The Courage to Climb

A Very Special Program

By Jeff Riechmann

Photos Courtesy of Courageous Kids Climbing

In March 2005, I retired from a twenty-three-year career as a firefighter in southern California and then in 2013, I relocated to McCall. Not long after that, I was sitting around the wood-burning stove in my friend Larry Morton’s woodshop in Cascade when the topic turned to climbing.

Larry is founder of the Idaho Climbing Series, an amateur rock-climbing program that visits various indoor climbing gyms and outdoor bouldering parks, offering the chance to compete against other rock climbers.

I decided I wanted to do something that involved my own love of rock climbing and that at the same time gave back to the community. Before retiring from the fire department, I had organized the Firefighter’s Grand Prix car race, which raised more than forty thousand dollars for the California Burn Foundation over a three-year run. Since I now had lots of free time on my hands, Larry and I started looking at the possibility of taking a couple of kids climbing in the Payette National Forest. But we wanted to achieve more than that, and after doing some online research, I soon discovered that climbing can be beneficial to children with special needs. Through Larry’s contacts, we reached out to Scott DeWalt at Urban Ascent in Boise, who thought having a closed session for children with special needs was an outstanding idea. He offered to let us use his gym, and fifteen kids participated in that first event in July 2012.

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