Emerald Youth gym to be named for Dwayne Sanders

John CrooksInside 640, Our Town Teens

Emerald Youth Foundation will celebrate the life of Dwayne Sanders at the naming ceremony of its North Area Ministry Complex gymnasium, where Sanders invested countless hours serving city children and youth. The ceremony is at 6 p.m. today (10/20/20) at 1718 N. Central Street.


The event will take place outside, in the facility’s parking lot, and follow COVID guidelines. Visuals will include a new 30-foot sign bearing Sanders’ name on the building’s exterior and the unveiling of a sign to be installed in the gymnasium.

Dwayne Sanders

Sanders faithfully served as director of sports ministry with Emerald Youth Foundation and director of urban outreach with Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He was raised in the Oakwood-Lincoln Park neighborhood, near the facility that would one day become Emerald Youth’s North Area Ministry Complex. He dedicated his life’s work to sharing the gospel with young people and grew Emerald Youth Sports significantly in just a few short years. Sanders served with excellence and integrity, and following a determined battle with cancer, died in April 2018 at age 51.

His tenure with FCA began over 25 years ago, and in 2012, he was given the opportunity to have his two passions converge with the launch of a joint partnership between Emerald Youth and Greater Knoxville Area FCA that allowed him to serve both organizations. This collaboration offered Dwayne a unique platform through campus and community-based ministry. It also provided him the opportunity to work alongside his college roommate and great friend, Steve Diggs, president & CEO of Emerald Youth.

Under Sanders’ leadership, Emerald Youth’s sports ministry grew from 322 children on 38 teams in 2012 to over 1,600 young people playing on 169 teams. Additionally, the ministry of Emerald Youth Sports and FCA added new sports, including soccer, track, wrestling, lacrosse, performance training, swim lessons and baseball. This expansion provided additional opportunities for children from the heart of the city to attend FCA camps and be involved in campus ministries as well.

Sanders’ heart for reaching young people through sports began through his own experience growing up in urban Knoxville through seeds of influence planted by his high school football coach. He went on to play football and tennis at Maryville College and came to know Christ during his time there before formally launching his ministry after graduation in 1988.

He dedicated his life’s work to sharing the gospel with young people, while also ensuring sports were implemented with excellence.

All are welcomed at today’s ceremony. Attendees will include representatives of the Sanders family; Dr. Keith Gray, who chairs the Emerald Youth Board of Trustees; Steve Diggs; Dean Craig, director of the Greater Knoxville Multi-Area Fellowship of Christian Athletes; and others.

John Crooks is director of communications for Emerald Youth Foundation.

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