Thomas and Elizabeth Chennikara.
Thomas and Elizabeth Chennikara

Thomas and Elizabeth Chennikara are among the thousands of Fairfax County residents who reside near one of 420 Fairfax County Park Authority parks. Living across the street from one of the most popular parks, Burke Lake Park is a favorite place! “Burke Lake Park is our go to place when we just need some peace and quiet; to get together with friends; play a round of golf; or walk/swim with our dogs; and the list goes on,” Thomas stated.

The Chennikaras are among the more than 1 million people who visit Burke Lake Park each year.  Burke Lake Park has meant a lot to many thousands of Fairfax County residents for more than 50 years.  Whether hiking, biking, fishing, birding, playing mini golf, riding the train or carousel, or enjoying an ice cream, there is truly something for everyone at Burke Lake! It’s no wonder it was named the “Best park in the Metro DC area” by a Washingtonian magazine poll, Burke Lake Park has earned the distinction of “Best Public Park” by Northern Virginia Magazine’s “Best of NoVA”!

Burke Lake Park covered shelters.
Celebration Shelters at Burke Lake Park.

The two ADA compliant Celebration Shelters, made possible by donors, are in the children’s area near the carousel, train and mini golf.

Their love of Burke Lake Park led to generous giving through their Donor Advised Fund to the Park Foundation for the new celebration shelters that were completed in 2021. Thomas and Elizabeth leveraged their donation by requesting a Mastenbrook Matching Grant that was approved by the Fairfax County Park Authority Board. This $40,000 contribution, coupled with the thousands of dollars donated by other park lovers, helped fund the much-needed picnic shelters near the popular train and carousel in the children’s area.

His love of parks also led to Thomas joining the Fairfax County Park Foundation Board of Directors in 2018. Thomas recently began his second term of volunteer service to help enrich Fairfax County parks.

People holding red ribbon for ceremony of opening of Woodlands education center.
Ribbon-cutting at the Woodlands (before).
People holding cut red ribbon for ceremony of opening of Woodlands education center.
Cut ribbon at the opening of Woodlands (after).

Thomas is an independent consultant with clean-tech and engineering expertise. He is intrigued by the Park Authority’s new Stewardship Education Center (SEC), the new state-of-the-art center to be built at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park in Chantilly, VA. The SEC will focus on STEAM (Science, Technology Engineering, Art and Math) education. “I was drawn to the SEC due to my background in engineering and an interest in sustainable practices. After learning about the Park Foundation’s capital campaign to fund hands-on features in the educational Learning Observational Outdoor Pod (The LOOP), Elizabeth and I wanted to ensure its success,” Thomas said. Thomas and Elizabeth’s generous donations totaling $20,000 will help fund the Solar Charging Picnic Table.

Thomas and Elizabeth’s philanthropy is an example for everyone who loves our parks and want to safeguard parks for generations to come. “Elizabeth and I are pleased to support the parks and everything that parks do for Fairfax County citizens,” Thomas stated. For more information about how you can sponsor the Stewardship Education Center through the Fairfax County Park Foundation.