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

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! 

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.

 

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.”

 

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.” 

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.

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.

Board Highlight: Jud Cummins

Joining Young Professionals for Youth Challenge (YP4YC) was the impetus Jud Cummins, now a YC Trustee, needed to become more involved in his community. At first, Jud thought that getting engaged with YC would be great professionally. Almost a decade later, Jud is still highly active with YC, and we are better for it! “Personally, I’m thankful and proud to be a part of Youth Challenge,” Jud said.

Jud has been involved in sports from a young age, so he was immediately drawn to the connections YC makes through sports.  Now a coach for his son’s various sports teams, Jud still finds time to connect with YC through sports. He was right in the action during our recent Adapted Ice Breaker Hockey Program with Shaker Varsity Hockey, slinging sleds and helping athletes get on the ice.

Jud (right) volunteers with fellow YPs at a past YC Race Day.

In his work at a medical equipment company, Jud met families across the country who could use the services provided by Youth Challenge. He’s certain that programs like YC’s are needed in many communities across the country. And it’s not just about the sports – Jud has also been involved with awarding college scholarships to YC volunteers through the Shining Light Program. He told YC he’s constantly impressed with the quality of the young people that give service to Youth Challenge!

Jud (right) volunteers with fellow YPs at a past YC Race Day.Jud now serves as the Director, Category & Product, at Vitamix, where he’s worked for nearly eight years. In his spare time, he loves coaching his son’s sports teams, attending Cleveland Guardians games, and watching his all-time favorite TV show “The Wire.”

Jud (left) gets right in the action assisting participants and volunteers on and off the ice at YC’s Adapted Ice Breaker!

Youth Challenge is lucky to have Jud on our team. From helping direct our organization in the Boardroom to connecting with participants and volunteers at programs, Jud constantly shows his passion for our mission. We look forward to when his son is old enough to volunteer at programs, too!

What YC Means to Kate and her mom, Laura

When Kate Soder is at Youth Challenge, the room is electric with energy and smiles. Kate started coming to YC in 2019 as a Krazy Kamper and has been nothing but a ray of sunshine ever since. One of the many things we love about Kate is that she is always up for any activity and signs up for a variety of programs. Whether it is soccer, ceramics, art, or swimming, she has a great time participating alongside her volunteer partner.
It is without question that volunteers get extra excited when they find out they are paired with Kate for program because they know that they will be thoroughly entertained. Known for her good old-fashioned pranks, she always keeps the YC gang on their toes and gets them rolling in laughter. Typically, at the other end of the pranks are the YC program staff, but they would not have it any other way.

Kate’s most recent shining moment was her featured role in our virtual Holiday Show (click here to watch!). When first brainstorming the act with the group of volunteers and staff, Kate’s personality showed by choosing a theme called The Vampire Reindeer Diaries. Laura, Kate’s mom, said “We’ve watched The Vampire Reindeer Diaries so many times, that we all have the lines memorized!” Kate was the star of the act as her expressions and charades told the story better than any lines could.
Laura also expressed to YC how much Kate loves coming to programs. Laura explained “She can’t get enough of her friends at YC. She would go every day if she could! I think she would sleep there, honestly. Her excitement when she’s waiting for the van to pull up and the joy she shares when she arrives home is priceless. We can’t imagine life without YC and we look forward to more opportunities this summer!” Youth Challenge is also looking forward to the summertime shenanigans with Kate and are thankful to have Kate and her family be part of the fun.

International Women’s Day Spotlight: YC Founder Mary Sue Tanis

This article originally appeared in YC’s Winter 2020 Challenger Newsletter. On International Women’s Day, we’re publishing this wonderful piece again to celebrate a wonderful woman!

Upon Retirement, Beloved YC Founder Mary Sue Tanis Reflects on the Little Nonprofit That Could

Written by YC Trustee Vince O’Keefe

The life-changing nature of Youth Challenge is hard to explain. In our recent interview, YC founder Mary Sue Tanis, who is retiring after 44 years leading the nonprofit organization, reflected on the unlikely alchemy that led to its creation and still fuels it today.

In the early 1970s, Mary Sue majored in recreational therapy at the University of Colorado. She also loved swimming and often shared a pool lane with Greg, a Vietnam veteran who had arms but no legs. When one of Mary Sue’s professors asked her if she would like to assist people like Greg, she said yes in part because her brother had also recently served in Vietnam: “I just pictured that Greg could have been my big brother.”

Upon returning to Cleveland, Mary Sue noticed a Fairview Women’s Club swim program that included children with disabilities. She called the woman in charge to join and quickly learned “it was nothing but fun.” So in 1976, through a combination of her tenacity, resourcefulness, and vision, Mary Sue spearheaded her own program through the Fairview Park Recreation Department.

Remarkably, Mary Sue went door-to-door on foot and on bike in her parents’ community to find participants and volunteers! Soon the recruits started meeting twice a week in the local park. Mary Sue noted: “I used to train teen volunteers in my parents’ basement in the beginning . . . we were very much like the little engine that could.” She laughed when recalling that some neighbors questioned the project (and her can-do attitude).

By 1983, Mary Sue’s little-nonprofit-that-could incorporated. It had no vehicles and not much of a headquarters, but that didn’t stop the number of participants, volunteers, supporters, and activities from growing. As she stated, the “kids” kept coming, trying new things, making new friends, and gaining self-confidence. But make no mistake—the work was invigorating but also exhausting. Mary Sue admits that during the first decade, “I had a hard time separating where my life began and Youth Challenge ended.” Gradually, she realized she needed to find capable people who “would own Youth Challenge with me.”

An important side note about the early years of YC involves its absence of a physical building. Apart from avoiding overhead, Mary Sue always wanted to “project” the participants and volunteers into public spaces like parks to raise awareness of disability and access issues. In the process, participants gained social interaction beyond their families and teen volunteers “bridged the gap” with the public by explaining to curious onlookers what they were doing. Mary Sue noted: “We were sowing the seeds of inclusion and we didn’t even know it.”

Over the past few decades, Mary Sue’s desire to find people who “would own Youth Challenge with me” has been fulfilled with abundance. “There’s a saying,” she explained, that “‘we measure success by the ones who come back.’” Today, Youth Challenge is a large family with a beautiful facility and many staff and Board members who were involved at YC in their own youth. Mary Sue beamed with pride when she said “they passed it on and it has multiplied . . . we’re into two to three generations with some families.” For that reason, “the future of Youth Challenge is nothing but bright” and the goal remains the same: “Create that big smile and vibrant atmosphere that makes them want to come back . . . there’s no reason these kids can’t touch the stars.”

Preview: Brats, Beer & Brackets VIRTUAL!

March 2020 was disappointing for lots of reasons. At YC, one of a series of bummers was having to cancel Brats, Beer & Brackets – one of our favorite events of year! And while things aren’t quite back to normal, we’re so excited that the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is BACK and so is Brats, Beer & Brackets!

Join us for an online Zoom auction of NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament teams on March 16 at 7 pm. There is no cost to attend, but registration is required at  www.YouthChallengeSports.com/Brackets.

If you’d like to get in on the beer and brat action (YOU SHOULD!!) you can order a delectable brat meal – with potato salad and gruyere mac n’ cheese included, plus two beers, for just $30. Score two meals and a six-pack for $60. All food is crafted by the wonderful folks at Italian Creations! All meals can be home delivered for free in Cuyahoga and eastern Lorain County, or you can pick up your meal at YC in Westlake. Don’t miss this! Catering orders will only be accepted through March 9. ORDER NOW at www.YouthChallengeSports.com/Brackets.

How’s It Going to Work?

In the past, we’ve packed the gym at YC and had a rousing live auction for team pairings. While we won’t be packed in the gym, we’ll still be able to gather on Zoom and host a live auction with Auctioneer Sherry Truhlar (read her bio).

The auction for NCAA Men’s Basketball teams will be hosted via a Zoom meeting where all attendees will be able to see each other. Live auction bids will be taken via the chat function during the meeting. Guests are encouraged to pool their money to bid on their favorite (and potentially more expensive) teams. In order to participate, you must be registered with the event. Don’t worry, we’ll cover all of the logistics before the auction begins.

Food delivery is available to Cuyahoga County and eastern Lorain County, or you can pick up your meal at YC in Westlake. Delivery and pickup will be available prior to the event and purchasers will receive details via email. Must be 21 or older to order.

Event Timeline–Tuesday, March 16:

  • Food Pickup and Delivery: 4 pm – 6 pm ET
  • Online (Zoom) Auction: 7 pm – 8:30 pm ET

Event Add-Ons & Sideboards

The live auction is just a part of your chance to WIN BIG during the tournament. Starting now, you can purchase 50/50 sideboard tickets or join YC’s NEW bracket bet. You do not need to be attending the live event to participate.

Sideboard Details:

  • Available sideboards:
  • Purchase details:
    • Purchases can be made until 9 pm on Tuesday, March 16. If the sideboard sells out, another can be offered.
    • YC will randomly assign teams to purchasers. You will be notified of your team assignment via email on March 17, 2021 (March 25 for Sweet 16).
    • If your assigned team wins the tournament, you will receive your payout the week of April 12.

