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Climbing wall brings peak experience

Each day, the kids of Danbury Elementary School, many who live with multiple disabilities, face overwhelming obstacles. On Monday they enthusiastically took on another challenge, a 25-foot adaptive rock-climbing wall brought to the campus by Mark Wellman, an acclaimed author, filmmaker and motivational speaker.

As 12-year-old Ivy Adalpe scaled the epoxy-and-concrete tower with the help of support ropes and a belay modified with a pull-up bar, her enthusiasm was obvious.

“I’m very high now,” she told the array of teachers and students watching below.

Among her disabilities, Ivy is blind and has trouble hearing, so it was impressive to see her ascend, foothold by foothold, to the summit of her climb.

“Isn’t that beautiful? That’s why we get up in the morning,” said Danbury aid Michelle Martinez, as Ivy triumphantly rang a bell at the wall’s summit.

It is fitting that Mr. Wellman—the first paraplegic to have climbed both El Capitan and Half Dome in Yosemite and to sit-ski unassisted across the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range—uses the phrase NO LIMITS for his business name and to describe his philosophy.

“All these kids just exceed their expected capacity,” said Ivy’s teacher Ken Johnson. “Like look at that little blind girl. You try climbing that wall with a blindfold and see how far you can get!”

From 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., each of the 60-plus Danbury students, even the 3 year olds, got the chance to try the wall. Students who had to remain in their wheelchairs were able to climb too, thanks to innovative harness and pulley systems designed by Mr. Wellman.

While the students without disabilities from the adjoining campus, Sumner Elementary School, didn’t get to tackle the wall, they filed out of their classes throughout the day to cheer on the Danbury climbers.

“It’s cool,” said 10-year-old Sumner student Matthew Brophy, admitting that he kind of wished it was him who was up there on the wall. 

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