Rock climbing center offers free lessons for disabled

Knoxville rock climbing center offers free lessons for people with disabilities

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River Sports Climbing Center in Knoxville offers free lessons to people who may have thought climbing was beyond their reach: people with physical disabilities. River Sports Climbing Center in Knoxville offers free lessons to people who may have thought climbing was beyond their reach: people with physical disabilities.
The goal is to help each person become stronger in body and spirit, as well as just have a good time. The goal is to help each person become stronger in body and spirit, as well as just have a good time.
Carly Pearson, who is paralyzed from the knees down, says she has accomplished many goals since her accident, but rock climbing gives her a quicker workout. Carly Pearson, who is paralyzed from the knees down, says she has accomplished many goals since her accident, but rock climbing gives her a quicker workout.

By LORI TUCKER
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Rock climbing is a sport that's difficult for anyone.

But, on the first Saturday of every month, River Sports Climbing Center in Knoxville offers free lessons to people who may have thought climbing was beyond their reach: people with physical disabilities.

The goal is to help each person become stronger in body and spirit, as well as just have a good time.

One woman who's been there has a lesson for us all.

Her name is Carly Pearson.

She loved her job as a firefighter with the National Park Service.

While working in the Smoky Mountains in 2002, Carly was deployed to the scene of a raging wildfire in Oregon as manager of the helicopter response.

While on standby with her crew, a freak accident in a nearby river left her paralyzed from the knees down.

Now, nearly 12 years later, Carly is on a different type of mission.

"Once I'm on the wall, I focus on that," Carly said. "And once I get to the top, I realize something I wasn't able to do before and it gives me confidence in my ability to think if I can do this, what other things can I go out there and accomplish?"

Carly has already accomplished many of her goals following her injury. She became a championship hand cycle racer, competing on the national stage. But after becoming the mother of two, Carly needed a quicker workout.

"This [climbing] is good, because it doesn't take up as much time. It's something I can come in and do and even if I can only climb for thirty minutes, I get a great workout."

Carly is part of a group of all ages who come to River Sports to scale new heights, thanks to a partnership with Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center's Innovative Recreation Program.

Climbing Center Manager Andy Ludwig is determined to help people reach the top.

"If it takes three people and somebody's pulling and somebody's pushing just to get you up there, that's fine. I mean, we're here for you to climb," he said.

"It's going to take physical strength for sure. But we can modify equipment so that you can use minimal physical strength and so that everybody's successful just to reach the top," Al Kaye with Patricia Neal's IRC program explained.

Carly has amazing upper body strength, using her arms to propel her toward her goal.

"When I'm on the wall, I'm basically doing repetitive pull ups over and over again until I get to the top," she said.

"I hope that anybody out there with a disability will get out there and try," Carly said.

Carly started climbing in September with Catalyst Sports, a non-profit group in Atlanta hoping to expand into the Southeast.

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