A career of helping others
Updated: February 11, 2013 6:28AM
FRANKLIN PARK — Maryellen Bilek has worked in therapeutic recreation services for 31 years.
For the last 25 of those years. she has been with the West Suburban Special Recreation Association. The Franklin Park-based group offers sports programs and other activities for people with disabilities, including residents of Norridge and Harwood Heights.
Q: Why did you pick this profession?
A: Social work offers a chance to make a difference in someone else’s life in a very tangible way. Whether it is referring someone to a helpful doctor, support group or different agency or teaching someone how to navigate the various Illinois programs or just listening, the rewards can be great.
Q: What about this job makes you proud?
A: WSSRA’s therapeutic recreation services help children gain skills and helps adults with disabilities be less isolated. When a parent tells me that his/her child made a friend, learned to swim or say a few words while with our staff, just as I hinted that they would, I am pleased. Supporting children and adults with disabilities can be challenging for families. I am often proud when I can offer a service to help reduce their stress.
Q: What is your favorite community event in Norridge or Harwood Heights?
A: I really enjoy meeting the residents at the annual health fairs in Harwood Heights and Norridge. In just one morning, you can meet other professionals, local elected officials and hear from interested residents. These fairs are great to meet other social workers to get the ball rolling on referring people to each other. The guests at these events are really friendly and interesting.
Q: What has changed in your profession since coming here?
A: Sounds basic, but, computers, word processing and e-mail have made all human service professionals work more efficiently.
Q: What is your proudest moment or greatest achievement?
A: Professionally, I’ve felt proud while attending memorial services for some adults WSSRA has served where I hear that “special recreation” was a highlight for their loved ones and often see photos of their time with us posted at the visitation. I always share stories like that with the WSSRA team. What we offer becomes part of everyday life and we need to remember the impact we make.
Q: What are you reading?
A: Just finished “To Heaven and Back” by Dr. Mary Neal.
Q: What is your favorite movie?
A: “Moonstruck” always makes me smile and a good baseball movie, like “Field of Dreams” and “Bull Durham” have some unforgettable scenes. I just saw “Lincoln” and enjoyed that.
Q: What’s your favorite vacation destination?
A: Any national park; my husband and I visit at least one every year.
Q: Are you a summer or winter person?
A: Neither. I enjoy Midwest autumns.
Q: What is your favorite Chicago sports team?
A: Cheering on the Chicago White Sox is a mixed experience.