Nuts and Bolts and Duct Tape and Zip Ties

“Nuts and Bolts and Duct Tape and Zip Ties” | A Message of Thanksgiving from CEO Chris Garr

A few weeks ago, I was part of a panel discussion for a very unique engineering class at Cleveland State University. The course, Disability, Empathy, and Technology connects aspiring engineers to a more human side of their field of study. I was eternally grateful for the opportunity to engage with Professor Eric Schearer’s passionate students, but even more grateful to learn about their collective zeal for improving the human condition with their ingenuity, creativity. I shared much of the technical jargon that makes adaptive sports work for people with disabilities, and in turn, the students connected the concrete adaptations with a lens of empathy and understanding of not just HOW technology improves lives, by WHY it is so very critical to allowing all people to be part of a team.

Sara Steimle competes in the Jack Attack Boccia Tournament in Columbus this summer.

We are grateful for the ramps, head pieces, and tactile balls that allow us to play boccia.

We are grateful for the caster wheels, the cambered wheels, and the push rims that allow us to play basketball, football and tennis and turn on a dime.

We are grateful for the mono ski, the sit-ski, and the outriggers that allow us to speed down snowy slopes.

We are grateful for swivels, transfer chairs, more outriggers, and stability seats that help us to drift and slice through the water.

YC’s 2020 Goalball Team poses at a February practice.

We are grateful for the eye shades, beeps, bells, and floor markers that allow blind athletes to be blind teammates.

We are grateful for lifts, ramps, tie-downs, grab bars, and busses that allow athletes of any ability to access trails, parks, courts, and fields.

We are grateful for the pulleys, weights, bands, collars, and bars that help us to push ourselves to the limit or just get ourselves moving in the right direction.

We are grateful for toolkits, metal guards, back up batteries, and extra seat belts and size 11 soccer balls that make “the beautiful game” a reality for power wheelchair users.

We are grateful for parallel blades fixed on the bottom of sledges and for twin sticks with ice picks that give us an opportunity to play hockey… on ice, in pads.

Darnell, with the help of some amazing volunteers, enjoyed a hike on a Joëlette this summer.

We are grateful for handcycles, Joëlettes, suspension, and mountain bike tires that allow us to hike trails that reach the rocky tops of mountains and the cool pools at the base of waterfalls.

We are grateful for the OTs, PTs, engineers, coaches and teachers who understand the value of adaptive sport and know that being included on a team can mean a massive boost in a child’s self-confidence, physical health, and overall growth.

Finally, we are grateful for ALL OF YOU who support our mission and understand that the technologies we employ are a means to and end. All of the volunteers and participants who walk through the doors of our facilities and our vehicles are presented with these innovations, but without love, care, empathy, and compassion, the nuts and bolts and duct tape and zip ties are little more than hardware.

Team YC brings all that hardware to life and continues to ignite the human spirit with love! For that, we are all most grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Chris

Topgolf Outing Highlights

On November 4, 2021, nearly 350 people came together at Topgolf to take a swing and support Youth Challenge – and what a wonderful evening it was! In the end, more than $23,000 was raised to support YC, and fun was had by all.

First Federal Lakewood had a blast!

The second annual Topgolf Outing held by YC went off without a hitch. Chilly temperatures were mitigated by heated golf bays, and although outdoors, everyone stayed warm! Groups of six to eight people per bay spanned nearly two floors of the venue, taking up 54 private golfing bays. Uproarious laughter, the whoosh of clubs, and the clinking of glasses filled the space as YC supporters enjoyed a rousing tournament, food, and drinks.

When they weren’t eating, drinking, or socializing, guests competed in the TopContender Tournament, each vying for one of two great prizes. John Bayers was crowned TopContender, taking home $200 cash. One of First Federal Lakewood’s bays took home the grand prize, a three-month platinum membership to Topgolf.

We were glad to have Oatey Co. in attendance!

We are so grateful to everyone who showed up to swing a club with us last week! This event would not have been a success without our wonderful sponsors, who provided great support to YC:

  • Presenting Sponsors: First Federal Lakewood and Oatey Co.
  • Corporate Sponsors: WTWH Media, American Tank & Fabricating, Team Kasler
  • Bar Sponsor: Charles Schwab
  • Food Sponsor: The Biehl Family
John Petersen, Tom McIntyre, and Steve Nock – our wonderful “golf committee!”

 

We would not have had such a fun evening without our tremendous trio of gentlemen making up our “golf committee,” Steve Nock, John Petersen, and Tom McIntyre. We are grateful to them for devoting their time and effort to this event and showing up with a big crew of friends!

We’re already looking forward to doing it all over again in 2022. To make sure you don’t miss any event notifications from YC, make sure to sign up for our e-newsletter by clicking here.

To view photos from the event, click here!

Team Sports Highlight: a Season of Comebacks

It’s been a Team YC takeover this fall!

The 2021 fall calendar has been one filled with many programs, highlighted most notably by team sports. This can only mean two things—lots of practice and new Team YC shirts! Boccia, football, soccer, and sled hockey saw an energetic return to play thanks to all of the support and encouragement from the participants, volunteers, alumni, and many more.

