Vandalism can’t stop YC!

On Monday, November 18, we discovered that the catalytic converters had been stolen from five of our lift-equipped vans, leaving them undrivable. Without our vans, participants can’t get to YC programs. We had to cancel activities for most of the week, leaving many participants, volunteers, and staff members disappointed.

Our disappointment soon disappeared when a GoFundMe campaign raised over $7,000 in under 24 hours to help pay for the repairs. Other donations appeared in person, in the mail, and via our website.  We are using these gifts to establish a transportation and maintenance fund to support the repair of our vans, enhanced security, and vehicle maintenance. 

We are so thankful for the support that’s allowed us to get our vans and programs back up and running!  

See news coverage here:

Fox 8 News part 1 

Fox 8 News part 2

Cleveland 19 News

WKYC Studios




Youth Challenge receives $30,000 KidCents Regional Grant

The KidsCents Regional Grant program is awarding Youth Challenge (YC) with $30,000. The grant will help fund the free adapted sports and recreational programs that YC provides for young people with physical disabilities.

“We are thankful to receive a KidCents Regional Grant,” said Chris Garr, CEO. “The Rite Aid Foundation’s support helps us to continue improving the lives of young people in Northeast Ohio.”

Youth Challenge modifies activities so that children ages 4-25 with such disabilities as spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, and cerebral palsy can fully participate. Golf, basketball, swimming, dance, ceramics, and many other programs are offered each year. Competitive team sports like soccer, powerlifting, boccia, and goalball are available as well. All activities and transportation are free for the families of children with disabilities.

YC uses a model for service that not only promotes healthy exercise through sports but also emphasizes the importance of peer interaction among young people of all abilities. At each activity, the children are paired one-on-one with teen volunteers. The partners work together to complete each game or project, with the teen volunteer helping to adapt the activity for their partner’s abilities.

The KidCents Regional Grant Program, which provides grants of $15,000-$30,000, funds specific out-of-school time programs focused on children’s nutrition, physical fitness, and academic success. The KidCents program also annually supports a select group of more than 400 nonprofit, kid-focused organizations committed to improving the health and wellbeing of children living in the communities Rite Aid serves. They also support national organizations focused on critical children’s issues, including The Fred Rogers Company, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and Folds of Honor.

In this cycle of KidCents Regional Grants, The Rite Aid Foundation awarded 233 nonprofit grants totaling more than $5 million. Grants were available in select counties in the following states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.

“The Rite Aid Foundation is committed to being a caring neighbor and making meaningful differences for the children and families who live in the communities we serve,” said Tracy Henderson, director of The Rite Aid Foundation and charitable giving initiatives. “The Regional Grant Program significantly expands the reach and impact of our KidCents program. It also enables our partner organizations to provide critical out-of-school time programs that are vital to keeping children and adolescents on track for future success.”

KidCents Regional Grants support nonprofit organizations with programs that serve children, grades K-12, and improve quality of life in Rite Aid communities. The grants support three of KidCents’ primary focus areas for improving the health and wellbeing of children: healthy eating, active living, and education. To be considered, programs and projects were required to take place during out-of-school-time with priority given to programs that support communities in need.  To learn more about the program, visit

The $30,000 KidCents Regional Grant from The Rite Aid Foundation will help YC to continue to offer its free programs and transportation to young people with physical disabilities.

Orangetheory Fitness teams with YC

It was an unusual half time during our football program recently when our friends from Orangetheory Fitness stopped by with a generous gift for YC.  Kurt Altenburger, co-owner with his wife, Stephanie, of five area studios, and Allison Westmeyer, Marketing Manager, presented Chris Garr with a check for $8,021!  The donation came from the first annual Orangetheory Charity Golf Outing in September.  We’re very thankful to Orangetheory for partnering with YC and we’re excited to work together in the future.  Thank you to everyone who helped make the golf outing a success!



