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

Youth Challenge, in partnership with the Sherwin Williams Women’s Club, had another very successful Where Will Color Take You? 5K Race and 1-Mile Walk & Roll event at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo on June 17. Over 1,300 people registered for the race, and 1,000 were in attendance. 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. Some of them even handcycled the 5K!  View 5K race results here. 

The Sherwin-Williams Women’s Club, led by Race Chair Stephanie Castro and Co-Chair Katie Speer, took the lead in planning the festivities. The event kicked off with a stretching session led by YC staff members Sara Steimle, Nicole Gaisford and Laurel Sweet. 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.  Several mascots joined the party, including Moondog from the Cavs, Pozzie from the Cleveland Charge, Chomps from the Cleveland Charge, and the Chick-Fil-a cow. 

Dave Hardman, President of the Board of Trustees, had the vision to support Youth Challenge through an annual Race Day in the 1980s. Mike Rupp, a participant alum who was the original Race Day, rang the bell to kick off the Walk. 

Youth Challenge raised over $85,000 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 
  • Friend Sponsors: Kaulig Giving, Charles Schwab, Don’s Lighthouse Grille, First Federal Lakewood, the Hardman Family, Mike’s Kids 
  • Corporate Sponsors: Medical Mutual, WestPoint Wealth Management 

YELP & ACT Fitness & Gardening Highlights

Embracing a healthy lifestyle involves a combination of exercise, fostering a sense of community, and spending quality time outdoors. And this summer, at YC’s Westlake headquarters, ACT and YELP participants get to experience all three of these things every Thursday.  ACT has been enjoying exercising and gardening since the spring, and YELP has the opportunity to join them now that school’s out for the summer!

During fitness, Alumni Program Coordinator Sara Steimle engages the group in a diverse range of exercises, including breathing techniques, arm stretches, and running in place. Once warmed up, they dive into weight training in the fitness center, utilizing resistance bands and other equipment to build strength and endurance. To conclude the fitness session, Sara guides everyone through various boxing combinations, where each participant and volunteer even gets the chance to suggest their own boxing combination.

This year, alumni are taking over the YC garden in the courtyard! During the pandemic, Alumni Engagement Manager Lisa Friel’s dad, Pat McCafferty, helped transform the courtyard into a garden by building raised flower beds. Since then, the garden has been used during individual sessions and has been incorporated into programs for younger participants, such as Farm to Table. Thanks to donations from the Salem family, alumni participants have had the opportunity to get their hands dirty (literally!) and plant herbs, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and flowers. This summer, alumni and YELP participants will spend time maintaining the garden each week by weeding, watering, and waiting for everything to grow!

We look forward to the rest of the summer growing our muscles and green thumbs with YELP and ACT participants!

A group of participants, volunteers and staff stretch their arms.
Bre and Fiona exercise using the resistance bands.

 

 

Volunteer Highlight: Harsha and Ashwin

Harsha and Ashwin, recent graduates of Upper Hawken School, have always been leaders for other teen volunteers on the East Side. In fact, Harsha recruited Ashwin and his other friends to volunteer at YC. They were regulars at Sports & Swim last summer and even marched together at the March for Access in Cleveland last September, advocating for disability rights. Participants are always requesting to be paired with them at programs!

Most recently, Harsha and Ashwin completed their three-week senior project at YC! During the project, they had the chance to hone their leadership skills. They got a taste of everything at YC, from leading Volunteer Committee initiatives to helping with Archery and Cycling, Dance, and Baseball programs. Stepping out of their comfort zones, they lead an archery activity for the first time. They also served as van aides, ensuring participants got to and from YC programs smoothly. And whenever there was a need for more YC volunteers, you could count on Ashwin and Harsha to be there. Last but not least, Ashwin and Harsha got the chance to take part in planning and implementing the Volunteer Committee’s costume race and pie-in-the-face competition at the Baseball Showdown. What a fun way to end an amazing internship!

Harsha will attend The Ohio State University, and Ashwin will attend the University of Cambridge in England in the fall. YC will certainly miss Harsha and Ashwin but are proud of their accomplishments and are excited to see what life has in store for them. Thank you, Harsha and Ashwin, for your commitment to YC!

Baseball Showdown Highlights

The YC community gathered at Clague Park on May 24 for YC’s first-ever Baseball Showdown! The event was the culmination of three weeks of practice for the participants and volunteers. It was a beautiful spring afternoon with the fence decked out with balloons to cheer on the Bubble Gum Banana Splits and Red Running Rabbits. Bubble Gum Banana Splits came out ahead 12-10 in a very close game against the Running Red Rabbits.

