Crosstown Showdown Highlight

Participants, volunteers, and spectators gathered together at the Garrity Center in Berea, OH, on Saturday, March 25, for the 2023 Crosstown Showdown. The signs were up, the hoops were up, and the lines were drawn as seven teams of eager participants and volunteers worked so hard to get this moment… and they did not disappoint.

Finn scores a basket against the Pink Waterfall Rocketships.

For five weeks, the participants and volunteers met once a week on the West and East Side to practice their skills and build their team chemistry for the big dance. The fifth week was used to determine the seeding for the eventual double–elimination bracket. Coming out of the west side, the 3rd seed, the Soaring Blue Baboons. The 2nd seed the Orange Monstar Rockets. And the number 1 seed coming out of the west, the Red Spicy Buckets!

Coming out of the east side, the 4th seed, the Purple Royal Blockers. The 3rd seed, the Pink Waterfall Rocketships. The 2nd seed, the Yellow Pacmans. And the number 1 seed coming out of the east and the number 1 overall seed, the Green Money Makers!

There was no shortage of close games and overtime in the tournament. Game after game, the action was almost as non-stop as the concession stand being run by the YC Volunteer parents and friends helping cheer on the teams.

The crowd in attendance got a great game to end the day! In a shocking turn of events, the two seed from the east, the Yellow Pacmans, and the third seed from the west, the Soaring Blue Baboons, met in the championship game in front of a packed gym. The Baboons came out strong in the first half and had built a solid lead. But in the second half, the Yellow Pacmans made a run and tied the game, forcing overtime. The Pacmans and Baboons drew up some plays, and the Pacmans pulled away to win the game. However, since it was the Baboons’ first loss of the double-elimination, the championship game had to be played again to determine the 2023 winner! In the second matchup, the Baboons proved to be too much and came out victorious as the 2023 Crosstown Showdown Champions!

The “I Just Hope Both Teams Have Fun” Bracket winners were the Pink Waterfall Rocketships. In 3rd place, the Orange Monstar Rocketships. In 2nd place, the Yellow Pacmans. And your champions of the 2023 Crosstown Showdown, the Soaring Blue Baboons!

This signature program was supported by our generous sponsors:

Team Sponsors: Connie Evans, the Hegde Family in memory of Robin Hegde, and New Avenues to Independence

Concession Stand Sponsor: Melanie Canning

Special thanks to St. Mary Berea CYO Athletics & Youth Ministries for loaning us this space and the Hawken School Boy’s Basketball players for refereeing.

Participant Highlight: Andrew Nock

Andrew Nock may have only begun attending YC last fall, but he has become quite a regular at programs!

“I love that at YC people with disabilities can do things that people without disabilities always do,” Andrew said. One of the things Andrew is most excited to have been able to do is rock climb!

Andrew always loves building relationships with his volunteers. At rock climbing, he built a friendship with his volunteer Maddie, who encouraged and cheered him on. When Andrew and Maddie weren’t climbing, they chatted away about school and their plans for the weekend. Andrew and Maddie both said their favorite part of the rock-climbing program was each other, and they got to be paired together again at Fiber Arts!

“I really like helping out these kids, it’s so fun to hang out with them,” Maddie said. “Honestly, I don’t know where I’d be without YC.”

At Fiber Arts, Andrew was eager to work on his sewing skills and learn new tricks. He used a whip stitch to make a pizza plushie and used a sewing machine to make a pillow. Andrew also got the chance to show off his creative side at Kitchen Showdown and Edible Engineering. He loves to design new things and always has a fun name for all his creations, including the “Sour Tower,” which he made with Saltines and Sour Patch Kids.

Last but not least, Andrew had a blast at Harry Potter Sports. A big fan of the wizarding world, Andrew knew the answer to every trivia question and loved talking about all the Harry Potter books and characters. On the last day, he even brought his cape to look like a wizard!

The YC Crew looks forward to more adventures to come with Andrew!

