Volunteer Highlight: Ethan Spies, Eagle Scout

Ethan Spies, a junior at Rocky River High School, completed an Eagle Scout project to benefit Youth Challenge. Together with his Boy Scout troop (Troop 421, based in Fairview Park), he worked to build easels for art programs, birdhouses for the courtyard and the front of the building, and trophies to use for competitive programs such as Crosstown Showdown or the Superbowl Showdown. Ethan has volunteered at YC since his freshman year of high school and has been in Boy Scouts for around six years. Ethan first approached YC staffer Sarah Cooney about the project pre-pandemic.

“The planning and thought that went into this really shows Ethan’s dedication to Youth Challenge and we are thrilled and honored that he chose YC as the beneficiary of his project,” Sarah said. “He’s been an outstanding volunteer and a great leader.”

Ethan said that several of the adult leaders in his troop have experience in construction management and that his troopmates have experience in other woodworking service projects, such as building a donation shed for clothing to be given to local shelters, and shelving units for a local church. He said he is grateful he and his fellow scouts had the opportunity to use their skills to benefit YC.

“It’s just an amazing organization,” Ethan said. “It’s one of the places in the world that does nothing but bring good and joy to people.”

PREVIEW: Where will Color Take YOU on June 18?

Youth Challenge Race Day is BACK in-person this year on Saturday, June 18! Our friends at Sherwin-Williams Women’s Club are hosting Where Will Color Take You? 5K-Run and 1-Mile Walk & Roll at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. That’s right—join us as we run, walk and roll past all the fun animals and wildlife!

What can attendees expect?                                                                                                         

  • Admission to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and RainForest                                     
  • Free t-shirt (if registered before June 5) 
  • Post-race celebration: Refreshments, DJ, photo booth, games, and more
  • Three race options: Kids’ Dash at 8:15 a.m., 5K race at 8:30 a.m., 1-Mile Walk & Roll at 9 a.m.
  • Awards to top finishers 

Here are the costs: 

  • Pre-Registration: $25 per individual or $65 per family (two adults and up to six children ages 18 and under) 
  • Day-Of Registration: $30 per individual or $75 per family 

Click here to register. 

Sherwin-Williams will be generously matching all donations to Youth Challenge, up to $5,000, doubling your impact! Click HERE to donate today. You do not need to register for the race to donate.  

Where Will the Color Take You? also includes virtual options to be able to run the race on your own course on your own time. Distances can be completed any time between registering and June 18 @ 11:59 EDT. Participants will receive a virtual family fun packet and an event t-shirt. Virtual registration costs $20. 

Don’t miss the opportunity to see YC participants and volunteers in action at this fun tradition spanning over 35 years! 

Register today! 

From Athlete to Artist: YC Alumna Bre Sprenger

Trying new things can be intimidating for a young person, but YC provides a comfortable space for everyone to express themselves and find their passions. Whether that’s joining an adapted sports team for the first time or testing out your singing chops, YC is a safe space for participants and volunteers to get outside their comfort zones.

One such participant alumna, Breanna Sprenger, found a new passion in the arts and went from accomplished athlete to award-winning artist. Growing up, Bre was a dedicated student-athlete. She swam for Team USA at two international competitions and was a member of our YC boccia team. In 2021, Bre ended up in the hospital for a long stay and couldn’t participate in athletics like she used to.

Thanks to an art therapist at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, she discovered newfound joy, distraction, and comfort through art! Bre continued to hone her creativity through adapted art at YC. Her piece, Beautiful Intertwined Colors, was recently accepted into the Accessible Expressions Ohio art exhibit and won 3rd place in the youth category! Bre was even able to sell her piece at the exhibit. Bre’s work with alcohol inks represents many aspects of her life as a person with a disability such as dealing with uncertainty and letting go of control.

“I would like to thank Youth Challenge for this opportunity and would also like to thank Rainbow’s Art Therapy for helping me discover my artistic abilities and playing a major role in the recovery process,” she said.

Bre’s piece and the rest of The Accessible Expressions Ohio art exhibit will be on display at the Springfield Museum of Art until May 15. More information can be found on the Springfield Museum of Art’s website.

