Waiting in the lobby, twenty-one children and their parents listen to Adam La Reau, Founder of One Summit, welcome them to the Climb for Courage at Central Rock Gym in Watertown. The Climb for Courage event marks the beginning of One Summit’s mentorship program; at this event, children fighting cancer are paired with their U.S. Navy SEAL mentor for a day of indoor rock-climbing.
As the children climb the stairs, thunderous clapping erupts. The children start their walk through a tunnel of Navy SEALs, getting high-fives, looking nervous yet excited for their adventure. Gazing up at the tall rock-walls that surround them, the children wait as Adam pairs them up one by one with their mentor; once they meet, the Navy SEALs give their Little Warriors One Summit backpacks.
The backpacks hold rock climbing gear and the mentors immediately help their kids put on their new harness and helmet. The backpack also includes other mementos, like a dog-tag engraved with their name, a camouflage baseball cap, and a One Summit Challenge Coin engraved with One Summit’s logo “Perseverance, Courage and Strength”. The mentors and mentees ask each other ice-breaker questions, answering who their heroes are and what superpower they would most like to have. The partners are now ready to climb.
The One Summit mission is to help children with cancer build courage and self-confidence, which promotes a foundation for resilience as they battle their disease. The objective of the Climb for Courage is to teach children skills that are transferable to their lives and will empower them in their fight against cancer. The rock-climbing event shows Little Warriors new ways to approach challenges; they learn lessons in goal setting, courage, overcoming set-backs and changing direction, and working as a team to accomplish a goal.
The Navy SEALs coach the Little Warriors; providing unwavering support to their mentees as they work together to reach their mutual goal; the team goal is unique to each partnership. One Little Warrior said, “My Navy SEAL mentor told me it was okay to fall, but to keep trying. He said ‘It’s okay buddy, you can do it!’ Then I got to the top and was confident.” Without the fear of falling, this child was able to conquer his fears and climb to the top of the rock wall. The Navy SEALs inspire the children to face their fears, one child commented, “I was scared at the bottom, my Navy SEAL buddy helped me overcome my fears by being an awesome hero.”
After the event was over, parents and children were reunited. The children gushed to their parents about their rock climbing experience. One parent remarked, “My son was so proud that he passed his goals, one of my sons said this was the best day of my life.” Another parent added, “My daughter learned to trust her mentor by knowing that he wouldn’t let her fall.” The protection of their mentors allowed the Little Warriors to be totally fearless. That parent continued, “This was one of the best days she has ever had. She will have memories of this day forever.”
The confidence, pride and courage displayed in each child grew significantly as each goal was met. Determination, exhilaration and joy emanated throughout the room and was felt by everyone within the rock-wall enclosure. Following the event, mentors and mentees hung out with each other, reliving the excitement of the day, not wanting the experience to end.
Written By: Katie Leonard