Anchors Aweigh with YC! Annual Benefit & Auction Preview

Break out your captain hat and boat shoes and join us on April 22, 2023, for Anchors Aweigh with YC, our Annual Benefit & Auction at the Music Box Supper Club in the Flats! This event promises to be a night filled with fun, food, drinks, and live entertainment, all for a great cause. The Music Box Supper Club is a stunning venue with a breathtaking view of Downtown Cleveland and the water. 

Tickets are still on sale at Tickets are $135 each, or you can purchase VIP tickets for just $160. 

This year’s event will feature an exclusive pre-event VIP party, delicious food and drinks, an exciting silent auction, a fund-a-need presentation, and a fun after-party with more live entertainment! 

Funds raised will ensure that YC programs remain accessible to those who need them most. As Sara Steimle, participant alumna and YC staff member, said, “For the thousands of participants, volunteers, and others who have interacted with Youth Challenge over the last 47 years,YC has filled a need: a competitive sports team for a disabled athlete, an immersive, creative experience for a budding artist, or a unique educational opportunity for a teen volunteer. YC is a welcome and safe place for everyone.” 

Whether or not you can make it to the event, you can still support Youth Challenge (and have a chance to win big): 

  • The silent auction goes live on Monday, April 17, so make sure to register early to get notified at 
  • 10,000+ Cash Raffle tickets are your chance to win one of FOUR great prizes. Only 350 tickets will be sold, and they’ve sold out three years in a row, so make sure to purchase your ticket early. Winners will be drawn at the event on April 22. Tickets are $100 each. Prizes: 
    • Grand Prize: $7,500 
    • Second Prize: $2,500 
    • Third Prize: $1,500 
    • Fourth Prize: $1,000 

Anchors Aweigh with YC promises to be a night filled with excitement and fun, all while supporting a great cause. So, set sail and join us for a night to remember at the Music Box Supper Club. Don’t “skipper” out on this can’t-miss event! 

Brats, Beer, Brackets Highlight

The Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament is one of the most exciting times of the year for basketball fans. Every year, millions of people from across the country participate in brackets, placing bets on their favorite teams. But for some, the tournament meant something more: it’s an opportunity to give back to their community. 

That’s exactly what happened at Brats, Beer, and Brackets, where a record-breaking $26,000 was raised to support our mission. This included an auction pot of nearly $31,000 and more than $9,000 raised during the Fund-a-Need. 

The event was sold out, and guests were thrilled to participate in the auction and support a good cause! More than 110 people were in attendance and treated to delicious brats, veggies, and macaroni and cheese. Attendees also enjoyed kraut and pickles donated by Cleveland Kitchen, and delicious smoothies, courtesy of YC WOOthies, Youth Challenge’s alumni entrepreneurship project.  

The auction was led by auctioneer Bob Hale, who guided the evening through 36 packages, with YC alumni Brandon Lewis and Brandon Larador at his side sharing team stats. During the fund-a-need, attendees raised more than $9,000 to purchase a pickup truck to transport kayaks and other equipment. Now, there is more than $15,000 in the Truck Fund! 

The evening’s success was largely due to the generous sponsors who supported the event: Charles Schwab and Reese Pharmaceutical. All in all, it was a fun night of beer, brats, and NCAA basketball teams, all for a good cause! 

Jack Attack Boccia Tournament Highlight

Team YC had a successful trip to Columbus for the Jack Attack Boccia Tournament on February 25-26, 2023.

The Jack Attack tournament was the first USA Boccia regional of 2023 and had a great turnout with great competition. Five YC athletes competed in 3 boccia classes (BC1, BC2, BC3.) Learn more here about boccia classifications.

BC1 Will Gallup placed third in the BC1 category with some of his best boccia yet in Columbus! Will has put a lot of work into his practice focusing, which showed during competition, placing 3rd n BC1. Bob Vitko, another BC1 athlete, played well and gave his competition a good fight. He ended the competition on a win with some positive momentum to take into the next tournament.

BC2 After a long break from the sport, Sara Steimle came back right where she left off as one of the more skilled BC2 players in the region! Unfortunately, with a few breaks going against Sara, she narrowly missed placing in the tournament. However, she looks forward to carrying her momentum into the next tournament!