The Volunteer Committee piled on the fun with lots of fanfare! Participants, volunteers and spectators enjoyed a face painting station, and a ‘costume race’ at the end of the game (based on the famous condiment race of the Guardians.) Volunteers Sean, Mya, and Harsha faced off against Jimmy and Megan – the two Staff Members our participants voted to be a part of the race! The loser, Sean, was then pied in the face! Participants were able to enjoy popsicles, donuts and brownies.

All in all, the first Baseball Showdown was a major success, and we look forward to more fun in the years to come!

Winter Spring 2023 Highlights

What an exciting last couple of months we had at YC!

Winter/Spring is our longest and most diverse season of programming. In April, we had four weeks of Sled Hockey on both sides of town. Mondays and Tuesdays were spent on the ice at Gilmour Academy and North Olmsted Recreation Center, learning the basics of sled hockey with skill-building drills and fun games.

We had three service days dedicated to giving back to the community. Participants and volunteers collected supplies or made projects for local organizations, including Cleveland Reads, The Mat Project, Refugee Response, 1,000 Ties, Lorain County Main Library Book Drive, West Side Catholic Center, and Cleveland APL.

One of this season’s program initiatives was to expand our east side teen volunteer pool. We had three Art & Games programs in February at Mayfield High School. The students went through our virtual volunteer training to prepare, then met with Volunteer Manager Abbie Hair and Alumni Engagement & DEI Manager Lisa Friel after each program to debrief and collect feedback on how YC can make the volunteer experience more equitable.

We look forward to more opportunities to connect with each other and try new things this summer!

Anchors Aweigh with YC! Annual Benefit & Auction Highlights

Anchors Aweigh with YC! Annual Benefit & Auction was a smashing success, with nearly $220,000 raised by our generous sponsors and attendees to support our mission. 

Our event set sail on April 22 at Music Box Supper Club, where guests enjoyed stunning views of Lake Erie. VIP guests were welcomed aboard with hand-passed hors d’oeuvres, and the main event was filled with delicious food and drinks including signature cocktails! 

Our fund-a-need program was engaging and heartfelt, and we were moved by the stories shared by speakers about how YC and our community have supported them. Thanks to the generosity of Stacy & Steve Nock and an anonymous donor, we were able to match donations up to $30,000, making the program even more impactful. 

A real treasure of the night was our silent auction, which raised a record-breaking amount of over $67,000! Bidders had the opportunity to score some serious loot, including sports memorabilia, vacation packages, and one-of-a-kind experiences. We’re grateful to all of our auction donors and bidders for their generosity and support. 

And let’s not forget the $10,000+ Cash Raffle! Congratulations to our lucky winners, Al Yates, Lisa Altobelli, Kevin Flynn, and Mike D’Amato. 

Overall, we’re thrilled with the success of this year’s event, and we’re excited to continue our mission of providing adapted sports and recreation programs to young people with physical disabilities and teen volunteers in Northeast Ohio. Thanks again to everyone who helped us set sail on this fantastic adventure! 

YC is grateful for the support of our sponsors that hoisted our sails as we set our course: 

PLATINUM PLUS SPONSORS 

First Federal Lakewood 

Oatey 

PLATINUM SPONSORS 

National Safety Apparel 

Reese Pharmaceutical 

GOLD SPONSORS 

BakerHostetler 

Stacy & Steve Nock 

Refractory Specialties 

Nordson 

Sherwin-Williams 

 

SILVER SPONSORS

Brouse Mcdowell 

Cohen & Company 

The Coticchia Family 

Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities 

First National Bank 

The Hardesty/Applegate Family 

The Kalt Manufacturing Company 

Mike’s Kids 

The Retirement (k)oncierage group 

Shurtape Technologies 

Smart Business 

Total Benefits Advisors-Mr. Mark Breen 

Tucker Ellis 

BAR SPONSORS 

AT & F 

Nelson Mullins 

ENTERTAINMENT SPONSOR 

School of Rock Cleveland 

PARKING SPONSOR 

Brunswick Auto Mart 

TECHNOLOGY SPONSOR 

Hyland 

CORPORATE SPONSORS 

Buckingham, Doolittle and Burroughs LLC 

Henkel Corporation 

Jones Day 

Mazella Companies 

Where Will Color Take You? 5K Run & 1-Mile Walk & Roll Preview

It’s that time of year again! 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 on June 17. 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 4)
  • Post-race celebration: Refreshments, DJ, photo booth, games, and more
  • 5K race at 8:30 a.m. and 1-Mile Walk & Roll at 9 a.m.
  • Awards to top finishers

Here are the costs:

  • Pre-Registration: $30 per individual or $85 per family (two adults and up to six children ages 18 and under)
  • Day-Of Registration: $35 per individual or $95 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 17 @ 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!

