Outreach: Community Service

Climbing to Wellness at MetalMark

unnamed-13Imagine you are a 19 year old and in your first year of college. You are living away from your home for the first time. You are feeling isolated and overwhelmed by the requirements of school. Each day is a battle to survive the pressure and stress of school. Until one day the stress and anxiety become too overwhelming. You have a nervous breakdown and you quit. You leave school—your dream and your hope for the future. On your drive home you feel like a failure. Each day spent at home is a constant reminder that you failed and you feel that you will never succeed.

Or imagine that you are an 18 year old male who has a history of depression. Your depression feels like a demon that is with you wherever you go. It robs you of your energy and motivation. You try to do the things that bring you joy, but they feel empty. Each day you tell yourself that this is a new day but soon you feel empty again. It affects every area of your life: school, family, and friends. Now picture that you are a 20 year old who suffers from crippling anxiety. You are continually afraid of being in new places with new people. Going out to new places or to meet new people feels impossible because it triggers panic attacks and fear of the unknown. Isolation and withdrawal is your only way of coping.

Thankfully these stories don’t end in hopelessness. Climbing to Wellness is a group organized by a local Fresno County mental health program. The group focused on working with 17-21 year olds from the Fresno area who struggle with the negative effects of depression, anxiety, bipolar and other mental challenges. The group facilitators focused on providing a safe and supportive environment where the participants could face and then overcome their feelings of fear, anxiety, isolation, hopelessness, depression, and doubt. The group facilitators also focused on allowing each participant to build and maintain healthy relationships with the other group members. The group accomplished these goals by combining traditional group therapy with adventure based therapy.

unnamed-12Adventure therapy combines traditional psychotherapy with the twist of adventure. The group would meet at the office for traditional group therapy to learn new skills and gain greater understanding. For the adventure component the group would go to MetalMark Climbing. MetalMark volunteered gear, time, and support for the “Climbing to Wellness” group to use their facility. Adventure therapy is a profoundly powerful therapeutic tool that greatly complements traditional therapy. One person wrote the following about the use of climbing in therapy, “Climbing is an effective and therapeutic intervention for young adults that may help increase self-confidence, trust, achieve a feeling of accomplishment, and overcome fears. Therapeutic climbing promotes healthy mental, physical, and emotional development to increase positive relationships with others and create a better sense of self.” The Climbing to Wellness group met and surpassed this expectation.

The outcomes of this group deeply impacted the participants and the staff involved. The anxiety of the participants greatly decreased as a result of the group. Each member grew in confidence and trust. They learned how to recognize their feelings and express them in healthy ways. One participant shared, “Climbing has helped me let go of my built up anxiety. I hope that my anxiety continues to go away because I am finally beginning to feel happy.” Another member said, “I have become more confident. I have learned better ways to take care of myself. I hope to use these things I have learned from the group to apply in parenthood, work, and school.” Going back to the beginning scenarios, all of those stories shared a common factor; they all lacked hope. The greatest success that came from the Climbing to Wellness group was that it helped each participant begin to regain their hope.

We're so happy to be able to support Climbing to Wellness at MetalMark!

Finding Solutions at LA Boulders

10303734 747317021987432 2978481387160047633 nThis Month, LA Boulders had the pleasure of hosting a group from Breathe Life Healing Center, an LA-based clinic that aides adults in overcoming addiction. "We were lucky enough to work with this awesome organization twice in two weeks, and some people from the first group even came back the second week for round two!" said LA.B Manager Remi Moehring. 

After a thorough safety lesson, the group scattered themselves around the gym explore the terrain. By the end of the session, they were all plopped down in one big mass, cheering each other on and taking turns working through tough moves while the others talked them through the sequence.

From program director Shane Coyle, the climbing experience "allowed clients to find solutions in-the-now as opposed to in theory. This allows them the chance to create small achievable goals they can feel good about." He also recognized the significant amount of fear one can experience on their first climbing experience and how that can act as a motivator. "It allows our clients to face uncomfortable emotion such as fear, and instead of running from such fear, they use it as support to push them farther."

10440722 747407601978374 1710383344833426735 nRoxy, the group's instructor for both sessions, noticed a change in the group as well. "It was so inspiring to see a group of people, who have all come together because of personal challenges they're facing in life, support each other in a physical challenge and come out on top. Climbing has always been used metaphorically in this way, but it's cool to see it come to fruition."

By the end of each session, everyone left feeling sufficiently exhausted, stronger mentally and physically, and more confident about their climbing prowess. We are so proud to be able to host groups who can better their lives through climbing. Come back soon! 



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! 



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