BC3 Sean Walker placed second and showed great perseverance competing well with a new ramp in multiple last-minute comebacks. For George Shepherd, YC’s newest and youngest boccia athlete, this was his second competition but first legitimate regional tournament, and he played very well! Competing against some of the better BC3 players in the region, George showed off some impressive shots and most of all had the best dance moves all tournament long!

The YC Boccia Narwhals showed what it means to have success in style! The team sports its new jerseys, courtesy of Empower Customs, and they were a hit. The team looks forward to the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association (GLASA) Games in May!


Now Hiring for the WOO Crew!

Are you a YELP or ACT participant looking for a summer job? Then, join the WOO Crew for paid work experience and job training!

YC WOOthies is an alumni entrepreneurship venture that was created to mentor YELP and ACT participants in job skills, promote healthy eating, and spread the mission of YC throughout northeast Ohio. WOO Crew members help run smoothie stands at YC and other locations in the Greater Cleveland area. YC WOOthies provides two training workshops for its crew not only to learn smoothie-making, but also skills that they can use in future jobs, such as communication, time management, problem-solving, and financial literacy. Crew members are expected to attend two training workshops, a smoothie stand trial run, and three (2-4 hour) events at YC and other locations. This is a great first job opportunity for participants to be able to work alongside teen volunteers. No experience necessary!

What are you waiting for?  Fill out an application  by March 24 for your chance to be a part of the WOO Crew! (Note: This is a competitive hiring process. Completion of an application does not guarantee crew member position.)

Volunteer Highlight: Sky Varvarosky

Teen volunteer Sky Varvarosky has been able to try new things and learn more about people with disabilities at Youth Challenge. She first learned about YC through her Mayfield High School chemistry teacher, Bob Friel. (Bob is the husband of YC staffer Lisa Friel!)

“He made it sound like a fun place with all different activities,” Sky said.

Sky jumped right in trying different YC activities along with her participant partners! When Sky was at Wicklife Lanes, she and her partner had a lot of fun bowling together, and Sky even scored a strike! She was a natural in spite of it being her first time bowling and first time at YC. When she came to rock climbing in Shaker Heights, Sky and her partner were both able to encourage each other to climb to the top of the wall. Most recently, Sky volunteered at Art & Games with a Service-Learning group through her school and got to work with her partner to build a robot out of boxes.

Sky said volunteering at YC is a different experience than volunteering at other locations, such as a food bank, because at YC you can get to know the people you are serving. Sky loves to build friendships with participants, including Jack, a deaf participant who uses his phone to help him communicate.

“It just shows you that people can do anything, as long as you don’t expect them to do it the same way as everyone else,” Sky said.

Sky values being able to help make Youth Challenge a safe place for her participant friends.

“It’s just a nice place for everyone to go to feel included and have a fun time and take your mind off things,” Sky said. “People don’t treat you differently or meanly because you’re not the same as everyone else.”

Blind Sports Clinic Highlight


There was a huge turnout for Youth Challenge’s first Blind Sports Clinic, held on February 11! The gym was packed with youth who are blind or visually impaired, families, teachers, and staff from the Cleveland Sight Center.

About 15 young people ages 3-17 who are blind or visually impaired enjoyed sports such as goalball and 5-a-side soccer. Parents from Cleveland Sight Center took a tour of the YC building to learn more about our programs, then had the opportunity to see their participants in action playing blind sports!  Goalball is a Paralympic sport in which players roll a basketball-sized ball with bells over the opponent’s goal line. Huston Nagy, a YC participant and Becky Nagy, his mom, spoke to the group about Houston’s experience with goal ball and how it was his first time being on a sports team when goal ball started in 2014.

For most at the clinic, it was their first-time trying goalball. Many were excited to get involved playing goalball! Youth Challenge has added three goalball practices on March 10, March 24 and March 31 from 5:30-7 pm at YC. We look forward to a continued WOO-nderful partnership with Cleveland Sight Center!

Board Highlight: Krista Allison

Krista Allison, Ms. Wheelchair Ohio 2022, is a new member of the YC Board of Trustees. She became involved after Youth Challenge CEO Chris Garr saw an article about her in the city newsletter, The Berean, and decided to reach out to Krista to share about Youth Challenge.

