By Maxwell Svec, One Summit Manager, Strategic Programs & Events
Our 21st Climb for Courage (CFC) took place in Boston on Saturday, April 29th, just over 11 years since One Summit hosted our first event in March 2014. The world has changed in countless ways since then, and so much has taken place in the days between, but what remains unchanged is the incredible magic that happens when our community comes together. The joyous spirit is unmistakable on CFC day—the buzz of excitement and nervousness of our new Little Warriors and their caregivers, our mentors’ profound sense of purpose, and the wholehearted devotion of our Team Leaders and volunteers. No matter the shifting and shaking of the world around us, the people who make our mission possible remain steadfast and invested in our mission.
Our 2023 Boston Climb for Courage program was particularly special for the One Summit team. Afforded to us as the day unfolded were many beautiful full-circle moments. We welcomed back three young adults, all former Little Warriors from our second Climb for Courage, hosted in Boston in November 2014. All three returned to volunteer their time to pitch in and make the climb happen for a fresh set of deserving children and families. It was not lost on us how profound it was to witness these teens, their roles now reversed, stepping up to create the same meaningful experience they had benefitted from amid their own cancer journeys years ago.
Lee Walsworth was just ten years old when he was a Little Warrior in 2014. Now an 18-year-old with a keen interest in photography, he was one of our volunteer photographers at the event. Lee spent the day circling the gym, pointing his lens up and down the walls as kids and mentors conquered them together. Lee had a mentor himself in our other volunteer photographer Nick Heath. Not only a talented photographer (you’ll see his photos throughout this post), Nick also sits on our Young Professional Board and has run the Boston Marathon in support of One Summit not once but twice! In fact, he ran the marathon for us less than two weeks before the climb. We also welcomed another OS Boston Marathon runner to his very first CFC. One of our Navy SEAL mentors ran for OS in 2022 but had not yet experienced a Climb for Courage. Talk about dedication to our mission and seeing impact in action!
Sisters Emma and Addison Tierney were also Little Warriors at the 2014 Boston CFC—Addison being one of our very first sibling participants. Emma was eight years old at the time, and Addison was just five. Now 16 and 14, respectively, the girls returned to the gym to support the new Little Warriors and ensure each child and mentor went home with a printed picture souvenir of their mentor/mentee. Their parents, Jessica and Tom, also gave us the gift of their time during the event. Jessica served as a Team Leader and played a critical role in the program by facilitating group activities, offering support, and keeping the day on track. Tom stepped in to provide extra support and serve as the right-hand man to one of our mentors as he belayed his mentee. It was a wonderful sight to see the entire Tierney family roaming the gym contributing to the climb. Full circle, indeed.
The participants they volunteered for included 21 new Little Warriors and their families, along with 14 mentors, 6 of whom joined us for the first time. All were excited and ready to serve, including one who jumped in to answer our call for help for an extra mentor just 24 hours before the event began. Our new families came from across the state and from various hospitals, including the Jimmy Fund at Dana-Farber, Mass General Hospital for Children, Boston Children’s Hospital, and UMass Memorial in Worcester. Camp Casco & Riley Rocks Foundation also sent families our way. We gathered at Central Rock Gym in Watertown, where we overtook the upper level of the gym. As our old and new friends came together, the sound of cheering and excitement was heard reverberating off the high walls around us.
No sooner had the Little Warriors met their mentors for the first time than they were off, laughing, smiling, and enjoying activities together. They geared up and began choosing climbing holds to grab. They took breaks for a yummy Chick-fil-A lunch, creative jewelry making with Kendra Scott, and even played Hedbanz and built LEGO creations. Our very deserving Little Warriors got a chance to be kids while their parents and caregivers left the gym for a few moments of rest. The bonds the kids formed with their mentors were easy to see as we looked around the room. It never ceases to amaze us how quickly they get comfortable with each other while pursuing the goals they set for the day.
The climb always seems to go by in a flash, the anticipation quickly giving way to joyful laughter, lively brainstorms to determine routes up the wall, inside jokes between brand new friends, and accomplishments aplenty. We typically observe these moments from the outskirts, taking it all in as we ensure the event logistics move smoothly behind the scenes. We often hear more stories after the climb and form a fuller picture of the event as we talk to those who were there and read through the feedback we receive. Here are some insightful tidbits from our participants:
“It’s great to climb up and not be afraid anymore!” – Little Warrior
“Just by [the] nature of being a SEAL, you are able to give a child the gift of a fantastic, memorable experience that also helps them build self-confidence. How could you say no to giving that gift?” – Mentor
“I was very excited to be able to work with a Navy SEAL. I am very happy to participate and face challenges with my Navy SEAL.” – Little Warrior
“In a career where you are always worried about perfecting your craft, it’s very refreshing and arguably necessary to take a step outside our own community to make a difference for those who need it.” – Mentor
“Having never been to a climbing gym, I was nervous. Once I reached the top of my first climb, I knew I could do it. I feel like I’ve grown!” – Little Warrior
“We are lucky to be given the ability to do the job we do, and it was great to inspire kids who are going through trying times.” – Mentor
The day after Climb for Courage, we hosted our alumni program Climb Higher, where we welcomed back six mentors and six kids who paired off for a fun morning of climbing and camaraderie. While Climb for Courage welcomes all new families to the One Summit community, Climb Higher invites past CFC participants back for a casual climb with some of One Summit’s Navy SEAL mentors. Throughout the morning, new friendships formed, and old ones reinvigorated. One of the climbing pairs was a matchup from our Boston Climb for Courage in 2019. It was wonderful to witness the reunion of mentor and mentee and a reminder of the opportunity for reconnection that the Climb Higher program provides.
We are incredibly thankful to our amazing partners that helped us bring Climb for Courage and Climb Higher back to Boston for another successful year. We want to thank Golf Fights Cancer, Love Your Melon, Kendra Scott’s Kendra Cares Program, Zeal Cares, Chick-fil-A, and Grill 23 for helping us create an engaging experience for our little warriors and Navy SEAL mentors. We are also incredibly fortunate to have the terrific staff at Central Rock Gym in Watertown in our corner. Their entire team is kind, patient, skilled, and all-around fantastic people who helped us create a truly unforgettable experience for everyone who participated throughout the weekend. We are so very grateful for our partnership with you.
We consider ourselves extremely lucky to be a part of such an incredible community of people that come together to bring Climb for Courage to life. We are thankful to our partners and sponsors, our extraordinary Team Leaders and volunteers, our generous and devoted mentors, and our strong and resilient families. We are welcomed into the stories and journeys of many people, often during the most challenging times in their lives, which is an honor we hold dear. Thank you to all who continue to make the One Summit community the remarkable group it is.