Meet Creedence Peterson, one of the 10 outstanding kids selected to be a TFK Kid Reporter this school year. Creedence is 12 years old and lives in New York City. He loves to build Lego sets, swim, and play flag football on his school team. Creedence also loves science and hopes to be a doctor one day.
Finalists in the TFK Kid Reporter contest were judged on a number of factors. One of their assignments was to write an article about a hometown hero. Creedence's story is about Ashley Whited, a park ranger in New York City. You can read it below. We’ll be introducing the rest of the TFK Kid Reporter squad throughout September.
When COVID-19 hit New York City in March 2020, people could no longer go to schools, gyms, or restaurants, or safely visit friends indoors. But thanks to hometown heroes like Ashley Whited, New Yorkers could still count on one place to safely relax: the city’s parks.
Whited is an urban park ranger for Manhattan. She works mostly in Central Park. Just as doctors and nurses continued to go to work when the pandemic began, so did park rangers like Whited.
“During this pandemic, a lot of spaces in New York were closed,” Whited told TIME for Kids. “Parks served as an alternative space for people to try to continue to live a normal life but also to come and gather safely.”
Besides helping to keep parks open, Whited and other rangers helped keep New Yorkers safe. “We were part of a mask distribution effort,” she says. “We would give reusable masks to people who needed them.”
They also gave out food. “One of our park distribution sites gave away 3.1 million meals to New Yorkers who needed food and had nowhere else to go,” Whited says.
Whited remembers how frightening it was at the beginning of the pandemic. “We were all concerned about keeping ourselves and New Yorkers safe,” she says. “Knowing we were helping New Yorkers helped us muscle through the curve.”
One of the people Whited helped was 12-year-old Joseph Ruggiero. “I went five times a week to the park to run and play, or just to go on walks,” he says. “The park was very important because it was an open space where I could see my friends.”
Fabian Volpini, 12, also relied on the park. “It was good to get some fresh air instead of being locked up in an apartment,” he says, “considering that the situation in New York was really bad.”
Austin Nelson, 11, says Central Park became a meeting place for relatives. "The park was the only place we could visit my grandparents before they were vaccinated," he says.
During the pandemic, Whited still performed her regular park ranger duties, such as keeping animals safe. When a snapping turtle in Central Park killed a mother duck in May 2020, Whited rescued the ducklings. She spent hours in the duck pond before she scooped them up with a net and transferred them to a sanctuary.
Whited said she feels humbled when people call her a hero. “Not all heroes wear capes,” she says.
She’s right. Some of them wear park ranger uniforms.