“Krista is a rockstar at advocacy,” Chris said. “We are honored to have a role model and leader like her as a part of our YC community.”

Since last spring, Krista has been a regular at YC events. Krista has attended various Youth Challenge events, including fundraisers such as Where Will Color Take You? and the Topgolf Outing, as well as programs such as kayaking at Wallace Lake. Her favorite event so far has been the March for Access in Cleveland, which Youth Challenge attended as a member of ADA Cleveland.

“I love that Youth Challenge allows children of all different abilities to come in and feel a part of something bigger and to make friends that maybe they don’t have the opportunity to make at school,” Krista said.

When Krista is not at Youth Challenge, she is a fierce advocate for community accessibility—her chosen platform as Ms. Wheelchair Ohio. In this role, Krista meets with various government and community leaders and works with other organizations similar to YC. Currently, she is working to advocate for communities to adopt a Residential ADA Form so that households can alert first responders if there is a person with a disability living in their home.

“I really think the title [Ms. Wheelchair Ohio] has given me a sense of purpose,” Krista said. “I always knew I had a purpose; I just didn’t know what it was, and as soon as I got the title and started branching out and meeting different people and connecting, it’s just been the best experience of my life.”

Krista lives with her husband, Bob, and her 18-year-old daughter Hannah. She is a federal government employee with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and a master’s degree in Public Administration.

“I’m really grateful to be here [on the YC Board of Trustees,]” Krista said. “I’m really grateful that Chris asked me. I’m grateful for all of you that you’ve all come into my life, and I’m just so happy.”

PREVIEW: Brats, Beer and Brackets is BACK!

Calling all basketball lovers, get ready to win big at Brats, Beer, and Brackets! This event, presented by Charles Schwab and hosted by Young Professionals for YC, will be held once again at Youth Challenge on March 14, 2023, from 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm. Auctioneer Bob Hale of Benefit Auction Services LLC and YC alumni Brandon Lewis and Brandon Larador, who are sportscasters for Believeland Media LLC, will host the Calcutta-style auction, so you can bid on which NCAA basketball teams you expect to win during March Madness. Each time one of your teams wins, you win a portion of the pot. Pool your money with friends to bid on higher-seeded teams!

In 2023, we will not only have the juicy brats, cold beer, and exciting auction you know and love but also several NEW updates, including:

  • Reserved tables: Reserved tables are available! Tables for six guests are just $210 each. Tables for eight guests are $275. Purchase your table here.
  • You Could Win $400: You could win just for participating in the event! When you enter the event, purchase a 50/50 sideboard, buy an auction package, or donate to the Fund-a-Need, you’ll receive a raffle ticket. At the end of the night, we’ll select one winner of $400!
  • Betting Syndicate Concierge: Grab your friends, neighbors, and family! A syndicate is created when everyone in your group pools their money for increased buying power. New this year, we will offer a syndicate concierge to manage group payments and payouts, and provide other needed support. Register your syndicate by clicking here. Contact Carolyn Palmer at [email protected] for more information.
  • Smoothies: Grab a smoothie from YC WOOthies, an initiative of the participant alumni entrepreneurship team. YC WOOthies is an initiative that will teach alumni and YELP participants job skills, promote healthy eating in the Greater Cleveland area and raise funds and awareness for YC. Enjoy a delicious strawberry mango or banana blueberry smoothie and support our alumni at their first big event of the year!

Youth Challenge will receive 50% of all proceeds from the live auction and sideboards. The other 50% will be divided amongst the winners for each raffle and auction.

Tickets for Brats, Beer, and Brackets are $40 each, or you can score two tickets for just $70. Don’t miss this opportunity to celebrate NCAA sports while supporting adapted sports for young people with physical disabilities and teen volunteers! Click here to register online.


Alumni Highlight: Kindness Committee

Life as an adult with a disability can sometimes become lonely, but the alumni programs are a great outlet for many YC alumni to stay connected.

Alumni staff members Sara Steimle, Gabby Bova and Sean Walker began sending out cards and care packages to those in the alumni community who may be going through a hard time or are not able to be as active in the YC community as they hope to be. They also created a card-making station in the YC lobby for alumni to make cards for their peers in need. The team decided expanding their efforts would be a great opportunity for other alumni to give back and serve their peers in need, so they formed a Kindness Committee.