 

 

Board Highlight: Dan Douglas

Helping at Youth Challenge is a family affair for the Douglas family.

Dan was introduced to YC by his wife, Sharon, who volunteered in the 1980s when she was a student at Magnificat High School and served on program staff while she was in college. Sharon’s brother, Bill, was a participant. Sharon works part-time at YC as a Development Assistant.

Dan has been a board member at Youth Challenge (YC) since 2016. Professionally he has served in several leadership roles in Marketing at Swagelok. The Swagelok Foundation has been a financial supporter of YC for several years. Dan has been involved with YC’s marketing and development board committees. You may also see him with his camera at one of our programs. His passion for photography and dedication to YC provides some of the great photos we post on social media or use for other promotional materials.

Dan and Sharon’s daughters, Zoe and Lucy, have both volunteered at YC. Zoe began volunteering around 2013 as a teen, served on the Volunteer Committee,  and still helps with the annual benefit. She now works at Hickman & Lowder (H&L), a disability law firm she found through a YC connection. Lucy is a current teen volunteer who has made many friends at YC and was selected to join the Volunteer Committee for her senior year of high school.

Dan believes in YC’s mission to provide opportunities for participants and volunteers to come together and form friendships through adaptive sports and other programs.

“The difference the YC experience has made for my daughters as volunteers and some of their participant friends is fantastic,” Dan said.  “I see them take the experience, internalize it, and use it to support diversity, equality and inclusion in the community.”

Youth Challenge has been and always will continue to be an important part of Douglas family life. The YC family is grateful for the Douglas family’s decades of service to our mission!

Fiber Arts at Elyria Arts Council

Youth Challenge has a beautiful Makerspace at its Westlake Campus to create art, but sometimes we like to get out into the community! The Elyria Arts Council, a community art gallery that offers classes, hosted four Fiber Arts programs in March. The seven participants and their volunteers worked on two main projects—a pizza plushie and a tie-dye pillow. 

Over the course of three weeks, participants learned valuable sewing skills such as whip stitching and hand sewing. They also had the opportunity to use a sewing machine to create their pillows. The pizza plushies were made entirely by hand, showcasing the participants’ newly acquired sewing skills. 

One of the most interesting parts of the program was the tie-dyeing technique used on the front of the pillows. Based on the Shibori Japanese fabric dying technique, participants and volunteers folded a white cloth napkin, colored the edges with Sharpies, and soaked them in isopropyl alcohol to give them a tie-dye effect. This technique allowed for the creation of unique and beautiful patterns on each pillow. 

After three weeks of hard work, the program concluded with a pizza party and the opportunity for participants and volunteers to create their own additional fiber arts projects. This allowed them to put their newly acquired skills to the test and express their creativity. 

We are so grateful to Elyria Arts Council for donating their space to us. This generous contribution allowed the program to take place and provided a safe and welcoming space for participants to learn and create. Youth Challenge plans to participate in Elyria Arts Council’s Art Walk this summer, a community art gallery where individuals and community groups can create 4 by 8-foot murals to share their stories and to be displayed at Elyria’s Main Branch Library and receive a small donation from Elyria Arts Council.  

We look forward to seeing where this new partnership takes us! For more information, please visit elyriaartscouncil.org.  

Crosstown Showdown Highlight

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

For five weeks, the participants and volunteers met once a week on the West and East Side to practice their skills and build their team chemistry for the big tournament. The fifth week was used to determine the seeding for the eventual double–elimination bracket. The seedings were as follows:

Finn scores a basket against the Pink Waterfall Rocketships.

West Side

  1. Red Spicy Buckets
  2. Orange Monstar Rockets
  3. Soaring Blue Baboons

East Side

  1. Green Money Makers
  2. Yellow Pacmans
  3. Pink Waterfall Rocketships
  4. Purple Royal Blockers

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

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

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

This signature program was supported by our generous sponsors:

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

Concession Stand Sponsor: Melanie Canning

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

Participant Highlight: Andrew Nock

Andrew and Olivia paint together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anchors Aweigh with YC! Annual Benefit & Auction Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack Attack Boccia Tournament Highlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Now Hiring for the WOO Crew!

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

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

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

Volunteer Highlight: Sky Varvarosky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blind Sports Clinic Highlight

 

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

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

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

Board Highlight: Krista Allison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alumni Highlight: Kindness Committee

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

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

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

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

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

From Teen Volunteer to Board President: Greer Gibbons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Intern Highlight: Madi Doletzky

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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