08/02/2021

February Club of the Month!

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West Midlands Paraclimbing Club have always aimed for the summit when it comes to challenging perceptions about their activity.

The club was formed by Tigs and Sophie Campbell in 2017, when the climbing couple with experience of working with disabled people decided to take matters into their own hands.

From the outset, they were faced with a lack of understanding of whether disabled people could climb safely at all. In fact, as Tigs explains, it's a perfect match.

"Some people look at climbing as a dangerous sport, relying on brute strength that isn't accessible for disabled people," he said.

"It's an activity that allows them to have this sense of wonder and escapism, but it's also incredibly safe. There are so many things we can put in place to protect climbers.

"It's a fabulous thing for disabled people to go on adventures they never thought possible. Climbing is not just physical, there's so much going on mentally.

"Everybody I've climbed with, whatever issues they've had in their own life, have an element of resilience because of what they've come up against.

"It's that mindset that makes disabled people enjoy climbing so much. Your mind can't be anywhere else apart from concentrating on the problem in front of you."

West Midlands Paraclimbing Club have been chosen as February's Parasport Club of the Month in recognition of their incredible work opening-up a unique and mostly unexplored approach to managing health & well-being in the region's communities.

But don't take it from us - ask participant, now club Fundraiser Katy Evans, who has quadriplegic cerebral palsy, and pays tribute to how the club has changed her life. 

"Having my condition isn't exactly ideal for climbing!" she said.

"I have limited limb control but it's really improved through climbing. Now, I'm walking around my home having less falls at home and I'm a lot stronger." 

Katy explains how right from moment one, Sophie and Tigs make new members feel accepted.

West Midlands member Freddie enjoying an outdoor climb!
West Midlands member Freddie enjoying an outdoor climb!

"When I first stepped into the club, I was really struck by everyone's can-do attitude," she said.

"They would find a way to make climbing possible and there was no such thing as can't, no matter what your impairment, just how we could make it happen.

Katy has gone on to spearhead the club's fundraising efforts and leads on the committee in applying for grants, making sure they are on a firm financial footing.

"It's been so liberating. The benefits of climbing have extended into all areas of my life," she said.

"We're showing that disabled people can do things - they might need a bit of adaption, but they can do things alongside non-disabled people."

In normal times, the club met at Redpoint Climbing Centre in Birmingham on Friday nights. 

Whether it's climbing cliff faces in the Peak District or just popping down for a cup of tea, the club has spawned a supportive, loving community.

"The club has made my life complete, if I'm honest," Sophie says.

"We've had a daughter in the time we've set up the club and she's been along to a lot of the sessions. There's a wonderful spirit."

Tigs adds: "We've had BBQs, been to rugby and cricket matches, done theatre trips, that are nothing to do with climbing but all to do with developing a trusted friendship group of all ages. Nobody is excluded from that community."

The club have maintained their momentum despite COVID-19 in lots of ways, including through the Toyota Parasport Fund.

They recently received the Toyota Parasport grant to purchase an outdoor e-trike, enabling wheelchair users to access harder to reach outdoor climbing walls and cliffs.

"We're all missing the social side of things more than anything at the moment," Tigs says.

"The e-trike has opened up outdoor climbing as a club for us going forward and the people we're trialling the trike with, it's taken them out of the isolation they've been in for 10 months.

"We supported each other through our toughest times, and our most exciting times too."

If you’d like to find out how you can get involved with Paraclimbing, check out West Midlands Paraclimbing Club’s Parasport listing for more info.