BOCCIA: From midsummer to October, the boccia team put in many hours of practice. Coaches Chris Garr, Sean Walker, Jimmy Abraham, and Abbie Hair, and players Sara Steimle, Bob Vitko, and Will Gallup were all eager to get back in the swing of things. In Columbus, Team YC was able to showcase their skills against tough competition. The team performed well, most notably Sara Steimle and Sean Walker, who placed in the competition and qualified for Nationals in Kansas City. The two were given a hero’s send-off to Nationals, where they fought hard against some of the best competition in the country. The team looks to resume practice and play early next year in Chicago.  Click here for a full report from our trip to Nationals!

FOOTBALL: Are you ready for some football?! Once a week for five weeks, participants and volunteers gathered on both the west and east sides of Cleveland to fine-tune their skills in preparation for the coveted YC Superbowl Showdown. This isn’t your typical football, rather an adaptive form of wheelchair football. The rules are slightly different from standard American football and accommodate athletes of various abilities. Initially,  it was a challenge to become familiar with the pace of play. Yet, after a couple of practices, participants and volunteers showed much improvement. Quick routes to gain a first down and deep shots down the field for long gains were developed and displayed during the big game. If you like offense, you saw quite the barnburner between the West Side Spooky Western Whales vs the East Side Flying Killer Sharks. With a score of 63 – 56,  the Spooky Western Whales held on late for the win as the Flying Killer Sharks made a valiant comeback.

SOCCER: Speaking of comebacks, what a comeback it was for our soccer team in its third annual match with Empower Sports! Similar to football, participants and volunteers gathered on both the west and east sides of Cleveland for practice once a week for five weeks. With a larger team this year, Coach Abbie Hair was encouraged and excited to get to work. Athleticism, dribbling, and passing were all evident early in the season, yet it was the teamwork that would give Team YC the best shot at coming out on top in the big game. It was a chilly morning at St. Ignatius High School when Team YC took the pitch against Empower Sports. The energy was high, not only from both teams but also from the many families, friends, and fans who came to show support. The game was a high-scoring back and forth bout between two evenly matched teams. Players from both sides were able to control the ball and make smart plays for one another. With goals from Gabby, Jarret, and Deonte, Team YC was able to hold on late in an 11 – 9 victory.

 

HOCKEY: After a long wait, YC was able to hit the ice once again for sled hockey with Shaker Heights High School Varsity Hockey for the 7th Annual Adapted Ice Breaker. With new gloves, pads, and helmets (purchased with funds raised in 2020 – thank you!), the participants and volunteers took to the ice not only looking the part but also with enthusiasm. In a sport like sled hockey, it can be frustrating to find your balance and keep up with the pace of play, yet the boys from Shaker Heights were not only great supporters but also great competition once the game began. It wasn’t long before goals were being scored! Fun was had by all, and more than $7,000 was raised to support YC and Shaker Heights Varsity Hockey.

Providing an opportunity to play a new sport in an open and fun environment is what YC is all about! GO, TEAM!

Board Highlight: Charlie Koch

Sometimes, it is simply a casual conversation that can cause a major shift in one’s personal direction and involvement.  As a young financial professional in the early 1980’s, Charlie had such a conversation with then Youth Challenge (YC) Board member, Jim Wooley.  Discussing the organization with Jim, Charlie learned that YC provided sports to children who were physically challenged, and that the organization needed accounting and financial management help to support its growing momentum.  After meeting with YC’s founder, Mary Sue Tanis, and feeling the contagious enthusiasm and smiles as he watched the kids engaged in a program, Charlie was all in. Charlie eagerly shared the mission and activities of YC with his young wife.   She, too, became involved with YC and volunteered her professional accounting services to the organization.

Fast forward almost four decades, and you will still find Charlie and Barb Koch fully immersed in YC, its mission, programs, and future.  Charlie, as the longest-serving trustee at Youth Challenge, has worked in a variety of roles including President, Vice President, and Treasurer as well as on numerous committees.  “For me, giving time and money to an organization as energetic and committed as Youth Challenge is easy,” says Charlie.  “The positive impact [the staff and volunteers] have on the lives of both physically challenged children and the teenage volunteers in Northern Ohio is nothing short of amazing.  How could you not want to be a big part of that once you see the good YC does?”  The positive energy that YC generates and spreads to its committed staff, volunteers, participants, and the broader community keeps Charlie coming back year after year.

Charlie freely admits that Barb is one of the hardest workers at Youth Challenge.  As YC’s volunteer accountant for more than 30 years, employees and vendors rely on Barb to get paid. Her diligence in preparing the financials results in YC’s audited statements each year.  Her tireless dedication in the “backroom” allows others to focus on developing the unique YC programs that inspire self-confidence and enrich lives.

After years of witnessing the delivery of YC’s mission to thousands of participants and countless teenage volunteers, the organization has become a cornerstone in the Koch family.  Both of Charlie and Barb’s children volunteered at YC and the entire Koch Family have become supporters.  When Charlie’s oldest brother passed in 2018, a named endowment fund to YC was established to honor him in a way that is lasting and meaningful.  Barb and Charlie have also included YC in their wills.  YC’s mission renews every year with fresh volunteers and participants; pledging to secure its future is a commitment from the heart that the Kochs continue to support.