Superhero Dash a Wrap

A hot and steamy end of summer day didn’t stop close to 200 runners, walkers, and rollers from racing through the streets of Lakewood at the Superhero Dash on Saturday, Sept. 21.  The 34th Annual Race Day was dedicated in memory of Dave Hardman, former President of the Youth Challenge Board of Trustees.

Runners along with Youth Challenge families and friends—many dressed as Superheroes—ran, walked, or rolled in the 5K and 1 Mile Walk/Roll.  Over $10,000 was raised to support the free programs Youth Challenge offers to hundreds of young people in Northeast Ohio.

Longtime supporters Linda and Doug Hardman were major sponsors of the Superhero Dash, along with American Tank & Fabricating, Automotive Specialty Services, Don’s Lighthouse Grille, First Federal Lakewood, Gallagher, and Oatey Foundation.

Lisa Kollins, founder and director of The Superhero Project, was on hand to present personalized characters created by professional artists to four YC participants. Posters of the drawings were presented during the awards ceremony.  Read more here.

Thanks to all of the runners, walkers, volunteers, and sponsors for helping to make Race Day #34 a success.

See Superhero Dash photos:

Album #1  Thanks to Trustee Dan Douglas for taking photos!

Album #2

Click here to see race results.

Read more about Race Day:

Fox 8 News




Inaugural Illuminating Hope award presented to YC

Thank you to Community West Foundation for choosing Youth Challenge as the recipient of the inaugural David and Martha Hessler Illuminating Hope Award.  Mary Sue Tanis, Founder & Director of Planned Giving, accepted a gift of $10,000 and an award depicting a miniature replica of the Homeless Jesus sculpture.

William Oatey, Community West’s Chair of the Board and longtime supporter of YC, presented the award at the Foundation’s Annual Meeting on September 11. “In over 40 years, we’ve had many amazing partnerships,” said Tanis. “No one in our history has fueled our fire at Youth Challenge as Community West has.”

The mission of Community West Foundation is to advance the health and well-being of our community.  The Illuminating Hope award will allow YC to continue to provide free programs and transportation to hundreds of young people with physical disabilities in Northeast Ohio for years to come.

“As a catalyst for ‘Illuminating Hope,’ Community West understands and supports YC’s commitment to serving children with disabilities,” said Chris Garr, CEO. “They’re helping to shepherd a vibrant culture of volunteerism and promote an inclusive, active, and engaged community.”

Learn more about Community West Foundation here.


31st Annual Golf Outing a Success!

Many thanks to the 104 golfers who supported the Youth Challenge 2019 Golf Outing on June 24 at Avon Oaks Country Club.  The event raised more than $25,000 that will directly help fund YC’s free, year-round adapted sports programs like basketball, swimming, Paralympic sports, and so much more.

Thank you to the following individuals and corporations for supporting the golf outing:

Presenting Sponsors

First Federal Lakewood

Scott & Julie Mawaka

Oatey Foundation

Corporate Sponsors

Automotive Specialty Services


Lunch Sponsor

Jason and Mary Pence Family Charitable Fund

Bar Sponsors

Armada Rick Partners


Underwriting Sponsor

Don’s Lighthouse

Putting Contest Sponsor

GPI Design

Hole in One Contest Sponsor

Stalex Engineered Products

Hole Sponsors

All Pro Recruiting

The Bova Family

Brouse McDowell, LPA

Tom and Mary Carney


Company Family Dental Associates


Debbie and Steve Gratto Family

Game Plan Financial LLC

George and Joyce Haddad Family

Darren and Leslie Hilliard


In Memory of Mike Del Pizzo

The Krueger Group

Dan Lease

The Nock and Son Company

Jason Pence – Charles Schwab, Inc.


Rainbow Babies & Children’s Orthopedics

RL Wurz

Rowland Connelly Joyce & Associates Inc. CPA’s

Saint Martin De Porres High School

Team Kasler

Teamsters Local 507

Thrive Westshore LLC

Total  Benefits Advisors

Trinity Specialties Compounding

UBS Financial – Larry Bricmont

UBS Wealth Management – Cox/Murman Group

Venture Plastics

Washington Mills

Thank you to the following prize donors:

First Federal Lakewood

The Pullar Family

George Soos

Don’s Lighthouse

The Nock and Son Co.

