Friday, July 1, 2011

Through the Eyes of an Intern...


Hillary Brady, intern extraordinaire, joined our team for the summer. And lucky for her - one of Hillary's first days at the office was spent at the park!   Hear what our intern thought of her very first time at the Central Park Challenge!

"During the first few days on any job, you’re bound to shake a lot of hands and try to put a bunch of new faces to names—lucky for me, one of my first new friends as an intern at YAI has her face all across the city, on everything from subway signs to towering billboards overlooking the streets.

“Who’s this?” Xi’Xi asked me, cutting right to the chase, perched and alert in a stroller outside the CBS Early Show studio where a group of YAI employees and consumers held up posters bearing her likeness.

While Xi’Xi might not have yet known who I was, I knew all about her—her inspirational story; the photos of her, beaming, as she took triumphant steps down the hallway at Gramercy preschool; laughing alongside YAI spokesperson Sherri Shepherd on public service announcements for the Central Park Challenge, an annual event that she was chosen to be the face of this year. I knew all about Xi’Xi, and the role that YAI had played in fostering her spirit and giving her the opportunity to learn and grow. It wasn’t until my first Central Park Challenge, though, that I got to see what that really meant beyond Xi’Xi’s story and what I already knew about YAI—to see the idea of opportunity in action and to see the impact of those first shaky steps on the tile floor of a preschool.

My day at CPC (an acronym I quickly developed an affinity for using after my first day on the job) was unique in that I got the opportunity to experience it not for myself, but for those around me. I was paired with the YAI media team, who were interviewing participants, sponsors and consumers on what made their day at Central Park such a unique experience. Their answers varied—some had been coming for years, others were just earning their first CPC walkers’ T-shirts—but all allowed me the chance to see this event through many sets of eyes. No matter what one’s perspective was about the day or their affiliation to the YAI Network, one thing was clear: the incredible, infectious, enthusiasm and affection for the people, the agency and the afternoon.

The best parts of my day were observing, on the sidelines with a camera and a pen, and listening as two YAI consumers got the chance to take the reporter’s microphone and ask the questions for themselves. The experience, for them and for me, seemed almost metaphoric for the great work that YAI does for the people that it serves—it gives them the chance to speak up, to ask questions and get answers, and the opportunity to act independently. It gives all of us, whether we are a person with a disability or not, to work together for a common passion and to make others take notice.

The way that the Central Park Challenge affected its participants was most evident, to me, in the small moments. It was more than a large-scale and effective fundraiser. It was one of the interviewers, Erica, hugging Sherri after getting to talk to her in person after being a fan watching on television. It was a small crowd of consumers, advocates and family dancing to a Black Eyed Peas song as the event wound down. It was teams of families and friends wearing matching shirts, homemade and detailing the loved one who their effort was dedicated toward. It was face-painted children lining up for their turn at the Jr. All American race. And, of course, it was Xi’Xi, walking around, greeting her fans, not for a second looking like a child whose ability to walk was ever in question.

I never thought my first few days at the office would bring me to the Early Show at 7 a.m., to Central Park to see YAI’s mission in practice, or to shake Xi’Xi’s hand. Then again, I hadn’t ever gotten the opportunity before this weekend to attend the Central Park Challenge—a day that helped solidify why I wanted to be a part of the YAI team and made me see firsthand the way that it impacts people’s lives. I’ll surely know better for next year."


Friday, June 17, 2011

And the winner is...


....Cori's Team!


Congratulations to Cori's Team, the big winners of YAI's first-ever "Design Your Own T-Shirt Contest"!
Cori's Team will receive 10 passes to a special YAI Network event at Six Flags Great Adventure theme park. They will also have their story featured right here on our Central Park Challenge blog. Stay tuned to read about Cori, his supportive teammates and their inspiration behind the winning design!

Thanks to all who participated in our contest!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cast Your Vote!

WOW - you guys are really creative!

So many of you came to the Central Park Challenge last Saturday donning your own designer tees. We are so energized by each of your unique, meaningful and inspired designs!

Thank you so much to everyone who participated in our inaugural "Design Your Own T-Shirt Contest." Check out  pics of the finalists....then cast your vote for your favorite design!

