History

Youth Challenge may have changed names over the years, but the basic mission has remained the same—pair kids with physical disabilities with teen volunteer partners to get out of the house to play, get exercise and make friends.

  • In 1976, Mary Sue (Anter) Tanis was fresh out of the University of Colorado Boulder. While there, she worked with injured Vietnam vets and was inspired to dedicate her life to helping people with physical disabilities find ways to participate in sports.  She returned home to Fairview Park and founded what would become Youth Challenge.
  • As part of the Fairview Park Recreation Department, the organization, known then as the Fairview Specials, initially served ten children with various disabilities, and involved an equivalent number of young neighborhood volunteers.
  • Fairview Specials incorporated in 1983, changed its name to Adaptive Recreational Challenge and began year-round programming.
  • In 1984, a name change to Westshore Recreational Challenge more accurately reflected the focus of service to children on Cleveland’s West Side and western suburbs.
  • In 1989, expansion of services to Cleveland’s East Side, southern suburbs, and Lorain County led to the present name of Youth Challenge (YC). With Mary Sue still at the helm, YC services more than 700 families in the eight counties in Northeast Ohio.
  • In 2008, with funds raised in a $2 million capital campaign, Youth Challenge purchased and renovated a former warehouse at 800 Sharon Dr. in Westlake.  The 16,000 square foot headquarters allowed for increased programming under one roof.
  • The Board of Trustees voted to eliminate program fees in 2009, which led to an unprecedented number of children benefiting from more volunteer hours, programs and rides.
  • In 2012, YC became part of U.S. Paralympics as Paralympic Sports Club – Cleveland; an opportunity for YC participants and volunteers to get involved with competitive adapted sports.
  • In 2013, Youth Challenge opened an office in Shaker Heights, helping to serve even more children in eastern Cuyahoga County and beyond.
  • In 2017, a 30% expansion to our Westlake headquarters created a dedicated fitness center and arts space to meet the demand created by the success of our Paralympic athletics, artistic endeavors, and the popularity of YELP-programs developed to encourage independence.
  • From ten participants and ten teen volunteers in 1976 to today with 228 participants, 450 teen volunteers, and over 400 programs annually, Youth Challenge continues to make a difference in the lives of families throughout Northeast Ohio.