Upper Arlington rec supervisor Cheryl Hyatt's retirement feted with 35-vehicle drive-by

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group
Cheryl Hyatt, recreation supervisor for Upper Arlington Parks and Recreation, waves to guests as they drive by to wish her well on her retirement Nov. 30 at Sunny 95 Park as part of a 35-vehicle procession in honor of her 34 years with the department.

Making fun happen: That’s what Cheryl Hyatt did in the Upper Arlington Parks and Recreation Department for 34 years. 

In spring 2006, five years before Hyatt became city’s recreation supervisor, she coined the department’s tagline, “We Make Fun Happen,” which was used for the next 10 years.   

Coworkers on hand to celebrate her career during a 35-vehicle procession to send her into retirement at Sunny 95 Park, 4395 Carriage Hill Lane, on Nov. 30 said that’s exactly what Hyatt did as she organized numerous community events and oversaw the department’s annual Summer Day Camp for children. 

Dave Staats, a former Upper Arlington parks supervisor, worked alongside Hyatt in the department for 28 years and said she was a perfectionist when it came to camp programs and organizing events such as Spring Fling, Summer Celebration, Fall Fest, Winter Festival, Breakfast with Santa and Valentine’s Date Night. 

“She always wanted to make sure the programs were great for the citizens,” Staats said. “That’s what it was all about for her.” 

To the faint of heart, the temperatures that hovered in the 30s and the howling wind that whipped snow flurries about during the drive-by may have been daunting. 

Hyatt, however, stood throughout the 45-minute festivities, approaching each vehicle’s passenger windows with smiles, laughs and gratitude. 

“It’s going on rain-or-shine, just like when Cheryl had an event,” said Ginny Houghton, a former recreation superintendent for the city. “She never waited for the weatherman.” 

Hyatt, 60, said she recalled only three events that were canceled completely during her tenure before the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in 2020. 

The forced interruptions wrought by the pandemic ultimately nudged her toward retirement. 

“I am a people person and not being able to see the kids and programs in person – I am not a virtual programmer – that was a very significant part of it,” Hyatt said. “I was thinking that if Day Camp would go back to normal in 2021, I would stay. But I just don’t see it going back to normal.” 

Hyatt joined the department in 1986 as a clerk, spending much of her time creating membership cards for Northam Park tennis players. 

Over the years, she was promoted to an administrative assistant and then program assistant before being named rec supervisor in 2011. During that time, she worked for six department directors. 

While her work wasn’t limited to special events and Summer Day Camp, those were the highlights for Hyatt and what she’ll miss the most. 

She said the annual events, which were free and included activities with nominal costs, were a great way to bring the community together. They also stirred camaraderie and team-building among the department, she said. 

Summer Day Camp, she said simply, “was fun.” 

Through it, she interacted annually with upwards of 470 kids age 6 to 12, and had a staff that when she retired included nine people with a combined 42 years of experience. 

“Day Camp was all the things kids should do in the summer,” Hyatt said. “We played in the creek behind Reed Road Park, we played games. We did do technology, but it was mostly active, outdoor play.” 

Among her fondest memories from Day Camp were the field trips the groups would take each Wednesday during the 10-week program. 

They included transporting 250 campers to local Magic Mountain Fun Centers and trampoline parks, as well as going fishing and roller-skating. 

“It was so much fun,” Hyatt said. “We would go to those places or rent out (AMC) Lennox movie theater to watch a movie. We would get out the Slip ‘N Slide. It was just active fun.” 

Current Upper Arlington Rec Superintendent Matt Leber said Hyatt “lived fun” during the six years he worked with her. He credited her with developing youth and family programming throughout her career. 

Leber said Hyatt worked for years managing the use of the city’s athletics fields and worked with community athletics groups to schedule, maintain and prepare those fields for play. 

“In short, families in our community have made so many memories through experiences that Cheryl and our team worked hard to provide,” Leber said. “She positively impacted thousands of children who attended Summer Day Camp over the years and mentored many future teachers and young professionals who worked for her as day camp staff. 

“Cheryl was a dedicated employee and her main goal was to bring fun to the families of Upper Arlington, and she always delivered on that. Cheryl can leave her job with the city knowing she made a lasting impact on thousands of Upper Arlington residents.” 

In addition to the directors, superintendents and staff she’s worked with, Hyatt said she appreciates the relationships she built with Upper Arlington Schools officials, who helped facilitate Summer Day Camp by providing transportation and other resources. She said district Chief Operating Officer Chris Potts and Tremont Elementary Principal Jim Buffer provided instrumental assistance. 

Likewise, she’s happy to hand Summer Day Camp over to Supervisor Mac Kinney, saying parents and campers should know the program is in “great hands.” 

She said she will be relaxing with her husband, Steve, at the couple’s Radnor home, but other retirement plans are tempered by the pandemic. 

She also plans to spend time with her daughter, Taylor, her son, Nick, and her chocolate Labrador retriever, Archie, all of whom have been fixtures for years at community events she’s staged and who also were on hand for the retirement festivities. 

That sendoff, Hyatt said, was “kind of overwhelming,” but much appreciated because she wanted to say her goodbyes to past and current coworkers, Summer Day Camp staff and other city officials and employees who turned out. 

“You make lifelong friendships,” she said. “If I could rewrite it, I wouldn’t rewrite it.” 

nellis@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekNate