Valley Life for All column: A climber not a camper

Melissa Simpson
Special to the Post Independent
Melissa Simpson

Editor’s note: The Post Independent, in conjunction with Valley Life For All, continues a monthly series of profiles about people in our community who have different abilities. Twenty-seven percent of Americans experience some disability. One hundred percent are a part of our community. Each has a story.

Meet Melissa: How she found the focus and tenacity for her personal journey will inspire you as you consider resolutions for your new year. Melissa has cerebral palsy and has spent 26 years in a wheelchair. Because she has decided to be a climber and not a camper, she is in and out of her wheelchair and more independent than ever. Are you going to be a climber or a camper in 2019? Read Melissa’s story. Her voice will change you.

I am a 26-year-old woman with cerebral palsy. I use a wheelchair to get around. For many years I went to physical therapy for assistance with mobility and strengthening and to occupational therapy to work on daily living skills like dressing, cooking and cleaning. I didn’t like the therapies and made very little progress over the years. I felt pressured to do therapy and keep up with my busy schedule as a college student at the same time, so I stopped.

Erik Weihenmayer was the keynote speaker at my college graduation. He was the first blind person to summit Mount Everest. I reached out to him afterward. We got into a lengthy conversation about “Campers and Climbers.” Erik said “campers” work toward a goal. Once they reach the goal, they stop doing what helped them get there. This is how I felt about what I had been doing. “Climbers,” Erik explained, are those who build a support system to assist them in continuing to reach toward new goals. Their personal growth continues.

After college, I didn’t know what to do with my life, but after speaking with Erik, a lightbulb went off in my head. It was like, I’m tired of sitting around doing nothing physically challenging for myself. One day I told myself “enough is enough,” and I began my CrossFit journey at the local gym. My coach had not done adaptive workouts before with any of his clients. He learned by working with me and by observing other adaptive athletes in gyms around the states. If something didn’t work one way, we never gave up as a team and came up with new adaptations to reach my final goal. Now, I transfer myself in and out of my wheelchair multiple times a day.

With this new-found love of working out, I am also beginning a journey of learning about nutrition. This coupled with my workouts will make me even a stronger and healthier individual. As my friend Erik Weihenmayer says, “Keep climbing!”

Local nonprofit Valley Life for All is working to build inclusive communities where people of all abilities belong and contribute. We want to hear your voice. Request a training or join the conversation at or #voicability4all. Help us redefine the perception of challenge.

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