The winning team will have their story featured right here on our blog AND they will win 10 passes to a YAI Network event at Six Flags Theme Park!

Vote NOW! The polls will close on Friday, June 17.

1. Best Friends Forever

2. Clifford Chance

3. Cori's Team

4. Hankering for More

5. Mighty M.E.S.

And the Winners Are....

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Celebrate Good Times....COME ON!!

Whew - we did it!!  The 2011 YAI and Broadview Networks Central Park Challenge was a HUGE success! And we couldn't have done it without you!

We were overjoyed to welcome you, your friends, family members, and more than 12,000 other terrific participants into the park this past Saturday to enjoy a 3K Walk, 5K Run, children's play area, games, food, entertainment and more! Together, we raised awareness and critical funds for children and adults with developmental disabilities. 

Special thanks to our celeb participants, including YAI Network spokesperson Sherri Shepherd, ABC News Anchor Bill RitterGrizz Chapman (30 Rock), Dominic Chianese (The Sopranos), Q104.3 DJ Maria Milito, Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years), and Miss Southern New York Kaitlin Monte.

But the real star of the show was Xi’Xi, the 3-year-old little girl whose shining eyes and ear-to-ear grin delighted the crowd. Joined by her parents, Cindy and Pat, Xi’Xi helped pump up the energy at the start of the 3K Walk by waving to participants. She also enjoyed some dancing on stage with Sherri Shepherd to the music of Dr. K's Motown Revue.

“Even though I have read about Xi’Xi’s progress and her family’s journey on, seeing the bond between all three of them elevated the vibe on the stage,” said Lauren Morris, a participant in the 5K Run. “It wasn't just love that I was seeing between Xi'Xi and her parents, but it was pride. As a mother, that's a very powerful thing to witness."

Thanks to the supportive partnerships that the YAI Network has forged with staff, consumers, families, friends, board members, corporate sponsors and YOU (!), we are quickly closing in on our record-breaking goal of $1.6 million


Help us make this our biggest, best and most successful Central Park Challenge EVER!! Donations can be made through June 30, 2011.  So keep on fundraising and spreading the word and help us cross the finish line!

A picture is worth a thousand words...
Check out some pics from the big day!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Cruise On Over

Ahoy! Have we got an exciting fundraising opportunity for you!
Thanks to our amazing partners at Westminster, we are offering an all-new way to fundraise BIG for the Central Park Challenge.... selling rooms on Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas!


The Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas Cruise departs from Cape Liberty, NJ and heads to Bermuda September 10th - 15th. And for every room on the cruise ship that you sell, you'll raise some major bucks to support individuals with disabilities and the Central Park Challenge!

YAI will receive:
     - $500 for each Stateroom Sold
     - $700 for each Jr. Suite Sold
     - $1000 for each Full Suite Sold

For all the sea-riffic details, contact Craig Miller at or the Central Park Challenge team at



We're giddy.  Ecstatic.  Clicking-our-heels, writing-this-whole-post-in-BOLD kind of happy.  Do you even need to ask why?

The Central Park Challenge is... TOMORROW!!!

We like 364 days of the year, but we LOVE 1. And that day has finally arrived!

Thank you so much to all of our friends who have registered, fundraised and helped spread the word.  Together, we are making a huge difference in the lives of children and adults with developmental disabilities.

Check out all of the important event details and we'll see YOU (!) in the park TOMORROW!


Look Who's Walking!

Need a little inspiration? Well, we're giving you a LOT

We are just so inspired and proud to share this next story with you!

All year long you’ve followed the story of
Xi’Xi, a YAI Network preschooler and the shining face of YAI and Broadview Networks Central Park Challenge. You’ve watched her blossom from a little girl who had difficulty maintaining her balance and only spoke a few words into an eager child who began to speak full sentences, tackle stairs and walk with the assistance of a walker.

And now, Xi’Xi is - quite literally! - taking new strides.

Today, Xi’Xi is walking!

"It was an incredible joy and an immense relief to see Xi'Xi walk unassisted," said Cindy, Xi'Xi's mom. "I was completely overjoyed. I cried."

