Outreach: Community Service

Pinole Summer Camp at DRG

Summertime means many things. If you're used to climbing at Mission Cliffs, it might means stocking up on puffy jackets and trying to remember what blue sky looks like. But for Diablo Rock Gym members in Concord, it means sweltering temps and an living life from one air conditioned room to the next.

Diablo Rock Gym, which is blessed with air conditioning, is a great place to beat the summer heat. We end up hosting a handful of summer camps that are looking for a cool place to hang out. (Get it? Cool?!)

10353253 10152110786455653 2121005914759533681 oIn June we hosted 38 young climbers from Pinole City Summer Camp. Pinole City offers a variety of camps where elementary age and middle school youth enjoy safe, supervised fun at the Pinole Youth Center. They focus on homework help, arts, sports, cooking, computer access, games, workshops, and youth leadership. 

But sometimes, they get to leave the Youth center and come climbing! When the group first entered the building, they were dumbstruck. With necks craned backwards and fingers raised, they oo'd and ahh'd over our 40 ft climbing walls. "Are we going to get to CLIMB that?!" said one girl incredulously. "You sure are!" said DRG staffer and coach Michael P. Hershburger. "I wonder who will be able to climb highest?" To which the whole group collectively broke into yelps of 'Me! Me! Me!'

1799944 10152110785725653 3951759475903994190 oThe kids separated into teams and divided up among the belay staff. Each were tied in with a figure-eight and started climbing! Their fellow campers cheered each climber on as they pushed their physical and mental limits. Each climber reached a different point on the wall, but every time a climber was lowered back to the ground the reaction was always the same. "This is my most favorite place EVER," gasped one boy. "Can we come here again tomorrow?!" said another.

They've been looking forward to this all week," said one of the counselors. "Climbing at DRG is definitely a highpoint. In fact.. mind if we try it out..?" Once the campers saw their counselors struggling up the same section of wall, they really lost it. "It was hard for both of us! I can't wait to come back and climb more!" said one girl.

Among the belayers for the group was none other than speed record holder and gym manager Hans Florine. "This is one of my favorite parts of the job," said Hans, as he happily belayed child after child. "I am constantly pleasantly surprised at the number of community members who bring in groups into Diablo Rock Gym. The energy people here put into introducing folks to climbing is so energizing. You know they love climbing so much they want to share it with others." Hans might be a world famous climber, but to the kids of Pinole Summer Camp, he was just another encouraging voice from far below. 

If you have a group that would like to come climbing at Diablo Rock Gym, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Time with Teachers at Mission Cliffs

DSC 1994Mission Cliffs is no stranger to bringing kids to new heights through indoor climbing programs. Children benefit from learning and experiencing climbing in myriad ways, but recently an entire school was enriched by their commitment to supporting their local communities.

For the spring auction benefiting the Parent-Teacher Association, Touchstone Climbing donated equipment and day passes to Sherman Elementary School in San Francisco's Cow Hollow neighborhood for an event called "Time with Teachers." "Time with Teachers" offers Sherman students the opportunity to go on an outing with their educators. Physical Education teacher, Amy Matarazzo, and kindergarten teacher, Judy Alexander, have been climbing together at Mission Cliffs for the balance of the school year and decided that a "students climb, teachers belay day" would be an excellent way to support Sherman's PTA. In addition, it would be a fun a way to expose children to the joys that climbing indoors brings them on a weekly basis.

Sherman Elementary third graders Connor Jernigan, Sabina Lewis, Lina Shibley and fourth grader Brody Andrews were the lucky participants of the climb with teachers day. All four children had had some experience climbing, but none had ever had the experience of being belayed by their teachers or learning about climbing safety or techniques from them. "I felt good when I was rock climbing because someone was watching me. I thought it was really cool to have an adventure," said Brody. Connor agreed, adding, "I liked the feeling that when I was climbing I wasn't going to fall. I felt really safe and comfortable."

Lena described what it was like to climb with teachers from her school. "I didn't know that they were rock climbers, so I got to know something new about them. I liked when we were climbing up the walls and how we got to go on different [routes]. I went on a really high one!"