YC Rocks-Live! Annual Benefit & Auction Highlights

The YC community came to the Agora ready to party during YC Rocks – Live! on March 26, dressed in rock ‘n’ roll outfits from all different decades.

Guests from sponsor organizations enjoyed an exclusive VIP reception in the Agora Ballroom with hors d’oeuvres from Italian Creations and live entertainment from local artist Mickey Silas. In addition,  guests took pictures with actors dressed as Elvis Presley, Tina Turner, and Janis Joplin, who hung out in the VIP area and in the lobby. Participant alumni Will Gallup and Bob Vitko, as the Blues Brothers, acted as bouncers to the VIP room.

During the silent auction, YC supporters bid on a wide array of packages, ranging from travel, golf, entertainment, food and drink, sports, and more. The $10,000 cash raffle sold out within the first two hours of the event!

In addition, attendees enjoyed a variety of delicious dinner choices, including various steak, chicken, seafood, and vegetarian options.

Team YC gave an exciting presentation to invite attendees to “fund the adventure.” Participant alum Darnell Carlisle made a rockstar entrance, carried on a one-wheeled adaptive hiking chair from the back of the auditorium to the stage as YC staff danced around him. Youth Challenge CEO, Chris Garr, flipped through his record collection onstage and spoke about the importance of creating opportunities for young people with physical disabilities to enjoy the great outdoors. Bob Vitko rolled in a handcycle. Participant alumna Zaria Turton was rolled in on a kayak. Will Gallup popped out from behind a tent. Teen volunteer Sandra Argalious stepped out from inside the tent. Each of them shared how YC had made an impact on their lives.

YC supporters smashed the $25,000 fundraising goal within minutes and raised a total of $28,600 toward outdoor adventures for children, teens, and young adults with physical disabilities and their teen volunteers. Everyone celebrated by jamming to classic rock tunes courtesy of DJ Mattitude!

In total, Youth Challenge raised over $200,000 at the event to support our mission! Thank you to each of our supporters for rockin’ with us!

Board Highlight: Lori Coticchia

As a mother of five and the administrator of Ruffing Montessori School, Lori Coticchia has devoted her life to serving children.

When Lori’s oldest son Pierce signed up to volunteer at a bowling activity at Youth Challenge, Lori realized the impact YC not only makes on participants but also volunteers. Each of Lori’s five children followed in their older brother’s footsteps and became volunteers, and she got to see firsthand how teens learn compassion, empathy and patience while helping at YC.

“The participants and volunteers become friends, equals,” Lori said. “What other organization can brag about the lasting effects volunteerism has on the volunteer? I suspect not many.”

Lori has served as a trustee at Youth Challenge for almost 20 years. When her husband Michael passed away in 2014, her family created the Michael L. Coticchia Memorial Fund as part of YC’s endowment, designated for teen volunteers. Lori has held a variety of roles over the years and was elected as president of the board of trustees in 2019. She served until Dr. Chris Hardesty took office in 2021 and is still a member of the executive committee. When Lori is not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, scrapbooking, traveling, and cheering on her alma mater, the University of Notre Dame.

Each of Lori Coticchia’s children has served as a YC volunteer.

Brats, Beer and Brackets Highlights

Basketball fans in the Youth Challenge community were eager to gather together IN-PERSON in the YC gym for the first time in two years at Brats, Beer, & Brackets on March 15. Tickets to the event had sold out, and it was a lively occasion with great beer, delicious food, and an exciting auction.

Bob Hale of Benefit Auction Services conducted the auction but tossed it to YC alum and Believeland Media sportscaster Brandon Lewis to share his expertise on each NCAA team. Bidding competition was fierce, and the highest bid came from a YC family– $3,000 for Gonzaga!

Attendees placed bids on which NCAA teams they expected to win March Madness during the live auction, and many entered the All 64 Teams, Sweet 16, and Top 4 50/50 Sideboard raffles in-person and online. In addition, YC supporters bought 42 brackets in the 2022 Youth Challenge Bracket League. In total, $13,223 will be paid out in prize money during the week of April 18 to winners of the auction and raffles.