Team YC goes to NATIONALS!

Written by Sara Steimle

On Wednesday, October 6th, 2021 members of Team YC’s Boccia Team, Sean Walker and Sara Steimle, headed to Gardner, Kansas along with YC Staff Chris Garr and Abbie Hair to compete in the National Tournament! They were cheered out of YC’s parking lot by some of the YC Staff. Sean’s mom Mary Ann Walker, and Sara’s sister Maddi Steimle came along for the trip as well.

On the way to Gardner, Kansas the team stayed Wednesday night in St. Louis, Missouri. While they were only there for one night, they didn’t miss a chance to have dinner at St. Louis University with former YC  volunteers and current SLU students Kelley Akin and Grace Kanary! After dinner, Kelley and Grace gave a quick tour of the campus. It is always a good time when Team YC gets to catch up with YC Alumni!

The team was back on the road Thursday morning to finally finish out the drive to Gardner, Kansas. As they got close to Gardner, Abbie, who is from Missouri, took the team on a streetcar tour at the border of Kansas and Missouri. Then, Sara headed to the field house to be classified for the tournament. Boccia athletes play in different classifications. You can read more by clicking here.

On Thursday evening, after checking in at the field house, Abbie’s family invited the whole YC gang to their backyard for some Kansas City barbecue and s’mores! It was great food, and everyone had an excellent time getting to know Abbie’s family! Abbie’s mom, Cathy, is a teacher and had her class make Sean and Sara cards. Sean and Sara were also gifted snack bags from the Hair family!

On Friday, Team YC headed back to the field house for orientation. After orientation, they headed to an ice cream shop in Overland, Kansas with a special mission. The Golden Scoop’s mission is to provide meaningful employment for individuals with developmental disabilities. It was a place that hit close to home for YC, and we were glad that we could support them!

Saturday and Sunday were busy competition days. Sean played three games on Saturday and Sara played five games over the weekend. Sean and Sara both won one game each, played well, grew a lot as players, and learned that they can compete at a high level. We can’t wait to bring more Team YC Boccia athletes next year!

The cherry on top of this amazing weekend was all the support from the YC community! During our follow-along Facebook fundraiser, more than 26 people donated $1,200 to support the trip. Thank you!

Sean, with sport assistant Chris, in a heated competition!
Sara, with sister Maddi cheering from the sidelines, gets ready to throw.

 

PREVIEW: YC’s Topgolf Outing is November 4!

Join us on Thursday, November 4 for a golf outing for everyone! Enjoy a night out with your friends, family, or coworkers at Youth Challenge’s Topgolf Outing from 6 to 9 pm at Topgolf Independence.

For more than 30 years, golfers have come together to support Youth Challenge. In 2020, our traditional summer outing transformed into a Topgolf experience that’s fun for the most experienced golfer or the novice picking up a club for the first time.  In 2021, our Topgolf outing is back by popular demand.  The event will include driving range style golf, food, and fun!

You can purchase a $600 bay for up to six golfers. Each bay includes delicious food, unlimited non-alcoholic beverages, and two alcoholic beverages per person. Up to two non-golfing guests are welcome per bay for $50 each.

Guests will compete in the TopContender Tournament during the outing. The goal of the TopContender Tournament is to hit designated targets to achieve double points. Some targets will be worth double points, and others are worth single points. If a player hits a certain designated target on their 20th ball (last ball,) the player will receive triple points.  The individual winner of the TopContender Tournament will win $200 cash, and the winning bay will receive a Topgolf three-month platinum membership for six people.

Even if your swing needs a little work, there are still opportunities for you to win!  Purchase tickets online for the 50/50 Raffle and the Foursome at Firestone Country Club Raffle. Can’t make it to Topgolf on November 4? You are not required to be present at the event to win either of the raffles.

Don’t miss your opportunity to enjoy a unique and fun golfing experience with Team YC! Register for the Topgolf Outing today. Tickets are available through October 22.

Spotlight on Katrina Frei-Herrmann

Katrina and Jim danced the night away at YC Prom!

When Katrina Frei-Herrmann was early in her high school years at Hathaway Brown (HB), she learned about Youth Challenge during a fundraiser at HB. During her sophomore year, she attended a volunteer training, and the rest was history!

Katrina began volunteering regularly during east side programs and quickly fell in love, “Volunteering to me was family,” she explained. “I learned so much about how to build empathy with others and the ways connections can occur between people in the world. I absolutely loved it, especially the summer programs where you got to spend six hours a day with YC!”

Soon after she began volunteering, Katrina started making the commute to volunteer on the west side and joined YC’s Volunteer Committee, where she continued her involvement with YC with “a group of passionate friends!” During her time on the Volunteer Committee, Katrina not only volunteered at programs but helped plan programs including YC Prom!

Overall, Katrina enjoyed so much about her time at YC, including the wide range of activities, the meaningful connections that were “on a level higher than at school”, and watching her participant partners grow into adults and hit milestones along the way!