To honor their daughter, Cindy and husband Pat formed a Central Park Challenge 3K Walk Team and, quite fittingly, have named the team “Xi’Xi Walks the Walk.” This team name represents all of Xi’Xi’s progress over the past year and serves as an inspiration for all of the steps that Xi’Xi will take as she continues to grow and reach her full potential. Show your support for Xi'Xi by making a donation to her team!

"We can all learn from Xi'Xi," added Cindy. "Pat and I chose to name the team "Xi'Xi Walks the Walk" because Xi'Xi is a determined human being who decides what she is going to do... and then she does it! Pat, Xi'Xi and I are thrilled to walk the walk the same way that we live our lives... together!"

Walk the walk with Xi’Xi, her family, YAI Network spokesperson Sherri Shepherd and more than 12,000 others on Saturday, June 4 in Central Park. There is still time to register!


Thursday, June 2, 2011


Thanks to all of your incredible, amazing, outstanding, marvelous, impressive, extraordinary, exceptional, fantastic, terrific, tremendous, wonderful, phenomenal and stupendous dedication, we have surpassed the $1.4 million mark!! WOW! 

Congrats to everyone who helped make this happen! We are so overjoyed by this milestone... it is motivation for us to continue in our quest to fundraise $1.6 million. KEEP IT UP, TEAM!

Help us reach our goal and then join us in Central Park on Saturday as we celebrate people of all ages with disabilities.

The Central Park Challenge is Finally Here!

We are expecting amazing weather and more than 10,000 participants along with our celebrity spokesperson Sherri Shepherd and her friend Xi’Xi. As we gear up for the big day, reach out to everyone you know one last time to ask them to support your efforts with a donation. Go to your participant center now!

View Important Event Information. Here, you will find directions, the event schedule, a map and other important information.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

We Are Everywhere!

The BIG day is almost here! Can you believe it?!

Our excitement level has reached new heights. YAI and Broadview Networks Central Park Challenge advertising campaign has taken over New York City - and beyond!

In addition to raising critical funds for the YAI Network’s supportive services offered to individuals with developmental disabilities, the Central Park Challenge is a special event because it also provides unique opportunities to raise public awareness about the thousands of children and adults with disabilities who receive YAI’s services.

We are on buses and telephone kiosks. We are in subway cars and print ads. We are on lampposts, the radio and television. And we are on massive highway billboards.

We are everywhere!

YAI Network staff, along with our spokesperson Sherri Shepherd, have also spoken on WABC-TV, Q104.3, WFAN, Lite FM, Z100 and Power 105.1. Little Xi’Xi, a YAI preschooler and the face of this year’s Central Park Challenge, was featured on NBC’s Weekend Today Show. Public service announcements featuring Sherri and Xi'Xi have also aired on numerous TV stations, including New York 1 News, MTV, YES, ESPN Classic, TV Land and the Soap Network.

The YAI Network is able to effectively spread the word about the Central Park Challenge as well as about the services that YAI offers through generous media support. Special thanks to Clear Channel Outdoor, Van Wagner, the Daily News and Vector Media, which donated 100% of our advertising opportunities. These partnerships play a critical role in the success of the event and in getting the word out to the public.

Have you spotted one of our ads on a telephone kiosk, subway or bus? We want to know! Email photographs of you with our ads to and we’ll feature you right here on our Central Park Challenge blog.


Getting to Know.... Team Logan's Run

One of our favorite parts about getting ready for the Central Park Challenge is getting to know YOU – our enthusiastic participants! What motivates you to run? Who inspires you to walk?

We love sharing your stories to the virtual world and creating a community and bond among all of our readers and event participants.

Get to know the Rosen Family, whose team “Logan’s Run” formed in honor of 15-year-old Logan, a recipient of YAI services.

The Rosen Family opens up on their Personal Page about how, in light of recent budget cuts, fundraising is more critical now than ever before. Their story is honest, touching and is sure to inspire you! While you’re visiting their page and reading about Logan, make a donation and help them reach their fundraising goal of $10,000. They’re already more than half way there – WOW! Keep it up, team! 

