(Miami-Dade County, FL) -- The Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department and Miami-Dade County District 10 Commissioner, Senator Javier D. Souto, invite the community to join them on Saturday, June 2, 2012 for the naming of the exercise and fitness facility at Tropical Park-as the "Mary Abreu Community Center." The event begins at 12:00 p.m. and includes a memorial tribute with the family and friends of the late Maria "Mary" Abreu, a long time Miami-Dade Parks administrator who dedicated herself to improving the lives of citizens through its parks. The endeavor is the result of a resolution sponsored by Commissioner Souto and the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners.
"Mary Abreu exemplified a true servant leader who believed strongly in the mission of her job. And even while she courageously fought her own battle with cancer, she continued to put her hands and heart to work for the love of others," said Commissioner Souto. "Her tireless passion and commitment to improving our Miami-Dade County community, has left an enduring legacy for residents of all ages, abilities and economic backgrounds who utilize our parks and its recreational programs."
Abreu held several leadership roles during her career with Miami-Dade Parks from 1989 to her death on October 31, 2011, when she succumbed to complications from a four year battle with breast cancer at age 48. A long time West Kendall resident, she is survived by her husband of 28 years Juan, their five children and four grandchildren, plus a fifth grandchild on the way. Most recently, Abreu served as the Department's Intergovernmental Affairs Coordinator and as Assistant to the Director for 14 years. During those years, she provided administrative support for The Children's Trust grant sites serving more than 400 youth at Miami-Dade parks and helped lead numerous boards and committees, including as the Park and Recreation Citizens Advisory Committee, the USA Track and Field Youth Athletic National Championships, the USA Track and Field National Junior Olympics, Ribfest, the Greynolds Park Love-In, and the Sony Ericsson Open Tennis Tournament.
"Mary never saw a challenge that was too big to take on and was always content in being the support person behind the scenes who kept everything in order," said Miami-Dade Parks Director Jack Kardys. "She was a true friend, confidant and colleague. We who knew her personally and professionally will all agree that we are all better people for having known Mary and shared in her good will."
Abreu was admired as a role model to women in the Department and encouraged their career development, as she herself had earned a Bachelor's degree in Professional Administration from Barry University, while working full-time and managing her own growing family.
Among the numerous awards and honors to her credit, Abreu was voted Miami-Dade Parks' 2002 Supervisor of the Quarter, and was runner-up for Miami-Dade County's Employee of Year award in 2004. She was also part of a team that helped the Department achieve the Governor's Sterling Award (2009), NRPA Gold Medal Finalist status (2010 and 2011), and CAPRA (Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies) reaccreditation (2010).
Her lengthy and successful career in parks and recreation had humble beginnings. Abreu began working as a Park Service Aide for McMillan Park on December 26, 1989. There she was quickly promoted to a recreation leader and developed the Tiny Tots program for pre-school children.
"Mary was excellent with the children, parents and staff that she worked with. And in no time she turned the Tiny Tots program at McMillan Park into one of the most successful programs in the County," said Dan Davis, a retired Miami-Dade Parks manager and a former supervisor for Abreu. "What most impressed me about Mary was her willingness to learn and to seek additional tasks to perform."
"We all adored Mary for her infectious laughter, positive attitude and supportive, helpful nature," said Tim Byrnes, manager of Tropical Park. "Her coworkers called her 'Mother Mary', because she was always eager to help with any issue, professional or personal, and never turned anyone away."
The Mary Abreu Community Center will continue to offer fitness and exercise programs for all ages, including Tai Chi, Yoga, circuit training, kick boxing, Summer Boot Camp, and walking programs for seniors. The 275-acre Tropical Park is a regional park with four lakes, a canoe launch, an equestrian center, a tennis center, a 400 meter track, handball/racquetball courts, a football stadium, a vita/fitness course, a dog park; lighted facilities for basketball, racquetball, softball and soccer; and miles of paved pathways for walking running or biking.
For more information about programs and activities at the Mary Abreu Community Center and Tropical Park, call 305-226-8316, or visit Miami-Dade Parks.
About the Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department:
Nationally accredited, a three-time winner of the NRPA National Gold Medal Award and winner of the 2009 Florida Governor's Sterling Award for excellence in management and operations, Miami-Dade Parks is the third largest county park system in the United States, consisting of 260 parks and 12,825 acres of land. It is one of the most unique park and recreation systems in the world. Made up of more than just playgrounds and athletic fields, it also comprises out-of-school, sports-development, and summer-camp programs; programs for seniors and people with disabilities; educational nature centers and nature preserves; environmental restoration efforts; arts and culture programs and events; the renowned Zoo Miami and the Deering Estate at Cutler; the Crandon Tennis Center, home of the Sony Ericsson Open; golf courses; beaches; marinas; campgrounds; pools; and more. For information about Miami-Dade Parks call 3-1-1, or visit Miami-Dade Parks.
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