Cincinnati Parks Foundation Wins Governor’s Award, be.well and other programs

Cincinnati Parks Foundation’s be.well Fall Adaptive Hiking program is the winner of the 12th Annual Governor’s Award for Parks and Recreation presented by Ohio Parks and Recreation Association.

The be.well Fall Adaptive Hiking program is part of a series of free seasonal programs for children with disabilities in partnership between Cincinnati Parks Foundation and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, which is now in its third year. The fall be.well Adaptive Hiking program included nonprofit partner Luke5Adventures. It combined physical therapy plans from Children’s Hospital, an interactive Cincinnati Parks Passport from the Cincinnati Parks Foundation, and the use of custom-built all-terrain wheelchairs from Luke5Adventures.

For many participants, this program made it possible for the children to be immersed in nature in ways that would be otherwise impossible. It was the very first experience of being out in the woods, off a cement path, for many children in the program.

One participant said this was her first time ever enjoying the forest: “I’ve been to camps and I haven’t been able to ever hike trails. But now, I can hike trails and see everything, the trees and the scenery.”

Especially important during the early onset of the pandemic, this program gave families a safe option to get out, socialize, and build self-confidence. Many participants reported feeling more socially successful and experienced a greater sense of worth as a person.

“Physical Therapist in Cincinnati Children’s Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy, Jennifer Angeli, has been operating the be.well program for 12 years. It was our Board of Director’s smart investment in this partnership that created the first-ever collaboration between Cincinnati Children’s and Cincinnati Parks. It is through thoughtful partnerships like this with organizations both big and small that can make positive impacts in our community. We would also like to thank the Cincinnati Parks team for all that they do each and every day to make Cincinnati Parks shine,” said Cincinnati Parks Foundation Executive Director Jennifer Hafner Spieser.

In 2021, the Fall be.well Adaptive Hiking program won the 1st Place Award of Excellence in the Adaptive Programming category from OPRA. In 2020, the partnership’s Spring Running Program also won the 1st Place Award of Excellence in the Adaptive Programming category from OPRA.


The Governor’s Award was established in 2010 to recognize the one park and recreation program, event, or project that has had the most significant impact on quality of life in the preceding year.  The award winner was announced, and the award presented in Sandusky Ohio at the OPRA Annual Conference & Trade Show on February 8.

All thirteen winners of OPRA program, event, and project awards were considered for this statewide “best in show” award. Officials from nine statewide organizations formed the voting panel for the 2021 award.  They judged the program, event, and project winners based on the following criteria:

  • Demonstrated impact of the program, event, or project on the community quality of life;
  • The program, event, or project is unique/innovative or presents a new way of doing something;
  • The program, event, or project addresses a felt need in the community and includes clear goals which are achieved; and,
  • The program, event, or project is utilized by the community and outcomes can be demonstrated.

In addition to the Governor’s Award trophy, the Foundation received an official proclamation from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine recognizing the significance of the program. 

“We say every day that the benefits of parks and recreation are available to all people,” said OPRA Executive Director Woody Woodward. “This program really underscores that. The Cincinnati Parks Foundation created partnerships to provide some residents with their first experiences outdoors.”