Mary Sue and Kim, a YC participant, on a trip to Canandaigua, NY in 1985.
Mary Sue and Kim, a YC participant, on a trip to Canandaigua, NY in 1985.

A well known quote says that if you find something you love to do, then you’ll never work a day in your life. This saying has defined the career of Mary Sue Tanis, Youth Challenge Founder and Executive Director. The journey on her professional road began when, fresh out of college, she worked at a Vermont ski resort, teaching disabled veterans to ski.

Returning to the Cleveland area during the summer of 1976 with a therapeutic recreation degree, Mary Sue supported a local outdoor recreation program. It was then she realized that the opportunity to gain strength, courage and confidence were not just benefits program participants realized, but to her as well. It was then Youth Challenge (YC) was born.

What began nearly 40 years ago as an alternative program offering sports and recreation for children with disabilities, has continued to provide enrichment to the youth being served, the volunteers and the staff through one-on-one participation in adapted sports and recreational activities.

For more than three decades, Mary Sue has been on a mission to help improve the health and quality of life for children with physical disabilities by providing opportunities for them to have fun through physical and social activity. She is proud of the many active opportunities YC offers that help improve range of motion in a relaxed environment. But just as important, according to the founder, “Participants have fun and make a friend.”
The “organized chaos” as she refers to the programming, encourages problem solving. Youth learn to adapt their respective challenges to each activity’s requirements. “This is motivational to them as their skills and confidence increase,” she added.

Today, more than 500 families in eight counties are served and she believes this success can be attributed to how well the Board of Trustees work together as well as to the work ethic and dedication of the staff.”

To find out more about YC and how you can become involved, check out our links on the left.


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