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City program helps those with disabilities reach higher

With a little assistance, anyone can rock climb, according to Elaine Adams.

As the therapeutic recreation coordinator for Chattanooga Parks and Recreation, she has seen a lot of people rock climb who may not have thought it was possible. Through the city’s six-week Climbing Higher program, Adams and a staff of volunteers help local residents with intellectual and/or physical disabilities climb at Urban Rocks Gym as well as outdoors.

“This program showcases what everyone can do, whether it’s through adaptations or simple modifications,” Adams said. “The goal is for everyone to feel like they’ve had success.”

Success can mean a lot of things during Climbing Higher. For some participants it means getting to the top of the wall; for others it can mean getting five feet off the ground or talking about the different colored hand grips, said Adams.

“Like everyone else, it’s typical to make judgments about people,” she said. “But the really cool thing about this program is seeing this physically disabled person climb really well or this autistic kid that usually only says a couple of words talking and communicating more than ever.”

The program is made possible each year through partnerships with Urban Rocks Gym, Rock/Creek Outfitters, Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, Columbia Sportswear and a large pool of volunteers who do everything from encouraging participants to climbing alongside them.

“We would not be able to do the program without great support,” Adams said.

The program is free to all participants and usually culminates in an outdoor excursion sponsored by Outdoor Chattanooga that gives participants an opportunity to rock climb in a natural setting.

Even though the focus of the program is on its participants, Adams said sometimes the volunteers and parents get just as much from it.

“It’s really cool for the parents to see what a great environment it is and for them to be so proud of their kid and their accomplishment,” she said. “Our parents have such a great attitude seeing their kids and the other kids succeed. It’s really fun.”

Climbing Higher is launching its first 2013 session at the end of January or in early February. For more information or to sign up as a participant or volunteer contact Adams at 697-1374.

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