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Portland Parks & Recreation Bids Farewell to Longtime Adaptive & Inclusive Recreation Supervisor: Debbie Timmins Leaves a 33 Year Legacy of Service and Dedication to Equality and Access for All

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Image removed.Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) announces the retirement of Adaptive & Inclusive Recreation (AIR) supervisor Debbie Timmins after 33 years on the job.

Timmins began working at what she calls “the best job possible” in March of 1980, and will be retiring June 1, 2013. Over the course of more than three decades, she has overseen a wide variety of community-based PP&R recreation activities, classes and programs designed for people of all ages (children through adult/seniors) who have physical, mental and developmental disabilities.

“A lot has changed in 33 years,” saysTimmins. “I had never even heard of autism when I started in 1980. It was years before the Americans with Disabilities Act, before public transit had lifts and ramps, and there were no types of integrated programs within Portland Parks & Recreation. I’m proud to have been a part of helping to foster equality and access for all.”

When Timmins began, PP&R’s Adaptive & Inclusive Recreation program was called Specialized Recreation, and only served people who had developmental disabilities. The program was renamed as Disabled Citizens Recreation and finally Adaptive & Inclusive Recreation (AIR), as it stands now.

“When I began working for Portland Parks & Recreation, providing inclusion services was a concept that was just starting to be talked about around the nation,” addsTimmins. “The term used was ‘mainstreaming’, then ‘integration’. Now PP&R provides people of any age with the opportunity to have an accommodation in any class or activity that they register for; people who have any type of disability and/or special need.”

Portland Parks & Recreation Director Mike Abbaté says Timmins and her 33 years of experience will be missed. “On behalf of PP&R and all people who use our programs and facilities, I want to thank Debbie from the bottom of our hearts,” says Abbaté. “She’s a remarkable, determined and selfless woman, a champion of equity who has been instrumental in expanding our vision of including everyone – regardless of ability – into the hundreds of Portland Parks & Recreation classes, camps, activities and programs we offer. She is the epitome of the public servant – a life of dedicated service so that everyone could have great life experiences in our parks, community centers and natural areas.”

SUN Community School Partnership:

In 2008, PP&R and Multnomah County launched a partnership that provides opportunities for participants in SUN Community Schools to receive the same inclusion assistance as those in the PP&R-facilitated programs.Timmins played a key role in moving this successful collaboration forward. Her expertise has enabled children and teens who need additional support to participate in important academic, enrichment and recreational opportunities. It is one of many examples ofTimmins’ lasting impact on kids across Portland, and how she’s enhanced communities even beyond the PP&R system.

“Debbie has had unmatched dedication and commitment to providing recreation opportunities to people with disabilities,” says Mary Richardson,Timmins’ direct supervisor. “Over the last 33 years, her knowledge and expertise have made her invaluable to PP&R. She will be equally missed by us, and by the community.”

“I will miss the wonderful friendships I have had with the program participants, our PP&R staff and volunteers,” saysTimmins. “And thanks to all the parents who trusted me with their children. I wish everyone the best, and hope you please continue to enjoy what Portland Parks & Recreation has to offer. Go out and have fun!”

AIR Dances, Bowling and Outings:

A weekly bowling program has been a core activity of the AIR program for more than 20 years. It enables people with disabilities to socialize and take part in healthy activities too often not considered an option for them. The popularity of the program is reflected in the steady participation of 30 regular bowlers.

One of Timmins’ favorite events is the AIR dance held at  Mt.Scott Community Center on the first Friday of each month. More than 200 participants (ages 16+) come from across the Northwest to dance to a DJ or a live band. The dances began in the 1980’s, and became so popular over the years that AIR added a social room for mingling to accommodate the large crowds.

“We are really going to miss Debbie,” says Melinda Trietsch, an AIR participant. “She is helpful and supportive, and she’s fun.”

So What’s Next?

“What will I do after retirement? I have always had a passion for working with animals,” saysTimmins. “I wanted to be a veterinarian for a while. I plan to volunteer with animal programs. I look forward to having more time to ride my horse, walk my dog, work out and practice all of the musical instruments that I play. Of course, there are friends to see and plenty of yard work.”

Portland Parks & Recreation’s AIR program offers community-based recreation activities and leisure services specially designed for children, teens, and adults who have a disability and/or special needs. Our services are designed to assist people in developing and using their leisure time in ways that enhance their health, well-being, and independence.

How to Participate

If you are interested in learning more about the Adaptive and Inclusive Recreation (AIR) program, please review the PP&R online catalog here. When you find an activity that you would like to participate in, call the AIR staff at 503-823-4328 to register. You can also email

Pre-registration is not required for the monthly AIR dance nor the weekly bowling program.

For more information, call 503-823-4328 or visit the AIR page at