YAI's Central Park Challenge Celebrates Resilience After a Difficult Year

Sat, June 05, 2021


Thousands of supporters of people with disabilities gather safely for virtual party

group of people celebrating in central park for central park challengeNEW YORK, NY (June 5, 2021) -- YAI raised more than $500,000 to support children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) today at its annual Central Park Challenge. The celebration, which drew in hundreds of viewers, provided a much-needed celebration of people with I/DD, especially as New York begins to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Last year was unexpected, for me, for everyone in the world,” said George Contos, CEO of YAI. “But YAI is a phenomenally resilient organization because of our staff, because of our Board, because of our donors, and the people we support...and my job was to find that right balance between ensuring health, safety, and happiness, and then also ensuring the organization was in a fiscally viable place so that we could survive and thrive and position ourselves in a way that would allow us to emerge stronger and better than ever.”

After a “social dis-dancing" pre-party deejayed by Hot 97’s DJ Enuff, host Bill Ritter of ABC Eyewitness News kicked things off with a personal appeal of support, and was followed by performances from Tony Award winner LaChanze, Tony Award nominee Ethan Slater, and Miguel Cervantes and Mandy Gonzalez from “Hamilton.” Ritter also interviewed US Senator Chuck Schumer, who discussed Americans with Disabilities Act and the importance of standing by people with disabilities.

group of people being filmed in central park for central park challengeYAI has held the Central Park Challenge on the first Saturday of June for more than 30 years. What traditionally includes a 4-mile run, 3K walk, musical performances at the Central Park bandshell, and lots of noisy energy transitioned for the second year in a row to a digital format that mixed shout-outs from the YAI community with a virtual walk and run, where participants could track their progress through their own neighborhoods.

Next year’s Central Park Challenge is slated to be back at the Central Park Bandshell on June 4, 2022. For more information on YAI and its services, please visit yai.org.


ABOUT YAI: Founded in 1957 as the Young Adult Institute, YAI remains at the forefront of an extraordinary movement aimed at empowering people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. YAI and its network of affiliate agencies offer children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities a comprehensive range of services. YAI is committed to seeing beyond disability, providing opportunities for people to live, love, work, and learn in their communities. YAI’s 4,000 employees provide supportive housing, education, medical, dental, and mental health care, job training, community integration, and social enrichment for more than 20,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in downstate New York, northern New Jersey, and California.


Kamana Shrestha
Media Relations Manager, YAI
kamana.shrestha [at] yai.org