Zoe Allensworth’s laugh can be heard across a field strewn with eggs; Morgan Matthews looks up at her dad, Scott, with adoration; Samuel Malin learns about crime scene investigation; Brynli and Edwin learn about art and writing on a day off school.
What do all of these things have in common? They are programs offered by the city of Mustang’s Public Library and Parks and Recreation Department. And, while it’s easy to see these events bring a lot of happiness to area residents, they really are much more than can be seen on the surface.
In recent years, the number of programs offered by both parks and rec and the library have exploded, bringing in literally thousands of children and their families for fun and learning. From reading programs and writing contests to crafts, sports and special events, Mustang Town Center on any given day is bustling with activity.
That’s thanks to the leadership of library director Desiree Webber and Parks and Recreation directors Justin Battles and Jean Heasley – and, in turn, people like children’s librarian Lizzy Moser and Heather Huff, parks and rec special events coordinator. This team has brought happiness to thousands of people and made Mustang a better place in the process.
But, it’s not all fun and games. As strange as it might sound, sometimes these events are life-changers. That was true recently for a dad attending this year’s Daughter-Dad Dance. While he didn’t want to give his name, he did want to thank the dance’s organizers for giving him a chance with a little girl he hadn’t seen in several years. Watching her twirl across the floor, he had tears in his eyes and explained why this particular event meant so much.
“I wasn’t a very good dad for a while, I was pretty messed up, and she had reason not to want to spend time with me,” he said. “Then I saw when I came to work out a flier about this dance and took a chance that it might be a way for her to see me in a different light.”
It’s also the small things that can make a big difference, as well. Administrators at Mustang Public Schools point to the library’s summer reading program as an example.
“We’ve seen a real difference with our kids and how prepared they are when they come back to school, and some of that is definitely due to library programs that help them develop a love of reading,” Mustang Centennial Assistant Principal Daryl Williams told me last year.
Even for a jaded old reporter like me, these events can become something more than I ever expected. Back in 2008, as a fairly new reporter in Mustang, I covered an event called WoofStock. One of Heasley’s seemingly never-ending great ideas, WoofStock brought out residents with their pets, some who wanted to find a new one and more. And, there, waiting for us, was our Bear, who would come to bring our family happiness as the sweetest and most loving dog I’ve ever known. We would never have had him – and he had a happy (and spoiled) life – all because of a Mustang parks and rec event.
That’s a real testament to how Heasley, Webber and the others truly can change people’s lives, and that is something for all of us who love Mustang to be proud of.