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Rec-PAC: Meet the Staff

Rec-PAC Summer Program

Mike Bonneville

Mike Bonneville grew up with Rec-PAC. He was a camper, counselor, site director and area supervisor for Rec-PAC before becoming the manager of this county-wide summer activity program in 2007. He didn't plan a Rec-PAC career; he was pushed in that direction by his goals -- to make a difference and to help kids in Fairfax County. Towards that end, Mike also worked with children with disabilities in the Arlington County public schools for seven years, with after-school programs and summer programs for emotionally disturbed children and at teen centers on Friday and Saturday nights. "Kids have been my passion," he explained. "Even more so now that I'm the parent of the most amazing son in the world! And the Rec-PAC program, its campers and staff are just an extension of my family." Born and raised in Fairfax County, Mike now lives in Centreville, Virginia, with his wife and four-year-old son.

Your job as Rec-PAC's manager? I oversee 181 volunteers, 350 camp staffers, eight area supervisors, four office staffers and 3,000 kids a week. I make sure that our kids are in a safe environment, having fun while they learn and enjoy recreation. I love my job! I get paid for coming up with entertaining and creative things for kids to do and putting those ideas into action. It's like being a kid again. It keeps me young. There's a quote that explains it perfectly: "If you love your job, you will never work a day in your life." That is how I feel about my position with the Park Authority. I get the opportunity to work with some the best people in the county, all striving towards one propose -- to better the lives of the families in Fairfax County.

What do kids learn in Rec-PAC? They learn that character counts. We've incorporated that national program, with its emphasis on the six pillars of character (citizenship, respect, trustworthiness, fairness, caring and responsibility). We get a diverse group of kids so we have an international week to give our campers a better understanding of different cultures. We do cooperative game playing to open their minds, and because kids need to be outside, we teach them active outdoor games that they can play in a group or on their own. They learn about fitness, too, through games and obstacle courses, and by eating healthy snacks and juice, not high calorie junk food and sodas.

What are parents expect from Rec-PAC? Structured activities that are fun and new to kids. Professionalism on the part of staff. Staff that's responsive to and responsible for the safety and welfare of children.

Your philosophy for managing Rec-PAC? When you work with children, you should be held to higher standards. Kids need positive examples; they deserve good role models. That's a priority for our counselors. Parents pay with their hard earned money for the program -- they should be given the best customer service and their children should be provided with the best quality care.

Best thing about Rec-PAC? The staff, the children who attend and the parents of those children. Rec-PAC is a big family. Every child is treated with respect and care, and we try to open their minds to their own creativity. There's a lot of camaraderie. It is wonderful to see children trying new activities that they have never done before and excelling in them. I like to watch the staff work as a team to try new things. It's a great thing to see veteran staff helping new staff. Summer is the best time of the year! At Rec-PAC, kids get the opportunity to learn many new things and teach us new things as well.


The Rec-PAC Program staff consists of Area Supervisors, Site Directors and Leaders. Staff are selected on the basis of skills, knowledge and ability areas of arts, and crafts, sports and games, leisure activities, leadership and resourcefulness. Many Rec-PAC staff work for Fairfax County Public Schools during the school year as teachers, guidance consolers and teacher assistants. There are also individuals who are college students with educational backgrounds in recreation, elementary education, or a related field of study. The Rec-PAC staff is comprised of 8 area supervisors, 50 site directors and over 300 leaders. The Rec-PAC management staff puts forth every effort to place the best-qualified staff at each site to ensure a positive recreation experience for the children.

Rec-PAC Mascot: Buddy the Wolf

Hi, I am Buddy, the official mascot for the Rec-PAC summer program. I love playing games, dancing and using my imagination to create new things, especially during arts and crafts. You can also be sure to see me in the game room playing Wii Baseball. Every summer, I show up at Rec-PAC with a mission…. to talk to campers about the importance of being a friend to everyone. I encourage campers to talk about bullying and how it can hurt people, not only physically, but also emotionally. Children will hear me say, “we all come in different shapes, colors and sizes, but we are all human and should treat people the way we want to be treated.” I am excited to say I have been a part of the Rec-PAC program for two years now and I look forward to many more years of fun in the sun with the campers.

My main goal is to make the summer a special one for every camper by educating kids on the harm bullying does to a person and how each of us can prevent bullying…we all have the power to make someone’s summer the greatest it can be!

De'Arberge Wiley

De'Arberge Wiley is graduate from Long Wood University. She has been working for Rec-PAC since 2007 and is the HR representative for the program where she assists with the overseeing of over 300 staff. You are sure to find her assisting customers with registration issues and also making sure staff are at the correct location. De’Arberge also assists the program manager with the day to day operations and ensuring that sites are running at ratio and campers are having a great experience with the program.

Job position and what you like about it? I love my position of the program. It allows me to work in all the facets of the program such as hiring staff, creating new games, working with customers. I also love the fact that I get to work with not only the staff but the CIT’s and campers as well.

