On Saturday, March 12, 2016 at the Sport Rock indoor rock climbing center in Alexandria, 9 blind and vision impaired members of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia took on the challenge of scaling 60 foot vertical heights by using just their hands, legs, and the determination to succeed.
Those who climbed that day were from several chapters in our NFB family. The chapters represented were: the Winchester Chapter, Fairfax Chapter and DC Chapter. The climbers were: Carolena Garrison, Chris Vincent Walker, John Bailey, Paula Kelsey, James, Thomas Gryder, Johanna Johnson, Joy Relton, Toby Austin, and James Dietz.
The ages, skill levels, and familiarity with the NFB philosophy of empowerment through skills and a positive attitude varied greatly among the participants.
When everyone arrived, , our indoor rock climbing instructor Christie and her assistant welcomed us and showed us how to adjust the waist harnesses which would connect the climbers with the safety rope. The group went two climbers at a time up either the 40 or 60 foot simulated rock wall which had hand and foot holds randomly carved in them. The challenge was to locate the nearest hold, stabilize your balance, and then pull yourself up to the next hold.
Chris Walker made it to the top on his second try. He made it half way on his first attempt. However, on his second attempt, he continued pushing himself passed where he had stopped before and continued till his head hit the ceiling. He knew then he had succeeded.
Johanna is new to the Federation and is tackling all the challenges RP can bring to one’s personal and professional life. You wouldn’t think Johanna had any challenges if you saw how she climb to the top of the wall and down 4 times in less than 90 minutes.
Two hours after we started, the climbers and their supportive spectators said over and over again what a great time they had. In fact, ideas for future activities were being bounced around. Some of the ideas were: horseback riding, tubing on a river, group dance classes, and Joy made sure everyone knew that she was voting to go skiing. Everyone agreed to keep in touch and to get together soon.