The $4 youth and $5 adult day pass at the Provo Recreation Center might be too much of a financial barrier for some families in the area. But this wasn’t a problems at a recent field trip for Provo elementary school children thanks to a generous donation from Raymond Beckham, a longtime Provo resident with an extensive history of service in the community.
Cristina Carreño, a fourth-grade teacher at Timpanogos Elementary School, knew some students in her class may not have been able to afford the field trip without the donation.
“It was a good experience for them,” Carreño said. “When I saw them having fun, it was amazing.”
Beckham, a retired BYU communications professor, donated Provo Recreation Center pool parties for all Provo elementary students in third through sixth grades for his 90th birthday. From April 17 to the first week in May, the Provo Recreation Center welcomed students from schools all over the area to enjoy the center’s indoor pools and gym without any cost to the children.
Liz Kesler, a third-grade teacher at Timpanogos Elementary School, said she knew at least one student had never been to the Provo Recreation Center before. Overall, she thinks her students felt more important in the community as a result of Beckham’s generosity.
“They felt a lot more confidence, a lot more worth just with that invitation to go and knowing that someone paid for them and that someone wanted to celebrate their birthday with them,” Kesler said. “It made them feel pretty special.”
Beckham always wanted to raise money for the Provo Recreation Center but initially planned to put it aside for maintenance and upkeep. He changed his mind after noticing few disadvantaged children could go to the center.
As he approached his 90th birthday, Beckham wanted to help all youth in the community have a fun day at the Provo Recreation Center without barriers. He and representatives from the Provo Parks and Recreation Department collaborated to come up with this plan to host a series of birthday parties at the center’s pool and gym.
“I did it for two reasons: One, because I saw a real need to get some of these children in the Rec Center so they would see how great it was,” Beckham said.
The second reason was to encourage others in the area to create similar programs for the school children in Provo.
“He’d like to see others jump in the same way and create this access opportunity for the future also,” said Director of Provo Parks and Recreation Scott Henderson.
Beckham was involved with the Provo Recreation Center from the beginning as part of the board that got the bond passed to build the center in November 2010 and has remained involved in the process, including selecting the architect and contractor.
“Ray has always been a great partner,” Henderson said. “Just about every great thing that we’ve done in Provo Parks and Recreation, Ray Beckham has had a stamp on that.”
This is one of many services Beckham has provided to Provo over his 70 plus years living in the community.
Beckham moved to Provo to attend BYU after serving in the Navy during World War II and has loved the city ever since. He’s had his hand in many projects to improve the community while living here.
“Since I was very young I’ve tried to do things in my community and in school,” Beckham said. “I think it’s just a part of giving back.”
Beckham was the vice president of the student body while studying at BYU and twice received the Man of the Year award for service to the student body. He’s been involved in the community ever since, from heading up local boards to chairing organizations to raising money for community projects.
Just a few months ago, he finished a three-year long project with the Rotary Club to install 60 park benches and historical plaques in Provo parks and along the Provo River Trail. Beckham rallied together with people in the community to raise about $27,000 to help complete the project.
He raised money for the Marriott Center and LaVell Edwards Stadium. He’s been in charge of Provo’s downtown beautification project for five years and the chairman of the Red Cross for nine years, among many other roles and titles in the community.
“I believe in service,” Beckham said. “I’m a Provo person and I love Provo. I am always trying to be involved.”
He retired from BYU in 1992 after teaching public relations, advertising and communications theory in what is now the School of Communications. He served as the president of the Canada Calgary Mission and then later served a nine-year mission for the church Public Affairs Department, including three years on the church’s Olympic Committee.
Beckham said he is always looking for causes to get involved with, so it seemed perfect for him to work with the Provo Recreation Center on a fun field trip for elementary-age students.
“When you have a citizen — and a very generous and humble citizen like Ray Beckham — you’re more than willing to sit down to the table,” Henderson said.
The collaborative effort between Beckham and the Provo Recreation Center seemed natural, and Beckham is grateful for the opportunity to serve the community and raise awareness for some great resources available in the recreation center, especially for those who don’t typically have the opportunity to go inside.
“I do have a service gene in me that just won’t let go,” Beckham said. “I just try and keep going on helping people and doing things. That’s what life is all about.”