FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
YAI Central Park Challenge Raises Over $300,000 for Developmental Disabilities Community
First-of-its-kind virtual fundraiser gathers thousands of participants from around the world
NEW YORK, NY (June 6, 2020) -- YAI raised over 300 thousand dollars to support the intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) community today at its annual Central Park Challenge. The event, which drew approximately 8,500 viewers worldwide, provided a much-needed virtual celebration of the I/DD community, especially in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
"We are just grateful for the outpouring of support from people all over the nation,” said George Contos, CEO of YAI. “In today's society, with so many people emotionally impacted and deeply affected in unimaginable ways, especially in the I/DD community, it’s important that we band together and celebrate this resilient community, providing them with the love and support that is so desperately needed at times like these.”
Host Bill Ritter of WABC-TV kicked things off with a personal appeal of support, and was followed by magnetic performances from Tony Award-winning actors including Ali Stroker, Lindsay Mendez, Kelli O’Hara, LaChanze, and other Broadway and television stars like Miguel Cervantes, Mara Winningham, Isabelle McCalla, and Caitlin Kinnunen. The crowd went wild when O’Hara took to the screen, singing a medley of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” and The Beatle’s “Here Comes the Sun.”
YAI 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 this year 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.
Ali Stroker, the first performer who uses a wheelchair to win a Tony, was excited about the chance to celebrate people of all abilities. “As someone who grew up with a disability, I was often told what my limitations were before I even got to try,” Stroker said. “The Central Park Challenge shows so many like myself that we can achieve more than what society expects of us. I’m excited to be a part of a day that can inspire and motivate others within our community to achieve their dreams and goals.”
The event was concluded by Hot 97 and New York’s very own DJ Enuff, who closed out the celebration with a Social DisDancing Party, where participants were able to stream in and dance alongside others all virtually.
“The success of this event shows us that COVID-19 can’t keep New Yorkers, especially our I/DD community, down for long,” Contos said. “Through the donations and support we were able to receive today our organization will be able to provide even more for this vulnerable population.”
For more information on YAI and its services, please visit yai.org.
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.
Media Relations Manager, YAI