Harnesses and helmets were snapped in place and ropes hung from the side of a mountain’s edge as volunteers from Jackson Hole Mountain Guides prepared to take special needs teens on a trek in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
“For so many of them, they’ve never had the opportunity to do something like this,” said Elise Clausen, who headed the event. “Outdoor activities are expensive and inherently more risky, and they do take some extra knowledge. I think with this population, they don’t always have that access to do those things.”
The event, part of the city’s Stepping Stone program, was part of a series of programs designed to encourage participants with developmental disabilities to step outside their comfort zone and experience growth through personal challenge, Clausen said. She was the city of Las Vegas’s inclusion and recreation specialist at the time of the outing, a post she has since vacated.
Clausen is a certified climbing guide herself, she said. Last winter, she took a group of four skiing in Lee Canyon, and last year she took a group paddle boarding at Lake Las Vegas.
“We do our best to try and promote a fun, safe, supportive environment for them,” Clausen said. “Rock climbing is just one of our activities. We do all sorts of different adventurous outdoor activities.”
Ana Gonzalez, of east Las Vegas, the mother of a frequent program participant, said it gives her daughter a chance to interact with others.
“They need the opportunity to have the same experience as other kids,” Gonzalez said. “I tried several things with my daughter. Sometimes the teenagers are a little bit unpopular. This is a really good program because they are finally welcomed. They have activities and there is no difference between them.”
For more information or to learn more about the city’s Stepping Stone program, visit bit.ly/2PSuzHu.