Event attendees enjoyed bratwurst, sauerkraut, cabbage and spaetzle, cheddar macaroni and cheese and cookies and brownies for dessert from Italian Creations. There was also plenty of popcorn to snack on from YC’s own popcorn machine. Opportunities abounded to mingle at the event, including opportunities to play Jenga, Connect 4 and cornhole in the fitness center.

YC supporters raised over $7,000 during the fund-a-need for adapted kayaks for participants to use.

In total, Brats, Beer & Brackets raised over $18,000 for Youth Challenge programming. Thank you, Young Professionals for Youth Challenge, for organizing another successful fundraising event!

Crosstown Showdown Highlights

George scores basket
George scores a basket in the championship game for the Tryin’ Lions!

It was a beautiful morning on March 5 as teams from the west and east sides descended to The Garrity Center in Berea, Ohio, for the 2022 Crosstown Showdown. Finally, the stage was set; it had been two years since the last shot of madness in 2019 went up. The signs were up, the hoops were up, and the lines were drawn as eight teams of eager participants and volunteers worked so hard to get this moment… and they did not disappoint.

For four weeks, participants and volunteers met on the west and east sides to practice their skills and build their team chemistry for the big dance. The fourth week was used to determine the seeding for the eventual double – elimination bracket. Coming out of the west side, the 4th seed, the Purple Raining Raptors. The 3rd seed, the Terrifying Tigers. The 2nd seed, the Pink Panthers. And the number 1 seed coming out of the west, the Tryin’ Lions! Coming out of the east side, the 4th seed, the Green Slime Monsters. The 3rd seed, the J Team. The 2nd seed, the Blue Buckets. And the number 1 seed coming out of the east, the Red Rocket Rollers!

The journey wasn’t easy. These teams had to learn new rules and styles of playing basketball for YC. Teams had to adapt to the defensive 3-second box, adapt to new traveling violations, adapt to volunteers playing in a basketball wheelchair. But, with the help of their coaches, the teams made significant progress, and it showed on the big day.

There was no shortage of close games and overtimes. Game after game, the action was almost as non-stop as the concession stand fundraiser managed by the YC Volunteer Committee. The crowd in attendance and those who watched the stream got quite a final game! The two top seeds from the West, the Pink Panthers, and the Tryin’ Lions, met in the championship game in front of a packed gym. The Panthers took a 4 – 0 lead into halftime. But in the second half, the Tryin’ Lions made a run and went up late with 8 seconds to go, with a score of 8 – 6. The Panthers drew up play, and Deegan sent the game into overtime with a last-second shot to make it 8 – 8. However, in overtime, George and his volunteer Luke were too much for the Panthers to handle. They scored twice to give the Tryin’ Lions the victory of a score of 12 – 10.

The nets were cut down and trophies handed out to the teams. The “I Just Hope Both Teams Have Fun” Bracket winners were the Red Rocket Rollers. In the 3rd place, the Terrifying Tigers. In 2nd place, the Pink Panthers. And your champions of the 2022 Crosstown Showdown, the Tryin’ Lions!

PREVIEW: Brats, Beer, and Brackets IN-PERSON at YC!

Brats, Beer and Brackets Tuesday March 15, 2022 5:30-9:00 pm YC, WestlakeCalling all basketball lovers, get ready to win big at Brats, Beer, and Brackets! This event, hosted by Young Professionals for YC, will be back in-person at Youth Challenge on March 15 from 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm. Auctioneer Bob Hale, and YC alum Brandon Lewis 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!

Not only are there opportunities to win during the live auction, but you can also win through purchasing sideboard tickets! You do not need to be present at the event to win a sideboard. Here are our sideboard raffles:

All 64 Teams Sideboard For $10, you’ll be randomly assigned one of the 64 teams playing in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. If you are assigned the winning team, you will win half the pot, up to $320!

Top 4 Sideboard For $50, you’ll be randomly assigned one top-four team (from any region) playing in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. One purchaser will be assigned “the field” (all teams not in the top four of any region). If you are assigned the winner, you will win half the pot, up to $425!