Katrina is now a senior at Claremont McKenna College in California, studying International Relations and Government. She wants to do social impact work once she graduates. She also works part-time at SOURCE Nonprofit Consulting Center in Claremont, California.

Katrina (second from left) poses at a program.

Early in 2020, Katrina decided to start giving a monthly gift to Youth Challenge. “My mother is a director of a nonprofit and she taught me that money helps the most. So, since I started earning my own money after high school, even if it’s a small amount when you can you should share. Plus, a monthly donation becomes part of your budget,” she explained.

Because of her experience as a volunteer, Katrina knows her donation is being put to good use ensuring YC programs are always there for participants and volunteers. “I have a vision that my donations are supporting the snack box,” Katrina said with a laugh, “if I can support the snack box and bringing snacks to programs, that’s joy in itself!”

We’re so grateful to monthly donors like Katrina who bring joy to YC kids – through snacks and so much more! Katrina encourages anyone considering a monthly donation to start one today! “Even if it’s $5 or $10, that little donation means so much,” she said. “When YC is present in the community, the community not only has a better understanding of access, but there’s also a stronger understanding of disability advocacy. YC not only affects the direct participants but has a larger impact on the community.”

Thank you, Katrina, for giving to YC in more ways than one! You can start your monthly donation today at www.YouthChallengeSports.com/Donation.

Board Highlight: Greer Gibbons

In 2000, Laurel Sweet, a YC staff member came and spoke to a classroom about volunteering at Youth Challenge. Sitting in that class was Greer Gibbons. Just a short time later, Greer attended her first YC program – fishing! There, 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. Fishing was Greer’s first program, but most definitely not her last!

Since 2000, Greer has held multiple roles at Youth Challenge: teen volunteer, summer staff member, YP4YC member, and now Trustee! For more than two decades, she’s been a passionate, engaged member of our community and we couldn’t be more grateful! Greer explained that Youth Challenge helped shape values that have stayed with her and are the reason she believes in the YC mission and vision.

When she’s not at a YC meeting, Greer serves as a Global Project Manager for The Lubrizol Corporation. Greer provides leadership to deliver best-in-class technical solutions that improve the success of customer products. 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 for some 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 Mentor, reading or spending time with family and friends. We’re grateful to have her as part of our YC family!

Thank you, Volunteer Committee!

The volunteers at YC are some of the best around, but there’s a group of these young leaders who go above and beyond for our participants and mission.  Since 2009, YC’s Volunteer Committee (VC), comprised of high school-aged veteran volunteers with proven dedication to YC, has worked to plan and run their own programs for Youth Challenge each season.  Activities have included holiday parties, mixers, service projects, and theme days like Harry Pottery, Disney, Survivor, CSI Mystery, and MORE!

VC members take ownership of programs from start to finish, creating the plan, organizing equipment, and running the show for their participant and volunteer peers.  In 2013, they added fundraising to their repertoire and have been holding special events like open mic nights, game nights, movie nights, dine & donate days at local restaurants, and their annual car wash to their planning efforts.  This year’s car wash, held on July 24th, raised $1303.14 in total!

When COVID-19 affected YC programming in the spring of 2020, this group found other ways to engage with YC participants, including creating interactive social media content like Instagram bingo, hosting a virtual game night on Zoom, and sending Secret Santa and Valentine’s Day gifts to participants.  Last fall, they hosted a Halloween-themed drive-in movie so people could be together but safely spaced out.  And last spring, when participants were coming to YC for individual programs, VC members led an art project where participants and their partners decorated puzzle pieces that were then pieced together for an installation that can now be seen on the wall in YC’s Makerspace.

By: Volunteer Committee, Staff, Participants and Volunteers 2021
Due to Covid separating us physically this past year, we created this piece to show that the YC community is always connected no matter what.

Over the summer, VC members led a Krazy Kamp and an evening of YELP that included decorating pieces for two Free Little Libraries—one that will be placed at our building in Westlake and the other that we’ll station out in the community (location TBD).  VC members, along with other YC volunteers, collected books to stock the libraries, including stories, memoirs, and information specifically about disabilities.  This creative group of young leaders will start planning another fundraiser for the first part of the fall and a program toward the end of 2021.

Since the group first began, over 90 young men and women have been a part of this incredible, dedicated, hard-working team!  Their commitment to YC and willingness to give 110% has created some memorable experiences for participants and volunteers alike and we can’t wait to see what the 2021-2022 crew comes up with next!

Summer 2021 Highlights

A Krazy Kamper and his volunteer partner, Vinny, toss bean bags during a summer program.

The Summer of 2021 at Youth Challenge absolutely flew by with all the fun being had! Our participants, volunteers, and staff had a blast being back together in bigger groups enjoying Greater Cleveland’s wonderful Metroparks and outdoor scenery. YC offered a variety of programs, including some fan-favorites like Survivor Day, Sports & Swim, Trail Orienteering & Outdoor Survival, Game Show Network, Participants vs. Staff, and more!

