By Steve Jusseaume
Hampton Union, Tuesday, October 29, 2002
HAMPTON — Dyana Lassonde is going to need a bigger wall in her office to display all her accomplishments. Within the last month, the director of the Hampton Recreation Department was presented with a regional award for outstanding service, and elected president of the oldest park service association in the country.
Last month Lassonde was informed that she has received the Outstanding Professional Award for Recreation, from the New Hampshire Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. Judy Dubriske, the awards chairwoman at the NHAHPERD notified Lassonde last month, and the award will be presented at a luncheon in Waterville Valley on Nov. 22.
"I was completely surprised. I never thought I'd win something this prestigious," Lassonde said. She was nominated for the recognition by Rene Boudreau, program coordinator in Hampton.
Lassonde, said Boudreau's nomination, "has shown me through her dedication to her work and her volunteerism to the many organizations in the town, and around the state, that recreation and the quality of life for others is a very important subject to Dyana."
Boudreau also cited Lassonde's work with the Seafood Festival, Special Olympics and the annual Hampton Beach Penguin Plunge, and her 2002 induction into the New Agenda: Northeast Women's Hall of Fame.
Boudreau also noted Lassonde's participation in a group exchange with Australia in 2000, sponsored by the New England Regional Council of the National Recreation & Parks Association.
In a supporting letter of recommendation, Hampton Town Manager James Barrington wrote, "I have been Dyana's supervisor for over five years and have found Dyana to be highly devoted to her chosen profession. This dedication is demonstrated in her many activities and accomplishments in the recent past."
On Sept. 11, Lassonde was also elected the first woman president of the New England Parks Association. Founded in Boston in 1898, it is the oldest park association in the country, serving six New England states. A member for the past five years, Lassonde served as the first woman on the board of directors, and as its first female vice president before taking over as president for Bruce Dinnie of Vernon, Conn. for a two-year term.
"I am very honored that they think highly enough of my skills to entrust me with the presidency of the organization," Lassonde said.
The association, Lassonde said, provides training and networking to recreation professionals through New England. She noted that during her recent research into the concept of community centers and senior centers for the town, the Parks Association was extremely helpful as a resource.
"I used the organization as a source for my research into various community centers, how they run, what they include," said Lassonde. "There is always someone at the association who has been involved in the whole issue of community centers, always someone who has been where the town of Hampton is going. It's a great association."
Lassonde has been with the Hampton Recreation Department for the past 10 years. She began as a program coordinator, spent a brief eight months with the Kennebunk, Maine, Recreation Department, then came back to Hampton as director in January 1995.
Lassonde has seen the local department grow from what was a essentially a part-time department working out of a tiny office in the old Town Hall, to a bustling department, now with four full-time staffers, four permanent seasonal employees, and some 70 volunteers and other part-timers.
"We have more children in the town that ever, and more senior citizens who want to be active in recreation," Lassonde said. "We had 14 co-rec softball teams last year as well as eight men's softball teams. And we could have fielded four more co-rec teams if we had the fields."
She sees the most important new project in town as getting a community/senior center located in Hampton.
"A community center is the hub of any community. We could use gymnasium space, meeting spaces; recreation is a quality of life issue, that's what we provide, and I want to provide as much of it to our residents as possible," Lassonde said.