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 500 families in the following counties: Cuyahoga, Lorain, Lake, Summit, Medina, Geauga and Stark.
Volunteers are at the heart of Youth Challenge. Four hundred teenage volunteers from all over Northeast Ohio are trained to work with the participants. These teens (ages 12-18) performed over 9,700 hours of service at YC activities and programs in 2010. Along with the seasonal activities, teen and adult volunteers also donate their time toward office work, special events, and numerous other tasks.
2010 was a record-breaking year in the history of YC. 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 seven lift-equipped vans provides free transportation to and from events for participants. In 2010 YC provided over 5,700 of 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. Many of our programs take place at our 16,000 square foot facility in Westlake. 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.