If you want to see an example of Susan Chaney's commitment as a recreation volunteer, drop by the Freedom Park about 5:30 some morning.

Every other day on her way to her full time job in Beltsville, you'll see her unlocking the gates so people can use it. And if 5:30 a.m. is too much of an ungodly hour for you, be there at dusk that day because she's back there to lock it up.


Her dedication to this duty has typified this Sykesville resident's devotion to the Freedom Area Recreation Council during the 28 years since 1990 when she first volunteered to help out with her daughter's softball team. And it helps explain why the Freedom Area Recreation Council recently chose her to be part of the county rec department's inaugural Hall of Fame induction class.

Chaney and four others were inducted as part of the Department's annual Volunteer of the Year Awards ceremony which was held Nov. 2 at the Carroll Arts Center.

She says she gets her spirit of volunteerism from her mom and dad who helped out at her school and at church years ago.

“My parents taught me to give my time,” Chaney said. "You want to be able to help people when you can.”

Chaney's time to help kids began in 1990 her own daughter Beth was about 8. Beth wanted to play softball. Her mom liked the idea because she herself had played softball years before in Glen Burnie.

Chaney helped out with small chores the first year or so. But then she began coaching and has been doing it ever since.

In 1992, younger daughter Kori was 5, and she wanted to play soccer. The Freedom in-house soccer program also needed coaches, and Sue signed up even though shew had no soccer coaching experience.

“I knew absolutely nothing about soccer, but I read a really good book that answered all my questions,” she said.

Chaney has been heavily involved with the Freedom youth softball and soccer programs ever since. She estimated that she has coached in one or the other, and sometimes both, every year for the past 20 years. Chaney is currently commissioner of the Freedom soccer program, and she has run practically all of its component parts at one time over the years.

Chaney has been in charge of referees, scheduling, registration and a host of other aspects at one time or another.

Saturdays during fall soccer and spring softball seasons find her at the fields. She spends ten-hour days answering questions, directing players and coaches to their assigned fields and ironing out problems as they pop up. Or she simply hangs around in case she's needed for something else, which she often is.

Chaney estimates that she spends about 30 hours on volunteer activities some weeks during the course of the softball and soccer seasons. In addition to her work with soccer and softball, Chaney has also done many other things over the years. One of her more interesting contributions to the Freedom Area Rec Council's offerings lies in the chills and thrills department. In 2010, she helped start the Halloween Fright Fest.

Held at Freedom Park, it features a "haunted trail" through the woods where the children confront sundry Halloween ghosts and goblins. She ran that activity for the next four years and still helps out come Halloween time.

Around seven years ago, Chaney also started the rec council's adult co-ed kickball and soccer programs along with a women's softball league. Wanting to become more active herself, she was hoping to get back into sports. But the fates betrayed her.


“I got a herniated disc in my neck and couldn't throw or swing the bat,” Chaney said. “So I started kickball thinking I'd be able to have at least some activity. But then I hurt my Achilles tendon.”

But while Chaney was frustrated in her own desire to play, the programs are still around to provide those opportunities for others. And while she can't get out on the field, Chaney does manage to stay near it by coaching kickball and softball teams.

In addition to her direct work in sports programs, Chaney is also involved with the overall administrative side. She is a member of the Freedom Area Rec Council Board. She sets up for every meeting by passing out copies of the treasurer's report, agenda and previous meeting's minutes.

“I've done a lot of different things in a lot of different areas,” she said, which is quite an understatement.

Chaney was recognized for her contributions in 2010 when Freedom Area Rec Council named her its volunteer of the year. And now, this.

“It’s and honor and nice to be recognized for what you do," Chaney said.

However, being honored is not why she continues to volunteer her time. She says there are far richer awards to be had.

“Volunteering is a fun thing to do - it pays back 1,000 times over,” Chaney said in an email. “When you see the girl you coached become a young woman and a mother and watch her kids play, when you meet a new person and develop a friendship that never would have happened if you hadn't volunteered, when that child that you coached comes to you 15 years later and says, 'Hey coach, how’s it going?' when you have a young person call you 'Mom' because you have become someone they look up to, when you look at your old team pictures from opening day and the wonderful memories flood back to you and so much more... sometimes you hit a rough spot and you think, ‘why do I do this,’ and then all that comes back.

“You remember just how much fun and rewarding volunteering is."