Back in Teton Valley after visits in 2016 and 2018, Courageous Kids Climbing will once again show special needs individuals the ropes at the Teton Rock Gym.

The event, set to take place on Saturday, Oct. 23, is completely free for participants.

Jeff Reichmann, event coordinator and executive director at Courageous Kids Climbing, spoke to the opportunity these individuals have.

“We can take anybody, regardless of their challenges, and we get ‘em to the top of a climbing wall,” said Reichmann.

Removing as many boundaries as possible for these challenged individuals is imperative for Reichmann, who personally transports all the adaptive climbing equipment.

“Everything that we do, there is no money involved,” said Reichmann.

All the climbing equipment is paid for via donations, partnerships, or grants. Reichmann’s travel costs are covered by “organizations and individuals that want to support the event.”

Volunteer coaches are comprised of local climbers from each area, who are recruited through event advocacy.

“We try to get one or two or three people that are experienced climbers from the local community,” said Reichmann. “It’s all local people that come out and help us and get involved with it.”

Courageous Kids Climbing had its first event in Boise in 2014 and has been growing steadily since then. It’s gotten to the point where Reichmann and the board of directors at Courageous Kids are having trouble finding time on their schedule.

“It’s getting to the point where I joke that I’m a one-man traveling circus, the ringmaster and head clown,” said Reichmann with a laugh.

Reichmann has been with Courageous Kids Climbing since the beginning. He founded the organization when he moved to McCall from southern California after retiring from firefighting.

“My fire department was real big on community service and I needed to do something as I was bored,” said Reichmann.

Courageous Kids Climbing events are open to anyone between the ages of 3 months and 103 years old, with the only requirement being that the participant must be under 300 pounds.

“I’ve had people as young as six months participating in our events and I’ve also had people as old as 73,” said Reichmann.

Through his experience as a firefighter, Reichmann identified climbing to have a very pertinent feedback loop for challenged individuals.

“A lot of these kids when they come through the front door are afraid of climbing, they’re afraid of heights,” said Reichmann. “Everybody is afraid of heights to some extent.”

“We go slow, up a little bit at a time, a little higher and a little higher,” he continued. “The kids with the intellectual challenges, it helps them with focusing, with their problem-solving skills.”

For individuals with physical challenges, the event gives them a rare opportunity to experience what it’s like going up, instead of forward and backward.

“The kids in wheelchairs, we’re taking them out of the horizontal world and letting them experience the vertical world,” said Reichmann.

Parents, naturally, are inquisitive during their children’s climbing experience.

“It’s not uncommon at these events for me to gently nudge the parents away, one of the things we find is that the kids won’t do anything unless mom or dad tells them what to do”, said Reichmann. “By nudging the parents away we are kind of forcing the child to make their own decisions. We’re trying to give them a little independence, a little thinking on their own, and it helps with their confidence.”

Reichmann said he could “write a book” with all of the inspiring anecdotes he has witnessed firsthand through the Courageous Kids Climbing events. He insists, however, he is just doing what he can to enable those successes.

“I hear it at every single event that I do, there’s always a parent that comes up to me and says I never thought my child could do this,” said Reichmann. “My reply is, did you ever think of giving them a chance?”

Participants and volunteers are encouraged to sign up by contacting Courageous Kids Climbing on Facebook or via email at courageouskidsclimbing@gmail.com. Additional information can be found at the Teton Rock Gym.