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Raising awareness 

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Ben Schmitt went to his first climbing facility around the time he forsook using a sippy-cup. The 18-year-old Palmer High School student says his father originally took him 15 years ago.

Now he is the second-ranked climber on the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation's North American junior circuit.

"This is something that I really love to do," he says. "When you're really excited about something, it gives you an energy."

Schmitt's excitement has given him the energy to turn his hobby into social good.

"All Palmer students have to do community service," he says. "What better way is there to do it than with climbing?"

During his freshman year, he started working with the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind, teaching the students there how to climb. Now he's starting a series of programs with the Colorado Therapeutic Recreation Program to allow disabled kids and adults learn to do the same.

"More and more people have been coming," he says. "More volunteers and more people wanting to learn."

Ever fearful of spare time, Schmitt has also started a high school climbing league. "I've had a lot of experience putting together competitions," he says. "I've learned through friends who own climbing facilities."

While heights, ropes and clips may intimidate a lot of people who haven't yet tried the sport, Schmitt says climbing brings about a feeling that just about anyone could appreciate.

"Every time you succeed, or have a success," he says, "you recognize that it comes from within yourself."

photo by L'Aura Montgomery

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