“I think it’s important to spread kindness especially in the YC alumni community,” Sara said. “Interacting with other people is vital to our mental health and physical well-being and it can be more challenging to do this for those with disabilities.”

The Kindness Committee meets monthly on Zoom and is open to any YC alum to attend. The committee provides support and spreads joy through phone calls, text messages, emails, cards, and care packages. The Kindness Committee is working toward pairing each alum on the kindness committee with an alum in need of support to check in with one another.

“We want to show that we’re still here for them and that they’re not alone,” Sara said.

From Teen Volunteer to Board President: Greer Gibbons

Greer Gibbons began her term as the first volunteer alumna Board President of Youth Challenge this January. Over the last 20 years, Greer has served in nearly every capacity at YC—as a teen volunteer, summer staff member, Young Professionals for Youth Challenge (YP4YC) member, trustee, and now as Board President!

“Greer has grown up with YC and truly lives the mission,” Chris Garr, CEO at Youth Challenge, said. “With a unique and fully encompassing perspective, she brings decades of knowledge to her role as president.”

Greer’s YC journey began in 2000 when YC staff member Laurel Sweet spoke to her grade school class. Soon after, Greer volunteered at her first program, which was a fishing event. She quickly realized that YC was not only an organization but a way of life. The participants, volunteers, and staff make YC a truly inclusive place for people of all backgrounds to find themselves and their voices.

“YC is a place where people can come as they are, belong to a part of something bigger than themselves, and be valued for who they are and what they bring to the table,” Greer said. “It’s a safe environment for participants and volunteers to learn, grow, laugh, and have fun.”

When Greer is not at YC, she works as a Global Project Manager for the Lubrizol Corporation. Greer’s incredible ‘can do’ attitude, coupled with her subject matter expertise and commitment to non-negotiable quality, shines through her work, both at Lubrizol and the boardroom at YC. Plus, she’s flexed her science skills with her Lubrizol colleagues to host fun and educational programming at YC!

In her spare time, Greer is a huge baseball fan and loves going on adventures in the National Parks. Her dream is to visit all 50 states and all seven continents! When she’s not gallivanting all over the world, she can be found at her home in Cleveland reading or spending time with family and friends. Not only has Greer served others at YC, but she is also involved in her community as a mentor through the Greater Cleveland College Now Program, through the Cleveland Zoological Society’s group for young professionals, and through her church.

“We have a lot of amazing talent at Youth Challenge,” Greer said. “I want to be able to do my part in contributing to a collaborative and inclusive environment where everyone feels valued, and they can be their authentic selves.”

Greer works on an art project with Deb as a teen volunteer in 2000.
Greer smiles with Ricky as a summer staff member in 2005.


Intern Highlight: Madi Doletzky

Madi Doletzky, a senior psychology major at University of Akron, loved connecting with YC participants as a program intern this past fall.


“It was great getting to know the kids and see their different ways of life because I had never been in their shoes,” Madi said. 


Madi plays Division 1 lacrosse for the University of Akron. She is also the Vice President of the Outdoor Adventure Club and does intermural sports at the university. Last but not least, she took sign language classes and has been involved in the deaf community since her freshman year of high school. Madi aspires to one day be a sports psychologist so that she can help college and professional athletes through mental blocks, such as challenges with coaches or teammates.


“Sports are so much more than going out and playing,” Madi said. “They teach you how to work with other people, they teach you how to push through things, they teach you how to not give up when it seems like that’s the only option.”


Youth Challenge’s Westlake office was a 50-minute commute for Madi, a trip that she found worth the while. Madi described her role at YC as somewhere in between being a staff member and a volunteer. She helped lead programs and interpret for participants who are deaf but also served one-on-one as a volunteer to participants when needed. Madi got to experience a whole gamut of programs, ranging from Football to Court Sports to Net Sports to the YELP camping trip. One of her favorite things was simply talking to participants and getting to know them on a more personal level as a van aide.


