Community Members Who Go Above & Beyond:
D’Angelo Lewis-Harris: A Ninja Warrior who battles negative influences among Wilmington’s youth
Batman is D’Angelo Lewis-Harris’ favorite superhero. Why? Because Batman has no superpowers. His strength comes from sheer willpower, drive and determination.
And that’s how the 36-year-old, also known as “D’Fitness Guy,” lives his life. That philosophy is manifested in his physique, in his advocacy for Wilmington’s youth, and in the fact that two months ago he competed in American Ninja Warriors (ANW), a sports entertainment TV series.
“It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done,” says Lewis-Harris, who at age 8 watched the program, hoping to be in it one day.
“If I’d been 100 percent I could’ve crushed it,” says the Wilmington resident, who was struck by an SUV while running in June of last year. For almost five months, he had to use a cane and walker as he slowly healed from wrist surgery and several injuries.
Early this year, he received an email from ANW asking him to apply. He had about two months to train before the show was taped in late May in Philadelphia.
He says his recovery from the accident and being one of 125 chosen to participate in ANW out of 70,000 submissions from the East Coast region sent a message to his two young children and the youth he helps.
“I live what I teach,” says the single dad. “Everyone has falls, but it’s how you choose to recover that makes a difference.” He says he became a living example of what he preaches—persevere, be strong and steadfast.
Lewis-Harris helps 200-300 youth a month by organizing events and workshops to curtail gang violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and other negative behaviors. He works as a prevention specialist at West End Neighborhood House (WENH) in Wilmington.
To maximize its efforts, WENH’s collaborators include the Police Athletic League, Hilltop Lutheran Community Center, and Wilmington Job Corps.
Lewis-Harris, who has a master’s degree in education counseling, says that in his job and in his volunteer work he promotes education, a healthy lifestyle, and teaches positive decision-making and problem solving to kids and young adults.
He volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club in Wilmington and other non-profits, teaching life skills. He also speaks at school conferences on behalf of special education students and students who don’t have parents or strong family support.
“He connects with them,” says Marlo Edwards, employment specialist at WENH. “He tells them, ‘I too lost my father at a young age. I’ve seen what you’ve seen. I’ve been tempted too, but I didn’t want to travel that path.”’
In 2011, his father, William Harris, who was a basketball coach, died of a heart attack during a basketball game. “He was suddenly gone,” Lewis-Harris says. “We (Lewis-Harris and his younger brother, Mike) had to grow up quickly.”
Although he had always been physically active, Lewis-Harris says his father’s death convinced him not to take his own health for granted and to live each day to the fullest.
Physical fitness helped him build confidence, a disciplined work ethic, and faith—qualities his parents instilled in him. Tattooed on his left arm are the words “Carpe Diem”—“seize the day” in Latin.
As part of his busy schedule, Lewis-Harris works out five to six days a week, four hours a day, and customizes his exercises to get the maximum effect. At 190 pounds, and 9 percent body fat, he can do 400 pounds on the bench press. He also runs a 7-minute mile.
He says he plans to apply again for American Ninja Warrior. “I now have ample time to train and be in the running for next year.”