Episode 1: Youth Challenge

Join your host, Mike Hammer, as he discovers what ADA Cleveland member organization, Youth Challenge, has to offer the disabled population of Northeast Ohio. 

This episode features special guest, Alumni Program Assistant for Youth Challenge, Sara Stimle. 

To discover more about Youth Challenge and their programs, visit https://www.youthchallengesports.com/

Audio

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ASL Interpreted Video

Going forward, ADA Cleveland will incorporate the video of our English speakers as well in the ASL interpreted video, however, only the ASL interpretation is included in this case. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Full Audio Transcript

Mara Layne 0:00

The mission of ADA Cleveland is to bring together organizations and individuals to celebrate the Americans with Disabilities Act by leading efforts to expand access and opportunity and engaging the community as advocates for positive change. It is composed of local agencies, nonprofits and businesses located in the Greater Cleveland, Ohio area that are dedicated to providing information and services to individuals with disabilities, as well as their family members and caretakers.

Episode One Youth Challenge.

Mike Hammer  0:36

Welcome to Disability in the Land. My name is Mike Hammer. I’m your host. I’m a member of the ADA Cleveland Advisory board. Today I’m going to speak with Sara Stimle who is the Alumni Program Assistant at Youth Challenge in Cleveland, Ohio. Youth Challenge is a member organization of ADA Cleveland. Sara, thank you for being here with us today. We love Youth Challenge and their mission to bring together young people with physical disabilities and teen volunteers who inspire each other through adapted sports, recreation, and social growth activities. Can you tell us a little bit more about Youth Challenge and your role with the organization?

Sara Stimle  1:41

Sure Mike, thank you for having me. Like Mike said I am an Alumni Program Assistant, where I helped create programs for participants and volunteers that our alumni, and I also co-lead the programs that we have for our alumni, participants and volunteers and I helped manage our alumni social media account. And I have also assisted alumni participants with applications for waivers, housing and transportation as well.

Mike Hammer  2:12

How did you get involved with Youth Challenge?

Sara Stimle  2:15

I was born and raised in Parma, Ohio, and I was born with a disability called cerebral palsy which affects the way I do things physically, and I have been a participant of YC since I was five years old. YC has taught me to think outside the box and to go after what I want. YC really gave me the confidence by giving me life experiences such as an internship at YC that I felt ready enough that when I graduated from high school, I went to Wright State University and graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation Services. Right after college I was hired at an adult activity center and employment services agencies that serve people with disabilities and then COVID hit and unfortunately I got laid off but I’m not I’m not one to just sit still. So when I found myself on Zoom, a lot helping plan our Alumni Programs. And when things started opening back up, I found myself at YC so much more as a participant and also professionally as well and it has been so rewarding being able to grow up with YC and be able to grow a portion of YC is like the Alumni Programs from the ground up. So when the opportunity came to go on staff I knew it was exactly where I was meant to be. Youth Challenge is located in Westlake Ohio. And then we also have that’s our main location, and then we also have our East Side location which is located in the Hanna Perkins center in Shaker Heights

Mike Hammer  3:59

What kind of youth challenges did you get involved with?

Sara Stimle  4:04

When I was younger we would do the typical YC programs which is like basketball, baseball, swimming, you name it, we did it. We’ve gone skiing, we’ve gone horseback riding, so we’ve done all of that. But as I grew older, we also got into learning more about advocacy and independent living in college. So that is where I really I think got the attitude and got you know that my disability is very small into what I can really offer in this world. So, I think it’s given me a platform and kind of more of a voice because when I did start YC I was this little shy little five year old so I think it really has brought me out of my shell as well because everyone around me has a disability so it doesn’t matter that I have a disability as well how those

Mike Hammer  5:00

How does Youth Challenge provide adapted things for people to play?

Sara Stimle  5:06

So, Youth Challenge kind of think outside the box for everything that you can imagine that we do. So we have teen volunteers that actually help our participants participate in the activity whether that is horseback riding or ceramics or just playing a game of basketball in our gym.

Mike Hammer  5:29

And nowadays you said you still do some sports but you’re more involved with coordinating services for program alumni. What is your day like?

Sara Stimle  5:43

So during COVID what we noticed was our alumni was really struggling, you know, because they couldn’t get out they couldn’t see their friends. So what we came up with was, let’s do all our programs on Zoom during COVID, because you challenged was shut down we focused on four main pillars because that’s what ACT, the Alumni Programs, Alumni Community Team is formed around were formed around wellness, social, outreach, and advocacy. So, during this time, and even now, we continue these are virtual programs as well. We do a game night, we do gratitude, where we talk about like what we’re thankful for and learn just about different gratitude, podcast, and ways to show gratitude as well. So and then I also teach a fitness class virtually on Zoom, and then so we kind of created that to where we had all these like social programs within that calendar all on Zoom, and then when we were able to go back in person, we still kept those three gratitude, fitness, and Game Night virtual programs just because we still felt that we still have participants, alumni participants, that are at home. So, we want to give them a space to just be together and to be with friends and be able to share their voices and talents still. But now that we’re back in person, we have a lot more social programs. We just did a service program where we decorated ornaments and we created care packages for participants that might need a little joy during the holiday season.

