RENSSELAER — Thanks to the friends and family of Jeff Goad, Rensselaer Parks program director Heather Hall will see a vision become reality with the construction of the Jeff Goad Healthy Youth Parks Education Recreation (HYPER) Center for Education at Brookside Park this summer.
The permanent education center will allow Hall to host classes for arts, gardening, STEM learning and healthy food preparation in a safe indoor environment that protects participants from the outside elements.
“We offer five camps in the summer,” Hall said, “but we should be able to grow that quite a bit.
“I would like to see us offer more year-round programs at the park and this will help us get there.”
Once the building is purchased and placed near Hall’s office building — a structure she calls her “she shed” — she expects to begin providing more student camps and classes sometime in June and continuing into July.
The current office sits a few feet from the old football/soccer field and cinder track at Brookside. The new 40-foot by 14-foot education center will be built to the east of the office and should be big enough to hold as many as 20 students at a time.
Hall plans to utilize high school student volunteers seeking community service hours for programming support.
“This is a full-circle idea that will not only educate the participants, but help the student volunteers gain communication and interpersonal skills that are significantly lacking in today’s workforce,” said Jasper Newton Foundation Executive Director Brienne Hooker.
The $19,000 center will be partially purchased with funds from Jeff Goad 5K events that were first created in 2019 to celebrate Goad’s life and raise funds for his hometown.
Goad passed away unexpectedly in December 2018 and his close friends and family decided to host a 5K run in his honor. The first race was held on his birthday, July 20, and the inaugural race course ran passed Goad’s house in Rensselaer so that participants could reflect and celebrate the friend they had in Goad.
“I am very grateful to the Jeff Goad family and the Jeff Goad 5K committee for their support of this project,” Hall said. “I think this project will be a lovely living legacy to Jeff, who was cherished by so many in this community.”
Funds raised from two 5K events — it was held virtually in 2020 due to COVID — have been given to the local Rensselaer school system and the building trades program at the high school. Funds were also used to help purchase gift cards for local families affected by a devastating house fire or unexpected family death and funeral expenses.
The remainder of the funds — just over $10,000 — was donated to the Rensselaer Parks Department for education and programming within the parks. Monies designated for Rensselaer by the Jasper Newton Foundation will help fund the rest of the project, Hooker said.