Daryl Quarles, park manager for senior programs, and Carol Zernial, executive director for the WellMed Charitable Foundation (WCF), are recipients of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)-NRPA Award for Health Equity Award given by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). They were selected for their advocacy activities to reduce health disparities among senior adults in Dallas. The award will be presented in October during the 2020 NRPA Virtual Annual Conference.
Several years ago, Quarles and Zernial created a partnership between the park department and the foundation that led to the WCF providing a $150,000 grant to the City of Dallas. The donation helped underwrite annual and monthly fees for residents 60 and older to participate in city recreation center activities. Since the first WCF grant was announced, more than 2,100 older adults have joined Dallas recreation centers.
Their collaboration led to the 2018 opening of the WellMed Charitable Foundation Senior Activity Center, the department’s largest recreation center to offer health, wellness and recreational programs exclusively for seniors. WellMed spent $2.1 million on the 22,000-square-foot senior center that features exercise facilities, computer and digital technology programs, fitness classes, lounge with pool tables, and an adjacent for-profit medical clinic. The department provides staff and programming activities. Additionally, WCF provides $150,000 in scholarships for memberships for more than 3,100 seniors.
“They both have made tremendous achievements in ensuring Dallas seniors are mentally and physically engaged with each other and remain active contributors to their communities. They know the value of collaboration and Dallas is honored to be a longtime partner with WellMed,” said Crystal R. Ross, park department assistant director.
Zernial said working with Dallas Park and Recreation has been a game changer in providing better services for older adults in the region. “This award is truly an honor that reflects the power of the partnership between the WellMed Charitable Foundation and the City of Dallas Park and Recreation,” Zernial said. “We feel fortunate to work with such a professional team who share our passion for service for the diverse population of older persons in the Dallas community.”