Spotlight Awards are presented to individuals to honor their efforts — both professional and personal — in the field of parks and recreation. Award winners include park and recreation professionals, volunteers, engaged community members, and park advocates.

The nomination period for the 2023 NRPA Spotlight Awards is January 6 - March 24.


Spotlight Awards: National Distinguished Professional AwardNational Distinguished Professional Award

The National Distinguished Professional Award is presented to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the field through their leadership, research, advocacy, community outreach, and program development.

Who should be nominated: A park and recreation professional that excels in their career with at least 15 years of experience in the field. If you know a proven park and rec leader who works to advance the profession, you should nominate them!

2022 Winner: Dr. Michal Anne Lord, Executive Director (retired), Texas Recreation and Park Society


Spotlight Awards: Robert W. Crawford Young Professional AwardRobert W. Crawford Young Professional Award

The Robert W. Crawford Young Professional Award is presented to an individual who has shown qualities and skills needed to attain positions of leadership through their contributions to advancing the field, their creativity in creating or managing programs, and their participation in professional organizations, such as NRPA.

Who should be nominated: Park and Recreation professionals excelling at what they do and are under 35 years of age with a few years of experience under their belts. Everyone likes to be recognized — take the time to show your appreciation for an outstanding young professional.

2022 Winner: Kristen Herndon, CPRE, Assistant Director, Person County Recreation, Arts and Parks, Roxboro, North Carolina


Spotlight Awards: Robert M. Artz Advocate AwardRobert M. Artz Advocate Award

The Robert M. Artz Award recognizes an advocate, an elected or appointed official, or volunteer who has demonstrated outstanding efforts to forward public parks and recreation through education and activating the public in their community, state or at the national level.

Who should be nominated: Volunteers, advocates, and elected members of your community that have done amazing things for parks and recreation need to be recognized. You should nominate them!

2022 Winner: Ted Schoenborn, Bend Metro Park and Recreation District Board of Directors, Bend Park and Recreation District, Bend, Oregon


Spotlight Awards: RWJF–NRPA Award for Health EquityRWJF–NRPA Award for Health Equity

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)-NRPA Award for Health Equity recognizes an individual, or team of no more than two individuals, who has successfully implemented a systems-change approach to reduce health disparities in their community within the past two years. The award supports RWJF’s Culture of Health initiative that seeks to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to live in healthy environments. The awardee will receive a $3,000 prize and an opportunity to be recognized nationally both at the NRPA Annual Conference and at an annual RWJF ceremony.

Who should apply/be nominated: Any individual or team of individuals affiliated with a local park and recreation agency (e.g., employee, board member, city official, public health department employee, advocate, etc.) should apply. The local park and recreation agency must be a member of NRPA. Applicants are welcome to self-nominate or nominate a deserving peer.

2022 Winner: Velma Bailey, Founder/CEO, Saint Louis Torchbearers 2, St. Louis, Missouri


NRPA Spotlight Awards: Roosevelt Award for Excellence in Recreation and Park Research

Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt Award for Excellence in Recreation and Park Research

Awarded on a 3-year cycle. The application will be accepted in 2024.

The Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt Award for Excellence in Recreation and Park Research is presented to an individual whose contributions to parks and recreation through research have significantly advanced the cause of the parks and recreation movement and whose dedication to the field parallels the same dedication and zeal toward parks, recreation and conservation that was exhibited by the presidents after whom the award is named.

Who should be nominated: A professional, researcher, student or professor who has contributed significantly to a research paper or project that has advanced the field.

2021 Winner: Alan Ewert, Professor Emeritus, Indiana University 


The Spotlight Awards are presented at the annual Best of the Best ceremony during the NRPA Annual Conference

View previous award winners.

NRPA is now offering Digital Badges for Spotlight Award winners. Digital Badges provide professionals and agencies a way to be recognized for their achievements while offering others information on these accomplishments. To access the digital badges for Spotlight Awards and information on how to use them, please log into your NRPA profile.

For additional information contact