Every summer, about 45 children and teens with disabling diseases, disorders and spinal cord injuries come from far and wide to the UCSB Recreation Center for a week of intense sporting organized by Santa Barbara Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital. They play basketball and volleyball, racquetball and rugby. They go swimming and handcycling, and have tennis lessons with three-time Paralympian, Anthony Lara. They also engage in adventure activities such as kayaking, ropes course, SCUBA and, of course, what kind of sports camp would be complete without rock climbing?
Real interest in adaptive climbing has been sparked among many wheelchair users across the globe. Perhaps it is the sport of rock climbing becoming more mainstream, or maybe inspiration from famous disabled athletes such as blind mountaineer, Erik Weihenmayer, incomplete tetraplegic competition climber, Fran Brown and the more recent scaling of El Capitan by Stephen Wampler, who has cerebral palsy. Either way, despite the growing interest, working with people with disabilities is still a very complex and out of the ordinary thing for most vertical sports professionals and high angle rope workers.
The Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp has both excited and panicked me for nearly a decade. Beyond the usual concerns that come with any children’s program, including the naturally worrisome parents and doting caretakers, each year purports a completely new test for me and my staff. The kids come to us both excited and terrified themselves, and we are responsible for the quality of their experience.