programsMost of us have experienced the passing of a loved one. And those who study bereavement say it takes an average of five to seven years for people who have experienced the death of a loved on to reach what is termed a “new normal.”

But for youngsters who have suffered the death of a parent or sibling who served in the U.S. Armed Forces, the impact can be even more traumatic, with fear and inexplicable loss overriding the child’s ability to grieve normally. Reminders are on the news every day, and those televised news clips are often violent.

Literature abounds on the “Seven Stages of Grief,” and “coping day by day” and how best to “move on.” And there’s plenty of good advice in all of these books and psychological treatises. But often what is more important than book knowledge, lectures and white papers is for a grieving child or sibling to get into action.

And action is exactly what we promote at Keep Climbing Inc. Our main focus is getting these youngsters further along on their journey of loss and back on the road to leading productive, happy lives. How do we do that? By providing experiences that, while on the surface appear to be designed to take young minds off their grief, are in reality outdoor climbing adventures created to help these youngsters face their fears — whatever they might be.

We organize mountain treks and wilderness experiences for kids, featuring backpacking, mountaineering, whitewater rafting, river kayaking, and of course, rock climbing. We teach the importance of being good stewards of the environment, how to set up a campsite and more important, how to take it down while leaving No Trace Behind (NTB). We teach the best ways to build a campfire, how to prepare a hot meal outdoors, and how to keep your foodstuff away from curious animals. Our young participants learn how to properly pack a backpack, select the best footwear for function and comfort, and perform minor first aid procedures when the nearest emergency center is dozens of miles away.

Best of all, they’ll be surrounded by other youngsters who also suffer the recent loss of a parent to war. Nothing builds a closer bond than people undergoing similar experiences that they can share. And comfort given by someone who’s been there is so much more effective than the well-intentioned efforts of others.

Our wilderness expeditions include experienced staff members and volunteers, including trauma and grief therapists, experiential experts, life coaches and outdoor climbing professionals who can read a compass and read a trail.

We offer kids the opportunity to get out of the city or the suburbs and step foot in a wilderness experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives. An experience that helped them forget — however briefly — the pain they are attempting to conquer.