“Every moment that I’m there, it doesn’t matter what else is going on in life,” Madi said. “I can just be so present and be with all the participants there and just have so much fun.”


Madi has been an athlete for most of her life. After facing the performance pressures of college athletics, Madi said it was powerful for her to be able to help make sports accessible for young people with disabilities at Youth Challenge, allowing them to experience athletics and being on a team without focusing on their limitations.


“It really just gave me a fresh look after 18 years of me playing sports,” Madi said.

Holiday Show Highlight: North Pole News


The YC family gathered on Friday, December 9, for the film premiere of the first in-person holiday show in three years, North Pole News! Instead of having a traditional live theatre performance we’ve done in the past, this year’s show was prerecorded during rehearsals, and holiday show guests got to watch the premiere of the final product.


Over the course of five weeks, participants and volunteers worked together to write, direct, produce and perform their own version of what a news segment at the North Pole would look like, complete with the latest breaking baking news, candy cane crimes, and all the grinchy gossip. During the premiere, participants and volunteers got “star treatment” complete with a red carpet and photo ops, courtesy of cameraman (and YC board member) Dan Douglas! Before the film began, holiday show cast members were asked questions in front of the audience such as “Can you tell us about the character you play?” and “What is your favorite part of filming?”


During the holiday show, Youth Challenge recognized endowment funders, the top 10 teen volunteers, and the volunteer of the year. The volunteer of the year was former Board Member Dave Lowery. He was chosen for the award because of his leadership in Youth Challenge’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives. 


Not only did holiday show guests get the chance to see a WOO-nderful film, but they also got to view artwork created by participants and volunteers. One of those art pieces was an abstract painting by Nautica Sullins, who submitted her piece to Art Expressions Ohio.


Thank you to the Cyrus Eaton Foundation for funding the holiday show and the participants and volunteers for working hard to put it together!

Mini Camp: Our “Littles” are the Future of YC!

Mini Camp is a joyful, energy-filled program for the youngest members of the YC Family. Many children, ages 4 to 8, are first introduced to the fun and excitement of YC through these experiences. Mini Camp gives young participants a chance to make friends, try new things, and start building social skills from an early age. Teen volunteers are always quick to sign up to help at Mini Camp programs. The youngsters and teens work together to make crafts, play sports, swim, and enjoy fun field trips throughout Greater Cleveland. We had a blast with an animal-themed day at Acacia Reservation in Beachwood, an art-focused program at Wade Oval, and Farm Day in North Olmsted.

“The health of YC is demonstrated by the amount of young participation,” says Alumni Participant and YC Boccia Coach Sean Walker. Sean began coming to YC programs when he was a Mini Camper at four years old himself in 1992. He recalls the feeling of being “at home” with the YC crew from the very beginning.  We continue to serve young people and provide a “home” for our little ones to this day!

Teddy gets a hand from his volunteer partner Maddie during a Mini Camp program in Westlake last year.

This past summer, we hosted Mini Camp programs every Monday at various locations throughout Northeast Ohio. These Monday Mini Camp Programs were one of our busier program days, with up to 14 young participants joining us for a program along with their teen volunteer partner. As Sean alluded to, we feel hopeful for the future of YC programming with this wonderful group of participants. Mini Camp is a great way to ease into YC programming and the world of extracurriculars. For many kids, this may be their first experience with a recreational program outside of their school and home.

We are happy to have so many young kids enjoying programs at YC and finding a home in the community here!

Your Annual Fund gift makes programs like Mini Camp possible. Please donate today at

YC Partner Sherwin-Williams Wins National Philanthropy Day Award

Sherwin-Williams was awarded the Corporate Leadership Award at the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Greater Cleveland Chapter’s National Philanthropy Day Luncheon on Friday, November 4. Youth Challenge nominated the organization for its over 35 years of support.

“Support from Sherwin-Williams has allowed YC to grow to serve more participants and teen volunteers,” Chris Garr, CEO of Youth Challenge, said, “In addition to providing funding, Sherwin Williams’ support has also spread awareness of our mission amongst their employees and the community at large. We are so grateful to be championed by such a fabulous institution with local roots and a global reach.”