There was a little bit of something for everyone this past summer. Our KRAZY Kampers, ages 4-10, had the opportunity to join YC for some fun every Wednesday. We reconnected with old friends and welcomed many new faces to the youngest crew of the YC Gang! KRAZY Kamp is a popular program for our fabulous volunteers who loved hanging with our little ones at programs like Science Olympics, Animal Planet, and Let’s Get Messy!

Marcus, Rosie, and Kate enjoyed painting the sides of the Little Free Library along with their volunteer partners.

Additionally, YC’s Alumni Community Team, or ACT, also had many opportunities to reconnect this Summer. Events included Smoothie Chats, Outdoor Rec Meet-Ups, Virtual Programs, and more! Our Alumni community was able to join with our YELP participants, ages 16-25, for an Outdoor Barbeque Bash to celebrate the summer and build community with one another. The Barbeque Bash was also a great time to be together to celebrate YC’s Jesuit Volunteer, Brittany. ACT and YELP members were able to thank Brittany and commemorate her year of service during the Bash!

The Volunteer Committee, or VC, was also very busy with planning programs and a fundraiser to benefit Youth Challenge. This group of dedicated, young leaders worked on Youth Challenge’s new Little Free Libraries over the summer at programs with participants. The VC collected books about disability or written by authors with disabilities for the Little Free Libraries to educate others and encourage inclusion. Our Libraries should be getting finished soon! The VC also hosted a Car Wash for YC and raised over $1200! We could not be prouder of this group and look forward to working with them more in the Fall!

YELP and ACT members came together to end the summer with a fun backyard barbeque at Youth Challenge.

We will be happy to be back together for more programs this September!

YC’s 2020 Annual Report: The Time is Now

Youth Challenge is pleased to present our 2021 Annual Report! Click here to view the full document. Read below for an introductory message from Chris Garr, CEO.

 

The ability of our participants and teen volunteers to grow and meet challenges rests at the heart of YC’s Mission. Over the past year, we as an organization have grown in our resolve to vigorously meet challenges, and we eagerly look forward to leading the community with ingenuity, creativity, care, and commitment. Over 45 years, we’ve diligently sustained our commitment to providing opportunities in sport and recreation where access was lacking. That need remains, and, for many, it is more pronounced than it ever has been.

In the wake of recent global and local challenges, the traditional staples of adaptive athletics, arts, and a passionate commitment to fun remain constant, but we must adapt expertly to new circumstances and new opportunities. Now, we present a more dynamic program structure that best meets participants’ and teen volunteers’ unique physical and mental needs. Now, we tap into the endless potential of alumni who are using YC’s platform in the community to make waves as advocates and leaders. Now, we reinvent our fundraising practices to motivate philanthropic action across a broader spectrum and engage donors of all levels. Now, we leverage our immense professional capital to promote inclusion and
in a way that is unique to YC – full of energy and an indomitable will to overcome obstacles.

I want to thank Lori Coticchia for her outstanding leadership as Board President. Her steady hand, trust in the capability of the staff, and openness to growth allowed us to fully deploy a myriad of resources to best serve the community during a time of great need. Effective January 2021, we welcome Christina Hardesty, MD, to the helm as YC’s current Board President. A Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital and UH Ahuja Medical Center, Dr. Hardesty is intimately familiar with YC’s ability to provide exceptional opportunities and a unique position for leadership in the disability community.

Now, in 2021, we have the same resolve as in 1976 to meet challenges to access, to deliver inclusion with a hefty dose of fun, and to lead boldly with love and compassion for all.

Chris Garr, CEO

Board of Trustees Feature: Mark Dvoroznak

Since the 1980s, Youth Challenge has had a relationship with Sherwin-Williams. Through this partnership, we are privileged to have Mark Dvoroznak on our Board of Trustees! In 2020, Mark retired from his position of Vice President, Enterprise Risk Management at Sherwin-Williams after more than 30 years. He’s been on the YC Board of Trustees for eight years.

At Sherwin-Williams and beyond, Mark has been a tireless champion of Youth Challenge. He’s never afraid of a challenge, from fundraising for YC’s Annual Fund to creating exciting auction packages for the Annual Benefit and Auction. Notably, Mark facilitated the introduction of Youth Challenge to the Sherwin-Williams Women’s Club, which plans the Where Will Color Take You? 5k Race & 1-Mile Walk & Roll. Thanks to Mark’s leadership, and the hard work from the Women’s Club, the race has raised more than $150,000 for Youth Challenge in the last two years!

Both Mark and his wife, Sue, grew up in families where they were raised to be simple, humble, and care for others. Their parents were involved in service-related projects and with their church communities. By serving Youth Challenge, the couple sees a way to honor their parents’ legacy while also passing on the importance of giving to their children and grandchildren.

Their support is making a difference for Youth Challenge today but also focused on the future. They established the Dvoroznak Family Charitable Fund in 2014 to ensure sustainability for the organization. “Being on the board, we are very aware that the funds are needed to support the Youth Challenge mission. Hopefully, our endowment will help so that the organization will be able to provide consistent and reliable services.”

