Young amputees defy expectations with adaptive rock climbing

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Posted at 4:39 PM, May 11, 2021

You may not think of rock climbing as an inclusive sport for people with disabilities, but staff at Adventure Rock in Milwaukee are trying to change that.

When Anna and Ivy Cosgrove go climbing, their equipment is a little different – it includes prosthetic legs. Their mom, Jennifer Cosgrove, says they were both born with congenital limb differences. Eight-year-old Ivy had a double amputation when she was two.

“Literally five weeks after that surgery, she was moving around on her first set of prosthetic legs,” Jennifer says.

A couple of years ago, 9-year-old Anna had surgery, too.

“It turned her foot around, so her foot actually faces backward, but it preserved two of her best joints and since she’s had that surgery, she too has been able to be very, very active,” Jennifer said.

Their dad, Preston, says he doesn’t want to hold the girls back from anything.

“We just like to give them opportunities and see where it takes them,” he said. “From there, they realize they can do things they probably thought they couldn’t.”

If Anna and Ivy ever thought they couldn’t tackle rock climbing, it doesn’t show.

“I like the challenge of it,” Ivy said.

“And I like going to the top and looking down on people,” Anna added.

The girls aren’t alone when they climb. Help is always right next to them.

“They find holds, and kind of help boost you up,” Anna said of their side-climber assistant.

“And guide,” added Ivy.

Sam Szyjakowski helped get the adaptive climbing program started at Adventure Rock. He’s helped people with prosthetics like Anna and Ivy, as well as people in wheelchairs for spinal cord injuries. He wants to show that climbing is for everyone.

“If you can do these routes and accomplish this, you can accomplish anything in your life.”

And when those climbers make it to the top, the whole gym celebrates.

“It makes them feel great,” Szyjakowski said. “It helps them have bragging rights for when they go back to school and they say, ‘hey, I climbed and I was out there climbing.’”

Anna and Ivy say they’re a little more humble than that.

Ivy said, “I don’t like to brag!”

This story was originally published by Carole Meekins at WTMJ.