Thirteen years ago, John Tyree found his dream job.
He knew it would be the perfect fit for him -- days filled with a variety of hands-on projects, his office would often be outdoors, and a place where he could make a positive impact on the community.
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At the South Elgin Parks and Recreation Department, he gets to do all of that.
Tyree's job description is an extensive to-do list, including safety checks and maintenance of equipment and shelters at 18 parks, replacing boards on picnic tables, installing new park signs, maintaining all the equipment used for landscaping within the parks, and even helping out with projects at the village hall.
He's even had a hand in building bird houses and a heron perch for the parks. Tyree enjoys that each day will always be different from the next.
"To see a smile on a kid's face from some of the stuff we do, it's unbelievable," Tyree says. "It'll change anybody's life. It's just a great feeling."
To Tyree, parks also symbolize the foundation of a strong community.
"(They) help people bond together," he says.
Parks offer a place for the community to come together and to be involved in family activities where relationships can be formed. Tyree says when his department is going to build a new park, it's a community affair.
"We have all the neighborhood kids come in and put their opinion into what should be here," Tyree says. "They come up with their own charts of how they would like things. It's pretty cool how it works. Kids get involved when you get them involved, then they'll take better care of it."
Tyree is hopeful the village can meet a one million dollar goal to build a handicapped-accessible park with SEBA Park in the next few years.
"There's not a lot of (similar parks) around and we're trying to make that happen," Tyree says. "It's a great investment for the community."
Several pieces already purchased were tried out at last year's RiverFest Express during the special needs night, which was a big hit with the kids.
His handiwork is even evident in the trailer he built that carries the Easter Bunny to events each spring.
One of the biggest rewards for Tyree is watching kids enjoy the results of his labor.
"Some people get lucky and they do what they like to do and some people don't, so I've been fortunate," he says.