Now retired, Mark and Sue enjoy spending lots of time with their three children and their families. He’s blessed to have his grandchildren local, and he’s already preparing them to be future YC volunteers! Mark is also a huge Cleveland Sports fan. While he enjoys all the teams, he and Sue love watching the Indians at Progressive Field most of all!

Preview: Battle of the Bartenders at Edgewater Beach House

The battle rages on! Join Young Professionals for Youth Challenge (YP4YC) for Battle of the Bartenders on August 20, 2021 from 5 – 8 pm at the Edgewater Beach House on Lake Erie. During this fun bartending event, Team Board, Team Staff, and Team YP4YC will be competing for your tips once again.

In the past, this event was held in early November at Around the Corner in Lakewood. In 2020, the event was transformed into “Battle of the Bartenders on Wheels” with home-delivered cocktails from Simple Times and charcuterie boards from Sweet Brie Co.

This year, we’re excited to be back to the traditional behind-the-bar battle in a new, open-air venue, the Edgewater Beach House! Click here to learn more about the Edgewater Beach House, located at 7600 Cleveland Memorial Shoreway, Cleveland, OH 44102

Event details:

  • This event is open to anyone age 21+.
  • Admission is free ($5 suggested donation if you can, and you’ll get a beer koozie for your donation while supplies last).
  • Food and drink will be available for purchase at the Beach House.
  • Bring cash to tip your favorite team!
  • This event is outdoors, rain or shine (don’t worry, the Beach House has a roof!).

The team that collects the most tips for Youth Challenge will be crowned the winner! Can’t make it but want to support your favorite team? Donate below! Donations must be received by 7:45 pm on Friday, August 20 to count for your team.

Besides food, drinks, and lake views, there are some great ways to have fun and support YC during the event:

  • Purchase 50/50 raffle tickets.
  • Grab some YC swag. From car magnets to tumblers, you’ll be representing Youth Challenge and making a difference!

Don’t miss Battle of the Bartenders on August 20 at the Edgewater Beach House – a fun night to enjoy the beauty of the C-L-E and give back to YC! Invite your friends on Facebook to make sure they’re there with you! https://fb.me/e/dsw2PLE4y

ADA Cleveland: Advocacy & the Call for Access

Youth Challenge is proud to be a member of ADA Cleveland, a coalition of disability-related organizations that seek to celebrate the ongoing legacy of the Americans with Disabilities Act. ADA Cleveland leads in ensuring access, increasing awareness, promoting independence, and providing opportunity. They engage our community as advocates for positive change.

In 2020, ADA Cleveland celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with a virtual Call for Access. The event brought together the Greater Cleveland Community to learn more about the disability community, the ADA, advocacy, and much more. YC was a large part of this event. You can read more on our 2020 highlight post here.

In 2021, ADA Cleveland continues the Call for Access over a few months, beginning on July 25, 2021. During the events, there will be webinars and educational sessions on a variety of topics, from employment to design. Presentations will be grouped by topic and will happen once or twice per week. For updates and information on the Call for Access, visit www.ADACleveland.org or sign up for ADA Cleveland’s newsletter by clicking here.

The event kicks off with a virtual celebration on Sunday, July 25, 2021, at 12 pm ET! The event will feature local speakers, a video presentation, and a live Q&A session. Then, stick around to hear more about ADA Cleveland’s upcoming series of webinars, meet-ups, virtual discussions, and more! The event will be ASL interpreted and captioned. Register by clicking here!

YC encourages our community to take part in this important series of events as we advocate for further access for people with disabilities throughout the Cleveland area, the state, and the world!

Board Highlight: Dr. Chris Hardesty

Dr. Chris Hardesty has been a member of YC’s Board of Trustees for six years and began serving as President in January 2021. When she’s not tearing it up in the Boardroom (or on the Board Zoom), Chris can be found in the operating room at UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, where she serves as a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon.

Chris knew she wanted to be a doctor and work with children since she was in seventh grade. Then, in high school, Chris started working with children with disabilities. Thus developed her passion for working with young people with disabilities – she specializes in working with kids with neuromuscular issues. While on her way to becoming an extraordinary surgeon, Chris volunteered in the hospital as a Child Life Specialist (someone who makes the hospital environment more fun and less scary) and ran camps for kids with disabilities.

In her spare time, which doesn’t come often, Chris spends time with her two sons, husband, and their dog and also finds some time to fly airplanes (she’s a pilot). She also loves to work out at OrangeTheory Fitness (YC is a huge fan of OTF!).

We’re lucky to have Doc on our team at YC! Chris brings a level head, all-in attitude, and effervescent smile to each Board Meeting and YC activity she attends – from mini golf with YC alumni to Executive Committee meetings. When we asked her about why she loves YC, she said “YC brings out the best in every life it touches.  Every participant, volunteer, staff member, and board member gets a chance to change the world, and simultaneously changes the world for the better at YC.  How lucky are we to be a part of it?!?”

Where Will Color Take You? 2021 Virtual 5k + 1-Mile Walk & Roll

This summer, YC is ecstatic to be partnering yet again with the Sherwin-Williams Women’s Club for Where Will Color Take You?, a virtual 5k race + 1-Mile Walk & Roll. The race kicked off on June 19 and continues through July 4!