Sweet 16 Sideboard For $50, you’ll be randomly assigned one of the Sweet Sixteen teams playing in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. If you are assigned to the winning team, you will win half of the pot, up to $400!

All purchases for sideboard raffle tickets can be made until Tuesday, March 15 at 9 p.m. YC will assign teams randomly to purchasers, and you will be notified of your team assignment via email on March 16.

Another way to win is through YC’s 2022 Bracket League. You can purchase a bracket for $10, or three brackets for $25. Here is how the pot will be divided for winners:

Bid in-person, buy sideboard tickets online, or enter the bracket league online to win BIG!
  • First Place: 70%
  • Second Place: 20%
  • Third Place: 10%

Brackets may be purchased through March 15. Bracket entering information will be sent on Wednesday, March 17 and all brackets must be filled out by 9 am ET on March 19, 2022. This bracket league will be operated through CBS Sports and winners will be determined by CBS Sports. You must have a free account to participate.

 

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

Tickets for Brats, Beer, and Brackets are $35 each, or you can score two tickets for just $60. 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.

PREVIEW: YC Rocks Live! Annual Benefit and Auction (Top 3 Reasons to Go!)

It’s almost time to party like a rock star!

Darnell hikes Cuyahoga Valley National Park with help of specialized wheelchair.
Proceeds from YC Rocks Live! Annual Benefit and Auction will give participants like Darnell the opportunity to enjoy outdoor adventures.

YC Rocks Live! Annual Benefit & Auction will be held on March 26 from 7:00 pm-11:00 pm at the Cleveland Agora. There’s a lot you won’t want to miss, but here are our top three reasons to go:

  1. The Silent Auction and Raffle Check out the must-have packages at the Agora or bid online starting on March 21. Anyone can bid, even if you’re not attending the event. Bidding ends at 10 pm on March 26. Don’t forget to enter the $10,000 cash raffle with a grand prize drawing of $7,500, and a second-place drawing of $2,500. Only 300 tickets will be sold, and tickets have sold out two years in a row. Grab yours now at YouthChallengeSports.com/Raffle! You don’t have to be at the event to win big, but you should come anyway (see #2).
  2. The Party Enjoy delicious food from Italian Creations and an open bar, and rock ‘n’ roll all night with groovy entertainment from DJ Mattitude. An exclusive VIP reception for benefit sponsors will feature live entertainment, specialty cocktails, and food inside the Agora Ballroom. Dress in your old band t-shirts, or as your favorite rock star.
  3. The Cause Did you know the benefit accounts for around 25% of YC’s annual budget each year? You will have an opportunity at the benefit to support outdoor adventures at YC, including hiking, hand cycling, kayaking, and more. After alumni participant Darnell enjoyed a hike with YC at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park through the help of a specialized wheelchair, he said, “The experience was awesome. I’ve never done like that. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Tickets for the Annual Benefit & Auction cost just $125 a person, with a special young professional 4-pack deal for $300 ($75 per ticket) for young professionals. Contact Carolyn Palmer at [email protected] for the YP discount code. Grab your tickets today at www.YouthChallengeSports.com/Benefit!

For the safety of all event attendees and the young people served by Youth Challenge, all event guests must be fully-vaccinated against COVID-19 or test negative within 72 hours of the event. Masks are encouraged for all attendees when not actively eating or drinking. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or any other contagious illness before the event, do not attend. Please note, this policy may change before the event and all attendees will be sent the updated policy.

Buy your tickets today!

YC Alum to Co-Host Brats, Beers and Brackets

Brandon Lewis with broadcaster headphonesYC alum Brandon Lewis always had a competitive spirit, whether watching sports on TV or competing on teams at YC. Brandon, who is a sportscaster with Believeland Media,  is co-hosting Brats, Beer and Brackets on March 15 alongside Bob Hale from Benefit Auction Services.

“I love this opportunity to come back and see everybody and help YC out and give my expertise on March Madness,” Brandon said.

