Ann Arbor's Planet Rock hosts climbing challenge for amputees
Rock climbers gathered at Planet Rock on Aprill Drive in Ann Arbor Saturday morning to challenge themselves in an event called First Climb.
Not only did the participants have the daunting task of climbing the rock walls, they also had their own personal physical disabilities to challenge them, including amputations.
"I just got my leg (prosthetic) two days ago," said Jen Lacey of Jackson, who lost her leg in an accident 12 years ago. "I am so ready to go out and do all kinds of things, and want to try anything and everything!"
Jake Steinhebel, 16, from Pinckney has spent his life minus one leg and says it has never stopped him from trying anything, including playing basketball, football, golf, and track and field.
"I've always had a passion for trying new things," he said after two successful climbs. "I think that only having one leg has pushed me to want to try more things."
One of the driving forces for many of the climbers is Ronnie Dickson, a certified prosthetist and an amputee himself, who teaches climbing skills. Dickson told the group, "Any time the next hole seems really far away, I put my prosthesis in a nearby hole."
Meeting Dickson in California motivated Molly French, who runs a support group for amputees in Greenville, Ohio, to attend today's event.
"I had a different set of legs the first time I attended a climbing event with Ronnie," said French, who has two prosthetic legs. "I can't turn my feet because I don't have ankles to do that, so I attach climbing feet to my prosthetic legs."
"These folks have been told they're restricted, and we want to show them what they can do," said Robin Burton, executive director of the Orthotic and Prosthetic Activities Foundation.
"It's important to see that only your expectations limit you," said Nora Rosenblum, a social worker at the University of Michigan who helps lead the amputee support group. "This is a chance for the participants to get to meet other people with similar challenges."
First Climb is sponsored by the University of Michigan Orthotics and Prosthetics Center and the U-M Community Amputee Network. Shauna Mote is the limb loss support coordinator for the network and organized the event.
"After you've lost a limb, people often feel that life has changed and they can't do things anymore," said Mote. "Learning to do something new or relearning something you've done before teaches us that while we may not do something the standard way, we most likely can do whatever we want to do.
"We just do it in a new and different way."
That's true for 12-year-old Joe Bialek from Romulus, who used to be a rock climber before he lost his arm last November. After a seamless climb Saturday morning, Joe was visibly excited.
"It was thrilling!" he said. "It was more of a challenge than before I lost my arm, but that's what life's about: Challenges."
The rock climbing session was to continue from 2-5 p.m. Saturday.