Mike Hammer  7:28

Fantastic. Alright, so people are going to the Westlake main office right now youth challenge how many participants are there? How many show up every day? Do you do the same sports every day?

Sara Stimle  7:48

So, we have our regular programs, which are for ages four to 18. So those are the ones that we have during the week. During the school year, they’re after school, and these are where we do basketball, ceramics swimming right now we’re even doing a video game program. So, our main programs are four to 18. We also have a Crazy Camp program. And that’s specifically for participants ages four to eight so we’ll do a craft or we’ll do some kind of usually during the school year it’s more of like a holiday program like we’ll get together once a month with our Crazy Campers and then during the summer is where we’ll have more of our during-the-day programs where we’re swimming, where we’re going to different parks and getting out and doing physical activities, you know, just crazy, crazy, fun games that our staff makes up. So just to really get outside. That’s kind of especially during COVID is what we really did. We focused all our programs outside until winter came and then we now have moved into the indoor programs as well. We also have our YELP program. So this is where our participants are 16 to 25 years old, and they focus more on social outings. Such as to Main Event, or peer support discussions on specific education topics such as like mental health, independent, and advocacy. And then we have our alumni programs that meet about once to twice a month. And then we also have our sports teams, which gives the opportunity for participants to compete competitively in sports. Some of the sports include ambulatory soccer, which is like seven on seven soccer and Go Ball which is one soccer and then Boccia, as well.

Mike Hammer  9:55

You mentioned you coordinate services for the alumni. And you mentioned that there’s transportation available to alumni tell us a little bit about the Paratransit issues advocating for greater access among the people you’re coordinating with.

Sara Stimle  10:19

So, 95% of our participants utilize transportation to and from programs when we’re planning these programs is really important. For us, you know, can we get our participants to program we do have a fleet of wheelchair accessible vans, and those we offer transportation to and from all our the majority of our main programs. So, are like eight to 18 year old programs and then for our YELP participants who are ages 16 to 25. They usually have either their parent or caregiver take them or they’ll utilize Paratransit that as well. And that goes kind of the same for the alumni, our transportation can be used, but it’s used more as add as needed service just because we want to kind of teach that you know life skill of independence you know, scheduling transportation and being able to get out into your community on your own. So, when keeping in mind, especially with our Yelp, in our Alumni Programs, we always like to make sure that our participants can get there it is at a location that Paratransit runs to or if not, can we pick the participant up? Or can they meet at YC and then we will drive them to the actual program?

Mike Hammer  11:54

Are these program locations all around Cleveland?

Sara Stimle 12:01

Yes, they’re all around Greater Cleveland.

Mike Hammer 12:05

Okay, and people come participants come from all over?

Sara Stimle  12:08

Yes, we serve participants in Cuyahoga County, Lorain County… We’ve had participants as far as Arizona, California. So, our virtual programs have really brought especially our alumni participants back to YC.

Mike Hammer  12:26

Fantastic. Alright, Youth Challenge is a member organization of ADA Cleveland, and you are able to meet the needs of a lot of the community members. And, for people who are not aware of Youth Challenge right now. How can they get involved and how can you meet their needs? Are there any special way ways for disability allies or disabled people to get a hold of you?

Sara Stimle  13:03

Well, for our teen volunteers that are between the ages of 12 and 18, we do have volunteer opportunities. And we also for our Alumni Programs, we are looking for more of like young adult volunteers as well to join our alumni community team as well. And then for anyone that is really looking for like a young professionals group, we do YP for YC, which is for people with disabilities, with physical disabilities, and people without disabilities, and this group helps raise funds and awareness for Youth Challenge. You can also check us out on our website at www.youthchallengesports.com. For more information on ways to get involved

Mike Hammer  13:57

Alright, well, thank you for joining us today and telling us more about Youth Challenge.

Sara Stimle  14:03

Thank you for having me,

Mara Layne 14:05

You’ve been listening to Disability in the Land an ADA Cleveland production. Your host is Mike Hammer. Special thanks to our guest Sara Stimle of Youth Challenge. Stay connected to ADA Cleveland by liking us on Facebook, or by following us on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn @ADAincle or visit our website Adacleveland.org for a video, full transcript and ASL interpretation of this podcast. Have questions or comments? We would love to hear from you. Send us an email to adaincle@gmail.com. I’m Mara Layne, marketing co-chair of ADA Cleveland. Thank you for being here.