DSC 2048Teachers Matarazzo and Alexander were equally pleased. "The whole goal is to pass on skills and experiences that we love to students. The hope is that they will find the same joy and challenge in it that we do, and also build a love for physical activity from a young age," Matarazzo said. The event seems to have set this goal in motion, because when asked what she liked best about the day, Sabina quickly responded, "Everything." She was all smiles. When asked if she would continue rock climbing after the climb with her teachers, she responded, "Big time!"

"The problem solving element in climbing is directly related to the critical thinking work that we hope to nurture within a school setting," Alexander noted. Academic experiences should not exist in a bubble and the Mission Cliffs climbing outing underscores the fact: teachers and students alike are enriched by opportunities to grow and learn beyond the boundaries of a school's campus.

Thank you, Touchstone Climbing!

Richmond At-Risk Youth at Berkeley Ironworks

Recently a group of elementary school students from Richmond headed to Berkeley Ironworks as part of a summer school program that supports at-risk and under-served youth. The kids had a great time climbing at the gym. Katherine Bruce, the program coordinator spoke to the Touchstone Blog about the trip.

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We were given an opportunity to bring a group of our students to Ironworks Berkeley and spend a few hours climbing. The students were greeted positively and warmly, helped with harnesses and we had an excellent staff member with calm energy helping us belay and orienting us to the gym. The staff member, Kat, was very warm and supportive of the students trying as well as reassuring them that they would be taken care of when they climbed.

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The students were given freedom to explore and boulder as well as try climbing on rope. It was not only the first time for all of the kids to climb, it was some students' first time outside of Richmond. The environment, patrons of the gym as well as all the staff were highly accommodating and supported us feeling safe and capable of trying new things, taking on personal challenges and allowed the students to have an incredible experience outside of their typical daily lives.

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Many of our students felt inspired by what they were able to accomplish and mentioned wanting to come back again. We thank Ironworks and the staff for the wonderful opportunity to give us a place to explore and reach new heights! Many of our students made it all the way to the top! Thank you again! 

SF International High School at Dogpatch Boulders

The SF International High School paid Dogpatch Boulders a visit twice last month. Originally they had only planned to visit once, but they had so much fun on their first visit they asked to come back - and how could we say no!? These students are from all over the world and for the majority of them, English is their second language. 


Dogpatch staff member Noah worked with the students both times. "It was a blast," said Noah. "The great thing about teaching kids about climbing is that even if they don't understand your words, it's easy to demonstrate and get them out of their shell with movement." He took the time to show the students around the gym, along with some basic climbing movement and strategy. 


"The students were a blast on and off the climbing walls," said Dogpatch Manager Justin Alarcon. "Several of the students used the visit to practice their English by interviewing a few of us on staff for a school project."

The San Francisco International School has a program we are thrilled to be able to support. Students from all cultural, ethnic, and language backgrounds attend SFIHS. There are no entrance exams and there is no tuition or students; any student who has attended school in the United States for four years or less is welcome to enroll. It is programs like this that make San Francisco unique and make our neighborhood one of the best in the area!


June Jordan School for Equity at Dogpatch Boulders

Last month, students from June Jordan School for Equity (JJSE) made their first visit to Dogpatch Boulders.

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JJSE’s Intersession is comprised of three weeks of experiential learning courses where students learn by doing and actively engage in a variety of real-world experiences that challenge them physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Conducted outside of the four walls of the traditional classroom, these intensive courses create an opportunity for students to interact with adults and community members in new ways as they become immersed in unfamiliar environments, attempt new activities, or pursue longstanding passions in a more in-depth way all over the Bay Area. And what better place to do all that than a climbing gym!

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José Gutiérrez, a long time Touchstone Climbing member, brought his students into the gym to give them a glimpse into the wonderful world of climbing. We love being able to host the students during their Intersession. Climbing can be such a transformational activity, and we hope the kids had as much fun climbing as we had showing them the ropes!

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