Ron & Kathy Parker Make A Difference Award

Lauren Dartt

Thanks to the incredible generosity of Kathy Parker and her late husband, the Rev. Dr. Ron Parker, Tennyson launched a new tradition at the annual Denver Dinner on November 2. The Ron and Kathy Parker Make a Difference Award recognizes three staff members for their exceptional work. The award recognizes one staff member from community based programs, one from campus, and one from operations, and will be awarded every year at the Denver Dinner.

For context, Kathy Parker and her late husband, Ron, were heavily invested in Tennyson’s mission and contributed to Tennyson in immeasurable ways over the years—and Kathy is continuing to be a light and champion for Tennyson. Kathy Parker worked alongside Bob Cooper during his time as CEO as Tennyson’s Chief Development Officer, and Ron was Regional Minister at Central Rocky Mountain Region (Christian Church Disciples of Christ) from 2000 to 2007. Ron’s office was on the third floor of Tennyson, and he saw firsthand the children who were lost, hurting, and left behind.

Ron was a lifetime pastor who served the church with compassion, grace, and unwavering commitment to change the lives of those in need. His work was driven by a passion to make a difference in the lives of others. On the last day of his life, Ron told Kathy that he hoped that in all the years of his ministry, he had “made a difference” along the way. After he passed, many people told Kathy and their children, David and Kristin, about the difference Ron had made in their lives. The family decided to “pay this difference forward” to the incredible staff at Tennyson Center who are changing the lives of children every single day. Thus, the “Ron and Kathy Parker Make a Difference Award” was born.

This year’s awardees exemplify the beauty and strength of Ron and Kathy, as expressed in Tennyson’s amazing staff!

The 2019 recipients:

Karen Davis - Teacher

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“Karen began her service at Tennyson Center in 1998 as the math teacher. Karen completed her master’s degree in special education and her Teacher II Severe Needs Affective licensure while she learned to excel as a math teacher. Karen went on to teach science, and taught the reproductive system with the same matter-of-fact way she taught other science concepts.

Karen’s ease with kids on the autism spectrum made her a perfect fit for the high school ASPEN classroom. She has unending patience with her students and is able to find a way to reach them regardless of their disabilities and struggles.

Karen is a relentless advocate for her students. She knows her students well and is able to articulate their strengths and guide them into their next right steps.

She develops strong relationships with co-workers, parents, students, and school districts. Her classroom is a safe place where expectations are clear, yet individualized. Those who know Karen appreciate her sense of humor and her long history of writing songs to honor others. She is dedicated to preparing for IEP meetings, field trips, and lessons. She is open to feedback and is willing to ask for help and give help. She is a role model for her students and to everyone she knows.”

Megan Flores, LCSW - Community Based Clinician

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“For four years, Megan Flores has shown up for our Tennyson children, youth, and families. She has seen the wins, the struggles, the devastations that exist for our community of families and has chosen to be the person for them that will listen when others won’t, who will fight and advocate when others won’t, who will consistently and repeatedly be there when others won’t. Families who have worked with Megan repeatedly talk about her kind, gentle nature and her ability to stick with them through difficult times, helping them heal.

During her time at Tennyson, Megan has volunteered to help fill service gaps within the community through our home based autism services by developing programming and providing therapy for our families with neurodevelopmental challenges. She recently helped an 18 year old male jump a 10 year waitlist to live in a host home by gracefully navigating a multitude of systems. He is now ecstatic about the possibilities his life holds. She has been a mentor to multiple new community based staff, helping them find their footing. She is on our agency-wide trauma model implementation team and coaches staff on fun, engaging interventions to use with our families. Again and again, Megan has chosen to lean into supporting the healing and wellbeing of our community.”

Valery Morris - beloved Administrative Support and gatekeeper

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“Maya Angelou said it best: ‘People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.’ Everyone who sets foot in Tennyson Center has a great memory of how Val makes them feel: ‘I was nervous when I showed up for my interview, but Val at the front desk was so warm and welcoming, I calmed down right away,’ ‘On my first day of work, Val’s smile and welcoming ways reminded me of why I was excited to say yes to the job offer.’ Officials from school districts, police, EMTs, and neighbors all mention how helpful Val is and cannot imagine navigating some of the many situations that go on in the front lobby without her help.

Our staff rely on Val’s steadiness and calm in the midst of chaos, assuring everyone gets the help and support they need, especially during times of potential crisis. Our kiddos, too, feel comfortable with Val, knowing she is a reliable and friendly adult who cares about them and their safety. Most every day, a kiddo is seen chatting away with her, telling her about the latest in their lives. Thank you so much, Val, for being with Tennyson for over 13 years sharing your talents, resourcefulness and warmth. We appreciate you so much.”

ALL of Tennyson’s staff exemplify such passion, and a spirit of dedication and service that transform lives. We are immensely grateful, and look forward to celebrating next year’s Ron and Kathy Parker Make a Difference Award at the 2020 Denver Dinner.

We also honored Kathy with an award. Kathy, we are so incredibly grateful for all you are and all you and Ron did–and continue to do–for Tennyson.

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