Outreach Programs at Great Western

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By GWPC Climber and Long-Time Touchstone Member: John E. Ricco

I have a lot of pride in being part of the GWPC community. Something about this gym feels different to me, in the best possible, welcoming, type of way. In exploring a bit more past the friendly staff and smiling, ass- kicking members, I found that our community gets involved in quite a few charitable endeavors.

GWPC works directly with many groups and schools, offering discounted rates that make it possible for their youth members to learn and experience climbing in a safe and instructional environment. Many of these kids come from disadvantaged families, and would not have the opportunity to experience climbing without this type of assistance. A few of the gym’s regular groups include GirlVentures, Oakland Technical High School and Brothers on the Rise.

trust exerciseGirlVentures brings together a group of 6th to 12th grade girls from diverse ethnic, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds to experience climbing on a weekly basis for 10 weeks. The program teams up with Great Western and Mission Cliffs and brings partial to full scholarships to about two-thirds of their participants who are from low to moderate income backgrounds.

“GirlVentures is delighted to have Great Western Power Company as a partner for our after school climbing and mentorship program, Girlz Climb On,” said Susie Barr-Wilson, East Bay Girlz Climb On Program Manager. “The facility is great, the staff are tremendous, and the partnership allows us to fulfill our mission to empower adolescent girls to develop and express their strengths through rock-climbing. The girls leave our 10-week program with increased confidence, strength, self-awareness and a willingness to ‘say YES to try’ — just like they did on the wall.”

A few youngsters climbing at GWPC from the inner-city may not sound like a significant experience to some people, but I can assure you that this opening of a door to an entirely different world can make a huge impact on a kid’s life. These youth build relationships, learn trust, take leadership roles, problem solve, control and overcome fear and hone communication skills.

Nestor Amaya, now 19, had the opportunity to climb at GWPC with his Oakland Tech High School peers through a weekly program that Great Western and Tech teamed up on to create. “Rock climbing has taught me that nature should be respected and to take advantage of what it has to offer,” said Nestor. He now is pursuing the outdoor industry as part of his career, most recently teaching kayaking to other youth and adults in Oakland. Nestor has also found backpacking and continues to climb. I think it is doubtful that a kid from inner-city Oakland would have discovered these possibilities without these types of youth programs.

Great Western, along with the other Touchstone gyms, is often asked to make donations to various groups that are doing auctions to raise money for all types of noble causes. GWPC has donated two Intro to Climbing Classes for the auctions of each of the following groups: Alameda County Food Bank, Our Family Coalition, Skyline Preschool, Friends of Oakland Parks and Recreation, Oakland Firefighters Random Acts, among many others.

yoga roomI think that it is amazing to be a member of a community that goes way beyond just a place to climb after work. My hope is that by sharing a few stories of our gym’s charitable works, we as members will not only take more pride in what we are a part of, but also may reach out on our own to do work in the wider community. There are so many volunteering opportunities and needs in Oakland, and throughout the Bay Area, that we can all find little ways to give a bit back. Visit www.girlventures.org and www.brothersontherise.org to get your own volunteering wheels turning.