Best thing about Rec-PAC? The best thing about the Rec-PAC program is the diversity of the staff. The staff all come from different cultures and it is amazing to watch people from all walks of life come together for one purpose, to help children.

What is your best memory working for Rec-PAC? My best memory is when I went to a couple of Rec-PAC sites to teach step. Step is a type of dance that is popular on most college campuses. It was exciting to watch kids who were shy get involved in the dance and come out of their shell. I felt a great sense of happiness to see children learning something new and being excited about it. It is something I look forward to doing again every summer.

Thelma Pemberton-Abbott

Thelma Pemberton-Abbott grew up in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. She attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, where she studied public and government administration. But when her daughters were ready to start school, she wanted a quieter place to raise a family. Her husband found a job in Northern Virginia, they resettled here, and in 1999, Thelma joined the Park Authority as the lead counselor at Mt. Vernon Woods Elementary School's Rec-PAC. She became director there, and then director for Rec-PAC sites at Woodley Hills and Hybla Valley elementary schools. This is her third season as an area supervisor for the summer activity program. For the balance of the year, she works for Fairfax County Public Schools.

Your role as supervisor? I miss working directly with the kids, and I really liked planning engaging and fun activities for them. It was such a pleasure to see their enjoyment firsthand. But it's also very satisfying to oversee an area and have the opportunity to fix things that are not right.

The most important thing for parents to know about Rec-PAC? That their children are in a safe environment. We're taking good care of their children, and we're making sure that they have fun.

Most rewarding Rec-PAC moment? Two of our campers at one site were twin boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. I made it a point to include them in all aspects of our program, and I made provisions for them when they were having difficult moments. We kept them extremely busy, and they not only got along, but they had a wonderful time.

Most fun? Our Hawaiian luau. We made and wore grass skirts - even the boys! We played pineapple bowling with a coconut, and everyone took a Hawaiian name for the day.

Your motto for life? Grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.

Best thing about Rec-PAC? To see the campers who come in reluctantly on the first day have such a great time that they don't want to leave. They want more. And I truly enjoy the success stories that parents share with us about their children's time at camp. We strive to make a difference in the life of every child who attends Rec-PAC because that is what's important.

Kristen Smith

Kristen Smith was a three-sport athlete (soccer, volleyball and baseball) at Herndon High School, and with a four-year soccer scholarship, she went on to Radford University, where she earned a degree in education. She's now a fourth grade teacher at Forestville Elementary School, tutoring and coaching soccer on the side and completing a master's degree at the University of Virginia in the social foundations of education. A Rec-Pac camper as a child, Kristin joined the Rec-Pac staff nine years ago, starting out as a counselor, then becoming camp director at Clearview Elementary, where she once attended school. For the past four years, she's been an area supervisor for the summer activity program.

What do kids gain from Rec-Pac? They learn how to work and play with other children in a leisure atmosphere. They learn team building skills and social skills. By working with kids of different ages, they learn to take leadership roles.

What do you remember most from your days as a Rec-Pac camper? Arts and crafts, playing ping-pong and learning how to make friendship bracelets. And my counselors - I can still remember their names. Skills that you want in a counselor? Leadership and creativity. I want to make sure our counselors are good role models and team players who are excited about Rec-Pac activities.

Your motto for life? Be happy! I'm always happy, no matter what. Even on a bad day, I look for something to smile about . . . and I always find it.

Best thing about Rec-Pac? It's so much fun! It's enjoyable to see the kids with their friends, having the best time of their summer.

Chrissy Williams

A Fairfax County native, Chrissy Williams attended Tysons Elementary School and McLean High School, then went on to Old Dominion University for undergraduate and graduate degrees in early childhood development. Now a teacher at Lake Anne Elementary School in Reston, she's also treasurer of the D.C. chapter of the ODU Alumni Association. Chrissy loves traveling and has satisfied her wanderlust with visits to Japan, Germany, Mexico, the Bahamas and much of the U.S. She also counts shopping, her Doberman Shatzi and beach vacations among her favorite things. From a start six years ago as a Rec-PAC counselor, Chrissie advanced to director and she's now an area supervisor for the summer activity program.

How do you keep things running smoothly at multiple Rec-PAC sites? We do serious work before the fun starts. Counselors and directors spend a week in training, planning all the special events and mastering the games that they'll teach the children. They learn how to handle registration, deal with parents, accommodate special needs kids and incorporate Character Counts. And we put special emphasis on safety.

Secret to engaging kids? Our outgoing staff pulls everyone together with team building activities that get all the kids working together for a goal. If children are hanging back, the counselors pick a really fun activity that everyone wants to play and they encourage the holdouts to participate by giving them an important role for the group.

Campers' favorite fun? Special events, like our Sports Festival. Last year, a community service finale, Rec-PAC Gives Back, was added to the closing week. How does that go over? The kids love it! They wrote letters to U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, they made sandwiches for people in homeless shelter, they conducted a food drive and more. At all the Rec-PAC camps, the kids got really into it. They love knowing that they're helping someone else.

Best thing about Rec-PAC? To see so many kids laughing and smiling . . . all day long!

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