Brandon and his brother Ryan have been involved with YC every summer from the time they were four years old to when they graduated high school. Brandon said he values the connections he’s made with fellow participants, volunteers and staff.

“Even though I’ve only returned for a few brief stints upon graduating high school, every time I return, it feels like I never left,” Brandon said.

When Brandon was in college at Kent State, he worked at Black Squirrel Radio, eventually rising the ranks to being general manager. He graduated Kent State University in 2021 with a degree in journalism, and now co-hosts Believeland Media’s “All Things Cavalier” podcast. Believeland Media LLC is a startup sports media company with podcasts and written content about the Browns, Guardians, and Cavaliers.people at tables at previous Brats, Beer and Brackets

Don’t miss Brandon and the rest of the YC gang at Brats, Beer and Brackets on Tuesday, March 15, from 5:30-9:00 in the YC gym. Grab a beer or two with your friends, enjoy a catered bratwurst dinner from Italian Creations, and place your bids on the teams you think will reign victorious in the NCAA basketball tournament (so that you can win big)! You can purchase one ticket for the event for $35 or two tickets for just $60.

Only 75 tickets will be sold, and all tickets must be purchased in advance. This event is hosted by the Young Professionals for Youth Challenge. Grab your tickets today!

Board Highlight: Matt Lay

Board member Matt Lay can empathize with Youth Challenge participants in a unique way.

When he was just 20 years old, Matt was involved in a serious car accident. He was life-flighted and underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain. After he was released from the hospital, he went through a 6-week outpatient therapy at a clinic specializing in brain injuries so that the medical staff could assess the severity of his injury. He was fortunate to have no long-term effects.

In 2014, Matt started working as the Vice President, Commercial Relationships Manager at First Federal Lakewood and attended YC events through his workplace. First Federal Lakewood has been a supporter of Youth Challenge for over 30 years. As soon as Matt first walked through the door at YC and saw the young people with disabilities engaging with volunteers, he was brought back to the therapy clinic he attended as a young adult. He decided to become a YC board member in 2019.

“I walk away from every YC event feeling energized and proud of the positive impact I have made on young people’s lives,” Matt said. “Hearing the stories of obstacles participants have overcome and all the great things YC has done to change people’s lives keeps me coming back for more.”

Matt lives in Avon with his wife Angela, and his two daughters. His oldest, Claire, is a YC volunteer. When Matthew and his family are not at YC, they enjoy visiting his parents’ summer cottage in lower Michigan. At Devil’s Lake, they all swim, kayak, water ski, paddle boat, jet ski, and enjoy slow pontoon rides.

Team YC’s Trip to the Chicagoland Regional Boccia Tournament

Team YC traveled to Chicago January 15-17 to compete in the Chicagoland Regional Boccia Tournament. Synergy Adaptive Athletics hosted the Tournament at the Fort Hill Activity Center. They arrived in Chicago Friday night after a long van ride and enjoyed a Chicago classic together: deep dish pizza! Saturday was the main competition day, with athletes competing in matches from 9 to 5.

The four athletes, Will Gallup, Bob Vitko, Sarah Steimle, and Sean Walker, worked extremely hard in all of their matches, and their effort paid off. Everyone won at least one match against challenging opponents. Boccia competition is divided into classifications based on one’s disability. Sean brought home bronze for the BC3 pool, Sara won bronze for the BC2 pool, and Will captured the bronze for the BC1s. Youth Challenge is proud of our athletes’ progress with their boccia skills, and they’ve proven that they are competitive with some of the best boccia players in the country.

That night, the team took the vans downtown to spend some time in the city. They ate dinner together at the Urban Market and then visited Willis Tower. The tower hosts an immersive museum experience where they learned about the history of Chicago, famous city traditions, and all the things that make Chicago unique. After the museum, Team YC traveled up 108 stories to visit the SkyDeck. They made their way out onto the glass ledge to look down at the city from 1,350 feet! It was such a cool experience, and they were all so grateful to experience it together.

