Alumni Highlight: Will Gallup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alumni Highlight: Saphire and Sara Lead ADA Cleveland Advisory Board

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saphire Murphy
Sara Steimle

Walleye Regatta Highlight

If you happened upon the Huron Boat Basin on August 20, you couldn’t miss the laughs, smiles, and fun the Lake Erie Grady-White Club and Youth Challenge participants and volunteers had. For the second year in a row, YC participants and pros from the Lake Erie Grady-White Club took to the blue waters of Lake Erie in search of walleye and fun – and we found both! 

At 10 am, all the boats were loaded up and headed out of the basin for the open water. Each boat carried a YC staff member, participant,  and volunteer, along with generous volunteer captains and first mates. For three hours, participants had the chance to fish for walleye and other fish native to Lake Erie. Immediately, the lines were reeled in – catch after catch was measured and returned to the water. 

Quickly, Alijah grabbed a decent-sized walleye for our first catch of the day; then, the fishing picked up speed. Bre snagged a 23-inch walleye, and Madde caught two large fish. Deegan finally caught his first fish about 30 minutes later – using a worm soaked in Mountain Dew. He named the fish “Jeff Bezos” in honor of the Blue Origin docking at the Huron Boat Basin. After so many catches on so many boats, we lost count of the total number of fish caught, and it was time to head in for lunch. 

A wonderful group from Walleyes for Wounded heroes cooked hot dogs and burgers for the ravenous crews coming ashore. Smiles, stories from the water, and laughter abounded the lovely pavilion up the ramp from the boat launch. 

After the burgers and dogs were scarfed down, it was time to announce the winners of the largest walleye caught, and largest fish caught. Measuring 24 inches, Brayden won the largest walleye caught! Koltyn took the crown for the largest fish caught with an impressive 28-inch catfish! All the YC kids were winners with goodie bags from Grady-White. 

We are incredibly grateful to the Lake Erie Grady-White Club and Walleyes for Wounded Heroes for everything they did to make a fun day for YC participants and volunteers! Click here to watch a full video slideshow about the day. We can’t wait until the next time we hit the water. 

Battle of the Bartenders Highlight

On Friday, August 12, as the sunset gleamed along the lake and the last of the daytime beach goers packed up their blankets, a party was still raging at the Edgewater Beach House! Youth Challenge alumni, Board, Staff, young professionals, and generous supporters came together for one of our favorite parties of the year – Battle of the Bartenders! 

That evening, Team Board, Team Staff, and Team YP4YC went head-to-head-to-head behind the bar, slinging drinks for guests’ tips! The goal – score the most money for YC and be crowned the Battle of the Bartenders CHAMPS! 

The competition was tight this year. Team Board showed early promise with a large swath of donations on Facebook Fundraisers. However, once the competition hit the beach, the YPs took off running. Bringing in a total of $2,000 in donations, Team YP4YC was crowned the champs for the first time in this event’s history!  

In all, more than $5,000 was raised for YC, including more than $4,000 in tips. Guests also participated in the 50/50 and Bourbon Barrel raffles and were able to purchase some new, cool YC swag (Didn’t get yours? Order now at

Overall, Friday, August 12 was a fantastic event that brought together so many groups of people for an incredible cause – providing adapted sports and recreation for hundreds of young people with physical disabilities and their teen volunteer partners. YC is incredibly grateful to everyone who made it to the Beach House to enjoy delicious cocktails, yummy food, and beautiful weather. 

Lastly, we must thank the Cleveland Metroparks for lending us this beautiful space! The Emerald Necklace is such a gift to Cleveland, and YC is grateful to be able to take advantage of so many cool spaces in Cleveland. 

We hope to see you next August when we’ll be back at the Beach House battling it out once again! 

Summer’s End Bash Highlight


At the end of every summer, Team YC hosts a celebration for volunteers, participants, and families. This program allows everyone to come together one more time before the summer comes to a close. This year, the Summer’s End Bash was fire! It was a HOT one. But even the warm temperatures did not keep this crowd from having fun. They came with smiling faces and were ready to play.

At this event, volunteers ran multiple game stations. Each table had prizes to win, and anyone who wanted to play could play for free! Participants had a wonderful time dunking the bucket over the staff person’s head at the Dunk Bucket station. Many free play activities were on hand, too, such as four square, bubbles, chalk, basketball, and corn hole.   

