Lifetime of fitness: Auburn’s Lawler to be honored by state

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When Roger Park got thinking about nominating someone for this year’s Maine Fitness Awards, he knew exactly whose name he wanted to submit.

Jim Lawler has been an integral part of the fitness movement in Lewiston and Auburn during the last few decades as the Director of the Auburn YMCA. As a member, Park had seen the fruits of Lawler’s labor and thought he deserved to be recognized.

“Jim’s been around a long time, and I know because I’m a member of the YMCA,” said Park, who is on the committee that recognizes nominations for the Maine Governor’s Council on Physical Activity. “He’s been involved in fitness, and it’s been a center of our community for 29 years as the director of the YMCA. It’s another feather in his cap, and he should be recognized for this.”

Lawler will be recognized Tuesday in Augusta with the Lifetime Achievement Award. It is one of numerous awards given out each year as part of the Maine Fitness Awards. These awards recognize Maine people for their involvement in promoting physical activity and offers the opportunity for organizations, businesses, schools, civic groups and individuals to feature their accomplishments in physical activity.

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The Sun Journal was unable to reach Lawler, who will be unable to attend Tuesday’s ceremony because of other commitments.

There were 33 people nominated for the various categories. When a person’s name is submitted, a panel reviews those suggestions in choosing the award winners. Park, because he nominated Lawler himself, removed himself from the final selection process.

“It goes through a conduit of three people who look at the award and the individual that’s been nominated and see if they match up with the criteria,” Park said.

Lawler retired from the Auburn YMCA last year after 29 years. During his tenure there, he went from a part-time employee to the physical director of the building and then the executive director.  He faced challenges during his years there, especially during periods of economic recession, but the YMCA’s budget only continued to grow, going from $268,000 to nearly $2 million. In an age in which local fitness clubs are shutting down, the Auburn YMCA has continued to thrive.

“The rudiment of family fitness can be found right down there in the center of Auburn, and he’s responsible for that,” Park said.

During Lawler’s tenure, the YMCA was expanded and renovated. New programs were established that serve the entire family. When he stepped down last year, the YMCA had more than 2,700 members. He introduced a wellness center, started group excise classes, started child care services, remodeled the third floor into a Teen Center and updated the building with new wiring, roof, windows, flooring and paint.

Lawler graduated from Edward Little High School in 1970 and attended the University of Southern Maine, receiving a degree in recreational management. The YMCA recognized Lawler last fall with “Jim Lawler Day.”

“He’s one of the most dynamic individuals that I know in terms of fitness in LA,” Park said. “He models it. He still works out two hours every day or every other day. He’s a sincere gentlemen who believes in importance of the physical aspects of life, and he models it himself.”

kmills@sunjournal.com

Former YMCA executive director Jim Lawler will be honored by the state of Maine for his contributions to physical fitness.

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