The ultimate mission of our foundation is to facilitate and demonstrate the inclusivity of Climbing Gyms, nationwide. We hope to promote universal inclusivity and accessibility by educating both care-givers and climbing gym management about existing adaptive systems and programming. As these folks become more comfortable with the adaptive systems and the participant becomes enthusiastic, future participation can be initiated organically. Above Limits currently focuses on climbing gyms in the PA, MD and VA region. Veterans who are wounded, ill, or injured as well as their families, will climb; young adults with Autism will climb, folks with paralysis or brain injury will limb; kids with conditions such as Spina Bifida, and Cerebral Palsy, will climb. For years, our mantra has been, “Everybody climbs” if they so desire. Every body climbs.
What differentiates the mission and strategy of Above Limits from the other adaptive climbing organizations is best characterized by the parable about teaching a person to fish rather than giving them fish. An event or competition can be the ‘pick-me-up’ a person needs to become intrinsically motivated to pursue climbing as therapy; however, a meaningful story or video could be equally effective. Using videos on the website, we demonstrate the gear and safety procedures one can use to train at home. We also highlight the inspirational stories of other folks who have benefited from the therapy of climbing. In addition, our Welcome Access Recreation (WAR) Map shows where extreme sports are offered to the disabled community. The geodata includes climbing, trampolining, skiing, kayaking, road and mountain cycling and weight training opportunities.
History: Above Limits was approved as an I.R.S. 501(c)(3) in 2009 and founded by Michael L. DeCavalcante of Camp Hill, PA and Mark Gerner of Burke, VA. Mike is an M.I.T. educated engineer, inventor and entrepreneur and Mark is a West Point educated teacher and consultant to the Pentagon. Mike and Mark are both climbers and hold a U.S. patent for their innovative 2:1 advantage, ascending/descending system allowing folks with paralysis to climb independently. Above Limits’ mission has evolved from solely operating events to one of education and communication of welcome access.
Michael L. DeCavalcante
Mike is an athlete, problem solver, teacher and coach and is passionate about doing work that makes the world a better place for our kids. His diverse education and experience include learning: survival and water-board resistance at the U.S. A. F. Academy, engineering and humility at M.I.T., acoustics at Bose Corporation, bankruptcy consulting and life balance in NYC, organizational behavior and marketing at Harvard Business School, and entrepreneurism at Climbnasium. Mike holds both dental and climbing patents, and has founded multiple businesses of recreation, retail, medical research, and therapeutic wellness. Mike gave-back the past 9 years as a physics teacher and cross-country coach for kids of social and financial hardship. He also spent the past 19 years as an adaptive climbing instructor of kids and adults with disabilities. Throughout his career, Mike has actively sought out employment in recreation, consulting, medical research, education and fitness. In 2006, to further develop adaptive and therapeutic climbing, he teamed-up with Mark Gerner and founded Above Limits, partnering with the Spina Bifida Association and Easter Seals to give hundreds of kids with special needs the opportunity to experience climbing. Personally, Mike loves to combine his interests of endurance cycling, running, rock & ice climbing into the grand goal of fast alpinism. He has been “slow and heavy” up Denali, Aconcagua, and Rainier and “fast and light” up Teton, Bugaboo, Stuart and Sir Donald. He has practiced multiple forms of Yoga and meditation for 25 years and specifically relates, as an Eagle Scout, to the laws: trustworthy, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, cheerful and thrifty. He has been married for 20 years with 2 kids.
Mark is a retired Army Infantry Colonel who came to this project motivated by his love of climbing which began during his time in Alaska in 1974 where graduated from a climbing instructor school. His day to day employment is with Calibre Systems, where he is a senior consultant in strategic planning and force design. While he was the Chief of military training at West Point in the early 1990’s he was the Officer Representative for the Cadet Climbing Club. Mark and Mike have climbed together and worked together since 1994 when he practiced many skills at the Climbnasium.
Mark’s interest in adaptive climbing was motivated by his grand-daughter, Jenna, now 12 years old. Mark designed the organization and functions of Above Limits, its charter as a charitable institution, outreach and partnerships, and many design features of Above Limits instruction best practices. Mark’s education includes a BS from the USMA, a Master’s Degree in Logistics Management from the Florida Institute of Technology, and a graduate of the US Army War College.
“There are hundreds of climbing gyms in the vast U.S. who might consider this inclusionary business and thousands of veterans, young adults and kids who don’t know they are capable or welcome to participate in these gyms.”
Above Limits’ Every Body Climbs campaign is the culmination of 18 years of volunteer work performed. It will fund future events and programs which use adaptive equipment expertise, instruction and coaching which enables every participant to enjoy climbing and its benefits. For years, our mantra has been, “Everybody climbs” if they desire. These adaptive sports events are collaborative with programs providing a forum where climbing gym staff and therapists learn their helping roles. Veterans who are wounded, ill, or injured as well as their families, will climb; young adults with autism will climb, folks with paralysis or brain injury will climb; kids with conditions such as Spina Bifida, and Cerebral Palsy, will climb. Everybody climbs.