CHARLOTTE — Darren Lewis is known by many in the Mount Airy area for his longtime work in the field of recreation, which now has now been recognized by a state organization.
Lewis, the city’s assistant parks and recreation director, received the 2016 Special Citation Award from the N.C. Recreation and Park Association during its recent annual conference and awards luncheon here.
That award honors an individual who has demonstrated an outstanding interest in and dedication to the field of recreation and parks, or has made a contribution to the advancement of the recreation and parks profession.
Lewis has been a recreation advocate in Mount Airy for many years.
Now 45, he has either worked or volunteered at Reeves Community Center for nearly 30 years, beginning when he was only 16. That career has covered all realms, including coaching, officiating basketball and soccer, being a lifeguard, supervising programs, organizing special events and serving with local and state groups.
But Lewis doesn’t really consider what he does as work.
“I thoroughly enjoy what I do,” he said Wednesday. “I really enjoy coming to work every day.”
In commenting on the Special Citation Award he received from the N.C. Recreation and Park Association, Lewis — a low-key individual — said there are many people around the state who probably are more or equally deserving of such an honor.
“But it was just nice to receive that,” he added of the award. “It was very humbling.”
After starting his recreation career on a part-time basis at age 16, Lewis went on to coach basketball for 18 years and for the past several years has led the Surry County Officials Association.
Lewis is a certified official in both basketball and soccer with the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, and assists with large-scale sporting events including local AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) and YBOA (Youth Basketball of America) basketball tournaments.
In addition, he is a certified lifeguard and pool operator and has been a national Certified Park and Recreation Professional (CPRP) since 2010.
Lewis was directly responsible for the city parks and recreation department receiving the Innovative Program Award in 2006 with his creation of the Biggest Loser Program, which is still in place today as the Ultimate Weight-Loss Challenge.
A longtime running enthusiast who has competed in marathons including the one in New York City, Lewis organizes multiple running events throughout the year which bring thousands of people to the area — thus contributing to the local economy and tourism efforts.
“An extremely organized individual, Darren has experienced almost every job that he oversees,” says a statement from Catrina Alexander, Mount Airy Parks and Recreation director.
“His coaching background only enhances his supervisory skills, making him a great ‘coach’ in our department who assists in developing and empowering great division supervisors,” Alexander added.
Kids a priority
Among the many functions he has or continues to be involved with, Lewis gets the most satisfaction from the one-on-one interaction with local youths. “I would say working with and helping the kids who might be less-fortunate and need extra attention,” he said.
“And just trying to be a positive role-model.”
“Darren has always found much satisfaction in his work life, the people he served and giving back to his community,” according to Alexander.
“Darren and I have worked together since 2003. He has always been about the kids. I am thrilled that he is being recognized for his efforts, as he has truly been ‘called’ to do this work. Though I have watched him grow professionally by leaps and bounds, one thing that has remained the same has been his love of community.”
Lewis also enjoys working with a Reeves Community Center scholarship program that raises money to allow underprivileged children and adults to participate in its programs.
Organizing the Rosy Cheeks 5K, a run held every December to provide toys for needy children in which many participants wear Christmas-themed attire, also is high on his list of activities.
“Darren Lewis has impacted the lives of countless young people in our community for the past three decades and makes continuous contributions both locally and statewide,” Alexander summed-up regarding his work.
“Darren has dedicated many years as an athletics supervisor and prides himself on learning new skills and improving upon old ones. His motto is ‘get better’ and he definitely walks the talk.”
Lewis has served in various capacities within the N.C. Recreation and Park Association, including being a regional chairman and vice chairman and assisting with its Athletic Directors Workshop and various committees.
Locally, he serves with the Surry County Sports Hall of Fame Selection Committee, the Mount Airy Road Runners (as president/treasurer), the Reeves Community Center Foundation in an ex-officio capacity and the Mount Airy Parks and Recreation Commission.
“If you ask anyone who has ever worked with Darren, they would say he is a consummate professional with a positive can-do attitude,” Alexander continued. “He is a resource to many — and a friend to all.”
Mount Airy Commissioner Jon Cawley agreed upon learning of the state award:
“Darren is one of the good guys who deserves this kind of recognition.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.