Margaret Biehl: From shy participant to confident alumni leader

Margaret (right) with fellow participant, Bre Sprenger, in 2018.

If it weren’t for her older brother volunteering at Youth Challenge, we would have never had the opportunity to get to know – and love – our dear friend Margaret Biehl. In 1997, Margaret became a YC participant at the young age of three. 23 years later, we’re happy Margaret is still around, and taking on leadership roles at YC!

“At first, I felt uncomfortable,” Margaret explains about her participation at YC. “I was so insecure and trying to find my place in the world. I didn’t know where I fit, and it was tricky.” Despite feeling uncomfortable, Margaret found some solace in her interactions with the people she met at YC. “From the staff to the volunteers, everyone I interacted with was kind to me,” she explained, smiling.

Margaret (left) hanging at a YC program in 2000.

“YC forced me to get comfortable in my own skin and become more confident,” Margaret explained. “Beyond that,” she continued, “even at a young age, YC helped me become comfortable with my peers in this community. We’re all equal.” As Margaret moved on from traditional YC programming in 2003, she took the skills she gained from programs as she grew. In 2014, Margaret graduated from St. Joseph Academy and started school at John Carroll University, where she earned a degree in Communications.

During her last year in college, Margaret was searching for internship opportunities to build her resume. One day, she happened to see Mary Sue Tanis, YC’s founder, at the Westlake pool. They got to talking and, like clockwork, Margaret was back at YC! She served as our Development Intern in the summer of 2018.

After graduating from John Carroll the same year, Margaret continued to engage with YC as a member of Young Professionals for Youth Challenge, a group who works together to fundraise for and expand knowledge of YC’s mission. Now, Margaret serves on the Leadership Council of YP4YC.

Then, in 2019, YC launched a new initiative, the Alumni Community Team (ACT!). Made up of alumni participants, ACT! works to advocate for people with disabilities across Northeast Ohio (while also having fun). Margaret joined this group in the beginning and served on the Executive Committee until mid-2020.

Margaret “hangs out” at a YC program in 2000.

“I’m really glad I got involved again,” Margaret says with a smile. “I wasn’t confident in myself at first. I didn’t have a full-time job. I felt like I didn’t have it figured out. Then, as I got to know the groups better, I got more comfortable.”

Margaret got the full-time job, too. In early 2020, she connected with MMI Textiles through a YC board member. “It started as an informational interview,” she explained with a laugh. “Then, I got a paid internship. Now, I’m a customer service representative. It all fell into place and I’m so grateful. I credit YC for making this connection!”

From uncomfortable young girl to confident young woman, Margaret has truly transformed. “Now I sit at the table and participate in the conversations,” Margaret said, “it’s cool to be involved!”

From an early age, YC works to break down barriers and allow children of varying abilities to engage in meaningful recreation. The immediate result? Fun. The long term goal? More young people like Margaret in the world! With YC as the catalyst, Margaret was set up, from an early age to reach her goals. We’re so glad to have her on Team YC leading the charge with our alumni and young professionals!

PREVIEW: Battle of the Bartenders on Wheels!

Last November, three teams battled it out behind the bar at Around the Corner in Lakewood. Mixing cocktails, clinking beer glasses, and uncorking wine, YC staff, Board, and YP4YC bartenders fought for tips from 100+ guests in attendance. At the end of the evening, the YC staff emerged victorious, taking home the crushed beer can medal and all the bragging rights. The true winner – YC’s participants and volunteers who benefited from all proceeds. In all, Battle of the Bartenders 2019 raised $5,000 for YC!

In 2020, while we can’t pack the bar and cheer on our favorite guest bartender, we can still have some fun and support YC during Battle of the Bartenders on Wheels! That’s right, Team YC is bringing the fun to YOU on October 23, 2020 from 5 pm to 8 pm.

DETAILS + WHAT YOU GET

Battle of the Bartenders on Wheels, presented by Minotti’s, is just $50 for two people. Your purchase includes:

  • Two 8 ounce cocktail mixers from Simple Times All-Natural Cocktail Mixers
  • Four mini bottles of alcohol for mixing (will be paired to match your mixers)
  • Charcuterie tray for two hand-crafted by Sweet Brie Co.
  • Two YC cookies
  • YC koozie
  • Free delivery – in style – from one of our YC “bartenders” | Pickup also available at YC’s headquarters in Westlake

Visit www.YouthChallengeSports.com/Bartenders to place your order now! Don’t wait – we are only accepting orders until October 19 and delivery sales may sell out sooner! Delivery is available in Cuyahoga County and eastern Lorain County.

