Blog post


Pushing May Gray Away | Climb for Courage San Diego Spring 2024

By Maxwell Svec, One Summit, Director of Programs

By Maxwell Svec, One Summit, Director of Programs

On May 18th, we hosted our first of this year’s two Climb for Courage (CFC) programs in San Diego. It was an exciting event for all, especially the One Summit team, as it was our 25th CFC program ever hosted. We had a wonderful group of people who made it an event to remember. As our northeast-based team learned on this trip to southern California, the month of May is widely considered “May Gray” due to cloudy conditions and cooler temperatures. But while the weather outside the gym may have been a bit gloomy, inside, it was all bright smiles as we welcomed 24 excited patients and siblings from Rady Children’s Hospital and Kaiser Permanente San Diego MedicalCenter. Also joining us were 20 Navy SEAL mentors (the vast majority of which being active duty) and 6 Team Leaders and volunteers.

As the families began to arrive, our mentors quietly awaited their mentees out of sight upstairs, building the suspense for the Little Warriors until the big moment arrived. The kids were led through the gauntlet, a One Summit entrance tradition—two lines of Navy SEALs cheering for them and high-fiving as they passed. The matching ceremony followed, and one by one, each Little Warrior was paired with their Navy SEAL mentor, at which time the mentor placed special dog tags with their Little Warrior’s name on them around their necks.

Once the matching ceremony was complete, the parents and caregivers left the gym for a little break, and the Team Leaders began helping the groups get to know each other with some icebreakers and team name creation. This time, our team names were MOLABGY (a secret acronym for awesomeness, no doubt), the Blue Cheetah Tigers, the Kassab Bros (aptly named for the family of 5 brothers in the group), The Rockstars, and the Fluffy Pineapple Pickle Warriors. With the serious business of team naming out of the way, the Little Warriors and their mentors began putting on helmets and harnesses and spreading to every corner of the gym to start climbing.

The gym soon filled with cheers of encouragement, applause for achievements, laughter, and playful banter echoing off the high walls. During their group activity time, the Little Warriors set goals for the day with their mentors. The two most common goals for this Climb for Courage were “make it to the top” and “have fun!” Some of our other favorites were“Push ourselves,” Snack and crush,” and “When we are afraid, we go one step higher.” By the end of the day, most Little Warriors said they had achieved and, in some cases, even exceeded those goals. It was clear that fun was had, goals were crushed, and lessons were learned. One Little Warrior reflected, “By trying really hard, we realized we’re capable of more than we thought!” That realization of courage, resilience, and determination is exactly what Climb for Courage is all about.

As the end of the day drew near, the parents and caregivers made their way back to the gym to watch their children scale the tall walls and hear about all of their extraordinary accomplishments during the program. After coaxing everyone down from their foot and handholds high above, it was time for the final pinning ceremony. Each Little Warrior received from their mentor their very own pin to take home featuring the mighty trident, a significant symbol for all Navy SEALs and their work in the teams. Each of the 24 mentees was called up one by one to receive their pin, proudly bestowed upon them by their Navy SEAL mentors.

Before each Climb for Courage program, we ask the Little Warriors to tell us what they think a Navy SEAL is. In answer to that question, here are some of the responses we got from this San Diego program’s participants:

• “Someone who is selfless and fights for our freedom.”

• “Strong and fearless.”

• “Someone who risks their lives for others.”

• “Strong and brave.”

• “A very brave soldier that risks his life for people and our country.”

While the kids certainly had something to learn from their Navy SEAL mentors, it is clear that their mentors also had something to learn from them. Throughout the Climb for Courage weekend, it was apparent that there is strength and bravery to be had on both sides of the mentor-mentee relationships in our One Summit community. After Climb for Courage, one of the SEALs said it best:

It’s an incredible experience being able to give back to a group of kids that have gone through something far more challenging than anything we’ve done. It gives perspective that there are kids much tougher and stronger than we are. – Navy SEAL Mentor

The feedback from families, mentors, and volunteers immediately following the climb illustrates our mission’s impact. The testimonials below fortify our commitment to improving outcomes for our resilient Little Warriors with year-round support and dedication to growing our presence in the San Diego area.


[Our kids] loved having time with Navy SEALS. [They] keep asking when is the next event! They didn’t know what to expect, but they really enjoyed [this event] and we loved seeing their smiles and working together with their mentors. Thank you for having us!

– Parent

At first I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to do as much as before [my diagnosis], but I feel proud of how much I was able to do today!