In 1986, Sherwin-Williams Women’s Club made their first gift of $500 to Youth Challenge. Since then, the organization has continued to find new ways to help YC thrive. In 2018, the Women’s Club selected YC as the beneficiary of their annual golf outing. Then, in 2020, they selected YC as an ongoing partner for their annual 5K race. For the event’s first two years, Sherwin-Williams Women’s Club held virtual races for Youth Challenge and raised more than $60,000 each year. Finally, in 2022, Sherwin-Williams Women’s Club and Youth Challenge were able to host the race in person. More than 1,400 runners registered for the event. The event was a record-breaker for YC, with net proceeds of more than $83,000 raised to support the organization. (Before the Sherwin-Williams Women’s Club began to provide leadership for the event, Youth Challenge’s annual 5k averaged $15,000 in revenue.)

Not only has the Sherwin-Williams Women’s Club provided three decades’ worth of support, but Sherwin-Williams Company as a whole has also been a strong partner of YC. Youth Challenge has two board members from Sherwin Williams. Mark Dvoroznak, the retired VP of Enterprise Management at Sherwin-Williams, now serves on the Executive Committee as the Board Vice President and Chair of the YC Philanthropy Committee. Allen Kitchen, the VP of IT of the Sherwin-Williams Company, also serves on Youth Challenge’s Board of Trustees.

In addition, Sherwin-Williams employees have volunteered through service projects, taking on various needs around our headquarters in Westlake. For example, in 2022, they donated their time and supplies to repaint the YC offices, helping to brighten up the spaces that our staff, participants, and volunteers use daily.

The Sherwin-Williams Women’s Club has provided philanthropic support for 111 years. Recent Women’s Club events have benefitted local organizations such as the West Side Catholic Center and the City Mission, helping to fund programs that help to provide food, shelter, and other necessities to those in the Cleveland community. In 2021, The Sherwin-Williams Company provided 6.4 million dollars in total giving. More than 1,300 nonprofit organizations were supported by employee giving. U.S. employees served on over 120 nonprofit boards.

Alumni Leadership Retreat Highlights

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a beautiful place to enjoy the changing fall leaves and crisp weather. Youth Challenge participant alumni leaders got the chance to visit October 10-11 for the first-ever overnight  Alumni Leadership Retreat! Alumni stayed at the Stanford House, which was initially built in 1843 by George Stanford, the son of one of the first settlers in the Western Reserve. It was purchased in 1978 by the National Park Service.

During the retreat, each alumni participant chose one personal goal to reflect on. The goals alumni expressed ranged from health and fitness goals to independent living-related goals to even goals related to starting nonprofits to help more people with disabilities. Alumni participants had the chance to discuss their goals with a partner as they hiked the trail from the Stanford House to the Boston Visitor’s Center. They discussed what their goals were, the obstacles they had faced in meeting their goals, and how they could overcome those obstacles. In addition, each alumni participant chose an accountability partner to help make sure they were taking steps to meet their goal after the retreat. After their hike, alumni enjoyed a delicious dinner together courtesy of Terrie Garr and Chris Garr, Sr. (our CEO Chris Garr’s parents, who have been supporting YC for almost 40 years!) and Chris Fischer, a dedicated adult volunteer. After dinner, the group sat around a campfire and enjoyed eating smores and spending time with each other.

Park Ranger Rebecca Jones Macko gave a presentation to the alumni on the relationship between historic preservation and disability accessibility at the Stanford House and Cuyahoga Valley National Park. After the presentation, alumni participants had the opportunity to ask questions and make suggestions regarding the accessibility of the Stanford House and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Park Ranger Rebecca gave YC a braille Cuyahoga Valley National Park Visitor’s Guide to keep!

All in all, the alumni retreat was a unique opportunity for participant alumni leaders to take a step back from their busy lives, set personal life goals, and connect on how to make a difference in the lives of others with disabilities.

We’re excited to keep reaching for our goals and hope this is the first of many alumni leadership retreats to come!

Participant Highlight: Finn Born-Crow

Finn Born-Crow is a Team YC soccer star!

