Sky’s the limit for ‘Courageous Kids’

Local organization hosts rock climbing event for people with diabilities

A+participant+at+the+CKC+event+climbs+on+the+WSU+Student+Recreation+Center+climbing+wall+Sunday%2C+Sept.+26.

FRANKIE BEER

A participant at the CKC event climbs on the WSU Student Recreation Center climbing wall Sunday, Sept. 26.

FRANKIE BEER, Evergreen Photographer

Courageous Kids Climbing hosted a rock climbing event at WSU on Sunday for community members with physical and intellectual disabilities.

Founder Jeff Riechmann said he created CKC to give kids and volunteers an experience they will never forget. 

The organization provides free rock climbing experiences for people with disabilities of all ages. Riechmann said it is rewarding to create an inclusive environment where kids overcome their fear of heights and build their confidence.

“To have a little boy with Down syndrome come up to me as I’m loading equipment and kiss me on both cheeks as a way of saying thank you? That’s where the reward is,” Riechmann said. 

Prior to founding CKC, Riechmann worked as a firefighter and safety consultant guide for companies. He said his interest in rock climbing probably stems from all the time he spent on big ladders.

Since Riechmann founded CKC in 2014, the organization has held over 90 events throughout the Pacific Northwest with over 975 participants to date. 

“To the best of our knowledge, I’m the only guy doing this in the country,” Riechmann said.

CKC has two more events in the area this weekend. On Saturday, CKC will take visually-impaired children to visit the Idaho State Police in Lewiston, Idaho, to meet the officers and touch police equipment. Children with special needs can also join the CKC on Sunday in Lewiston for ice skating at the LC Ice Arena.

Interested parties can sign up to participate in either event by emailing courageouskidsclimbing@gmail.com. A full list of upcoming events can be found on CKC’s Facebook page.

At the majority of CKC events, local first responders help the children learn to climb. In bigger cities, firefighters are required to be involved with CKC events because they gain firsthand experience working with children with special needs, Riechmann said. 

It also gives the kids a chance to interact and become more comfortable around first responders.

Colfax Fire Chief Michael Chapman said he always runs into children from the events, and it is rewarding when they actually remember his name. 

“Hopefully, they don’t just think about the success of the climb, but also the interactions with firefighters as a positive experience,” Chapman said. 

Aurora Brinkman, WSU psychology graduate student, volunteered at Sunday’s event as a belayer. She said she has worked with people with disabilities in the past and would like to continue to do so after she graduates. 

Since Pullman is a rural area, there are not many opportunities to support organizations like CKC, Brinkman said. 

“I just like seeing that any activity can be adapted, and anyone can do it,” Brinkman said. “It’s just about finding how best to support that person.”