– Little Warrior

This is the best part of my job: investing into children who ask for nothing and display resilience on a daily basis. I leave inspired to be a better person and Team guy.

– Navy SEAL Mentor

[After Climb for Courage I feel] I can do anything.

– Little Warrior

[My son] was a bit nervous before the event and was not sure if he would enjoy it, but he loved the experience and is already excited for the next event.

– Parent

Before, I felt a little nervous. After I felt happy I did it!

– Little Warrior

[My favorite moment of the day was] watching my mentee interact with his brother and cheer him on. That was really cool to see him support his brother and also have a great time.

– Navy SEAL Mentor

[After Climb for Courage I feel] stronger!

– Little Warrior

Because while most of us have a heart to serve, CFC provides the opportunity for us to serve in a way that is completely different from what we do on a day-to-day basis. And it reframed the size of my problems and struggles and inspired me to see a little kid facing an uncertain future with nothing but energy and happiness.

– Navy SEAL Mentor

Yesterday [my brothers and I] were excited! Today, we feel like, ‘yeah, let’s go!’ I gained a lot of confidence!

– Little Warrior

[My child] was very shocked and touched to learn that it’s a mentor program and not a one-and-done meeting with her Navy SEAL. It really means a lot to her.

– Parent

[My biggest challenge was] being scared to go all the way up. [I overcame that challenge] knowing my Navy SEAL was holding me up!

– Little Warrior

My kids are still talking about their new buddies! The guys definitely made an impression. I can’t tell you how awesome it is that you included siblings.

– Parent

[My favorite moment of the day was] climbing the walls I couldn’t do before.

Little Warrior

On Sunday morning, we returned to the climbing gym to host Climb Higher, our alum program for past Climb for Courage participants. We welcomed back 13 Little Warriors, eight mentors, and three volunteers, including two nurses from Rady Children’s who helped belay. The group spent an incredible morning hitting the climbing walls, reuniting with old friends, making new ones, and sharing many smiles! Our Climb Higher program is a fantastic opportunity for reconnection for members of our One Summit community, and our team always enjoys seeing familiar faces from years past.

Our Climb for Courage and Climb Higher programs would notbe possible without our generous sponsors and partners. Axos Bank has been integral in growing our One Summit community in the San Diego area for many years, this one being no exception. Their dedication to our mission and support of our work have allowed us to continuously increase our impact in the community, and we are incredibly grateful for their partnership.

We couldn’t provide our programs in the San Diego area without the support of our fantastic climbing gym partner, Vertical Hold Poway. Again this year, we want to extend our utmost appreciation and immeasurable gratitude to Ben, Justin, Alana, and the entire staff at VH for their space, the gift of their time, and their attention to detail to accommodate our unique group comfortably. We would be lost without their kindness, flexibility, and countless supportive efforts. We are so incredibly fortunate to have them in our One Summit family!

During this CFC weekend, we welcomed a brand-new nonprofit partner to our One Summit community. Pass the Bricks is an organization started by Charlie Jeffers in Marin County, CA, with the goal of collecting used LEGO bricks, sanitizing and sorting them, designing “new” sets, and distributing them to deserving kids to use and love. Charlie’s idea has grown quickly, and we are very grateful for his San Diego area ambassadors Kristine and her son Mateo, who put together an incredible array of LEGO sets for our Little Warriors and even hand-delivered them to our hotel! Our participants truly enjoyed picking out a set, building it with their mentor, and then taking it home as a special memory of their day together. Thank you, Pass the Bricks!

As usual, Julia Sora Wykoff, the Founder of Zeal Cares, donated her hydrating lip balms to all our Little Warriors, mentors, and volunteers during the Climb for Courage weekend in San Diego! Julia’s support of the One Summit community has been constant for several years, and we continue to be so grateful for our partnership with her. Thanks for all you do for pediatric cancer patients and their families, Julia!

To close, we would be remiss if we did not send our wholehearted gratitude to our hospital partners, who are crucial in spreading the word about One Summit programs to families within the clinics, waiting rooms, and inpatient floors. Without their assistance, we know it would be much harder for patients, siblings, and their parents to hear about our program offerings. We want to thank our friends at Rady Children’s Hospital and Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center for this specific CFC program. We appreciate all of the incredible ways in which the staff at these hospitals positively impact patients and families each and every day.

Until next time, San Diego—we’ll see you again in the fall!

Are you interested in participating in an upcoming Climb for Courage? Please apply on our website or email for more information!