Before heading back to YC on Sunday, the athletes participated in a skills clinic hosted by Team USA Boccia coaches. They worked on throwing techniques, discussed ball placement, and mastered the skill of grunting on each throw. It was great to receive one-on-one feedback from the coaches on ways the athletes can improve individually. Team YC also learned how it could continue to expand its boccia team.

Team YC looks forward to weekly boccia practices in the YC gym to continue developing the athletes who competed on this trip and a new group of Youth Challenge athletes who are just starting their boccia experience. This tournament was a great opening to the winter/spring season, and the YC boccia team can’t wait for more fun adventures!

Fall 2021 Program Highlights

Fall of 2021 was jam-packed with all kinds of fun at YC! We began the season with outdoor programs in September and October. As the weather cooled down, we moved programs inside for more fun. The YC Gang was happy to be together in whatever capacity we could!

Megan Smith helps Alijah with his project during Creative Constructions.

The season started with a bang at the Walleye Regatta. YC continued the fun with sports including boccia, ambulatory soccer, sled hockey, and football. Team YC soccer competed in a match against Empower Sports (phot above) and emerged victorious, while our East and West siders battled it out at our SuperBowl Showdown. The West siders brought home the “W” this year in the annual football game. Other recreational activities consisted of handcycling, hiking, outdoor exploration, and more!

While the YC Gang got active outside, we also made sure to have our fair share of arts programs planned. Our crew enjoyed programs like Creative Constructions, Printmaking, Lego League, and Dance & Drama. YC was able to offer many activities where our artistically inclined folks could create artwork for the community to enjoy.

Teddy shoots a hoop during Krazy Kamp’s Fall Ball.

Our program calendar was full of programs for all kinds of people with different interests, along with people in different age ranges! We had a blast with our KRAZY Kampers, ages 4-10, at Fall Ball and Friendsgiving. We also enjoyed time with our older crew in the fall Season. YELP, or Youth Empowerment & Leadership Project, ages 16-25, met up for Outdoor Sports and YELP Peer Support virtually. Our participant intern, Bre, was a wonderful leader in this group. ACT, or our Alumni Community Team, also had their fair share of fun with different activities in-person along with all of the wellness-related virtual programs offered during the day throughout the week. Several times, our YELP and ACT! groups met up to join in community with one another for events like Bowling and a Holiday Party!

Fall of 2021 was a season for the books! We look forward to seeing everyone again this winter!

Why You Should Support the 2021 Annual Fund

Jen, left, working at Battle of the Bartenders.

A message from Jen Taggart, YC Alumna and Development Associate:

I hope you will consider a gift to the Youth Challenge 2021 Annual Fund; here’s why:

As a person living with cerebral palsy, Youth Challenge has given me a place to belong over the last 17 years. I have two older brothers who were very physically active. When I first heard about the opportunity to play sports like my brothers, meet other kids like me, and have fun, my elementary school-age self was ecstatic!

When I was a kid, Youth Challenge was about having the opportunity to play and try new things—swimming, ice skating, sail boating, and skiing, to name a few—without feeling like the “odd kid out” for whom the group had to slow things down. *As a teenager, Youth Challenge gave me a place to fit in and friends to relate to when I was bullied at school for my cerebral palsy. Through YC’s alumni program, I am currently learning how to manage my physical and mental health, advocate for myself, and be independent as an adult living with a disability. I am also able to connect with other adults with similar challenges and goals as my own.

As I grew up, I became more and more aware of how Youth Challenge could provide great programs for kids like me. When I was a high school freshman at Race Day 2010, I felt humbled not only to see my friends—fellow participants, volunteers, and YC staff—participating, but also other members of the community, people who didn’t even know me, supporting Youth Challenge. Gratitude for that community support, and realizing the impact donations can make, are some of the major reasons I chose nonprofit development and fundraising as a career. In my role as development assistant at Youth Challenge, I feel empowered to use my skills to help other young people with disabilities in the Cleveland area have the same great experiences that I have been given.

I hope you will join me in investing in the YC community to provide even more life-changing opportunities for children, teens, and adults living with physical disabilities by donating to the 2021 Annual Fund.

Thank you,

Jen Taggart
Development Associate

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.