Megan ran an Art Station where participants could leave a fingerprint using paint “to leave their mark” for a collective community piece we started at Where Will Color Take You? 5K Race & 1-Mile Walk & Roll earlier this summer.  

The Alumni Smoothie Stand was on hand to keep everyone cool with their delicious fruit smoothies. The stand included a naming contest to see what the alumni would call this new entrepreneurship program. Near the end of the Bash, the alumni team counted all the votes, and the name of the Alumni Smoothie Stand will be called YC WOOthies! 

Participants and volunteers had the opportunity to get four staff members messy by turning them into Human Sundaes. Each person had the opportunity to pour an ingredient on a staff member, such as chocolate syrup, caramel, whipped cream, sprinkles, and others!

Senior volunteers from left to right: Mykenna Roy, Kelsey Hearns, Anna Williams, Sophia Kontak, Claire Ginley, Emma Hvizdos and Arianna DiMenna

At the end of the program, we recognized the Senior Volunteer class of 2022. Abbie, our Volunteer Coordinator, gave out graduation survival kits to eight of our seniors that attended the Bash. Altogether, we have 48 seniors that volunteered at Youth Challenge. We also recognized our summer program intern, Evelynn “Evie” Beyerle. Evie is a soon-to-be Miami University of Ohio graduate in 2023, coming all the way from Alabama.  

Last but not least, we drew the winners of the Summer Raffle. Congratulations to the winners: 

First Prize: Natalie Caruso 

Second Prize: Colleen Starr 

Thank you to everyone who bought a ticket! Nearly $14,000 was raised to support young people with physical disabilities and their teen volunteers. 

All-in-all, the Summer’s End Bash was a VANtastic celebration of many of the people that make YC unique: staff, volunteers, alumni entrepreneurs, and participants! 

Alumni Highlight: Alex Martinez

Alex Martinez is a star on and off the stage at Youth Challenge. As an alumni participant for over 20 years, Alex is known for her passion for arts and for the theater. She has choreographed the YC holiday show this past year. She is also involved with local community theater group Near West Theater and has raised money for YC through her own produced show.

Not only is Alex involved in the arts at YC, but she also does powerlifting. Alex represented YC at the Great Lakes Sports Association (GLASA) Games this past June and cleared 110 pounds!

“Now I’m getting back into it and doing fitness again and working out consistently, I really enjoy it,” Alex said. “It’s one of my biggest passions. [YC Staff Members] Mackenzie and Jimmy are really great inspiration and trainers and I just love the environment.”

When Alex is not at YC, she works as an ambassador for the Rollettes Experience, an international dance organization that empowers women who use wheelchairs. Alex also works as a Gallery Guard for the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Alex said the support of the Youth Challenge staff, volunteers, and her fellow participants have helped her to become the confident woman she is today. She is also grateful to be connected to the disability community through YC.

“I love YC, it’s my home, it’s fantastic,” Alex said. “I’ve met all my greatest friends there. It’s family.”

Volunteer Committee Invests in YC Endowment

On a Tuesday evening in May, the Volunteer Committee, comprised of ambitious teens, gathers in the Resource Room at YC’s Westlake headquarters. They are working to figure out how to creatively and meaningfully support YC’s mission. Their recent focus was on ways to make fundraising efforts more effective.

Across the lobby, the Philanthropy Committee, a crew of current Board members and seasoned benefactors, ponders investment strategies related to endowment funds. All focus on driving the YC mission forward, emphasizing social justice, broad representation, and equity. YC has a modest endowment through the Cleveland Foundation. The Philanthropy Committee learned about an opportunity to diversify those investments in Socially Responsible and Racial Equity Funds through the Foundation.

Here is where two seemingly disparate worlds collide. What if the cash generated from the traditional fundraising efforts of the Volunteer Committee (car washes, bake sales, movie nights) contributed to the principal of the Socially Responsible and Racial Equity Funds? Volunteers raise money, then use the magic of compounded interest to grow funds that ultimately work to support the participants who call YC home.

Chris Pease, a financial professional and Philanthropy Committee member, wanders across the lobby into the Volunteer Committee meeting, launching into an impromptu financial literacy lesson for our teens. Volunteer Coordinator, Abbie Hair, guides this heat-seeking missile of philanthropic potential to an easy resting place – and the socially conscious teens respond affirmatively.

