Henninger takes reins at Houston
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.