Join the Rosens and team Logan’s Run in spreading the word to all of your friends and family about the Central Park Challenge. Encourage others to register, fundraise or support your efforts. Every dollar raised can and WILL make an impact on the lives of individuals that YAI serves, just like Logan.

Have a story to share? We’re listening. Send us an email at We look forward to hearing from you!


Friday, May 27, 2011

The Humphrey Family Shares Their Inspiration

The Central Park Challenge began 26 years ago as a small health and wellness initiative for YAI Network service recipients and staff. Over the years, it has grown into an exciting day in Central Park, welcoming over 12,000 people! Wow – times have changed!

One of the many reasons that this event is so special is because it really did develop as a result of the love and support that family members, friends and YAI Network staff put into it! It is a day to recognize individuals with developmental disabilities and to celebrate the potential within us all.

The Central Park Challenge team has been, and continues to be, inspired by the thousands of heart-warming and uplifting stories that you - our friends, readers and fellow event participants - have shared with us over the years.

The Humphrey family is a terrific example! Bradford, along with parents Connie and Rich, are participating in support of Bradford’s sister Jessica and the residents of her YAI group home in Mamaroneck, Westchester. The Humphrey family is so committed to fundraising as much as possible in support of Jessica, that for every dollar they raise, a matching donation will be made to their team from the Jessica Humphrey Private Family Foundation. Learn more about Jessica and the services that she receives from YAI and support the Humphrey family today!

Have a story to share? We want to hear from you! Tell us why you walk, run, attend and fundraise. Email

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

First Look! 2011 Central Park Challenge T-shirts!

We can hardly contain our excitement! The official adult, children's and volunteer T-shirts for the 2011 YAI and Broadview Networks Central Park Challenge have arrived! And you're the first to see them!

Your registration fee includes the adult or children's T-shirt, which can be picked up when you check in at the registration tents on the morning of June 4. And if you need anything on the day of the event, just look for YAI event staff in green.

Special thanks to our friends at Kay Unger New York , especially Liza Nay, for custom designing our three beautiful shirts and to W.B. Mason for printing. It is partnerships like these that make the success of the Central Park Challenge possible!.

Cabaret Success!

Congratulations to YAI's Employment Initiatives team on the success of their Cabaret Benefit! The entertaining evening of music and comedy raised over $1000 (!!!) for the Central Park Challenge, awareness about the YAI Network's many services and was, of course - FUN!

Special thanks to the Triad Theatre for generously donating the space as well as to the talented singers and comedians who performed. Check out some of the highlights below....  Miz Minelli would be proud!


Friday, May 20, 2011

Where do you share your photos?

We're doing a poll - which photo sharing site do you use?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Design Your Own T-shirt Contest!

 The Central Park Challenge team has BIG news!

For the first time ever, we're holding a Central Park Challenge Design-Your-Own T-shirt Contest!

That's right, we were so inspired by the teams in past years who have gotten into the spirit and created their own team T-shirts, that this year we've created a contest for it!

Grab your friends, family, Central Park Challenge teammates and some blank tees. Then get creative and have some fun! (Check out some photos of past participants who designed their own for inspiration.) 

Wear your shirts to the park on June 4th and be entered to win 10 passes to Six Flags Theme Park at a special YAI celebration.

To enter:

- Have your photo taken at the Team Photo Station on the day of the event


- Email photos of your team sporting your custom-designed duds to by Friday June 10th at 12-noon.

The Central Park Challenge judging panel will narrow down the contestants and then YOU (!), our faithful friends and readers, will have the final vote.

Simply check back in right here on the blog to vote on the finalists in our live poll. Voting takes place between Friday June 10th - Friday June 17th. In addition to 10 Six Flag passes, the winning team will also have their T-shirt and team story featured right here on the blog and on

Why are you walking? What motivates you to run? Who inspires you? Your shirt is your canvas - tell us your story!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Raise Funds... Get Pampered

As if you needed another great reason to register for the Central Park Challenge and begin your fundraising efforts… now you’ve got one!

In addition to all of the terrific vendors from 2010 who will be returning to the park, this year we’re thrilled to announce a new partnership with New York City's Smooth Synergy Spa.

