The history of Youth Challenge started with a simple desire to give back. Mary Sue (Anter) Tanis founded the organization in the summer of 1976 as a part-time, volunteer driven program under the auspices of the Fairview Park Recreation Department. Then called "Fairview Specials," the organization initially served ten children with various disabilities, and involved an equivalent number of young neighborhood volunteers. Fairview Specials incorporated in 1983, changed its name to Adaptive Recreational Challenge and began year-round programming. In 1984, a name change to Westshore Recreational Challenge more accurately reflected the focus of service to children on Cleveland's West Side and western suburbs. Finally, in 1989, expansion of services to Cleveland's East Side, southern suburbs, and Lorain County led to the present name of Youth Challenge (YC). With Mary Sue still at the helm, YC services more than 700 families in the following counties: Cuyahoga, Lorain, Lake, Summit, Medina, Geauga, Huron and Stark.
Volunteers are at the heart of Youth Challenge. Nearly five hundred teenage volunteers from all over Northeast Ohio are trained to work with the participants. These teens (ages 12-18) annually perform over 10,000 hours of service at YC activities and programs. Along with the seasonal activities, teen and adult volunteers also donate their time toward office work, special events, and numerous other tasks.
Program fees were lifted in 2009 which led to an unprecedented number of children benefiting from more volunteer hours, programs and rides. A fleet of eight lift-equipped vans provides free transportation to and from events for participants. Last year, YC provided over 5,500 free van rides to and from programs. "No fee" programs and transportation allow even more children with physical disabilities and their families to benefit from the sports and recreation activities YC offers.
In June 2008, Youth Challenge moved into our new home in Westlake. YC now has increased programming capacity through owning our own 16,000 square foot facility. Our headquarters is a place where the children can enjoy everything under one roof, including a gymnasium, adapted weight-lifting area and teen volunteer resource center. In 2013 Youth Challenge also opened an office in Shaker Heights, helping to serve even more children in eastern Cuyahoga County and beyond.