February's Featured Volunteer - Mary Hart Furman
February 1, 2013
Volunteers play a vital role at Metro Parks Tacoma, working alongside staff members, other volunteers and the global community to jointly achieve our goals. Each month, we select an outstanding volunteer whose work we would like to recognize.
Mary Hart-Furman's extraordinary lifelong service to our city’s special needs community has not gone unnoticed. As we embark on a new year, we are privileged to have an amazing range of Specialized Recreation programs which enable all our neighbors to lead lives of value, equity and dignity. We can say—without any hesitation—that these wonderful resources would not be around today, were it not for Mary’s tireless and generous efforts over the past 30 years.
When she retired nearly 3 years ago, Mary became a key volunteer with the Specialized Recreation program. But, she was well acquainted with the program and the vast needs of its more than 400 regular participants prior to retirement. Mary came to the Park District in the mid-70s to establish a program for Tacoma’s special-needs community, and also went above and beyond what was expected of her position.
Over the years, she invested countless hours of her own time to make sure that the program grew and prospered. As a result of her incredible contribution, Metro Parks Tacoma is the premier provider of programs serving this population offering an impressive suite of athletic, social, and recreational opportunities to people of all abilities.
Many of these programs still enjoy Mary’s presence even though she has now retired. She is a regular volunteer with Daytimes, a program created especially for people whose disability has rendered them immobile or unable to work. The program offers them a space to connect with others and expand their social network, and Mary’s presence always makes it a fun and engaging place to be.
She has also made herself available to the Special Olympics program. When local competitors were called abroad to represent Tacoma at international contests, Mary placed herself at their disposal as a chaperone and travel guide. She was also instrumental in establishing the Self Advocacy program, which empowers people of different abilities to speak on their own behalf, organize their own activities and be an independent member of society.
It bears mentioning that Mary chose to take on this difficult mission at a time when people regarded individuals with disabilities in a far less flattering manner than we are used to today. Some elements of society were quite content to keep individuals with special needs indoors and out of their sight. “Medicare” was still a new word on people’s lips, and wheelchair access spread slowly from city to city. Armed only with a conviction that all people deserve to lead happy lives integrated with the rest of society, people like Mary joined forces to make this a reality.
Even today, there is more work to be done to realize that vision. One in eight Washingtonians currently live with some form of disability, and not all of them are afforded the same quality of life that others may take for granted. But thanks to the lifelong service of Mary Hart-Furman, our Specialized Recreation program does a little bit every day to rectify this injustice. We thank Mary with all our hearts for her service to our community.
Learn more about volunteering at Metro Parks Tacoma
Learn more about the Specialized Recreation program
1Source: 2009 American Community Survey, as analyzed by the PAS Center. http://www.pascenter.org/state_based_stats/disability_stats/acs_prevalence.php?state=washington