THE BATTLE RAGES ON

On October 23, six of YC’s vans will hit to road to deliver your delicious drinks and delectable eats. Each van will have a staff, Board, or YP4YC member serving as your “bartender,” delivering your package in style. Please tip your bartenders based on the creativity of their delivery! Tips can be made in cash or at www.YouthChallengeSports.com/Tip. 100% of tips go to YC. All bragging rights go the winning team.

Picking up your order? You’ll have a chance to tip there, too, as a “bartender” from each team will be handling your pickup.

We hope you’ll join us for Battle of the Bartenders on Wheels October 23! While we can’t pack the bar this year, you can still support YC and enjoy some amazing cocktails, delicious snacks, all with an entertaining presentation from YC upon pickup or delivery. Don’t forget to grab your tickets today at www.YouthChallengeSports.com/Bartenders. Contact Carolyn Palmer, YC Communications & Events Manager, with any questions at 440.892.1001 x 13 or cpalmer@youthchallengesports.com.

Reconnecting with YC from Afar: Mariam Tadross

When COVID-19 caused YC to put a pause on in-person programming, it was disappointing for a lot of participants and volunteers. But for someone like Mariam Tadross, switching to virtual activities presented the perfect opportunity to re-connect with the YC Gang!

Mariam, a 2018 graduate of St. Joseph Academy, has often referred to Youth Challenge as her second family. Between 2014—when she first began volunteering—and the end of her senior year, Mariam gave over 500 hours of service to YC’s participants and mission. She helped at everything from Krazy Kamp to YELP, was a member of YC’s Volunteer Committee, and served as a Student Intern on YC’s Board of Directors. She was a model volunteer, coach and friend, always focusing on her partners’ strengths and encouraging them to see those abilities in themselves.

After her graduation, Mariam’s family moved to Florida and she started her freshman year at U of F. While she was excited for her next chapter, moving away from Youth Challenge was very difficult. She has stayed in touch with several participants and fellow volunteers, but it just isn’t the same as being part of a program.

When YC went virtual a couple months ago, Mariam re-engaged with her second family through our social media posts and then signed up for our virtual programs taking place this summer.

“It’s been so great having Mariam back at YC,” says Sarah Cooney, Director of Volunteer Services. “She’s is a truly extraordinary volunteer whose positivity is contagious. You can’t help but smile when you’re around Mariam because you see the joy she so clearly feels helping at YC. We’ve missed her greatly and these virtual programs give us the chance to connect with her—and many other YC grads—despite the physical distance.”

“Virtual programming has been the best thing that’s happened to me in the quarantine,” Mariam says. “These times are very worrisome and lonely, but even for just an hour a day, we are reminded by this community of people who we love and care about that we are all still together even if we are miles apart. I am very grateful for the efforts that the YC staff has put into keeping programs running while putting the safety of participants and volunteers first and how it has allowed me to be active at YC again.”

YC Takes Part in ADA Cleveland’s Call for Access

Just 30 years ago, the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. Since that day, July 26, 1990, the ADA has thrust the United States towards equal access and rights for people with disabilities in all areas of public life. Today, Youth Challenge is a member of ADA Cleveland, a coalition of disability related organizations that share in the mission to provide greater access and opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

You might remember YC taking part if ADA Days at Wade Oval for the past few years. In 2020, in addition to the fun-filled gathering at Wade Oval, ADA Cleveland was planning a March for Access at Public Square where people could come together to demand further access and rights beyond the mandates in the Americans with Disabilities Act. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic forced ADA Cleveland to change course and put on a 30-day virtual event – the Call for Access!

From July 26 through August 26, ADA Cleveland put together a series of webinars, activities, and advocacy opportunities for anyone to participate in – from anywhere! YC staff, alumni, and participants took part in many of the activities. In all, when the event wrapped up on August 26, the Cleveland community stepped away with new knowledge, skills, and abilities to help advocate for further access for people with disabilities. You can view the archived videos from the Call for Access here.