Register today for just $25 at www.YouthChallengeSports.com/Color. Your registration gets you a race t-shirt, finisher’s medal, and free scoop coupon from Mitchell’s Ice Cream. Registration is open through July 4.

Having a virtual race means that you can complete your 5k or one-mile on your own time and wherever you’d like! Whether you’re running through Cuyahoga Valley National Park on Fleet Response’s sponsored course or rolling your 5k through Rocky River Reservation on Oatey’s sponsored course, we know you’ll have a blast supporting YC! See all the sponsored courses at www.YouthChallengeSports.com/Courses.

Youth Challenge participants and volunteers have had a blast coming together for race meet-ups across Northeast Ohio. Every Saturday, June 19 – July 3, we’ve been hitting the courses at different parks and having a lot of fun! We can’t wait to be all together again at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in 2022.

YC race meet-ups are possible because of the generosity of our donors. And right now, your donation to support Where Will Color Take You? will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $5,000 by the Sherwin-Williams Foundation! Give now at www.YouthChallengeSports.com/RaceGift. Hurry! The match expires July 4.

We are so grateful to all the 2021 Where Will Color Take You? sponsors making a difference for YC:

  • Presented by: Sherwin-Williams
  • Champion Sponsor: Fleet Response
  • Color Sponsor: Oatey
  • Teammate Sponsor: Invacare
  • Friend Sponsors: Don’s Lighthouse Grille, First Federal Lakewood, Doug & Linda Hardman, Mike’s Kids

Wherever color takes you this summer, we hope you have a blast! Please don’t forget to share your photos on social media by tagging @YCSports1976 and using #WhereWillColorTakeYou2021.

Winter-Spring 21 Highlights!

Talk about a whirlwind! YC’s 2021 Winter-Spring season has been a wild one. Participants, volunteers, and staff have gone through a variety of programs during this 2021 season already. In true YC fashion, we saw our participants and volunteers adapt to all these changes and make the best of them. This season, while dynamic, to say the least, has been full of highlights!

Sean pitches to RJ during an individual baseball session.
Sean pitches to RJ during an individual baseball session.

The season started completely virtual on Zoom after the holiday season. As much as we love Zoom for keeping us connected, in February, we decided that it was time to see people’s faces directly and not over a computer screen. It had been way too long (since mid-November) that we had seen participants and volunteers at YC, and the building had been too quiet. We kicked off the in-person program season with our individual sessions. Our individual sessions, as the name implies, focused on one participant’s interests. These sessions ranged from playing baseball with Bald Sean (we miss you already, Sean!) to theater with Megan. While it was an excellent opportunity to get to know everyone on a more personal level, when May came around, everyone was ready to be in a group again. May was spent enjoying some of YC’s favorite program themes, from Sports Around the World to Recess Games.

YC participants sit in a distanced circle in the YC gym
A return to in-person YELP programs.

For Bre Sprenger, YELP and Board Intern, her highlights of the Winter-Spring Season centered around YELP (Youth Empowerment and Leadership Program). For most of the season, we met every Wednesday night on Zoom. Each week was dedicated to various topics, but they were mainly focused on building our resilience and tips and tricks for better mental health. Bre particularly enjoyed talking about Brene Brown. If you do not know who she is, look up her TedTalk on “The Power of Vulnerability,” it is amazing. She encourages people to live life authentically and vulnerably; things that can be hard to do but are so worth it in the end! The best part for Bre might be coming back to in-person programs. Feeling life return to normalcy in healthy and safe ways has been huge. Like many of the YC staffers, Bre is eagerly waiting for a summer full of fun and in-person connection!

 

Highlights from the Annual Benefit & Auction

In no uncertain terms… the YC community ROCKS! We are incredibly grateful to all the folks who helped make the 2021 Annual Benefit & Auction a cymbal-smashing success!

On May 15, 2021, YC held our second virtual Benefit, YC Rocks! Volume 2. From the home-delivered catering to the fast and furious silent auction bidding and all the way to the engaging livestream, the event was truly a rockin’ good time.

The afternoon started with fresh, delicious meals from Italian Creations and delectable charcuterie boards from Sweet Brie Co. loading onto YC vans to head out to folks anxiously awaiting to DIG IN! Included with each meal were a bottle of wine and a token of appreciation from YC in the form of a cookie, made by the talented Sister Project Co.! Dozens of event attendees also stopped by YC to pick up their meals to enjoy at home.

Then, the YC crew snapped into motion to put on an entertaining live show for all our guests at home. With rock n’ roll in mind, special guests including Trustee Sara Steimle, Board Interns Bre Sprenger and Sophia Needham, and YC program staff joined YC CEO Chris Garr in the gym to showcase Youth Challenge. You can watch the full livestream at www.YouthChallengeSports.com/Livestream, but here are the highlights:

  • Chris Garr wore three different and fantastic wigs.
  • Bre and Sara shared how impactful YC has been on their lives and encouraged folks to donate to YC’s $25,000 Fund-a-Need match. More than $26,000 was raised!
  • We sold out the $10,000 Cash Raffle and drew our two winners (Congrats Heidi Taylor and Aubrey Christ)!
  • We had a special cameo from a future YC volunteer (Baby Liam Cooney).
  • We had a GREAT TIME!

