It started slowly at first, then began to gain momentum. As the climber neared the top, the noise level rose with it. What was a few people saying, “You can do it!” became a raucous crowd of frenzied supporters. By the time the climber reached the red button near the peak of the Speed Wall at The CRUX, the entire room was cheering them on. When the climber finally struck the flashing red light that marked the summit of their climb, the entire room eruptsed into elated support.
We work with Zionsville High School’s special needs program on more than one program throughout the year; we also do team building sessions with them at Jameson Camp and we even take them out camping at McCormick’s Creek State Park. The subject of today’s event with them, though, was their experience rock climbing.
If you compare our facility to the for-profit climbing gym down the road, we are a pretty small space, but the shrunken-down experience we provide means we can cater to new climbers and those who might not feel wildly comfortable in a setting like a large gym. In this case, we were hosting almost twenty high school students from a special needs population. Our climbers ranged from being kids on a graduation track to those who were simply there to practice life skills. Some of the students were as coordinated and agile as any athlete, while others seemed like they would blow over in the slightest breeze. In spite of these differences, they were all able to come up against an appropriate challenge for who they were.
The ability to reach everyone is as stated before, our advantage. The athletic students? They were able to race each other up the Speed Wall and take on harder routes. The more wobbly students? Some of them only reached the first rock but were able to get to the second rock by the time they left. Was it any less impactful because the latter student did not climb as high? No. Each student was asked to set their own goals and then challenged to complete them, or adjust them to be more appropriate to their skill level. Thus, when they did accomplish said goals, it was their own goal they beat. We saw genuine smiles across the whole spectrum of students.
It is is a hard balance for most gyms. You want to be the best gym, host the best climbers, and have the best climbing routes. However, sometimes it is just as important to have the routes and setting where the rest of the world can achieve success at their level…even if it means the pros don’t get their way. That’s what we do, and the smiles and sense of pride we see in kids from places like Zionsville H.S. are why we do it.