Some of the wonderful ways YC took part in the 2020 Call for Access:

  • YC Alumnus Darrien Fann gave a rousing speech to kick off the Call for Access! You can watch the kickoff at this link. His speech starts at 44:15.
  • Our very own Program & Arts Coordinator, Megan Smith, co-led a De-stressing Crafts activity! Check it out on Facebook Live. She also led a video to inspire artists through ADA Cleveland’s Chalk Art Challenge (video here).
  • Carolyn Palmer, our Communications & Events Manager, helped educate advocates through the Advocacy 101 webinar. Watch here.
  • Sarah Cooney, our Director of Volunteer & Outreach Services, led a wonderful panel on Making Volunteer Service Opportunities Accessible! Watch her here.
  • Sean Walker and Will Gallup, two of our amazing alumni, presented as Good Life Ambassadors for the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Watch them here.
  • CEO Chris Garr, Director of Programs Services Mackenzie Vecchio, and Bocce Coach Sean Walker had a blast talking about Finding Access Through Adaptive Recreation. They were joined by some of our fabulous partners at Rec2Connect, Empower Sports, LEAP, and Achievement Centers for Children. Catch the video here.
  • Former Program Staff Member Gaby Martinez moderated a engaging panel, including Alumnus Darrien Fann, about Black Disability History and Activism. Watch the powerful conversation here.

Just because the formal event is over doesn’t mean we’re done calling for access! As we move forward from our 2020 Call for Access, our advocacy for greater access for people with disabilities doesn’t end. You can help make a difference – visit www.ADACleveland.org/Advocate today to contact your elected officials and tell them that you support access for people with disabilities.

Thank you to all the members of the YC family who supported ADA Cleveland’s Call for Access and to everyone who continues to advocate for people with disabilities! The world is a better place because of you.

In Memory of Bruce Giberson

We are all incredibly saddened by the news that Bruce Giberson, a YC driver and so much more, passed away on July 25, 2020. Bruce was a driver for 8 years, but has been a part of our family for over 3 decades, volunteering countless hours at YC when his daughter, Grace, was a young participant in the 1990s / 2000s.

Nobody had a bigger heart than Bruce. He was foremost a father, but his duties as such extended far beyond his daughters, Grace and Emily. He was a father to every baseball and football player he coached at Lakewood, from middle school to high school. His passion for youth sports extended to his work at YC, particularly in our football programs! He was loved by YC participants and worked hard to make sure that every day at YC was a great day! He was a brother to many at the USO, Kiwanis, multiple church groups, and so many more philanthropic and service-based organizations. In his Lakewood community, he is an institution.

On our staff, Bruce was a loving friend, an amazingly hard worker, and a man so dedicated to our mission that he had a hard time not working exceptionally hard. From driving participants to programs, to emptying the recycling bins, to sharing his expertise with an Instant Pot, Bruce helped in any way he could and before anyone could even ask. He showed love through work – and it is clear he was loved back.

YC alumni, current participants, and volunteers, please reach out to staff members if you need a space to process Bruce’s departure and express your feelings.

Like almost every drive he ever made, Bruce left for this route a little early. His destination, however, is a place of peace and comfort. There are few people on this Earth with a heart as big as Bruce’s.

Rest in Peace, Coach Giberson 💜💛

Click here to read Bruce’s obituary.

COVID-19 Update from Youth Challenge

Dear Friends,

YC’s mission of bringing joy and laughter through sports and art will never change. While our brand of adaptive recreation is important, the health and well-being of our community is far more critical, and we proceed prudently by operating in the best interest of Team YC.

We happily bring children from all corners of Greater Cleveland together for fun! In most instances, that is a great thing. Relative to the recent events, that model is not a “healthy choice” now. In that light, we have decided to suspend regular programming for participants and volunteers through March 26. At that time, we will digest the information available and reassess.

Due to the mandate put in place by the State of Ohio this afternoon, we will be canceling Brats, Beer, and Brackets on March 18. An email will be sent out tomorrow with details for people who have already purchased tickets.

