Atomic City Update: Adaptive Sports Program helps make dreams come true

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By Phil Scherer

This week, I had the privilege of spending some time with the Adaptive Sports Program of New Mexico as they invited individuals with disabilities from Aspen Elementary School to the YMCA to have some fun at the climbing wall. 

For many of these kids, having access to the harness chair attached to the wall is the only way they will be able to climb up and experience that type of adrenaline rush, and it is amazing to see them experience that. 

For more than two hours, those kids got to have an amazing time, either going up the wall in the chair, or on their own with the help of one of the amazing leaders. Douglas Lewis, Jason Cline and Camille Romero were on hand Tuesday morning to help the kids in any way they could. It is clear that this is a life passion for all of them, and they were having just as much fun as the kids were having. 

Just minutes after walking in, I understood what makes this program so special. A young man named Jack Murrell took his two turns in the chair, and he was so proud of getting all the way to the top of the wall. As the leaders worked to un-strap him from the chair, he could barely contain his excitement. When he got out of the chair, the smile on his face was brighter than the sun, and his confidence shot through the roof. He gave high-fives to all the leaders and his teachers, and was full of more energy than anyone else in the room. 

Later in the morning, he even climbed the wall without the help of the chair, and got nearly as high on his own as he had earlier, and the joy on his face never went away. 

The same was true of Rhysa Cooley, who started out in the chair at the beginning of the day, but soon realized she could climb the wall on her own, and nothing could stop her. At the very top of the wall at the YMCA are little horns that people can squeeze to celebrate getting to the ceiling. Without any help from a leader, she got all the way to the horn twice, and received loud, thunderous applause from everyone in the room both times. 

Seeing these kids accomplish these great things, and witnessing the smiles on their faces, put a lot of things into perspective for me. They were working harder to accomplish their goals than most people ever work to accomplish anything. 

The best example was Lucas Yaeger, who wanted to climb the wall so bad. With the help of one of the leaders, he tried again and again to climb up using the footholds. On his first few attempts, he stumbled and wound up on the ground. But that seemed to make him even more determined. By the end of the day, he was halfway up the wall, but was clearly frightened. Even though he wanted to give up and climb back down, his teachers encouraged him to keep going. He kept climbing, and ended up nearly 3/4 of the way up the wall, better than he ever believed he could do. 

It showed me how amazing the work of the Adaptive Sports Program is, and how much time and energy is spent helping individuals with disabilities achieve their dreams. 

Throughout the year, the group has programs with skiing, water skiing, rock climbing, fishing, archery and more, I would love to see the program expand and become even more involved, because getting to see these kids live their dreams is worth any cost.