Through the July 21 Volunteer Committee Car Wash Fundraiser, the group raised $1,230 for the Endowment Fund, allowing participants to enjoy free programs and transportation for years to come.

The Volunteer Committee poses in the YC gym before competing in a friendly game of wheelchair basketball. Pictured from left to right: Grace Mattimore, Kelsey Hearns, Kristina Telban, Emma Garr, Sandra Argalious, Arianna DiMenna, Sophie Petrus, and Izzy Miller. Not pictured: Megan Rammuno, Sophia Needham, Claudia Walsh, Nicole Lavelle, Sean Wilson, and Molly Hanna

YC Alumni Entrepreneurs to Launch Smoothie Venture

Looking to get your car washed? How about a delicious smoothie? The Youth Challenge alumni entrepreneurship team is excited to launch its smoothie venture at the Volunteer Committee Car Wash fundraiser on Thursday, July 21 from 10 am-2 pm in the YC parking lot! (Check out the Facebook event here.) 

In October 2021,  YC alumni Sara Steimle and Sean Walker traveled to Gardner, Kansas for the Boccia National Tournament. On the way there, they stopped at The Golden Scoop, a nonprofit ice cream and coffee shop that provides meaningful employment for individuals with developmental disabilities. From there, an idea was born.

A group of YC alumni has been meeting every other week for the last several months to develop a social venture. This venture will teach YELP participants job skills, promote healthy eating in the Greater Cleveland area, and raise funds and awareness for Youth Challenge. The team is working towards a smoothie stand that participants and volunteers will use to sell smoothies at YC events, and other community events in the Greater Cleveland area. As a result of the smoothie venture, the Greater Cleveland community will learn about healthy eating options and the full potential of employees with physical disabilities.

The alumni entrepreneurship team has a vision to develop an internship to teach YELP participants skills such as communication, time management, problem-solving and financial literacy. In addition, interns will also learn about job accommodations, and where they can find transportation and personal care resources. ACT! participants (ages 26 and up) will manage the smoothie venture, and YELP participants (ages 16-25) will be on the front lines making smoothies

You have the opportunity to help name the smoothie venture! Send us your name ideas on Facebook or Instagram. You will have the chance to vote on a final business name at the Alumni Smoothie Stand at Summer’s End Bash at YC on August 6 from 1-4 pm.

Team YC Competes in GLASA Tournament in Chicago

Team YC competed June 7-12 in the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association (GLASA) Great Lakes Games presented by The Hartford. This annual competition includes a variety of sports including track, swimming, powerlifting, air rifles, archery, basketball, and boccia. YC was super excited to bring seven athletes to compete in powerlifting and boccia this year.

Nicole, Megan, Sara and Sean pose in front of The Bean.

The team arrived in Chicago in a fleet of YC vans, including our brand new van the Martha Mobile. They spent the first day exploring downtown Chicago by touring the waterfront, taking pictures at The Bean, visiting the Art Institute of Chicago, strolling through Millennium Park, and of course, sampling some deep-dish pizza! They finished the first day by watching Blake Weakland and Alex Martinez compete in the bench press event for powerlifting. Blake ended up clearing 100 pounds and Alex cleared 110! The team then headed back to the hotel for some quality team bonding with loud laughter, great music, and silly games.

On Saturday, athletes competed in the boccia tournament. Will Gallup and Bob Vitko competed in the BC1 division with Bob taking home second place and Will taking home third. Sara Steimle competed in the BC2 division against a tough field of competitors. Sean Walker and George Shepherd competed in the BC3 division with Sean taking home first place and George taking home second place. Blake Weakland also competed in the BC4 exhibition against strong opponents including former Paralympians. George, who is only 7 years old, exhibited great mental strategy and skillful execution. It will be exciting to see where his boccia career takes him!

All around, it was an amazing experience for Team YC with strong athletic showings, great new experiences in Chicago, and wonderful memories made with a truly supportive team.


Where Will Color Take You? 5K and 1-Mile Walk & Roll Highlights

Youth Challenge enjoyed its largest fundraising race ever, thanks to a partnership with Sherwin-Williams Women’s Club. Over 1,000 people gathered at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo for Where Will Color Take You? 5K and 1-Mile Walk & Roll on June 18. Attendees had three races to choose from:  a Kids’ Dash, a 5K and a 1-Mile Walk & Roll. YC participants and volunteers joined other members of the Youth Challenge and Sherwin Williams’ community in racing through the zoo.  View 5K race results here.

