Robert W. Crawford Achievement Prize
2020 Prize Recipient
When Derwin Hannah moved to Southwest Baltimore’s Mill Hill neighborhood more than 20 years ago, a dangerous and decaying park on the corner of Catherine and Ashton streets was full of dumped trash, shattered glass and broken concrete, which attracted illegal activity. Today, that park—ABC Park—is the heart of the community, welcoming more than 100 people a day; serving as home field for 250-plus youth involved in its Seminoles Sports League; and hosting annual family fun events that bring everyone in the surrounding communities together.
Revitalization of ABC Park (also known as Catherine Street Park) was from the bottom up. Hannah wanted his son to be able to play in the park (instead of on the sidewalks or in the streets, which other parents deemed safer than the park), so he began cleaning it up on his own. As his grassroots effort evolved, Hannah started to enlist the support of local business owners and government leaders so that all of the neighborhood children could have a safe place to play. In 2010, Hannah and his partners, along with a large squad of midshipmen from the nearby U.S. Naval Academy, deep cleaned the park and saved it from destined despair.
In 2013, Hannah created new opportunities for youth in the community when he started a tackle football program at the park, which rapidly grew into the Seminoles Sports League. The league is now a year-round sports and mentoring program, run by Hannah and 16 volunteer coaches, that offers football, basketball, baseball, dance and cheerleading at little-to-no-cost to hundreds of 6-17 year-olds who participate year after year.
As Hannah’s commitment to the children and to the community grew, so did the attention that ABC Park received. The city of Baltimore, along with the National Recreation and Park Association, put forward more than $1.65 million in funding to fully renovate ABC Park. In the fall of 2019, after years of planning and months of construction, ABC Park was reopened complete with state-of-the-art playground structures, swings, fitness equipment, splash pad, basketball courts and a field house—outfitting one of the most active small parks in the city with new facilities.
Having accomplished so much on behalf of ABC Park and the youth in his community, it is hard to believe that Hannah's efforts are those of a volunteer. He earns his living as a commercial driver delivering supplies to hospitals at night.
Since he started working in ABC Park more than decade ago, Hannah's efforts have transformed a trash-strewn vacant park that neighbors feared to enter into a safe space for children to come and play, offering hundreds of families a support network for mentorship and opportunity, and helped make the urban park a center for community cohesion, investment and sports recreation.
Hannah is a force of nature. He wants, quite simply, the appropriate spaces and tools to make sure the children of West Baltimore are given love, respect and understanding in a supportive, active environment. As he often notes, “Every child needs the right to have an actual childhood, and that means having a safe park to play in.”
The Crawford Prize
Presented annually since 2002, the purpose of the prize is to recognize a living person who has dedicated him or herself to enhancing recreation opportunities for youth, making it possible for more young Americans to live healthy, participatory lives, thus reinforcing the work of the Foundation. Each year, the prize is awarded to that person, whether professional or volunteer, who has made an extraordinary contribution in advancing recreation programs for youth from disadvantaged circumstances.
The prize consists of a $50,000 cash award which the prize winner may direct to an organization providing programming aligned with the Foundation's mission. The individual members of the Foundation's Board of Trustees may make nominations. The award is presented at the Annual Meeting of the Board of Trustees.
Robert W. Crawford
For 60 years, Robert W. Crawford served others through his role as Commissioner of Recreation in Philadelphia and as Executive Director of the National Recreation Foundation. As the Commissioner of Recreation, Mr. Crawford established a national model for local government's provision of recreational services for all citizens. His creativity and innovative ideas won him international recognition. He also played an important role in the development and growth of the National Recreation Foundation during his time as its Executive Director. Mr. Crawford personified those qualities of leadership and commitment that the Foundation seeks to foster, which is why this Achievement Prize was named in his honor.
Watch this video to learn about the life and legacy of Robert W. Crawford.
Past Prize Winners
Peter A. Witt (2004)
College Station, TX
Jane G. Pepper (2003)
Dr. David McLone (2002)