The AOEC, in collaboration with Paradox Sports, EVO Rock Portland, Anti Gravity Complex and Maine Bound Adventure Center, just held our first official adaptive climbing day! We had 41 participants, including their family and friends, and 11 volunteers from University of New England all at EVO Rock for a transformative experience through adaptive climbing. The guys from Paradox Sports, Nate McKenzie and Gary Dunn, said this was the biggest and most well done community day in which they have ever taken part! When I say transformative, I mean lives were clearly changed at this event.
I am the adaptive climbing director for AOEC, Enock Glidden. I am an adaptive climber also. As I sat viewing all the activity going on around me I saw smiles, achievement, people finding possibility and many firsts. A 5 year old named Kellan, who is a wheelchair user, tried climbing for the first time. It is amazing to see someone leave their chair and realize what life is like from a new perspective. I saw him light up and say, "Mom look how high I am!" His mom lit up pretty big too. She admitted she was nervous but when she saw how much fun he had she knew there was no turning back. This was going to be his activity of choice. He even had to go a second time because he loved it so much!
A man who is completely deaf decided to try sit climbing for various other physical reasons and even though he couldn't speak words, he spoke so much when he left the ground just by his emotions and the look on his face. I don't know sign language yet but I was told he signed to a friend that he wanted to come back again the next day. I heard that a lot, "When can I come back?" We are still working out the schedule but keep checking our website and subscribe for all the latest information!
Another man with cerebral palsy tried sit climbing and told his caretaker that he wanted to come back too. His face beamed with joy when he left the ground for the first time.
I also met Aaron who is blind and had climbed over 15 years ago. I was told he had been talking about it literally every day since. It was amazing to see how skilled he was at navigating the wall and how it truly made him happy to be back at it.
A lady named Margaret came up to me after she had climbed and thanked me for helping to make this happen for her. She had climbed before acquiring a physical limitation and wasn't sure she would ever get to do it again. I assured her that she would be climbing again and we would make it happen!
After witnessing all the great moments that happened in just the span of 4 hours or so it made me realize this is what I am meant to do. I am so glad to be a part of an organization that will truly change the lives of the people we serve. That is what we are all about - providing experiences through sports and education that participants can carry throughout their lives with family and friends!
I would encourage anyone that has some type of limitation or knows a friend or family member to look us up and come try any of our programs! It doesn't have to be climbing but I do highly recommend it :)! You can find all of our programs at https://www.adaptiveoutdooreducationcenter.org/programs
Check out more of the awesome photos here!