The Sherwin-Williams Women’s Club took the lead in planning the festivities. Sherwin-Williams Women’s Club Race Co-Chairs Dani Neumann and Chrissy Ingalls, Vice Chair Stephanie Castro, and Tom Gilligan, Executive VP of HR for Sherwin-Williams spoke at the event, along with YC’s own Chris Garr. The event kicked off with a stretching session led by YC staff members Nicole Gaisford and Sara Steimle.

Attendees enjoyed music from DJ Rimon, as well as carnival games, snacks, and ice cream in the Palava Hut. YC even had an adapted art station.  Many local mascots joined the party, including Slider and the Tribe Hot Dogs from the Guardians, Moondog from the Cavaliers, Magnus from the Cleveland State Vikings, Skipper from the Lake Erie Captains, and Sully from the Cleveland Monsters. The Chick-Fil-A cow and Chewbacca from Star Wars also made appearances!

Dave Hardman, President of the Board of Trustees, had the vision to support Youth Challenge through an annual Race Day in the 1980s. For over 35 years, his family continued his legacy by supporting this annual event. The Hardman Family not only participated in the race but also helped support the event as a Friend Sponsor.

Youth Challenge raised over $80,000 from the event, including $30,000 from the Sherwin-Williams Foundation, matching $25,000 in sponsorships, and $5,000 in individual donations. The event would not have been possible without each of our sponsors:

  • Champion Sponsor: Fleet Response
  • Color Sponsor: Oatey Co.
  • Friend Sponsors: American Tank & Fabricating Co., Charles Schwab, Don’s Lighthouse Grille, First Federal Lakewood, The Hardman Family, Mike’s Kids
  • In-Kind Sponsors: Medical Mutual of Ohio, WestPoint Wealth Management



Participant Spotlight: George Shepherd

As soon as George hit the ice, the rest was history. Last July, Youth Challenge and Gilmour Academy came together on the ice to launch Gilmour’s new adaptive hockey program. At this event was George, a bright-eyed seven-year-old who had not yet attended a Youth Challenge program. George immediately fell in love with YC – and the feeling was mutual!

For the last couple of months, George has found a home with YC’s Boccia team. Boccia is a Paralympic sport and the adapted form of bocce ball. George is a BC3 (click here to learn more about boccia classifications) player and his dad, Matt, is serving as his sport assistant.  With the help of Coach Sean Walker and fellow players, George has learned very quickly and enjoys the sport! George won second place for his classification (BC3) at the Great Lakes Adapted Sports Association (GLASA) Games in Chicago, losing only to his Team YC coach, Sean.

“It was my hardest match of the day,” Sean said.

In the fall, George became a regular at YC programs including football! George’s excellent playing lead his team, the Spooky Western Whales, to victory and earned him the title of MVP as his adoring family cheered from the bleachers.

This spring, George found even more programs to love at Youth Challenge. In April, George hit the ice with us again during Sled Hockey at North Olmsted Recreation Center. Jimmy Abraham, YC’s Program & Athletics Coordinator shared that George “loves being a hockey player and falling on the ice.” Don’t worry, he wears a helmet!

Youth Challenge is grateful to have George as an active and bright participant. Since we met him less than a year ago, George has become such an integral part of Youth Challenge and it’s changed him, too. His dad, Matt, shared that “through Youth Challenge, George has learned to be a good teammate, practiced good sportsmanship, and has shown off his personality. For a kid like George who loves sports, but has physical challenges, Youth Challenge has given George the opportunity to compete in sports that we never thought he would be able to play.”


Spring Program Highlight: Sled Hockey and Rock Climbing!

This spring, the Team YC was able to get back into two VAN-tastic sports that we haven’t been able to experience in two years!

Sled Hockey

In April, both our east and westside crews got back on the ice for a month of sled hockey. The eastsiders partnered up with the Gilmour Academy hockey team to form new friendships and take advantage of their excellent facilities and a brand-new fleet of sled hockey sleds. We had so much fun getting to know the Gilmour team and cannot wait to partner with them again! The west siders worked with our volunteers at the North Olmsted Recreation Center to complete drills that sharpened their skills and then competed in intense scrimmages. Both groups showed tremendous improvement from the first practice to the end of the month. We can’t wait to get back on the ice and keep growing in our sled hockey skills!

