Press Release
For Immediate Release
Contact: Heather Weishaar, Outreach Director, 708-588-2282

Professional Excellence Recognized at IAPD/IPRA Annual Conference

La Grange – On January 25, 2019 the Illinois Park & Recreation Association (IPRA) honored several individuals for their commitment and excellent service to parks and recreation in Illinois.  During the IAPD/IPRA Soaring to New Heights Conference, IPRA recognized the following individuals for their contributions:

IPRA Robert Artz Lifetime Achievement Award: Chuck Szoke, Channahon Park District

The Robert Artz Lifetime Achievement Award is named in honor of Robert Artz who, in 1979, was the newly-hired executive director of IAPD. He was on American Airlines Flight 191 to Los Angeles when it crashed outside O’Hare International Airport leaving no survivors. Robert Artz left a legacy for IPRA as a champion of all that we do and all that we stand for. His award goes to a person with a minimum of 25 years as a full time professional in the field (with over 15 years served in Illinois) whose efforts & contributions have a lasting value and effect on parks and recreation.

Chuck Szoke of the Channahon Park District is the consummate professional and champion of parks and recreation. His 40 year career is a litany of community and professional service. His legacy is not only leading and growing the Channahon Park District as the only Director it has ever had, but in leading and developing young professionals.

Under his leadership, the Channahon Park District has built a recreation center, swimming pool, golf course, fitness center, skate park, disc golf course, established a park foundation, created and updated a master plan, added and developed hundreds of acres of park land, and assembled a comprehensive menu of recreation programs.

By recognizing Chuck, the Illinois Park & Recreation Association (IPRA) shines a light on a role model and an icon. He is a mean of integrity, kindness, intelligence, humor and steadfast selflessness. Few have done so much to impact without drawing attention to themselves. It’s fitting that Chuck have a moment in the spotlight to be thanked for all that he has quietly done in his 40 year career.

IPRA Professional of the Year Award: Mike Adams, Woodridge Park District

The Professional of the Year Award is an honor presented to an individual with more than eight years of full-time service and has made a major contribution to the park and recreation profession.  The award recognizes a person who has who has made a major contribution to the park and recreation profession, and someone who consistently goes above and beyond the call of duty.

Mike Adams, Executive Director of the Woodridge Park District, exemplifies the qualities of an ideal park and recreation professional and leader. He has more than 31 years of experience in the industry with 28 of those years at the Woodridge Park District, as the Superintendent of Planning and Development, Deputy Director and Executive Director. Mike has led his district through the Illinois Distinguished Accredited Agency process, a designation the park district held from 1993-2016.

Not only does Mike embody the characteristic of a great recreation professional, he also encourages his staff to be leaders in the industry. Many Woodridge Park District employees serve, or have served, as board or committee members for their sections. When Mike isn’t working, he pursues an active lifestyle, serving as race director for the Woodridge Rotary Mini Triathlon, playing in a men’s soccer league and running 5K and 10K races.

IPRA Community Impact Award: Eric Lacher, Batavia Park District

The IPRA Community Impact Award is presented to a current Illinois park and recreation professional who has made a significant impact in the community they serve through their involvement with local, community, non-profit, and business organizations or government agencies. This award celebrates those professionals who are not currently executive directors, recognizing their important impact to our field.

Eric Lacher is a living legend. The story of Eric’s community impact begins as early as his career at the Batavia Park District, when he save the life of a stranger whose house had caught fire. Eric’s giving spirit includes serving as a volunteer firefighter for the Batavia Fire Department and a soccer coach for the Strikers and Tri County Soccer Association. Eric was recently selected by the Superintendent of Schools to serve on the prestigious Hall of Honor Committee; paying homage to Batavia’s hometown heroes. For 32 years, Eric has proved to be a strong leader locally, regionally and nationally.

IPRA Young Professional Award: Luke Wyss, Plainfield Park District

The Young Professional of the Year Award recognizes an up-and-coming leader in the field of parks and recreation and is given to an individual with less than eight years of experience, but someone who shows a great deal of promise in becoming a future leader in the field.

Lukas Wyss is a true professional. In just three years, he made a significant impact at his park and recreation agency. He implemented a scanning check in system for group fitness classes, instituted a silver sneakers program, increased participation in both fitness classes and personal training, and gained his personal training certification. He has done all of this while being a very active member of the Illinois Park & Recreation Association (IPRA), serving as incoming Chair for ProConnect, attending the Leadership Academy and speaking at the IAPD/IPRA Annual Soaring to New Heights Conference. Lukas is the consummate professional and displays a hard-working positive attitude each day. His contagious enthusiasm, positive attitude and willingness to do whatever the situation calls for, make him incredibly deserving of this award.

A complete list of Award winners is available on the IPRA website,

The IAPD/IPRA Soaring to New Heights Conference is the premier state conference for parks and recreation, forest preserves and conservation agencies in Illinois. The IAPD/IPRA Soaring to New Heights Conference brings together more than 4,000 professionals and elected officials for three exciting days of quality educational programming, networking and professional development. 

Established in 1944, the Illinois Park and Recreation Association’s mission is to provide and promote exceptional standards of education, networking, and resources for all professionals in the Illinois park, recreation, and conservation communities. For more information about IPRA, its board and mission, please visit the IPRA website: