Nationwide Recreation Basis Awards Arshay Cooper Annual Crawford Prize


LAKE FOREST, Ill., Nov. 30, 2022–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The National Recreation Foundation continues its annual tradition of recognizing leaders who empower youth recreation and recently announced their Crawford Award winner 2022 Arshay Cooper is an accomplished rower and bestselling author.

A Benjamin Franklin Award-winning author and protagonist of the critically acclaimed film A Most Beautiful Thing, Cooper is a Golden Oar recipient for his contributions to the sport of rowing, a motivational speaker, and an activist, particularly in relation to accessibility issues in low-income communities .

NRF specifically recognized Cooper for breaking down youth rowing barriers. He coached rowing at the Chicago Urban Youth Rowing Club and served as a counseling consultant for youth programs in the Midwest/Gulf Coast region of Victory Outreach. Arshay has also founded or helped start several rowing programs for youth from low-income communities across the country so that other young people can experience the profound changes taking place on the water. He has mentored hundreds of children to improve their athletic, professional and personal lives.

“Arshay has always believed that rowing is not just about developing athleticism, but also about professionalism, discipline, community and a love of the outdoors,” said Lila Leff, Trustee of the National Recreation Foundation. “Over the last few years he has felt more and more compelled to share his story and create opportunities for others to learn about nature and the wealth of opportunities he believes rowing can bring,” said Leff.

Cooper formally accepted the award earlier this month at the annual NRF Board of Trustees meeting in Colorado Springs, Colorado. NRF celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Crawford Prize at the gathering.

“The question for many young people out there is, ‘How do I allow this fire within me to shine brighter than the fire that is happening around me?’ I think the answer is the power of nature,” Cooper said.

The story goes on

Reflecting on receiving the Crawford Award, Cooper said, “I immediately thought of the new boats, the additional tours, and the college trips that the children will receive as a result of this award. I’m thrilled to give this award to more young people, to provide access and opportunity through the life-changing sport of rowing.” Read more about Cooper’s advocacy work here.

In Colorado Springs, the foundation also honored the 2021 and 2020 Crawford Prize winners, who received their awards virtually due to the pandemic.

Tyrhee Moore, a mountaineer, outdoor education leader and advocate, was recognized with the 2021 Crawford Prize for his leadership in promoting equal access to outdoor recreation. Moore is the founder of Soul Trak Outdoors, a nonprofit organization that connects communities of color with local green spaces and public spaces in the Washington, DC area.

In 2020, Derwin Hannah of the Mill Hill neighborhood of southwest Baltimore received the award for his efforts to convert a trash-strewn, derelict park that neighbors once feared to enter into a safe place for children to play and for hundreds of families Provide support network mentoring and opportunities, and make the city park a center for community cohesion, investment and sporting recreation. He is the founder of ABC Park Seminoles sports agency.

About Arshay Cooper

Cooper’s award-winning memoir about his high school rowing career, A Most Beautiful Thing, was recently adapted into a film of the same name, narrated by Academy Award- and Grammy-winner Common and produced by NBA stars Grant Hill and Dwyane Wade and Grammy-winning 9th Wonder, directed by award-winning filmmaker and Olympic rower Mary Mazzio. He leads the A Most Beautiful Thing Inclusion Fund to provide rowing, academic support and college access to underserved communities. Cooper has also been encouraged to build bridges across the country through his story and has inspired the creation of new diversity-focused rowing programs in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. More information about him can be found at

The Crawford Prize

The Robert W. Crawford Achievement Prize, presented annually since 2002, recognizes a living individual who is committed to improving youth recreation opportunities to enable more young people to lead healthy, participatory lives, thereby strengthening the Foundation’s work. The award is given each year to a professional or volunteer who has made an exceptional contribution to promoting recreational programs for youth from disadvantaged backgrounds. The awardee then assigns the $50,000 monetary award to support the nonprofit organization of their choice dedicated to serving the needs of youth through outdoor recreation.

About the National Recreation Foundation

The National Recreation Foundation is dedicated to strengthening the role of recreation as a positive force in improving the quality of life for youth. Over the past decade, the National Recreation Foundation has distributed over $17 million to more than 180 grant recipients across the country.

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Heath Hansen
Humanity Communications Collective
[email protected]