Smooth Synergy is a beautiful spa in NYC where you can pamper your body, mind and spirit. With its cosmetic and medical day spa, Smooth Synergy offers a wide range of services, including skin rejuvenation, body treatments, skincare products and more.

Licensed massage therapists from Smooth Synergy will be in the park on June 4th, providing FREE massages to event participants.

But wait... it gets better!

And now, Smooth Synergy is offering YOU special rewards as a thank you for your outstanding online fundraising efforts.

Online donations made through credit card transactions save YAI precious time and money. That’s why we are offering this incentive for funds you’ve raised via online credit card donations.

When you raise $250 or more you’ll receive:
- 50% off any individual service (excludes packages and injections treatments)
- 30% off any product
- 20% off any injection treatment

When you raise $1,000 or more you’ll receive:
- $100 Smooth Synergy Dollars toward any service or package (excludes injection treatments)
- $200 Smooth Synergy Dollars toward any injection treatments

Log in to your participant center today and start fundraising! All of your hard work will really pay off when you are getting treated like royalty at the spa!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Life is a Cabaret

What good is sitting alone in your room?
Come here the music play!
Life is a cabaret, old chum!
Come to the cabaret!

Ms. Liza Minnelli, we couldn't agree more! Life is not only a cabaret, but it's now a cabaret benefit!!

Join staff from YAI's Employment Initiatives team for
"A Night of Cabaret to Benefit the YAI Network."

Hosted by The Triad Theatre on Manhattan's Upper West Side on Thursday May 19th, this entertaining evening will feature three talented musical acts and three fall-off-your-chair-laughing comedy routines.

Enjoy drinks, food (provided by Bring Them Home Pretzels and The Cupcake Crew...yum!) and great entertainment. Don't forget to snag an autograph or two - you'll want everyone to know that you knew these stars first!

Tickets are $10 (+2 drink minimum) and can be purchased at the door or ahead of time online! The show begins at 9 p.m. The Triad Theatre is located at 158 W. 72nd Street (between Broadway & Columbus Avenues) on the 2nd floor. Need directions?

The lineup includes Evan Grove, Brian Meece & Gustavo Rodriguez, Jeff Lender, Morgan Paige Cohen, Brett Druck and the Harvard Sailing Team.

Get those tickets now! We'll see you on the other side of the red velvet rope...


Monday, May 16, 2011

Back by Popular Demand!

The Central Park Challenge is only 19 days away! And there is SO much to look forward too!

In addition to the 3K Walk, 5K Run, children's races (medals included!) and so much more, event participants will enjoy music, entertainment, face painting, spin-art, games and food.

Back by popular demand - the Chock full o'Nuts van will be serving up hot and iced coffee drinks to keep everyone energized and The Pop Chips Snack Shack will once again be on site, handing out bags of healthy chips. As if that wasn't enough, Morrisons Pastry Corp. will also be back, supplying delicious baked goods for participants.


The good news continues! In addition to the return of these drool-worthy partners, the Central Park Challenge team is excited to welcome Smooth Synergy to the park!

Liscensed massage therapists from Smooth Synergy - a beautiful spa in NYC - will provide FREE MASSAGES (!!!) to event participants.

Want in on the excitement? Register today!

Friday, May 6, 2011

We Salute Our Central Park Challenge Moms

This Mother’s Day, all of us at the YAI Network salute our dedicated, passionate Central Park Challenge moms!

Year after year, mothers play a pivotal role in raising funds and awareness for children and adults with developmental disabilities. Their dedication to their children and to their community inspires families and friends to rally around them as they lead their Central Park Challenge teams to success.
Although, the Central Park Challenge is just one day a year, these women are committed to the sons, daughters and other family members with disabilities. They advocate before legislators, attend appointments, fill out paperwork and organize support groups, while juggling jobs and providing nurturing and support to their families. And come the first Saturday in June, they fill Central Park with their energy and love.

Our moms never stop giving. They never stop advocating. And they never stop cheering.

Join these inspirational women in their efforts to provide hope and opportunity for their children with disabilities at the Central Park Challenge on Saturday, June 4, 2011.

Your participation and any funds you raise will go directly to support children and adults with disabilities.

Register for the 3K Walk or 5K Run and make a difference today!

Happy Mother’s Day!