Youth Challenge Volunteer Works to Share Opportunities With All
Will Gallup was inspired to help others with disabilities and give back to the community through his experience at the nonprofit.
Will Gallup wants the whole world to have what he has at Youth Challenge in Westlake.
The 25-year-old started out as a participant in the nonprofit's programs 12 years ago, and wanted to give back to the organization that inspired him so much. Today, not only is Gallup a regular volunteer, he also helped found the 18 Up Club to help young adults take a leading role in activities.
“You don’t just play sports,” Gallup said. “You develop lifelong friendships. I want to give everyone that opportunity. I want to give back to the community that gave me so much.”
Youth Challenge is a nonprofit organization that hosts year-round sports and recreation activities for children with physical disabilities, and draws hundreds of kids to its summer camps each year. The free programs even include transportation for many participants who get the chance to play hockey, rock climb, ride horses and much more.
Gallup, along with some friends and Youth Challenge staff, originally created the 18 Up Club as a sort of alumni group, but it turned into much more.
“It used to be that once you turned 18, you sort of just said goodbye to all those friends you made at Youth Challenge,” Garr said. “It was so hard, so Will came up with the idea of a networking group, but also a mentoring group. They would be active at some of the younger kids’ programs to show them ‘I’m a physically disabled adult, but I can do able-bodied things.'”
The 18 Up Club now supports self-sufficiency, career options and advocacy for those with physical disabilities.
“It’s our own program, so as younger generations come up from the regular programs, we’re like mentors to them,” Gallup said. “It was a program where we would run it ourselves with a little help.”
Gallup said the 18 Up Club helps members gain independence, as alumni are organizing, preparing and hosting the activities. It’s his way of giving back and inspiring another generation.
Thanks to the encouragement he has received at Youth Challenge and the opportunities he has learned of, Gallup is now studying at Cuyahoga Community College’s eastern campus.
“I want to use my advocacy skills for the disabled to be a social worker,” he said.
But his plans don’t stop there. Gallup, an Orange Village resident, is hoping to help Youth Challenge open an east side office so that kids all over Northeast Ohio can have the same opportunities he did.
“The problem I have in my heart is that not all east-siders are comfortable travelling on their own all the way to the east side,” he said. "The kids get transportation, but the volunteers don't."
Garr said that thanks to Gallup, Youth Challenge now has a much stronger presence on the east side of Clevleand and even offers programs once a week there.
“Will is definitely a catalyst,” Garr said. “He has such an unbridled enthusiasm. His involvement has kind of prompted us to do some things we wouldn’t have done otherwise.”
Until the day comes that Youth Challenge can expand, Gallup will be working to keep the existing programs available at no cost.
“I don’t want to let any kid down because of their financial situation,” he said. “They don’t need to be denied of anything.”