Operation Climb On
I love that more often now you see obituaries ending with “in lieu of flowers, please give to…” It’s both an insightful and beautiful tribute to someone’s life when an organization is chosen to do good in honor of the person who has died.
It always makes me wonder how they were involved with the organization. Did they benefit from the organization? Were they volunteers within the group? Or maybe they just love the focus of what the group is doing. I guess that’s part of being involved with LiveRad - wanting to know the story behind a seemingly simple choice at the end of an obituary.
I think this is why it felt so overwhelming after Matt died for our family to choose a group Matt would love. Fortunately, Matt left us with a clue about an organization he would absolutely support.
The Sunday night before Matt died we had a typical fun and chaotic dinner with our whole family. Matt was center stage telling us all about his future plans, but he was most excited about the 'bigger cause.' In most part, this was to focus on veteran suicide prevention. He shared his vision about helping others; one person, one meaningful interaction at a time. Also, his escalating mania made him more open than usual, and he shared about his past personal experience with deep depression and suicide ideation. Matt made it clear that he didn’t want others to be alone in that pain he’d fully experienced.
Months later, we found out about Operation Climb On from a small newspaper article. We knew it was what we’d been waiting for to meet our goal of “veteran suicide prevention." The goosebumps spread as we learned more about their mission.
After a comfortable phone call with Michael Cummings, Operation Climb On’s founder, Jason and I met up with him for lunch to learn more about his awesome group. Michael is an easy going, genuine guy who works a full-time job and takes care of his small family in addition to being passionate about Operation Climb On.
Operation Climb On is a local non-profit whose goal is to reach out to veterans who struggle with mental health or PTSD, and get them to get out to go climbing with other guys who ‘get it.' In their 4 years, they’ve experienced organic growth through word-of-mouth and invitations to young veterans to go climbing, whether they have any experience or not. The result is building a natural, trusting friendship while climbing - whether or not there’s any actual talking about their difficult experiences.
The connection with Operation Climb On and LiveRad feels natural. Matt loved climbing, but it was a recent discovery for him that happened just months before he died. It all began with a simple text request from his friend, Josh to come climbing. That day sparked this love of climbing for Matt and began to pull him out of the deep depression he was stuck in. Matt said, “Normally in my depressed state I would opt for the safe option and just stay home. But I went rock climbing anyway. And I was hooked from day one. I got a membership at a gym and starting climbing as much as humanly possibly and as much as my sore forearms would allow.”
During our conversation with Michael from Operation Climb On, he shared their basic premise with a shrug, and it shook me: “We just take guys climbing - that’s all.” I loved the simplicity of his focus because really, that’s what it’s all about. That’s not to say that his viewpoint is small, because he’s got big goals for the organization. But he hasn’t lost sight of each individual veteran that he’s reaching for. Sure, there’s a deeper mission, but it’s done in a way that can effectively reach the guys who need it most. That’s why it’s so easy to get behind Michael and his Operation Climb On counterparts, because they truly are the ‘real deal’ when it comes to living rad. At LiveRad, we love the opportunity to share their story!