Human Interest

When it comes to volunteering, a little can go a long way — but a lot goes even further. Katie Chorlton, who spends hours every week volunteering as the president of Big Park Community School’s Parent Teacher Student Association, said she gives because she’s passionate about the community.

For her work, Chorlton received the Volunteer of the Year award from the Arizona Community Foundation of Sedona.

“I still feel pretty torn about being singled out as Volunteer of the Year, when I look around and see so many members of our community volunteering their hearts out,” Chorlton said. “We have such a strong spirit of giving here in the Verde Valley and I feel very proud to be part of that .... I feel tremendous gratitude, love and compassion and wish to spread that feeling far and wide. Receiving this award is, I believe, an acknowledgment that this really matters, at least to some people.”

The Volunteer of the Year award recognizes individuals who demonstrate exceptional philanthropic spirit, leadership and volunteerism in Sedona and the Verde Valley. Chorlton received the award at the annual Spirit of Sedona Awards on Thursday, Sept. 28.

“As PTSA president, Katie constantly goes above and beyond the role of parent volunteer for the benefit of the school and all members of the school community,” Hannah Sturgis wrote in her letter nominating Chorlton for the award. “She literally pours her heart and soul into the PTSA and always keeps in mind and at heart what will benefit the children, teachers, staff, parents and the school as a whole .... The hours she puts in behind the scenes are long and sometimes trying, but no matter the task at hand or the deadline being faced, Katie does this work with joy and love. This community is about more than just getting things done. It’s about doing them with love and positivity and creating an environment for everyone involved that is healthy, uplifting, fun and beneficial. Katie brings all of these things to Big Park Community School via the PTSA.”

Chorlton started attending PTSA meetings after Back to School night during her oldest son Kai’s first week of kindergarten — he’s now in fifth grade.

“I joined Big Park PTSA because I couldn’t imagine not joining,” Chorlton said. “I love being part of the action and wanted to support our school and the Big Park community.”

Her family moved to Sedona from Crested Butte, Colo., six years ago, when her husband John accepted a position at Verde Valley School. Both of their sons, fifth-grade Kai and fourth-grade Gus, attend Big Park.

“We’re grateful they play sports — mostly soccer — and have strong teachers, because they are super energetic and get into shenanigans of all kinds,” Chorlton said.

Chorlton herself is a massage therapist who has owned her own practice since 2001. She opened her studio in the Village of Oak Creek five years ago, where she practices her integrative massage techniques while her boys are in school.

She’s held a few positions on Big Park’s PTSA: For the first year, she was just a member; then she served as treasurer for two years and now has been president for two years.

“My favorite part about it is helping with our community-building events, like our family dances and the annual spaghetti dinner,” she said. “I think all of the events are pretty special and I really enjoy working with others to put them on — all of the planning and collaboration is fun for me. I also love being around the kids — their joy is totally infectious.”

Three of Big Park’s biggest fall events are coming up: Next weekend, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 6 and 7, is Tee Up Fore Team Big Park, a fundraising event put on by the Rotary Club of Sedona Village Satellite. After that, PTSA is hosting a community reception at the school on Tuesday, Oct. 17, for the community to come take a tour and hear about school news. The last event the PTSA is putting on this fall is A Glorious Night of Piano, Thursday, Nov. 16, with local pianists giving volunteer performances to raise funds for Big Park.

“The feeling of community and celebration that we promote is actually pretty important in developing a child’s foundation as a human being,” Chorlton said.

In addition to putting on events that support the school, Chorlton has some more long-term goals in mind for PTSA this school year.

“We would really like to increase volunteerism, especially parent and parent figure participation at the school and in Big Park PTSA,” she said. “We need more people to help out during the school day — in classrooms and on the playground, for example. We’re also looking for new parents to join PTSA efforts. While we have a fantastic group of parents who help at specific events, we need people to accept leadership and take charge.”

The PTSA is looking for room parents, event chairpersons and two new board members for next year.

“When things quiet down after our fall events, I’m looking to focus on advocacy in several ways,” Chorlton said. “First, I want to work with the school to further increase communication with our families, so we can better understand what is and isn’t working for our students. As we identify our common goals, we can work together with the school to initiate change where needed. I see our staff and school board members working very hard to turn things around in our school and school district and really want to support them in their efforts.”


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