Personality: Sharon Walton Darby
Spotlight on board chair for Greater Richmond Fit4Kids
11/30/2023, 6 p.m.
As Richmond area children continue to grow and learn in school and beyond, Sharon Darby helps to foster a healthier, better environment and experience for them every day.
The board chair of Greater Richmond Fit4Kids since 2022, Ms. Darby helps the non-profit improve children’s health through physical activities, healthy eating and other programs provided through schools and the community.
A retired health professional who worked as a pediatric nurse and health care executive for children’s services in Richmond, Ms. Darby became involved with Fit4Kids in 2017. Leslie Wyatt, a friend and mentor, introduced her to Fit4Kids CEO Mary Dunne Stewart.
“My move to chairing the Fit4Kids board seemed like a natural progression,” Ms. Darby says. “I have spent my career advocating for children and continue to do so in this role.”
Ms. Wyatt believed Fit4Kids was an organization worth working with — and that Ms. Darby should be a part of that work. Ms. Darby since has served as a volunteer and chair of the board’s governance committee.
“I was and continue to be so impressed with the quality of programming, commitment to collaborating with community and school partners to promote healthy eating and activity,” Ms. Darby says.
As board chair, Ms. Darby has centered her three-year term on providing guidance to the Fit4Kids staff to ensure the organization’s health and sustainability through various resources.
Schools are the largest focus of all of Fit4Kids’ collaborations in the Richmond region, according to Ms. Darby. More than 6,000 students are served every year through programs such as school gardens, active classrooms and after-school activities.
And while Fit4Kids has a central office near Willow Lawn, its daily work in 42 partner schools across the region is where members spend most of their time, especially given how much time children spend in classroom settings.
“Since children spend so many hours at school, this environment provides an opportunity to disrupt health inequities and promote healthy, fun choices,” Ms. Darby says.
Having seen firsthand how Fit4Kids responds to changes in the community’s well-being, Ms. Darby cites the COVID-19 pandemic as a setback for community health, but one that is adaptable.
When isolation and virtual instruction led to greater interest in getting students outside, and in the group’s school gardens, Fit4Kids provided home garden kits for children unable to participate in school-based community gardens and other ways to engage in activities.
They’re now working to grow their school garden efforts even more, as part of a larger planned expansion to reach more children in general.
“We need to be current on the needs of students and the challenges they face in school,” Ms. Darby says. “It can be collaborating with the school system to address safe routes to school, working with teachers to provide activities in the classroom or advocating for universal school meals.”
Meet a leading part of improving health and wellness for Richmond’s children and this week’s Personality, Sharon Darby:
Volunteer position: Board chair for Greater Richmond Fit4Kids.
Occupation: Retired health care executive.
Date and place of birth: Aug. 8 in Richmond.
Where I live now: Forest Hill area of Richmond.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in nursing, master’s degree in health administration and a doctorate in nursing practice.
Family: Three adult children, Anna, Alexander and Adam, one granddaughter, Darby.
Greater Richmond Fit4Kids is: A nonprofit organization dedicated to improving children’s health and wellness in Richmond. We do this by offering innovative programs that promote physical activity and healthy eating in schools, community organizations, and beyond.
When, why and who founded: 2010 by Sports Backers — especially their CEO Jon Lugbill and Tom Byrd, a community volunteer.
Mission: Fit4Kids mission is to improve children’s health and wellness through physical activity and healthy eating.
Greater Richmond Fit4Kids serves: More than 6,000 students every year through our programs such as school gardens, active classrooms and afterschool physical activity programs.
We are located: While we have a “central office” near Willow Lawn, our work is done daily in 42 schools across the region.
School systems we support: Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico, Hopewell, Petersburg and Prince George.
Greater Richmond Fit4Kids is funded by: Fit4Kids is fortunate to be the recipient of generous contributions of time, money, and connections from community members, foundations, corporations and partner organizations.
Greater Richmond Fit4Kids partners with: Collaboration and relationships are the backbone of Fit4Kids work.
Fit4Kids partners with 42 schools across the region, building connections with students, families, teachers, administrators, and school nutrition professionals. Since children spend so many hours at school, this environment provides an opportunity to disrupt health inequities and promote healthy, fun choices. We also partner with other nonprofit organizations, local businesses, policy makers, health systems, and more!
I initially got involved with Fit4Kids: A friend and mentor introduced me to Mary Dunne Stewart, Fit4Kids CEO, because she thought Fit4Kids was a worthwhile organization and that I should volunteer for them.
No. 1 goal or project as board chair: To provide guidance to the Fit4Kids staff to ensure the organization is healthy and sustainable.
Strategy for achieving goals: Providing a governing board that is knowledgeable and engaged in the mission and values of Fit4Kids.
No. 1 challenge: Meeting the needs of the children in the communities we serve with the resources available and developing strategies to expand our reach to more children.
No. 1 joy I have witnessed through my work with Fit4Kids: Through our programs we are able to make a difference in a child’s life and empower them to lead a healthier life.
Upcoming events: In February, we plant thousands of veggies, herbs and flower seeds to grow seedlings for our 24 school gardens and to donate to families, community gardens, and other organizations. We have weekly volunteer opportunities in our greenhouse in Eastern Henrico! Fit4Kids also is a charity partner for the Virginia Credit Union River City Half and 5K on March 9. Community members can fundraise for Fit4Kids while reaching a personal fitness goal!
Ways to become involved: Volunteer with us! We have several volunteer opportunities— especially in our greenhouse and in our school gardens. If you have a corporate, church, or friend group looking for a project, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at:
How I start the day: I like to start my day outside — walking the dog or exercising— this sets my intention for the day to be a “good one.”
The three words that best describe me: Caring, driven, curious.
If I had 10 extra minutes in the day: Read more.
My dream dinner party guest would be: My dad — he passed away a few years ago and I would love to have the chance to talk with him one more time.
Best late-night snack: Not a late night snacker but I enjoy a fudgesicle as a treat and have an addiction to animal crackers (think it is a holdover from childhood!).
The music I listen to most is: I listen to music throughout the day — from old school rock-n-roll to easy listening acoustic music. Michael Jackson is my all-time favorite!
Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: I have completed more than 30 half marathons, 1 ultramarathon, and am a two- time Ironman 140.6 Triathlon Finisher.
A quote that inspires me: I have so many that inspire me but right now as I enter retirement it is — “Sit back and enjoy the ride” — which is also my mantra when I run.
At the top of my “to-do” list: Learn new things — skills and knowledge. Would like to learn to speak Spanish.
The best thing my parents ever taught me: That hard work can pay off.
The person who influenced me the most: I have been influenced by a number of strong and impactful women both personally and professionally throughout my life. As a pediatric nurse I was inspired by the power of women in caring for their children and the resiliency they show in navigating life.
Book that influenced me the most: No singular book but I recently read “People of the Book” by Geraldine Brooks. It is a fictional (and real historical past) story of the Sarajevo Haggadah, one of the oldest surviving Jewish illuminated texts. This was very impactful with our current world events.
What I’m reading now: “This Tender Land,” by William Kent Krueger. The value of perseverance when faced with extreme adversity.
Next goal: To find an opportunity in the community to continue to be impactful — after I paint the inside of my.house.