WESTLAKE -- Cleveland Browns players and staff spent Tuesday afternoon visiting with children at the Youth Challenge Center in Westlake.
The football-themed helmet ornaments created at the arts-and-crafts station were hung on a Christmas tree during the event.
“I came out here to support and have fun,” Sheard said. “(I realized) just how truly blessed I am to have two feet, two legs and being able to play the game of football. It’s huge to show them that we care. It humbles you and lets you know how blessed you are. To see a smile on those kids’ faces was big.”
Sixty-percent of the Youth Challenge participants have a form of cerebral palsy. Others are hearing or visually-impaired, or are affected by muscular dystrophy and spina bifida.
“I hope they see what they can be,” said Chris Garr, director of program services at Youth Challenge. “We’ve got a lot of kids here that despite their disabilities, are good athletes. I want a lot of them to realize that with a lot of hard work, they can get to an elite level.
“There’s nothing to stop these kids from achieving their dreams, but for others, I want them to appreciate what they have. Despite their disabilities, these are resilient children. They’re great children; they’re an inspiration for all of us because they take advantage of the physical gifts they do have and that’s really the beauty of Youth Challenge.”
In addition to interacting with the Youth Challenge participants, who ranged in age from eight to 18, the Browns players met the youth volunteers, teenagers who enrich the lives of the students through one-on-one participation in adapted sports and recreational activities.
“The kids and the players had a blast playing football,” said Jenner Tekancic, director of community relations for the Browns. “They were in a gymnasium that was retrofitted for everyone to have a really good time. The players huddled the kids up together, created some plays and the kids got touchdowns. Everyone had a fun time. I would actually say the players probably had more fun than anybody today.“There are amazing individuals out in the community and what we’ve found here with Youth Challenge is that they are a hidden treasure. They provide services and connect teenagers with some really great kids and do phenomenal things throughout the year. We’re happy to be here and spread holiday cheer.”