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Climbing Wall Under Construction to Help Those in Drug Recovery

Andrea Smardon
Ian Acker, Executive Director of Fit to Recover, looks at the climbing wall under construction. (October 29, 2015)

Utah’s first climbing wall dedicated to helping people recover from drug and alcohol addiction is under construction. Salt Lake City’s nonprofit sober gym and community center is called Fit to Recover.

The gym’s executive director Ian Acker, crosses his tattooed arms and looks up at the wood skeleton of a climbing wall in wonder. He says the whole thing started with three people in recovery with a boom box in a park. Now he’s got a following of 200 people and a 5500 square foot building. And the wall – that was a vision of one of the people who works out in the gym.

“This is evidence that this place is getting bigger than me and my wildest kind of dreams,” Acker says.

Petzl Foundation and Momentum Climbing have provided seed funding, volunteer labor and materials. Members of the gym have been helping out as well, like Lauren Bunker, who used power tools for the first time to screw bolts into the metal. Bunker is here today to work out, though. She warms up with a jump rope and then moves on to lifting kettle bells. She says she’s abused her body for many years, but the gym has been a lifesaver.

“When I come here it’s like I’m saying I’m ready to be healthy,” Bunker says. “I’m ready to be healthy and treat my body the way it’s supposed to be treated. It keeps me sober, I have people who can hold me accountable and who care about me.”

Acker says it’s the conversations that happen between the workouts that makes him realize how special this place is.

“Exercise is secondary. Climbing is secondary. The primary focus is community,” Acker says.

Acker expects the climbing wall to be finished next week. But he’s got more plans after that. In the next 2 years, he wants to franchise and put one of these spots in 5 or 6 cities around the country.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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