Rock Climbing

The east and westsiders also got back into the gym for a few WOO-nderful weeks of rock climbing. We started on the eastside at Shaker Rocks in Shaker Heights. The participants and volunteers learned about different belay systems, and everyone was able to make significant progress on their climbing skills throughout the season.The westsiders climbed at On the Rocks Climbing in Elyria. They enjoyed the technical and strategic side of climbing. A couple of our climbers researched different climbing holds and came back ready to put their new knowledge to the test! We saw so much improvement from our west siders. We had such a great experience at both of these gyms and look forward to partnering with them again in the future.


We’re excited to join our participants and volunteers for more fun adventures this summer!

From Participants to Professionals: Participant Alumni Employees at Youth Challenge

For over 45 years, Youth Challenge has empowered young people with physical disabilities to try new things and reach their full potential. YC has left a lasting impact on every young person it serves, and many choose to give back once they become adults. YC has several alumni participants on our staff team. 

Gabby Bova, Alumni Program Associate 

Gabby Bova is an Alumni Program Associate. In her role, she creates and leads programs for alumni participants and volunteers, and helps manage the alumni Facebook group. 

“My favorite part of working at YC is how during these times our virtual programs have brought a sense of togetherness, worth, and joy to both participants and volunteers from a safe distance,” Gabby said. “I enjoy collaborating with other staff members and learning how to adapt games for everyone to play at our virtual game nights.” 

Gabby is a very familiar face at YC. Not only has she been a participant since 2000, but she also served as a student intern on the Board of Trustees from 2013 to 2014 and was the YELP intern in 2020. Gabby is a true go-getter and plays on the Team YC soccer team! 

In addition to her work at YC, Gabby is also a member service representative at YMCA. 


Sara Steimle, Alumni Program Associate 

Sara Steimle works at Youth Challenge as an Alumni Program Associate. In her role, she creates and leads programs for alumni participants and volunteers, manages the alumni social media group, and assists alumni participants with applications for waivers, housing, and transportation.  

“I would have to say my favorite part of working at YC is being able to work with such great, supportive, and dedicated co-workers and alumni,” Sara said. 

Sara has been a YC participant since 2000. A natural-born leader, Sara served on the YC Board of Trustees from 2019 to 2021. She also plays on the Team YC boccia team! 

Sara holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Rehabilitation Services from Wright State University. In addition, she brings previous experience helping people with disabilities learn vocational skills through a Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities provider agency.  


Jen Taggart, Development Coordinator 

Jen Taggart is the Development Coordinator. She uses her journalism degree to manage YC’s social media accounts, manage the Challenger e-newsletter, write grant proposals and sponsorship letters, and help with fundraising events. Jen has been a YC participant for over 15 years and is still involved in the Alumni Community Team. She also serves as a peer mentor to our YELP participants. 

“As a member of the development team, I love learning about all the different foundations, companies, board members, volunteers, and donors that support YC,” Jen said. “I know there are many needs and social causes in the world, and I am always encouraged by the number of people who choose to use their time, talent, and treasure to support my friends and me.” 

Jen said she also loves connecting with the YC community on social media.  


Sean Walker, Head Boccia Coach and Alumni Program Associate 

Sean Walker is the Head Boccia Coach and Alumni Program Associate. His responsibilities include organizing Alumni Community Team (ACT!) programs, coaching the Boccia team and competing in Paralympic tournaments, and engaging with YC alumni in the community. 

“I love being able to see alumni and be able to be a part of a team because a lot of people with disabilities don’t get that,” Sean said. “My favorite part about ACT! is that we’re able to build it from the ground up with very little involvement from other staff.” 

In addition to his work at Youth Challenge, Sean also serves as a Good Life Ambassador for the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities where he advocates for people with developmental disabilities in the Greater Cleveland area. 


Not only do alumni participant employees offer an important perspective into the operations of Youth Challenge, but they also serve as role models to their peers. Many Youth Challenge alumni are employed at other organizations across northeast Ohio. Follow us on social media to read more YC stories, including how many of our alumni went from being “participants to professionals.” 

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!