By Maxwell Svec, One Summit Manager, Strategic Programs & Events
After over three years away due to the Covid pandemic, our core One Summit programs made their long-anticipated and triumphant returns to San Diego! We held our seventeenth Climb for Courage program on September 10th, followed by Climb Higher the following day—our first climbing program in the San Diego area since the weekend of May 11th, 2019. It was an incredible few days filled with smiles, joy, connection, and community.
In attendance at Climb for Courage at Vertical Hold in Poway were 15 patients and siblings, 17 Navy SEAL mentors, and 7 Team Leaders and volunteers. It was an incredible group assembled to conquer rock walls, shatter personal limitations, and form bonds with each other. As the newest little warriors made their way through the gauntlet lined with Navy SEALs, cheers and applause filled the gym, setting the tone for an exciting day ahead.
As the teams for the day were formed and each little warrior met their Navy SEAL mentor for the first time, the gym was abuzz with excited chatter. With the Team Leaders at the helm, each team got to know one another and created team names for themselves. With names such as the Flamingo Ligers and the Super Climbers, we knew the teams were something special! Before we knew it, the introductions were complete, and the pairs spread out all over the gym, searching for the perfect wall to climb and conquer together.
I am the newest member of the One Summit staff team, and although this was only my second Climb for Courage experience, it's not difficult to see how special these programs are. My role in the day was to help keep logistics moving along and to support the participants and Team Leaders. While not assigned to any one group, this job allowed me to float around the gym throughout the day, getting the chance to see all the mentors and little warriors in action together, catching glimpses of teamwork and triumphs on the wall and hearing snippets of conversations—words of encouragement, cheers of accomplishment, and jokes made in camaraderie. It was a powerful illustration of these programs' impact on everyone there. It's a coming together of people of different ages and experiences who have incredible resilience and the ability to push past difficult obstacles in common. I felt grateful all day just to be there bearing witness to these phenomenal kids and to the incredible mentors, eager to share their knowledge and skills with them.
As the climb ended, we practically had to beg our little warriors to come down from the highest reaches of the walls and make their last jumps on the giant swing in the center of the gym. This was the sign to us that our little warriors were having the fun we had all hoped they would have when the day began. It was a day when the kids could just be kids again—a goal I am so proud we were able to achieve.
The following morning, we hosted Climb Higher, where we welcomed back six little warriors and 5 Navy SEAL mentors to reunite for some climbing and pizza—two truly magical pairings! After so many years away, it was wonderful to see our community come together again for some Sunday morning fun.
In addition to all the climbing that took place throughout the weekend, we were so lucky to have Kendra Scott's Kendra Cares join us for their second Climb for Courage program. Our new friends Karina and Kendra created and ran a wonderful Color Bar experience at the gym, giving our little warriors a creative break to design their customized jewelry during the event. It was a wonderful addition to the day and allowed our families to take home tangible memories that they could keep for themselves or gift to someone special in their lives. Upon returning to Vertical Hold and receiving her gifts, one mother exclaimed, "I'm lucky. I have three sons here! I got three pieces!" Marissa Lenon from Kendra Scott, Marketing and Philanthropic Manager for Southern California, said, "The team had the best experience and are so grateful for this opportunity."
Throughout the weekend, we were also able to give our participants lip balms from Zeal Cares. Run by 17-year-old social entrepreneur Julia Sora Wycoff (who was inspired by a family friend diagnosed with cancer), Zeal Cares crafts lip balms formulated with the purpose of deeply hydrating lips and skin with all-natural, antioxidant-rich products. For every lip balm purchased, another is gifted to a child during cancer therapy. We can't thank Julia enough for her support of our programs!
Our mission's impact can be seen in the feedback from families and mentors immediately following the climb. The below testimonials strengthen our commitment to improving outcomes for our resilient little warriors with year-round support.
It was a wonderful experience for my kids. It was so special that my daughter's brother was able to participate. He's been feeling alone since the diagnosis, and this event made him feel special. - Parent
We (SEALs) are assigned to help everyone outside of our country. While watching everything come apart over the last few years, it is so nice to give back to our homeland for a good cause. - Navy SEAL Mentor
I felt scared before. After, I felt confident. – Little Warrior
This was such an amazing experience, and we are truly appreciative to be able to be part of it. – Parent
The symbiotic relationship between the little warrior and SEAL is indescribable. Watching growth of mentality in real-time is something I've never seen before. - Navy SEAL Mentor
I felt nervous at the beginning. I feel happy now! – Little Warrior
We want to send our profound gratitude and appreciation to Rady's Children's Hospital, Axos Bank, Zeal Cares, and Kendra Scott's Kendra Cares Program for helping us create such a wonderful experience for our little warriors and Navy SEAL mentors. A special thank you goes out to our friends at Vertical Hold Poway. Your incredible staff truly enhanced the experience for everyone who participated in these events, and we are so very grateful for everything you do for us.
Are you interested in participating in an upcoming Climb for Courage? Apply on our website or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!