|08-01-2009, 10:41 AM||#1|
Join Date: Nov 2004
Published: July 30, 2009 | Source: newstrib.com | Leave a Comment
K. Eric Larson and a few pals had planned a mountain climbing trip to Mount Rainier when the idea hit him: turn the trip into a fundraiser for spinal-cord injuries and call it “Climb for a Cause.”
Larson, a graduate of Henry-Senachwine High School, had a public-relations business in the Chicago area with a niche in hospitals and health care. He’d also been volunteering for the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, that readily agreed to the fundraiser and accepted nearly $15,000 when he returned from Seattle.
“That climb had a lot of impact on me personally. It was the most physical thing I’d ever done,” Larson said. “I thought, ‘I want to do something more with this.’”
Larson went back to NSCIA and pitched a new program: training the disabled to go canoeing, camping and rock climbing. With trained guides and special equipment, he figured, people in wheelchairs also could climb mountains, literally and figuratively.
The first candidate was a paraplegic who had enjoyed the outdoors before hurting his spine in a 1981 fall at the University of Illinois. Pat Maher, who later asked Larson to stand up at his wedding, descended from the mountain and wondered aloud why he hadn’t pursued his favorite hobbies in the nearly 20 years since his injury.
“And we realized, at that moment, that was the point: when people acquire a spinal cord injury, the typical response for that person — and, unfortunately, everyone around them — is to close doors,” Larson said. “The joy of the program is to see them climb an 80-foot cliff and then say, ‘Gee, if I can do that, I guess I can apply for a job.’”
Larson and Maher’s program became known as “Moving Mountains” and it has served hundreds of individuals who have spinal cord injury or disease (SCI/D). It also prompted NSCIA to make Larson its executive director this past October.
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