Special thanks to 2019 Golf Outing Chairs Tom McIntyre, Steve Nock, and John Petersen.

Youth Challenge is grateful to our donors and volunteers for making this event possible.

Click here to see photos of the golf outing.

“Party in Paradise” raises funds for Youth Challenge

Cleveland isn’t known for its tropical climate in the spring, but the atmosphere was warm and welcoming at the Youth Challenge Annual Benefit & Auction on Saturday, April 13.  Close to 300 guests gathered at Ariel International Center in Cleveland to “Party in Paradise” and support YC.

Guests decked out in leis and Hawaiian garb, enjoyed a fun evening with cocktails, live steel drum music, delicious food from Italian Creations, fabulous silent auction items, and a Hawaiian vacation raffle.

Supporters helped raise almost $200,000 to fund free adapted programs for children with physical disabilities and their teen volunteer partners. This support allows Youth Challenge to reach hundreds of children in the Greater Cleveland community, providing them with opportunities to play sports, make friends, and embrace their unique abilities.

Youth Challenge Advisory Board member Ernie Vargo was the Honorary Event Chair.  Event Co-chairs were YC Trustees Dr. Chris Hardesty and Justin Thomas.  YC Trustee Marcia Obrock and Mike Zablotney served as Auction Co-Chairs.

Thank you to the Auction Committee:  Lori Coticchia, Sharon Douglas, Lauren Ferritto, Jennifer O’Reilly, Tim Rose, Christy Svagerko and Melissa Thurstone.  Many thanks to the YC Board of Trustee teams who work together to acquire some of the Silent Auction VIP packages.  We are grateful to the many volunteers who helped make the event a success!

Thank you to our generous sponsors:

First Federal Lakewood
Oatey Co.

MAI Capital Management, LLC
Julie and Scott Mawaka
Stacy and Steve Nock
The Nock and Son Company
Nordson Corporation
The Sherwin-Williams Company

Brouse McDowell
Cohen & Company
The Coticchia Family
First National Bank
Frantz Ward LLP
Dr. Chris Hardesty and Dustin Applegate
Mike’s Kids
Ownership Advisors, Inc.
Ryan Wealth Management Group
–Kevin Ryan and John Ryan
ShurTech Brands, LLC
Smart Business
Tucker Ellis LLP
Mary Lu and George Wasmer (2)
WTWH Media

The following give their generous support:
Gary Brahler
Henkel Corporation
Kaufman Container Company
Mazella Companies
R.W. Beckett Corp.
Mark and Stephanie Summers Family
Swagelok Foundation
TMC Employee Benefits Group
Total Benefits Advisors

Brunswick Auto Mart

Hyland Software, Inc.

Mitchell’s Ice Cream


See photos here:


Youth Challenge Announces Leadership Transition

The Youth Challenge (YC) Board of Trustees is pleased to announce the appointment of Christopher J. Garr as CEO, effective February 4, 2019.  Garr replaces Founder and Executive Director, Mary Sue Tanis, who is transitioning into a new role as Director of Planned Giving. The announcement follows an 18-month search conducted by the Youth Challenge Board of Trustees and members of the Board of Advisors.

As YC’s long-time Director of Program Services, Garr brings years of experience in leadership, adapted sports, and inclusion for people with physical disabilities.  Garr believes that adapted sports and art, with a focus on fun and friendship, is a conduit for participants and volunteers alike, to become leaders, advocates, stewards, and innovators in the field of human dignity. Prior to his time at Youth Challenge, Garr taught high school Social Studies and English. He got his start at YC as a volunteer in middle school.

“I’ve held a deep passion for YC since first volunteering at the age of 12,” said Garr. “What started in 1976 with a handful of children and awareness of the need for inclusion in all forms of play, is now a reality—Youth Challenge is the recognized leader in Northeast Ohio for enriching the lives of young people of all abilities. I am proud to serve our families in this new capacity, alongside a staff of dedicated and caring professionals.”

