AURORA — Being Aurora’s recreation director for the last 25 years was a perfect fit for Chris Shuck.
Shuck, who is retiring from the position effective July 1, faithfully took care of the athletic facilities — all for the sake of the kids.
“I’m going to be retired but I’m not going anywhere,’’ an emotional Shuck said at the Ed Berdice Field recently. “I’m still gonna take care of Ed’s field and I’ll still follow the football team every Friday night,’’ like he has done for the last 38 years.
“It all started right over there at that (Pine Grove) hockey rink,’’ he said of his career volunteering for the kids and serving the city.
As a teenager, Shuck said he’d go down to the rink and help out and learn from his mentor Berdice, who volunteered his entire life as a recreation director. “He let me tag along and learn how to work with people and learn how to volunteer in the community.’’
Working to enhance opportunities for the area’s youth has had many benefits. Shuck saw the local kids pass through the programs and “made a lot of friends.’’ Even years later, the now grown up kids come back and “thank me for all that I did.’’
In addition, as each teen graduates from high school, Shuck gives each one a folder of their stats for every game they played. He said he compiled the folders on his own and loved doing it.
The youth and their parents recognize the effort he has put in over the years.
“People come up to me and say I’ve influenced their kids and I say they’ve influenced me too,’’ Shuck said.
One reason behind becoming the recreation director came when he married wife Renee and started having kids.
“The biggest reason I wanted to be involved is so I did most of scheduling for games,’’ said Shuck, who also worked full-time at Giants Ridge. “Raising two kids, I made the schedule out so I could be at all of their games.’’
He ended up missing only one game for his daughters, Shara and Emma.
“I was grooming for the state cross country race the next day (at Giants Ridge), so I couldn’t hardly get out of that one.’’
Shuck is also retired from Giants Ridge as a full-time state employee after 38 years, but still works part-time for the management firm now running the facility.
Shuck served as the city’s volunteer recreation director for 12 years staring in 1994. The position has been paid for the last 13 years.
Shuck made time for a lot of recreation events over the years, while also being an Aurora volunteer firefighter from 1984-2001.
The events included helping with the Junior League bowling and organizing youth bowling tournaments at Taconite Lanes in Aurora; helping coach Jim Gillach with Aurora-Hoyt Lakes girls’ softball; serving as the volunteer recreation coordinator from 1986-1994; and assisting Berdice in organizing and field maintenance for Little League baseball.
“Ed taught me how to put my heart and soul into these kids, how to maintain fields and run tournaments.’’
Shuck also served as the tournament director of the Hoop Club Pony League Basketball Tournament from 2000-2009; started an elementary flag football league (with Berdice) in hopes of sparking interest since Mesabi East could not field a varsity football team for several years; formed an elementary volleyball program with wife Renee in 2002. The flag football and volleyball programs are the two most popular programs in the fall, he added.
Having a flag football team did play a role in Mesabi East getting varsity football back again, Shuck said, and coaches have thanked him many times because it promoted the new high school squad.
Shuck has also been involved as the tournament director with Alan Hodnik in the Jim Gillach Memorial Wood Bat Softball Tournament (2006-2012) — with all proceeds going to the Aurora 4th of July Committee. That equaled between $2,500 and $3,000 each year. From 2014-present, Shuck has prepared the field and assisted in the Ed Berdice Memorial Little League Baseball Tournament.
All of Shuck’s efforts led to him receiving the Alan R. Hodnik Community Contribution of Excellence Award in 2014.
“I was very honored to receive that award.’’
While Shuck has done a lot, he wanted to thank his volunteer coaches and umpires who have helped along the way.
The retiring recreation director plans to help his replacement learn the ropes, as well.
“Hopefully it will work out that this gentleman can be as determined and compassionate about kids as I have been for the last 25 years,’’ he said with his voice breaking.
His extensive career couldn’t have been possible without his family, said an emotional Shuck.
“I’d like to thank my wife Renee and my girls for allowing me to do this. I know it took a lot of our time away from family, but I think they know how important it was for me to do this all these years.’’