WHO ARE YOU AND WHY ARE YOU IN NASHVILLE?
My name is Amy Saffell, and I moved to Nashville in 2004 right out of college to begin a career in the music industry. Less than a year ago, I started a new career as Executive Director of ABLE Youth, a wheelchair sports and independence nonprofit for kids who use wheelchairs. From activities like Super Sports Saturdays to local road races our travel wheelchair basketball team to track and field meets across the country to Independence Camp and, yes, climbing, all of our activities are geared towards using sports as a motivating catalyst for kids to learn that they can be happy, healthy, and independent in life from their wheelchairs. In terms of climbing, I am the Chapter Coordinator of the Nashville Chapter of Catalyst Sports, an adaptive climbing group for people of all ages with physical disabilities. I love introducing new climbers to capabilities that they never knew they had. I love our monthly climbs at Climb Nashville!
SO WHY DO YOU CLIMB?
The most basic answer that I can give is that I climb because I can. I'm always up for adventures in life and had wanted to try climbing for a while before I got the opportunity at a trade show geared towards products for people with disabilities. Soon after, the Catalyst Nashville Chapter started, and I've been climbing ever since. I climb both on the wall and in the center of the gym with device called the Wellman Rig, a seated climbing pulley device designed by Mark Wellman, the first wheelchair user to climb El Capitan. I'm not one to ever think that I can't do something but rather, if there's something that I haven't done that I'd want to do, that the opportunity just hasn't come to me yet. I'm a fairly athletic person, but climbing challenges me in different ways that I love. It gets me out of my comfort zone and challenges my muscles in new ways. Muscles used for climbing on the wall are much different than those used for pushing my chair, so to be challenging my body in a different way is really fun for me. Using the Wellman Rig, it's pull ups over and over, and that builds my endurance. When I climb, there is also a sense of being able to show other people, whether that's new adaptive climbers or other Climb Nashville climbers without disabilities, that people with disabilities can do things that people may not assume that someone with a disability can do. Especially when I'm using the Wellman Rig and people stop what they're doing to see me at the very top of the climbing gym with my wheelchair a few stories below me, it makes me think that I can change the way people view people with disabilities just by doing something that I love. Perceived limitations towards capabilities are just that, perceived. I truly believe that there's a way for anyone to do anything if you want to put in the work to figure out how.
AND DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE ROUTE?
Anything where the holds are close together that's not on auto-belay. Since I can't use my legs to climb, I rely solely on how far my arms can reach. Sometimes I am climbing a route that's going well, and then there's a big gap between the holds, and I'm basically stuck, so I love having the holds closer together all the way up.
WHAT'S RAD ABOUT YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW - ON OR OFF THE WALL?
ABLE Youth just took 6 kids to their very first multi-sport Paralympic style meet, and I'm looking for more competitive opportunities for them. Watching the kids learn a new sport and gain confidence in their own abilities is something that I absolutely love.
ANY SHOUTOUTS FOR THE COMMUNITY?
I have completed 9 half marathons and lots of other shorter races with Achilles International, a running group that pairs people with and without disabilities to run mainstream races. Like climbing, I love that running (what we call it no matter if it's using wheels or feet) gives me athletic opportunities alongside people without disabilities and all of the friendships that come from it. Check out Achilles International!
The Catalyst Nashville Chapter can be found here!