The U.S. Play Coalition established an awards program recognizing outstanding play research and youth practitioners at the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play. This new awards program will honor exceptional individuals each year. The winners will not only receive a physical award, but also have conference fees paid, hotel accommodations and up to $500 in travel to attend the Play Conference.
Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research
The inaugural Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research was presented to its namesake – Joe L. Frost, the contemporary father of play advocacy. The award recognizes a body of exceptional research that has enhanced and expanded the study of play.
“Joe Frost has been an influencer for our organization’s work as well as for the world of play,” said Stephanie Garst, executive director of the U.S. Play Coalition. “The creation of this award is a fitting tribute.”
Frost is the Parker Centennial Professor Emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin. He is known across the world for his more than 30 years of work on early childhood and children’s play environments. Past president of both the Association for Childhood Education International and International Play Association/USA, he is the author or co-author of 18 books and numerous publications and has also served as a consultant for playgrounds worldwide.
Frost was influential in the creation of the U.S. Play Coalition, serving as a steering committee member since the coalition’s beginning in 2009. He served as a keynote speaker that year at the coalition’s first conference – then called the Summit on the Value of Play –and has been an honorary chair for each successive conference.
YLI Youth Development Practitioner Award
The U.S. Play Coalition also teamed with Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute to present the first-ever Youth Development Practitioner Award. The award recognizes outstanding performance in the creation and implementation of youth development programs or services.
“There are many deserving practitioners across the nation, and our goal is to bring recognition to this field of service,” said Stephen Lance, executive director of the Youth Learning Institute.
The inaugural award went to Dan Mathews, chief operating officer at Camp Twin Lakes, a Georgia-based organization that provides camp experiences for children with serious illnesses, disabilities and other life challenges. According to his nomination, Dan is “a champion for all youth using play as the center of his outstanding leadership and tireless efforts in furthering development, access, and professionalism of the field of youth-development…He is an excellent standard bearer for the inaugural Youth Development Practitioner Award.”