First Federal Lakewood’s Partnership with Youth Challenge

First Federal Lakewood has been supporting Youth Challenge since 2007, an organization that was founded on the principle of using adaptive sports as a channel for personal growth. They believe that despite one’s limitations, everyone has the right to play, learn, make friends, have fun, and enjoy life in a safe, welcoming environment.

“We are proud to partner with this amazing organization,” says Bethany Germano, VP, charitable giving & corporate events officer. “Their mission includes bringing together young people with physical disabilities and teen volunteers who inspire each other through recreation and social growth activities. They also offer free transportation and programs to their participants.”

“What’s special is that the majority of volunteers are high school students,” continues Germano. “Many times, these students are being introduced to career paths they wouldn’t have considered otherwise, and they go on to study therapy and other related fields.”

Participants get a chance to learn skills that follow them throughout their lives, too.

“It’s wonderful to hear from the participants,” says Carolyn Palmer, director of community engagement at Youth Challenge. “One participant was able to advocate for themselves in their school gym class with what they learned from Youth Challenge. They spoke up saying that they need to use a certain type of ball to participate in a particular sport along with everyone else.”

Our support for the organization doesn’t stop there.

We are continuous sponsors of Youth Challenge’s ACT! program, which aims to assist people with disabilities in navigating the adult world. They currently serve 40+ adults in the Cleveland area with physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, and vision and hearing impairments.

ACT! focuses on wellness, outreach, advocacy, and social connectivity. They also host weekly online wellness sessions, regular peer-led discussion sessions and more. Their advocacy and outreach programming offers opportunities for participants with disabilities to share experiences related to transportation, housing, and employment with local organizations. Additionally, members can participate in college and career readiness programs.

Para-athletic competitions are popular amongst ACT! members. Team YC Athletics is a specialized program that includes boccia, or adapted bocce ball, and powerlifting, which are comprised primarily of alumni. Teams travel and compete at various competitions throughout the Midwest. Watch a clip of News 5 Cleveland’s visit to a boccia game.

“It’s all about building relationships between the participants and the volunteers,” says Palmer. “We help bring people together who naturally may not have a chance to meet and watch them get to know each other. It’s amazing to see the friendships that form and last a lifetime.”

“It helps introduce a future to so many families and participants at a young age who many not realize their capabilities,” continues Angelica Compton, senior director of development at Youth Challenge. “It gives them hope for a successful life!”Interested in learning more about Youth Challenge and their programs? Check them out here. Don’t forget to follow us on FacebookInstagramLinkedIn and YouTube to see what we’re up to in the bank and in our communities!