Bracket Bet Details:

  • $5/bracket. Unlimited purchases.
  • Open for sale through March 17, 2021.
  • Bracket entering information will be sent on Monday, March 15 through March 17, 2021 and all brackets must be filled out by 9 am on March 18, 2021.
  • Half of the proceeds will go to YC and half the proceeds will be paid out in cash prizes to the top three winners.
    • First Place: 70%
    • Second Place: 20%
    • Third Place: 10%
  • This bracket league will be operated through CBS Sports. You must have a free account to participate. Winners will determined by CBS sports.

 

There’s something for every basketball lover during this event! For any questions, please contact Carolyn Palmer, YC’s Communications & Events Manager at 440.892.1001 x 13 or [email protected].

 

A Message of Gratit

A message from CEO Chris Garr this Thanksgiving:

Friends of Youth Challenge,

I’m filled with gratitude for 2020. This isn’t an odd statement. It’s like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree… When something is imperfect, it can serve as a rallying point to come together and show love and humility. We cannot be more appreciative of the love you’ve shown during this crazy year. 2020 wasn’t what we’ve expected, but I am truly grateful for the way that we’ve been able to adapt at Youth Challenge – and none of this would be possible without you.

To every volunteer who provided a helping hand at a program, every donor who gave their hard-earned dollars to help us keep our programs moving, every staff member who took all of our program changes in stride, and to every person who has supported us along the way – I cannot express how thankful I am for you. YC is better because of our community. And you are a part of that loving community.

As we all celebrate today – I’m sure in a new way for many – know that the young people of Youth Challenge are filled with gratitude, too, for the opportunity to stay socially connected – even during the most isolating points of this year. Thank you for creating moments of joy for our participants and volunteers!

Simply, I’m grateful to have you in YC’s little corner of the universe.

Happy Thanksgiving,
Chris     

Chris Garr
Chief Executive Office
Youth Challenge

 

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Highlights from YC’s First Topgolf Outing

Transitioning to a new kind of golf outing is a perfect metaphor for 2020. What will work and what won’t? When can we hold an event? How can we hold an event? How can we have fun and be safe at the same time? How risky is fundraising? Who will be on board with a totally new take on a traditional event?

YC CEO Chris Garr with his daughter, Emma, at Topgolf in November 2020.

These questions weren’t only part of CEO Chris Garr’s welcome message to our Topgolf attendees last week, they were also the questions Team YC had been pondering for months. Now, as we reflect on our Topgolf Outing held on November 5, we’re so grateful for the outpouring of support for Youth Challenge!

For more than three decades, golfers have been coming together to support Youth Challenge at a traditional golf outing held in the summer. As our event schedule changed in 2020, we looked forward to a new kind of golf outing held in November. To avoid searching for a lost ball in the snow, YC set out to forge a new partnership with Topgolf in Independence, an open-air, heated driving range.

On November 5, more than 250 people arrived at Topgolf ready to swing a club in support of Youth Challenge. The fun of Topgolf is that the game can be exciting for the most experienced golfer or the novice picking up a club for the first time. Groups of six people, socially distant in bays, enjoyed delicious food, drinks, and amazing weather for November in Ohio. Our guests found the sweet spot of having a blast while staying safe!

An attendee takes a swing at Topgolf during the TopContender Tournamant.

During the outing, attendees competed in the TopContender Tournament – each vying for the prize! Nick Smedira was our TopContender, winning a three-month platinum membership to Topgolf. CooksonPeirce, one of our wonderful bay sponsors, took home $100 each as our winning bay!

In all, YC’s first-ever Topgolf Outing raised more than $23,000 for Youth Challenge! We are so grateful to everyone who attended and gave to the event – especially our sponsors.

  • Presenting Sponsors: First Federal Lakewood, Oatey Co.
  • Corporate Sponsors: WTWH Media, BakerHostetler, Fleet Response, Kelly Insurance Group, MMI Textiles, Inc.
Our fantastic golf committee – Steve Nock, Tom McIntyre, & John Petersen.

We can’t forget our fabulous “golf committee.” Together, Tom McIntyre, Steve Nock, and John Petersen gave their time, talent, and treasure to help ensure this event was a smashing success. We couldn’t have done this without them!

If you missed out this year, don’t worry, we’ll be back at Topgolf next fall for another swinging good time! You can sign up for YC’s e-newsletter to get notified of upcoming YC events by clicking here.