0315, 2015, Insider, Rec Department, Still Hanging On, Chris Prange-Morgan, rock climbing, Adaptive Adventures

Still Hanging On

Adaptive Adventures helps people with disabilities get a piece of the action.

It’s been more than three years since Chris Prange-Morgan’s life was forever changed, and she still can’t believe how it happened. An experienced rock climber, Prange-Morgan had a trying morning on Nov. 30, 2011. Her adopted son was proving unmanageable, as young boys sometimes do. While strapping in for an indoor climb, her mind raced back to the confrontation, as stressed-out moms sometimes do.

“I was really wound up from taking him to medical appointments, you know, signing over my life to take care of [my son], who had some behavioral challenges as well,” Prange-Morgan recounts.

As she prepared for her climb, she made a mistake that even newbies rarely commit. “I totally forgot to clip into the auto-belay system,” she says. She would end up free climbing 30 feet in the air. As she lunged to reach a hold, she missed. The fall would result in ankle, rib and pelvic fractures, as well as a crushed tibia in her right leg.

After enduring 11 surgeries in an effort to salvage the limb, Prange-Morgan decided enough was enough. “I want my quality of life back,” she told herself. So, she said, “Let’s just off this thing.”

It was the first step in a journey that’d see her help bring a higher quality of life to others as well.

After a trip to Colorado for a conference on adventure sports, she volunteered her efforts to bring a chapter of Adaptive Adventures (adaptiveadventures.org) to Wisconsin.

The group was founded in 1999 with a focus on providing “outdoor sports opportunities and improving the quality of life for children, adults and veterans with physical disabilities,” says David Schmid, national program director for Adaptive Adventures. In addition to climbing, excursions to ski, kayak, sail, cycle and more are organized through the group.

Since Prange-Morgan brought Adaptive Adventures to Wisconsin, Schmid says he’s been impressed with her passion. “She’s a person who likes to get out there, connect with people and get them excited,” Schmid says. “She has a fantastic level of energy and commitment to climbing.”

And the chance for people with disabilities to climb makes a huge difference in their lives, according to Schmid. “Climbing is fairly easy to adapt to for most people,” he says. “The inclusive feeling that comes from the climbing community is very welcoming for somebody who has a disability.”

Back in Wisconsin, Prange-Morgan is especially proud of the work Adaptive Adventures has been able to accomplish with veterans, many of whom were wounded in the line of duty. For Peter Mittelstaedt, a 71-year-old Marine Corps Vietnam veteran with spinal cord damage, the opportunities at Adventure Rock in Brookfield are a life-saver.

“It definitely changed my life,” Mittelstaedt says. Without the adventures, “I’d be really surprised if I was still alive today,” he says. “It has made my life better. It gave me some hope.”

 Marching Orders

Bublr Bikes ➞ Brew Town’s bike-share is turned back on as we inch closer to spring. Keep an eye out for more stations in coming months as the distinctive blue bikes roll into new ’hoods.
March 16. Visit bublrbikes.com for details on locations and pricing.

Fight for Air ➞ This one is definitely on our bucket list. Raise some funds for the American Lung Association and get the opportunity to climb to the top of the U.S. Bank Center (that’s 1,034 steps).
March 21, 7 a.m. 777 E. Wisconsin Ave., fightforairclimb.org.

The Great Milwaukee Pi Run & Walk ➞ Decide for yourself if this run/walk gets bonus points for making math lovers chuckle or for the promise of Honeypie pies at mile 2.
March 15, 9 a.m. Boerner Botanical Gardens. 9400 Boerner Dr., Hales Corners. silvercirclesportsevents.com.

Seamus Scramble ➞ Finally, a run for those of us looking to go off-road with our jaunts as this 5K (or 5-mile) timed race follows a portion of the Ice Age Trail.
March 14, 8:30 a.m. 3600 Beaver Dam Road, West Bend., traildogrunning.com.

‘Still Hanging On’ appears in the March, 2015, issue of Milwaukee Magazine.
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Former Managing Editor