Kris Johnson Awarded Excellence in Service Award for Therapeutic Recreation

Kris Johnson

The Illinois Therapeutic Recreation Section, a branch of the Illinois Park and Recreation Association, awarded Associate Professor Kris Johnson the 2020 Excellence in Service Award for her outstanding contribution to the field of therapeutic recreation.

Johnson, who is chair of therapeutic recreation and autism studies, received kudos for leading AU students in collaborative and innovative work with the Fox Valley Special Recreation Association.

In 2020, when COVID-19 restrictions forced most FVSRA programs to go virtual, Johnson jumped into action with the idea of a best-buddy Zoom program. The eight-week session, called Spartan Pals, promoted social inclusion by matching more than 30 AU students with FVSRA participants. The buddies met weekly to talk and to play virtual games and other activities.

Since AU reinstated the undergraduate Therapeutic Recreation major in 2017, Johnson has quickly built enrollment. She created a variety of programs with FVSRA for AU students to gain hands-on experience and connect with professionals in the field.

“When you first meet Kris, you can quickly feel the warmth and sincerity that she radiates,” said Jackie Salemi, superintendent of recreation at FVSRA, who presented the award. “She is the type of professional that understands the importance of relationships, and she is the type of leader who thinks outside the box.”