LANCASTER – Youngsters with physical and development disabilities got to climb a 23-foot-tall artificial rock-climbing wall – suitably strapped into harnesses and helmets and hooked to safety ropes – and checked out Sheriff's Department vehicles and an ambulance.
Sunday's event at the University of Antelope Valley's Parkview campus was organized by Idaho-based Courageous Kids Climbing with Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies and search and rescue team members.
"We find that a lot of kids with special needs don't get the kind of opportunities kids without special needs get," said Jeff Riechmann of Courageous Kids Climbing.
Even just sitting in a patrol car and meeting sheriff's deputies is out of the ordinary for them, he said.
"For two hours, that deputy can be their best friend. How cool is that, Riechmann said.
A Kern County Fire Department retiree and former Palmdale resident, Riechmann moved to Idaho four years ago.
He took up rock climbing after moving to Idaho as a way to stay in shape.
The idea for Courageous Kids came during a talk with the owner of a climbing gym he used.
"We sat down and we got talking about how do we give back to the community," Riechmann said. "It turned out to be an overwhelming success."
The organization has held its "adaptive climbing" events in Idaho, Washington and Southern California.
For youngsters with developmental disabilities, Riechmann said: "We help them to practice on how to focus on something. We help them practice eye and hand and hand and foot coordination. We give them the chance to practice problem solving."
For youngsters with physical disabilities, Riechmann said: "We give them the opportunity to leave the horizontal world and enter the vertical world."
The climbing wall is owned by the Antelope Valley Search and Rescue team, which set it up Sunday. UAV EMS Students along with Search and Rescue team volunteers manned the belaying ropes as youngsters either climbed the wall or got hauled up it.
There was also an Antelope Ambulance ambulance, a Sheriff's Department armored car and other emergency vehicles for the youngsters to look in.
(This article originally appeared in the Antelope Valley Press, 06/26/2017)