Founder of Courage League Sports recognized nationally as a Toyota Everyday Hero.

Urbandale, IowaMelissa Clarke-Wharff was honored Tuesday night by ESPN-W as a Toyota Everyday Hero in California. The West Des Moines mother of six and founder of Courage League Sports didn’t even know she was in the running to receive the award, which also comes with a grant to help further develop Courage League Sports and its licensing opportunities.

Courage League Sports is a non-profit, adaptive sports and recreational facility that offers year-round programming for children and adults who aren’t able to go full speed due to a physical, cognitive or emotional disability. By adapting the pace, equipment or nature of an activity, the Courage League vision is to provide an option for everybody through adapted programs in music, sports, arts and fitness for all ages and abilities.

Clarke-Wharff and three other women were honored with the Toyota Everyday Heroes award Tuesday at the ninth annual espnW: Women + Sports Summit presented by Toyota. According to a news release distributed by espnW, “Toyota Everyday Heroes are individuals making a difference for women and girls in their local communities through sports.” The honorees were recognized at an awards event on stage, through videos highlighting their accomplishments, and provided with grants in the amount of $10,000.

“These unsung heroes are creating innovative programs and enhancing their communities through sports,” said Samantha Goot, general manager of media and engagement marketing, Toyota Motor North America.

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.”

For more information or to donate to Courage League Sports,


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