common surname but because he is currently serving in his second term as the elected president of the Clarendon Hills Park District Board of Commissioners. He’s not just serving in a leadership and administrative capacity but in a hands-on one as well.

How cool and inspiring to find these men as well as Brett Secola giving up an hour on a Saturday introducing lacrosse to girls in kindergarten through fourth grade. Johnson’s daughter, Lally who is a freshman at Hinsdale Central, was there helping.

Johnson will be the first to admit that he doesn’t even know how to hold a stick, which is of course an important component of the game since the stick with the net on the end is the instrument by which the ball is propelled around the field. Lacrosse players must learn how to run and cradle the ball in such a way that it does not fall out of the net. They must also learn to throw and catch it. It is a difficult sport. Johnson said he grew up in Central Illinois, and traditionally the strongest lacrosse programs have come out of the east coast.

Not having “stick skills” has not prevented him from helping his own kids or these girls learn to throw and catch as his parting comments to parents after that first practice indicate: “Parents, you don’t have to know how to use a stick to play catch.” He said he used to just reach for his baseball glove to play catch that way.

The girls were focused and interested. Some had obviously seen the sport before, were better at scooping up the ball and running with it holding the stick in two hands and cradling it. Still girls will be girls. At one scrimmage, instead of thinking of their team as the one with the red penneys, one girl observed that her team was the one with brown hair and the other team was blond.

As a parent, it reminded me a little bit of my daughter’s first years of violin lessons: a lot of screeching which with practice and time will give way to beautiful music. Here there were a lot of balls flying all over the place.

“What is great about lacrosse is it’s such a great combination of foot work, running and hand-eye coordination as well as toughness,” Johnson said, adding that it is a beautiful sport to watch. He sees many of the same application of basketball concepts to lacrosse, of setting picks and rolls. For more information about the Winter Lacrosse Camp, visit


Clarendon Hills Park District employee wins Park Professional of the Year

Published: Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015 5:30 a.m. CST


CLARENDON HILLS – Clarendon Hills Park District Landscape Specialist Keith Woodke is the most recently named Park Professional of the Year by the Midwest Institute of Park Executives.

Woodke is a 13-year employee of the Clarendon Hills Park District who is responsible for numerous horticultural projects at any of the eight park sites, including the selection of trees and flowers, landscaping, and overall parks and facilities maintenance.

A longtime member of the Midwest Institute of Park Executives, the 64-year-old Romeoville resident was honored Jan. 8 in Schaumburg at luncheon hosted by the organization.

“Considering that I didn’t know the person very well that nominated me, receiving the award was a humbling experience, something that I’m very proud of,” Woodke said. “I’ve been in the business a long time. You get a thanks every once in a while, but this is something above and beyond that. I am very proud to be nominated and win the award.”

A native of Crown Point, Ind., Woodke – whose father dabbled in farming and carpentry – grew up in a rural neighborhood on a 20-acre plot of land where he cultivated a passion agriculture and the outdoors.

He then attended Danville Area Junior College, earning a degree in ornamental horticulture and then moving to the southwest suburbs of Chicago. He lived in Bolingbrook for 27 years and then relocated to Romeoville in 2006.

“These suburbs have changed quite a bit in the last 30-plus years, but I enjoyed the communities – the people are great, there is a nice rural suburban feel, and the communities provide a lot to the surrounding area,” he said.

Before accepting a position at the Clarendon Hills Park District, Woodke initially worked at a landscape company that was did contract work for the Oak Park Park District. Since then, he’s been employed by the Bolingbrook Park District, River Trails Park District in Northern Mount Prospect and the Franklin Park Park District.

Woodke spent his first six years at the Clarendon Hills Park District as as a park technician, but has spent the last seven as a landscape specialist.

While he enjoys variance of the job duties, as well as the constant challenges brought on by the changing of the seasons, Woodke says there is a distinct communal bond among the park district’s employees.

It is not the biggest park district, but it is a very intimate, close-knit work environment,” he said. “Many of the people who were here when I came on 13 years ago are still here today. it is a great community and amazing group of people. I am very lucky to be here.”




Park executive president nearing end of his term

Published: Friday, Dec. 12, 2014 2:55 p.m. CST

CLARENDON HILLS – As the new year quickly approaches, the Midwest Institute of Park Executives president is preparing to pass his torch and continue his work with the Clarendon Hills Park District.

Mike Fletcher, who doubles as superintendent of parks for the Clarendon Hills Park District, is coming up to the end of his one-year term as president for the Midwest Institute of Park Executives.

Fletcher said it’s been a relatively quiet 12 months.

“Last year, meaning 2013, was our 75th anniversary, so we had a lot of special events and promotions,” Fletcher said.

Midwest Institute of Park Executives, founded in 1938, is an association focused on promoting cooperation and education between park, recreation and grounds professionals from around the area.

“We’re about promoting professionalism in the park area, and through a series of monthly meetings we promote the park field itself,” Fletcher said.

The 300-member organization assists with continuing education by providing scholarships to the Illinois Association of Park Districts and other groups.

While operating as the association’s president, Fletcher said what he’s most enjoyed about the position was the camaraderie and meeting with fellow park employees and executives.

Becoming president is a five-year process, according to Fletcher. Candidates start at the bottom and each year are promoted to the next position.

“[It’s] so you understand what’s going on in the organization,” Fletcher said. “It’s a learning process, but at any given time you’ll have five board members in some capacity.”

Fletcher said past presidents have the option to seek the position again, although it’s an uncommon choice.

While serving as institute president, Fletcher has maintained his full-time duties for the Clarendon Hills Park District, where he’s been superintendent of parks for 21 years. He’s responsible for the Park District’s day-to-day operations, bringing items before the board of commissioners and implementing the board’s directives.

“It’s been a long time, but I like this type of work and I’ve enjoyed it,” Fletcher said.





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