For Tanis, who founded Youth Challenge in 1976, her commitment to community service is at the core of everything she has accomplished as a nonprofit leader for over 40 years.  She has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the need for active sports and peer-to-peer socialization for the children and young adults with physical disabilities in the Cleveland area.   Her unique vision also saw the need for teen volunteers to get involved, one-on-one, with their physically disabled peers to learn and grow.

“I look forward to shifting from my role of 42 years as Executive Director to a new post, Director of Planned Giving, and serving YC in a whole new way,” said Tanis.  “With countless opportunities ahead for these amazing children and teens, I am extremely happy to be able to play a role in securing our mission going forward.”

Every holiday celebrated at this year’s Holiday Show

Have you ever wondered how the North Pole celebrates the other holidays besides Christmas?  Well, Mrs. Clause is setting off firecrackers on the 4th of July, the Grinch is handing out tricks and treats for Halloween, and some lucky lads are visiting Santa’s workshop on St. Paddy’s Day.  That was the premise for this year’s annual Holiday Show, a unique production written, directed, choreographed and produced by the YC gang.

For nine weeks this fall, the participants and volunteers in the Dance & Drama program worked tirelessly to create and rehearse the show. The live production was a hit when they performed it on Saturday, December 8 at the Magnificat High School Performing Arts Center.

The show also honored YC’s 2018 Volunteer of the Year, Chris Carney.  Chris has been a part of Team YC for over 20 years as a Trustee, President of the Board, and a dedicated supporter.

Mary Sue Tanis, YC’s Founder & Executive Director, was recognized for her vision and commitment to young people of all abilities for the past 42 years.  Mary Sue is transitioning into a new role, Director of Planned Giving, beginning in January.  Following a moving video tribute, participants, volunteers, staff and Trustees bombarded Mary Sue with flowers.

Thank you to Ed Gallagher and Sarah Clare from the Beck Center for their assistance, expertise, and direction of the Holiday Show.

YC’s Dance & Drama program is supported in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture and from a grant from the Cyrus Eaton Foundation.

See photos of the Holiday Show here.

The Rite Aid Foundation Donates $5,000 to YC

In celebration of #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media, Youth Challenge has received a $5,000 grant as part of the KidCents Thanks For Giving Holiday program. The grant will be used to give young people opportunities to be able to participate in adapted sports.

“We are proud to be a part of the KidCents Thanks For Giving Holiday program,” said, Chris Garr, Director of Program Services. “This #GivingTuesday, and every day, The Rite Aid Foundation’s support helps us to continue improving the lives of children in our community.”

The Rite Aid Foundation is awarding a total of $2.2 million through its KidCents Thanks For Giving Holiday program. This special program has been created to help the more than 440 KidCents charities across the country advance their efforts to improve the health, safety, and well-being of children.

“#GivingTuesday is a global celebration of giving, and on this day, we wanted to recognize our KidCents charities for all they do to make a positive impact in the communities we serve,” said Tracy Henderson, director of The Rite Aid Foundation and charitable giving initiatives. “Through the KidCents Thanks For Giving Holiday program, we want to recognize and support organizations that are focused on giving all year round. We thank all our KidCents charity partners for helping to give kids better lives and brighter futures.”

Through KidCents, members of Rite Aid’s loyalty program, wellness+ rewards, can round up their in-store or online purchases to the nearest dollar and give their change to one of more than 440 nonprofit organizations focused on improving the health and well-being of children. For more information, visit

Since its inception in 2001, The Rite Aid Foundation has awarded more than $36 million to nonprofit organizations. Additionally, Rite Aid, through the efforts of its customers, supplier partners, and associates, has also raised more than $87 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals across the country since 1994.

Rite Aid Corporation (NYSE: RAD) is one of the nation’s leading drugstore chains with fiscal 2018 annual revenues of $21.5 billion. Information about Rite Aid, including corporate background and press releases, is available through the company’s website at