Hoboken Climbing Gym Teams With Nonprofit to Help Kids Reach New Heights

They're teaching youngsters from underserved communities how to climb, boosting their fitness and self-esteem in the process.

young child climbing a wall with colorful foot and hand holds

A climber learns the ropes at Hoboken’s Gravity Vault gym. Photo: Courtesy of Jahn Anderson

Indoor climbing in New Jersey is booming in popularity, especially among young people. Unfortunately, the cost of gym fees and equipment has made the sport out of reach for many.

But a new collaboration between the Boys & Girls Club of Hudson County and the nonprofit Climbing for Community is bringing youngsters who could not otherwise afford it to Hoboken’s Gravity Vault climbing gym at greatly reduced rates.

There, guided by high schoolers on the gym’s climbing team, they learn to scale 40-foot walls via brightly colored holds of all shapes and sizes, boosting their physical and mental fitness.

The initiative is the brainchild of team co-captain Mila Huang, a sophomore at Montclair Kimberley Academy. Huang founded Climbing for Community after learning about the positive effects of climbing on mental health while researching a school project.

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The new monthly clinics are so popular that Boys & Girls Club director Shyam Martinez has to rotate climbers, since sessions are capped at 15.

“Besides the physical aspect, it raises kids’ self-esteem,” he says, watching Chris Fields, 8, as he’s slowly lowered to the floor, a big grin on his face. “A lot of times the kids say, ‘There’s no way I can do that.’ Twenty minutes later, they’re like, ‘Wow!’ It was achievable.”

More opportunities may be afoot. Gravity Vault has eight gyms in New Jersey, and its management hopes to bring the program to other locations. Meantime, the gym’s walls are anything but barriers to the cohort of students Huang and her teammates are mentoring, such as seventh-graders Tyrone Johnson and Emiliano Atenco. Good friends from Jersey City, they race to the top, then whoop and high-five on the ground. They will likely be quieter on the ride home, Martinez says. “It’s almost like a blanket of calm poured over them.”

Donations to the nonprofit can be made on Climbing for Community’s GoFundMe page.

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