Our Annual Benefit & Auction on April 4 will be transitioning into a virtual event.  We will have details available next week about the online auction and for those who have already purchased tickets. In the meantime, if you have any questions about our events, please call Carolyn Palmer, YC’s Communications & Events Manager at 440-892-1001 x 13.

Make the best of an unfortunate situation. Enjoy some time with family. And if you feel so inclined, you can donate to support YC by clicking here.

Yours in hygiene,
Chris Garr, CEO




The Rite Aid Foundation Designates Youth Challenge as a KidsCents Charity

The Rite Aid Foundation has selected Youth Challenge participate in its 2020 KidCents program, which annually supports a select group of nonprofit, kid-focused organizations committed to improving the health and wellbeing of children living in the communities Rite Aid serves.

“We are so grateful to the Rite Aid Foundation for their continued support of Youth Challenge through the KidsCents program,” said Chris Garr, Chief Executive Officer. “These vital dollars will support our recreational programs for hundreds of children with physical disabilities and their teen volunteers.”

In addition to being selected as a KidCents charity, Youth Challenge will receive a $5,000 grant, which will be used to support Youth Challenge’s sports and recreation for children with physical disabilities and their teen volunteers. Each year, Youth Challenge offers adapted sports, recreation, art, and life-skills training to hundreds of participants and their teen volunteers. Seasonal programs include basketball, baseball, swimming, skiing, tennis, arts and crafts, music, sailing, bowling, nature programs, dancing and field trips. Activities are tailored to fit the needs of children with physical disabilities. YC offers three program seasons – fall, winter/spring, and summer. No family is every charged for participation in YC programming.

Since 2015, Youth Challenge has received KidsCents funding, which has allowed YC to expand and continue vital programs. We are very grateful to the Rite Aid Foundation for their support. The Rite Aid Foundation welcomed a total of 481 nonprofits to its 2020 KidCents class – its largest class ever.

The number of KidCents charities has more than doubled since the program’s inception in 2014, when 204 nonprofits comprised the inaugural class. Over seven years, The Rite Aid Foundation has contributed a total of more than $34 million to KidCents charities across the country, thanks to members of Rite Aid’s loyalty program, wellness+ rewards, rounding up their in-store or online purchases to donate to KidCents.

“More than 3 million Rite Aid customers actively choose to make meaningful contributions to help children in their communities through KidCents. The program’s growth is a testament to their generosity and commitment to building safer, stronger and more supportive communities for youth across the country,” said Jessica Kazmaier, president of The Rite Aid Foundation and Rite Aid chief human resources officer. “The 2020 KidCents class has the opportunity to prove that change adds up exponentially, and we look forward to helping them achieve their goal of giving kids better lives and brighter futures.”

 

About Youth Challenge

Founded in 1976, Youth Challenge is a privately-funded 501c (3) nonprofit corporation that serves more than 100 children with disabilities and nearly 400 youth volunteers each year. The organization brings together children with physical disabilities and youth volunteers who enrich each other’s lives through one-on-one participation in adapted sports and recreational activities. Youth Challenge currently serves more than 300 families in Cuyahoga, Lorain, Lake, Summit, Medina, and Geauga Counties.

 

About The Rite Aid Foundation

Since its inception in 2001, The Rite Aid Foundation has awarded more than $68 million to nonprofit organizations. Additionally, Rite Aid, through the efforts of its customers, supplier partners and associates, has also raised more than $92 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals across the country since 1994.

About the KidCents Program

Through the KidCents program, which is The Rite Aid Foundation’s charitable giving program dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of children living in the communities Rite Aid services, members of Rite Aid’s loyalty program, wellness+ rewards, can round up their in-store or online purchases to the nearest dollar and donate their change to KidCents. Members can also choose to direct their change to a specific KidCents charity by visiting www.kidcents.com. For more information, visit www.kidcents.com.

About Rite Aid Corporation
Rite Aid Corporation is on the front lines of delivering health care services and retail products to over 1.6 million Americans daily. Our pharmacists are uniquely positioned to engage with customers and improve their health outcomes. We provide an array of whole being health products and services for the entire family through over 2,400 retail pharmacy locations across 18 states. Through EnvisionRxOptions, we also deliver pharmacy benefit management to approximately 1,900 clients and 3.4 million members. For more information, visit www.riteaid.com.