Young girl with brown hair and a white polo shirt smiles up at the camera as she climbs up the face of a rock wall. The girl is wearing lots of climbing gear, including a climbing belt, gloves and chalk. The background shows a crevice in between the cliffs. The other cliff face is green and mossy. The Breaking Barrier logo is overlaid on the photo in lower left corner.

Breaking Barriers: Expanding Youth Athletic Programs

LivAbility Magazine

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Expanding Youth Athletic Programs

Breaking Barriers is a new sports program at Ability360 specifically designed to give youth with disabilities greater access to competitive and noncompetitive sports and outdoor adventures. The program includes indoor and outdoor rock climbing, a swim team and paddling.

Climbing to the top

Rock climbing begins on Oct. 6 with instructor training under the guidance of Mark Wellman, a pioneer of outdoor adventures for people with disabilities. Wellman is a full-time wheelchair user, Paralympian and motivational speaker, as well as an author and filmmaker best known for his climb up the monstrous El Capitan rock formation in Yosemite National Park.

Indoor climbing begins this fall and will prepare participants for outdoor climbing in late winter and into the spring. There will be three outdoor climbs under the guidance of the Stoneman Climbing Company, a rock climbing company based out of Phoenix. Stoneman has world class, internationally certified guides with years of experience and defines their vision as “climbing is not for the few and elite but is a fun activity that whoever wants to experience it can.”


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Make a splash

Paddling, which includes kayaking and paddleboarding, will start in March and continue through the summer. The locations will include both local lakes as well as mountain lakes, weather dependent.

The recreational swim team will practice the four main swim strokes; freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly, and backstroke. Individual practice will begin April 2017, and full team practices will start in May and go through the summer. Swim team members will have the opportunity to compete in swim meets against other local teams. Swim team members will receive a swim suit, warm-ups, goggles, towel and swim cap.

Everyone who signs up for Breaking Barriers will receive a hat, t-shirt and water bottle in addition to other equipment they need.
Breaking Barriers would not have been possible without a donation from the Thunderbirds Charities, a nonprofit organization funded by money raised at the annual Phoenix Waste Management Open golf tournament. Thunderbirds Charities’ main mission is to improve life for the youth and families in the state of Arizona.

Thanks to the Thunderbirds’ generous donation and belief in our mission at Ability360, this unique program gives youth with disabilities access to sports and adventures that are not always available to them.

This one-of-a-kind opportunity offers benefits that extend beyond participation and address the holistic being of an individual. Participants will gain a greater sense of camaraderie, self-accomplishment and empowerment, as well as opportunities for health and fitness gains – all while having fun in a safe environment.

 To sign up for Breaking Barriers and experience a great new opportunity, call the Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center front desk at 602-386-4566 or visit www.ability360sports.org.

Contributor Section

Gus LaZear
VP & General Manager
Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center

  • @Ability360Sport 

LaZear’s background includes more than 18 years of experience managing major programs and initiatives in rehabilitative medicine, recreational therapy, outdoor adventures and other adaptive programming for people with disabilities. For the last six years, LaZear handled responsibilities as lead therapeutic recreational therapist at the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. LaZear earned a master’s of Business Administration, with an emphasis in Health Systems Management, from Grand Canyon University and a Bachelor of Science in Therapeutic Recreation from California State University Northridge.