He is a versatile player in offense and defense positions. Since joining the Team YC soccer team last fall, Finn has grown in confidence and speed. Finn is an outgoing and fun-loving kid who has embraced every opportunity YC has had to offer. Last fall, he and his family even got to go with Team YC to see U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team beat Paraguay 9-0!

Finn has proven his athletic prowess in the March Madness program. His team, the Tryin’ Lions, were the first-place winners of the Crosstown Showdown!

Watch Finn and other YC players take on the Empower Sports team on October 22 from 10 a.m. to noon at St. Mary’s Church in Berea! (In case of inclement weather, the game will be held at Force Sports in Rocky River.)

Finn kicks around the ball with his volunteer Guillaume during soccer practice.
Finn throws the ball into play during March Madness.

Alumni Highlight: Will Gallup

If you’ve been a part of the YC community during the last two decades, chances are, you know Will Gallup.

He joined us in the summer of 1999 when he was just 13-years-old. Since then, Will has participated in just about everything YC has to offer. Currently, he is a member of the boccia team, the alumni entrepreneurship team, and Young Professionals for Youth Challenge (YP4YC.) He also is a regular in Adult Community Team (ACT!) programs.

“Regardless of what we all do together, I just like being around everybody,” Will said. “We’re all family no matter what we do.”

Will’s early years did not allow much time for social activities. But, once he got older, Will’s mom looked for ways for him to make new friends, create new hobbies, and have a more normal life outside of physical therapy. That’s when Will and his family learned about YC.

“I had some pretty nice classmates when it came to school, but I didn’t know until now that I didn’t have that magical connection that I had with YC,” Will said. “Socially, I would not be where I am without YC because I’ve made so many friends with alumni participants and with volunteers.”

As Will participated in YC programs, he grew a passion for empowering others in the disability community and their families. In 2016, he joined the Human Rights Committee of the Rose-Mary Center, a local organization that serves those with developmental disabilities. From there, a door opened for Will to serve as a Good Life Ambassador (GLA) through the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities. As a Good Life Ambassador, Will and his team (including fellow YC alum Sean Walker) present on topics such as inclusion, employment for people with disabilities, and support services for people with disabilities. Since 2016, the Good Life Ambassadors have given over 250 presentations to the local community.

“My goal is to leave the disability community better than it was when I came into the world, better than it was 32 years ago [when the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed],” Will said. “I’m confident that when my time is up, or I can no longer do it, [the disability community] will be better off.”

Will tosses the ball during a recent boccia match.
Will enjoys a trip to Niagara Falls during his early years at YC.

Alumni Highlight: Saphire and Sara Lead ADA Cleveland Advisory Board

YC alumni Saphire Murphy and Sara Steimle are leading the ADA Cleveland Advisory Board. ADA Cleveland, formed in August 2014, is a coalition of agencies and organizations that share in the mission to provide greater access and opportunity for individuals with disabilities. The Advisory Board is a group of individuals with disabilities who determine the advocacy focus of ADA Cleveland.

“They’re a very diverse group, they’re advocates,” Sara said. “So they’re going to have very strong, positive opinions and they want to make a change.”

This year, the focus is on transportation, housing and voting.

“The people you vote for not only affects how your transportation runs, but also how your housing system is distributed,” Saphire said. “If you can improve one area, you can drastically improve other areas.”

Members of the Advisory Board will serve as conversation leaders at information tents at March for Access on September 10. March for Access is a rally at Cleveland Public Square for better access to transportation, housing, and voting for people with disabilities.

In addition to the March for Access, the Advisory Board is working on creating other opportunities for those in the disability community to engage with each other and discuss other issues that matter to them.

“We’re trying to get out in the community and engage as much as possible to see how we can be more proactive,” Saphire said.

Sara said she is proud to be able to speak up for those in the disability community who may not be able to—those who may not have the confidence or the resources to stand for their rights.

“I think it’s important to just be a voice and be a positive impact on the disability community,” Sara said.

Join Saphire, Sara, and others in the disability community at March for Access on September 10 at Cleveland Public Square. Check-in and sign-making starts at 9 am, and the rally and march start at 11 am. Register here.

Saphire Murphy
Sara Steimle