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Sue van Aken, Long-Time Recreation Supervisor, Calls It A Career

Sue Van Aken2

The township’s recreation supervisor, Sue van Aken, is retiring on Oct. 31 after 30 years with the department.

The first thing the township’s recreation supervisor is going to do after she retires is, well, recreate.

“I’m going on a cruise in December, for 11 days,” Sue van Aken said. “The southern Caribbean. I haven’t ever been to St. Kitt’s, and I haven’t been to Barbados in years.”

Van Aken leaves the township on Oct. 31, after 30 years in the recreation department. The life-long township resident said leaving after three decades is a “good time.”

Among her many accomplishments, during her tenure van Aken has created year-round recreation programs for children and teens with special needs and an innovative recreation program for the students who attend Franklin schools from outside the district.

It’s the special needs program, done in conjunction with the Board of Education, that brings van Aken the most pride, she said.

“We always had a recreational therapy program, but out was mostly one-shot things” and mainly for adults, she said. “We weren’t hitting the large population of youth and teens that had disabilities.”

Securing a Community Development Block Grant for an “outdoors adventures” program, van Aken teamed with the school district to identify special needs students and bring recreation to them.

“The biggest hurdle for us to get over was to get to know who those kids were, and get the parents’ trust,” she said. “We worked in self-contained classrooms, and we also took them on trips.”

Sue Van Akenb1

Township recreation director Alice Osipowitz, left, presented van Aken with a plaque at the Oct. 28 Township Council meeting.

For the past several years, she said, the program has also included students from the general population.

“We help the special needs kids with buddies where needed,” she said.

The basketball program for students from out of district began when van Aken realized that those students had long rides home, and probably had to time for recreation when they arrived home.

“Those kids are on buses for an hour or two,” she said.

A recreational program for summer school students – started by van Aken and a friend – earned the department two awards from the state over the past year, she said.

While she said she hasn’t made any firm plans for her retirement, van Aken said her future could include working part time for organizations such as the Special Olympics – she was the credentials coordinator for the Special Olympics in New Jersey – or at her college alma mater, Maryville College in Maryville, Tenn.

“It’s at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, really beautiful,” she said.

Van Aken’s parents moved to Tennessee when they retired, she said, and now, with her father’s passing, her mother is there by herself.

“My Mom’s had some serious medical issues the past couple of years,” she said. “Whenever I’d go there I’d feel like I should be here, and when I’m here I feel like I should be there.”

Van Aken said a permanent move to Tennessee, to be closer to her mother, is probably in her future.

But for now, she said, “I don’t have anything set.”

 

 

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