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From Atlanta, Georgia, 8-year-old Melia started a non-profit group for youth climbers, called Youth Climbing Coalition (YCC). The mission: to connect young climbers from around the world. And the first step is Project 1st Ascent, which serves to raise awareness of climbing and to fund construction of climbing walls in schools and youth community centers.
“The inspiration behind it was getting kids the opportunity to climb. Not many kids even know about climbing, let alone know where to start,” wrote Melia in an email to Gym Climber. Currently in second grade, Melia discovered climbing after watching a bouldering competition on T.V. A local, Zander Waller, was on at the time.
“He became my favorite climber, and I tried it for the first time and really liked it,” she wrote. Melia has been hooked ever since. “I would try a new route and would keep trying until I finished it. Some of them can be very hard, and since I am small I have to stretch and reach, but I like being challenged by new things.”
YCC was born out of Melia’s desire to connect with other young climbers like herself. She added: “I also want to help introduce climbing to kids who never climbed before, starting with my little sister.” Melia’s sister, Lina, is currently 1 year old.
Project 1st Ascent was launched on July 29. Money will initially be raised via chalk sales, thanks to a partnership with Gladiator Gym. “It started out as a chalk sponsorship deal and quickly turned into my own line of climbing chalk,” wrote Melia. Some other fundraising initiatives are the works as well, including the sale of Woodchuck Hang Boards, which will be available on the YCC site for $50, and all proceeds will go to Project 1st Ascent.
Chalks sales became live in December. Lots of ground to cover before any construction may begin. “The fist wall will be around $50,000,” wrote Melia. “I want the very first rock wall to be in my elementary school, Camp Creek Elementary in Lilburn, Georgia because I want to start in my community and let it grow from there.”
She added: “I hope I can inspire other kids to dream big and do big projects too!”