Scaling New Heights for Our Community

By, Lorna Wallace

The physical and mental benefits of regular exercise have been well documented. No matter the activity, making time to move brings increased stamina, endurance and strength as well as immeasurable improvements to self-esteem, and often serves as an excellent way to manage anxiety, depression and stress. However, perhaps the most amazing thing about exercise is that it has the power to create and strengthen bonds between the people in our communities, to bring families closer together and to teach children the values of trust, leadership and perseverance. 

This is why charitable organisation, Above Adventure, wants to transform Kilmarnock’s Grange Church and bring a state-of-the-art climbing and bouldering centre to the heart of the town. With the support of local authority and private trusts, they are well on their way to securing the £800,000 needed for Phase 1, the bouldering half of the centre. However, they need our help to close a project gap of £30,000. I spoke to the charity’s co-founder, Dean Pastulovic, about what the centre would mean for Kilmarnock and why people should get behind their Crowdfunder page to help make it a reality:

“It’s all about community for us. We want this to be so much more than a climbing centre. We want this to be a social hub for Kilmarnock – a place that the entire community can enjoy, even if it’s just for a cup of tea in the café and to soak up the atmosphere.”

Dean explained that his own passion for rock-climbing began when it helped him through a dark chapter in his personal life:

“I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress after serving in the British army. While getting into rock-climbing didn’t completely overcome my demons, it became a fantastic way for me to manage them and keep them at bay.”

As well as improving physical fitness and tackling childhood obesity, Dean also wants the centre to be a place where children’s mental health and well-being is at the top of the agenda:

“A lot of kids have no confidence or self-esteem. What we’re doing with rock-climbing is building their strength, self-confidence and ability to trust others. Not every kid is into football or karate. We want to give kids something different, here in Kilmarnock, that will get them away from playing in their bedrooms and encourage the whole family to start spending quality time together.”

Founded in 2013, Above Adventure has already had a positive impact on the lives of children living in deprived areas and many who suffer from severe physical and mental disabilities. As part of their outreach programme, Above Adventure runs free four-week blocks of climbing lessons for disadvantaged children and their families, extending an opportunity to children who would otherwise never get the chance to experience it. The new centre will even have a climbing wall section suitable for wheelchair use.

As the centre will be a Mountaineering Scotland Level 2 Regional Climbing Hub serving the West of Scotland, it looks set to draw people to Kilmarnock from all over Ayrshire and beyond. In addition, this will save keen climbers the time, hassle and expense of travelling to Glasgow, which is currently the only option available to them.

Above Adventure has already helped many of its volunteers onto training courses in rock-climbing instruction, all while covering their expenses and PVG disclosure checks.

However, this extraordinary place can only be made possible with the support of donations, and it could well be just what Kilmarnock needs to reach brand new heights of community spirit.

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