URBANDALE, Iowa- A Des Moines area woman has won a national award from ESPN-W. Melissa Clarke-Wharff of West Des Moines was honored this week with ESPN's Toyota Woman Everyday Hero award.
Clarke-Wharff is the founder or Courage League Sports, a non-profit adaptive sports and recreation facility for kids and adults. The award comes with a 10-thousand dollar grant to support Courage League Sports.
Clarke-Wharff founded Courage League Sports after her 8-year-old son, Jack, suffered six strokes. The resulting disabilities Jack experienced left Clarke-Wharff frustrated by the lack of adaptive recreational options for children and adults who live with disabilities or chronic healthcare needs.
“I am humbled and honored to receive this award,” Clarke-Wharff stated. “I didn’t start Courage League Sports for recognition ─ just to provide a space to give our special kids and adults an opportunity to play.”
Clarke-Wharff owns and operates locations in Urbandale and Ankeny and has recently developed a licensing program so other communities can provide the organizations programs and services for their residents. A newly licensed program just launched in Iowa City with others scheduled to start this fall in Ames and next year in Newton.
“More than 50,000 children and adults are affected with physical disabilities or chronic healthcare needs that limit their abilities to participate in traditional recreational activities,” Clarke-Wharff states. “I believe that everybody deserves to play, and my goal is to make that a possibility in every community.”
Courage League Sports is hosting a "Jeans, Jackets and the Blues" event October 25th at Exile Brewing in in Des Moines to raise funds for scholarships. Clarke-Wharff tells WHO Radio News 60-percent of their families are challenged financially, and they don't want money to be an obstacle for families to use the facilities.