While our second virtual Benefit wasn’t quite as fun as seeing all of our community in person, we are still on cloud nine! Thanks to the incredible generosity of our community – and we mean incredible – more than $220,000 was raised to fund our mission. We are so grateful to each sponsor, donor, bidder, and raffle ticket purchaser!

We’re looking forward to 2022 when we can rock out yet again!

Youth Challenge: The Power of Inclusion

Lindsay O’Keefe, a Senior at Laurel School, has been volunteering for Youth Challenge since she was twelve years old. Lindsay is an avid filmmaker and plans to study Film & TV at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts this fall. As part of her senior capstone at Laurel, Lindsay created a beautiful documentary film about Youth Challenge!

The film, entitled “Youth Challenge: The Power of Inclusion”, will air at the end of the YC Benefit livestream on Saturday, May 15. You can watch the livestream beginning at 8 pm ET at www.YouthChallengeSports.com/Livestream. Below is the information poster that accompanied her film presentation at Laurel late last month:

Introduction: My project is a 15-minute documentary on a non-profit organization called Youth Challenge. I have been volunteering there since I was twelve years old. Youth Challenge pairs teen volunteers with children who have physical disabilities to do a range of activities together. Youth Challenge has proven that the power of inclusion is life-changing.

Objective: Since Youth Challenge has given me so much, I wanted to give something back to them. Through the documentary, I want society to become more accepting of people with physical disabilities because they are just as capable as any able-bodied person. My documentary shows that YC is so much more than a non-profit and that the impact is truly immeasurable.

Motivation: I am very passionate about ending ableism. Ableism is defined as “discrimination in favor of able-bodied people.” I hope this documentary is one small step closer to a more accepting, inclusive, and accessible world for people with physical disabilities. I am changed forever by the incredible people I’ve met through YC.

Summary:  I interviewed five people: Chris Garr, the CEO of Youth Challenge; Mary Sue Tanis, the founder of Youth Challenge; Breanna Sprenger, a student intern and former participant; Gabby Bova, an alumni executive committee member and former participant; and Sean Walker, the YC Boccia Coach and former participant. They all explain how Youth Challenge has changed them for the better.

Acknowledgments: I would like to thank my amazing mentor Hollie Brubaker for letting me use her sound equipment, Chris Garr for sending me old YC pictures and helping set up interviews and every person I interviewed for the documentary. Thank you for making this possible and allowing me to share my love for Youth Challenge through this film. This has been a phenomenal experience and I’m so grateful to be a part of this extraordinary non-profit organization.

Preview: YC Rocks! Volume 2, Annual Benefit & Auction

YC will have yet another rockin’ good time on May 15, 2021 during the Annual Benefit & Auction, YC Rocks! Volume 2! For one night only, YC will join with you online for an electrifying virtual benefit, including a fun livestream show, fund-a-need, $10,000 Cash Raffle, and exciting auction! There are lots of ways to get in the action and support Youth Challenge.

Catering tickets are available for purchase through May 7, 2021. Purchase dinner to pick up or have it delivered to you (no charge!). Delicious meals are available from Italian Creations, or you can grab a snack ticket including yummy and beautiful charcuterie from Sweet Brie Co. Both dinners and snack tickets are for two people to share and come with a bottle of wine. Order today, www.YouthChallengeSports.com/Benefit.

Join in the livestream action on May 15, 2021 at 8 pm ET at www.YouthChallengeSports.com/Livestream to enjoy the YC Rocks! party. Grab some food and drinks and sit back while you watch Chris Garr, CEO, guide you through this year’s exciting lineup. During the program, we’ll be raising funds for our Fund-a-Need, supporting alumni programming at Youth Challenge. Will you help us hit our goal of $25,000? You can tune in early, too, to watch the pre-stream show beginning at 7:30 pm. Donate today at www.YouthChallengeSports.com/Benefit.

The $10,000 Cash Raffle winners will be pulled during the livestream on May 15, 2021 (starting at 8 pm ET). The first prize winner will receive $7,500, and our second-place winner will get a cool $2,500. Tickets are just $100 each, and only 300 tickets will be sold. Purchase your tickets today – they sold out before the livestream last year! www.YouthChallengeSports.com/Raffle.

On May 10, we’ll launch the bidding on this year’s silent auction! There’s truly something for everyone this year, from a Tribe Suite for 10 to an evening cruise on Lake Erie to cases of wine. Bid high and bid often beginning May 10! Make sure you’re registered at www.YouthChallengeSports.com/Benefit to get notified when the auction goes live.

In all, there is a myriad of ways to get your groove on Saturday, May 15, 2021! Mark your calendars, folks – this isn’t one to miss. We hope you’ll join us for this exciting Virtual Benefit and help us celebrate you and all the support you provide to the young people of YC! Our Annual Benefit & Auction is so important to our mission; the annual event accounts for approximately 25% of our yearly budget. Thank you for rockin’ out with us!