Youth Challenge honors volunteers
For the past five years, Westlake resident Jim Dwyer has logged 1,051 hours and over 36,000 miles traversing Northeast Ohio in a van named "Freedom." Dwyer is a volunteer driver for Youth Challenge and Freedom is one of the Westlake nonprofit’s lift-equipped vans. Dwyer was recognized as the 2012 Youth Challenge Volunteer of the Year at the annual Holiday Show and Volunteer Recognition on Dec. 8 at Magnificat High School’s Performing Arts Center.
Youth Challenge offers free, year-round programs to over 160 participants throughout the Greater Cleveland area. The participants are children with such disabilities as muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, spina bifida and hearing or vision impairments. Transportation to and from programs is also provided at no charge. YC receives help from more than 350 teen volunteers who are trained to work with children with physical disabilities and are paired one-on-one with participants at each program.
A couple of days a week Dwyer travels to schools and picks up children with physical disabilities and brings them to YC activities. When the programs are over, he delivers them to their homes. YC has a fleet of eight vans and a team of drivers, but Dwyer is the only volunteer van driver. Dwyer credits his wife, Janice, with backing his volunteer spirit. “I couldn’t do it without her support,” he said.
“Jim Dwyer is as selfless, genuine, and kind as they come,” said Chris Garr, YC director of program services. “Driving Freedom, the 2002 Chevy van that he has made his own, he always goes about his service with a warm smile and happy demeanor. His favorite route is Parma, where he has become a fixture at Valley Forge High School. The Forge kids love Jim and feel safe and comfortable in Freedom. He’s a real YC treasure.”
“Youth Challenge is a perfect world where volunteers receive much more than they give,” said Dwyer. “I’m thankful to be part of such kindness.”
Besides recognizing Dwyer, the evening also included a special ceremony to honor the many teen volunteers who gave almost 10,000 hours of service to Youth Challenge in 2012.
The top 5 YC teen volunteers of 2012 are: Zac Alberty, North Olmsted High School, 309 hours; Ian Janos, Bay High School, 172 hours; Jamie Lawrence, St. Joseph Academy, 158 hours; Barbara Bobal, Westlake High School, 149.5 hours; and Katie Kimble, Rocky River High School, 147.25 hours.
“Our teen volunteers are half of our mission and are truly what make YC possible,” said Sarah Perez-Stable, YC volunteer and program manager. “The energy, joy, fun and friendship they bring to their partners makes an incredible difference in the lives of our participants and we can’t thank them enough.”
Youth Challenge currently needs an additional volunteer van driver. For more information please call Chris at 440-892-1001.
is the Media Specialist for Youth Challenge in Westlake.