Henninger takes reins at Hous­ton

The Review - - FRONT PAGE - By Rick Caw­ley

AN­DORRA » For many fam­i­lies, oc­cu­pa­tional blood lines run deep. For some, there’s a pen­chant to join the armed forces. For oth­ers, it might be fire­fight­ers, law en­force­ment or var­i­ous en­deav­ors in the med­i­cal com­mu­nity.

For Betsy Henninger, who was re­cently ap­pointed as Rec-2 leader at Hous­ton Play­ground, a po­si­tion in the recre­ation field seems to be a fam­ily call­ing.

Her fa­ther, Ed­die, re­tired not that long ago after a 30-plus-year ca­reer as a Rec-3 leader in the Philadel­phia Recre­ation De­part­ment. Her un­cle, Eric, a district man­ager for Philadel­phia Parks and Recre­ation in the Far Northeast, is an­other men­tor in the field.

For Betsy Henninger, ac­cept­ing the bid to take over the reins at Hous­ton is a pro­fes­sional home­com­ing to the com­mu­nity where she grew up and her fam­ily roots.

As a child, Henninger at­tended St. Mary’s in Manayunk be­fore grad­u­at­ing from Kennedy-Ken­rick in 2004. After get­ting her ed­u­ca­tion de­gree from Tem­ple in 2009, she spent a few years teach­ing early child­hood at North Light on Green Lane. Even­tu­ally, her dad nudged her to take the en­trance exam for the Philadel­phia Rec De­part­ment, which led her to a new ca­reer path. Be­fore tak­ing the job in An­dorra, Henninger was most re­cently as­signed to the Tor­res­dale Rec Cen­ter in the Northeast.

Com­ing to Hous­ton could be a daunt­ing task for some, with such luminary pre­de­ces­sors as Tom Car­berry and Bill Sal­va­tore cast­ing long shad­ows. De­spite the legacy of top-notch for­mer di­rec­tors at the play­ground, Henninger said she feels that she is up for the chal­lenge of main­tain­ing the high stan­dards that Hous­ton is known for. Hav­ing the guid­ance of fam­ily mem­bers and ded­i­cated sup­port per­son­nel at Hous­ton will also bol­ster her con­fi­dence level.

In­deed, her first two days on board over­see­ing sum­mer camp saw heat in­dexes around 100 de­grees. She was able to rely on the ex­pe­ri­ence of Chris­tine Ca­puto and Joyce Clugston, who man­age the camp, to keep a cool head and suc­cess­fully ne­go­ti­ate through the heat wave.

Her as­sis­tant, John Quiris, has also been help­ful in show­ing Henninger the ropes and eas­ing her tran­si­tion, as well as keep­ing tabs on the numer­ous adult and youth sports leagues that use the fa­cil­ity. Re­cent Penn State grad Mike Cherry and Tem­ple stu­dents Jimmy Stins­man and Jimmy Polisi have all pitched in be­hind the scenes, up­dat­ing the web­site, ad­min­is­ter­ing adult leagues and work­ing to or­ga­nize the “Color Wars” com­pe­ti­tion that will cul­mi­nate sum­mer camp.

Henninger said she rec­og­nizes the chal­lenges of try­ing to ex­pand pro­gram­ming in a lim­ited space build­ing where many well-es­tab­lished pro­grams al­ready ex­ist. Still, she en­vi­sions cre­at­ing more “youth ori­ented op­por­tu­ni­ties,” she said. She said she would like to uti­lize her ex­pe­ri­ence teach­ing art to her preschool chil­dren at North Light and have a hand in devel­op­ing young artis­tic tal­ent. She would like to see a be­gin­ning tum­bling pro­gram take shape, as well as youth-fo­cused fit­ness classes. Some of the open space out­side the build­ing she imag­ines be­ing used for an in-house youth out­door vol­ley­ball league.

For the time be­ing, Henninger will fo­cus on set­tling in to daily op­er­a­tions. Once she gets her feet on the ground, she said, she plans to “gen­er­ate in­put from the com­mu­nity so that their ideas might be heard” in shap­ing Hous­ton’s fu­ture di­rec­tion.


Betsy Henninger poses with some campers and coun­selors.

Betsy Henninger set­tles into her new of­fice at Hous­ton Play­ground.

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