A Message from CEO Chris Garr: Pondering Things Utilitarian and Humanitarian

Dear Friends of Youth Challenge,

I took a hike with Darwin, our festively plump Beagle, on this brisk morning. Needed to spend quiet time reflecting, with gratitude, on the beauty and serenity of nature. Living in close proximity to the Cleveland Metroparks in Berea, I am blessed with the ability to experience its wonder in my backyard. On the trail, I thought of the strides we’ve made at YC in allowing so many to experience the majesty of the outdoors up close.

We are grateful for the gift of ingenuity, creativity, vision, and challenge. The very essence of adaptive activities relies on athletes who engineer, educators who innovate, and coaches who create. With amazing tools at our disposal, we’ve made awesome strides in 2022.

With a renewed focus on outdoor recreation, we substantially expanded the arsenal of adaptive adventure equipment, enhancing activities like hiking, camping, paddling, cycling, archery, and fishing. We spent every possible minute outside from May through October!

Adaptive equipment has a specific purpose.

We are grateful that the Joelette (adaptive hiker) makes mountain tops and canyon bottoms reachable to people who use wheelchairs. The Joelette is a one-wheeled game-changer opening a vast array of hikes to the broadest population.

We are grateful that outriggers on adaptive kayaks stabilize while allowing the paddler to remain in full control, while also allowing for independence and building confidence.

We are grateful that hand-cycles make pedaling possible, without the use of legs. With pedals and handles linked, riders use their upper body for power and steering. Three wheels, two hands, and a bit of determination are the recipe for adaptive cycling success.

If only we had a pickup truck to help lug all this cool stuff around…

We are grateful to have such unique public lands available to us. Our presence at East Harbor State Park and Cuyahoga Valley National Park, as well as partnerships with the Cleveland Metroparks, helps large public bodies understand how the outdoors can be experienced by diverse populations. We’re proud to provide feedback, learn about opportunities to enjoy nature, and educate the public about how best to consider public access and accessible recreation. It’s our responsibility to utilize parks, making it clear that universal accessibility is necessary and beneficial to everyone.

This Thanksgiving, we pause to give special thanks to those who allow us to adapt our world, and for their entrepreneurial and innovative spirit.

But most profoundly, on this day we thank the greatest adaptive tool we know: Our volunteers!

Hundreds of teens and thousands of YC alumni volunteer who decided, at a young age, that it’s more fun to play when everyone is part of the team. Life lessons are learned at YC. Lifetime relationships start and grow at YC. Magic happens on the court, in the classroom, on the trail, and in the woods. Without a doubt, volunteers are the most perfectly utilitarian and quintessentially humanitarian adaptive equipment.

We remain most thankful today, and every day, for those generations of helping hands, open minds, and warm hearts. I am grateful for the things we’ve used to make our Mission a reality at YC but most thankful for the people who continue to move our Mission forward!

In gratitude,

Chris Garr
Youth Challenge