U.S. Paralympics, a division of the United States Olympic Committee, announced that Youth Challenge has been recognized as a Bronze level club as a part of the Paralympic Sport Club Excellence Program, which also recognizes 57 other clubs across the country. Created in 2013, the excellence program is designed to support Paralympic Sport Clubs as they evolve their sport programming in areas such as athlete identification and coaching education, and recognize their contributions to growing the Paralympic movement in the United States.
Youth Challenge (YC) provides adapted sports and recreational opportunities to children with physical disabilities. Trained teen volunteers are paired one-on-one with participants to play, socialize and have fun. YC serves children throughout Northeast Ohio and has offices in Westlake and Shaker Heights. Since being designated “Paralympic Sport Club – Cleveland” in 2012, YC has been introducing a variety of sports to children with physical disabilities, while promoting athletics and teamwork. YC plays a part in identifying young athletes who may want to pursue sports that are more competitive.
“Paralympic Sport Clubs are critical not only for the development of athletes but also for the growth of the Paralympic movement in the United States,” said Rick Adams, chief of Paralympic sport and NGB organizational development. “We are grateful for the investment these Paralympic Sports Clubs have made in their communities and we are proud to honor their commitment to excellence in supporting future Paralympians.”
The multi-tier excellence program has benchmarks at the bronze, silver and gold levels to give participating clubs a blueprint for transitioning from a basic provider (bronze level) to an elite provider (gold level) of Paralympic programming. After a Paralympic Sport Club completes a level, the club will be eligible to receive recognition and an award designated for the bronze, silver or gold level. Clubs designated as gold or silver receive a stipend for programming, while bronze-level clubs receive recognition banners.
When the program launched in 2013, 24 programs were recognized. This year, an additional 14 clubs across the country achieved excellence for the first time or moved up a level from 2014. Participation is open and voluntary to all Paralympic Sport Clubs. All participating clubs must start at the bronze level before moving to the silver and gold levels.
“Youth Challenge joins the ranks of a small number of organizations across the country that are exceptional at offering Paralympic sport opportunity,” said Mackenzie Maglic, YC Athletics Coordinator. “We are most proud of the fact that YC is still unique in the way we utilize our teen volunteers, in the way we draw a diverse collection of young athletes, and in the manner in which we develop them physically, socially, and emotionally.”
YC offers a variety of Paralympic sports, including powerlifting, boccia, goalball, and soccer. Paralympic Sports give young participants a never before offered opportunities to play on an organized team. Teen volunteers assist the athletes and join them as teammates.