The idea for a climbing wall inside of the North Island Secondary School (NISS) gymnasium came about from an offhand conversation.
“Greg Muirhead (NISS’ Outdoor Pursuits, Math, Science, Tourism and Field Studies teacher) walked into my office when we’d just begun our outdoor education programming and vision for the north island, and asked if we would be able to build a climbing wall,” said NISS Principal Jay Dixon. “I paused for a moment, and the first question I asked was ‘how much’. He told me approximately how much it would be, and then my second question was ‘why not?’ “Our students and community members soon heard about our conversation and started bringing in cheques.
“One student opened a GoFundMe account online and soon it rippled from a small grassroots community movement all the way to a place where the Port McNeill Rotary joined in to support it. It basically grew from a conversation into something that will in fact be opening,” Dixon said. NISS students collaborated with the Port McNeill Rotary Club to hold a Spring Fling Gala called ‘Build the Wall’ on Saturday, April 30.
The fundraiser “was a phenomenal success. It was amazing to see the community support and the people rallying around a positive project on the North Island. I grew up here and I haven’t been a part of something like that since the early 90’s,” said Dixon, adding that the schools foods class “cooked the dinner, students throughout the school helped set up the event, and twenty students volunteered their time to serve and host and they were phenomenal. They were respectful, polite, professional and had a great time. The school was presented with a $10,000 dollar cheque from the Port McNeill Rotary Club and we are still calculating all the incoming money from the auction, however, we estimate there is about $10,000-$12,000 that came in over and above the rotaries $10,000.”
All told, Dixon happily stated they have now raised over $40,000 total at this point. “We’ll know more over the next couple weeks, but we’re likely sitting around the mid $40,000’s,” he explained. “On Monday morning I made an announcement during school time that we had reached our goal for the climbing wall and the entire school abruptly cheered. This wouldn’t have happened without the students, their families, and the local businesses.”
Even with their original monetary goal currently met, they aren’t planning to stop there. “The intention was the more money that came in, the bigger the wall would be,” said Dixon. “We are hoping to add a bouldering section to the wall, which is a lower wall for beginning climbers to learn some basic climbing skills on.”
The school has officially set up an install date of July with local contractors. The wall will be 40 feet high, at least 30 feet wide, and they will hopefully have it finished by September for a grand opening.
“It all connects to the power and size of our communities and how when push comes to shove we really support each other and we want to see options for our youth and community members in the evenings,” said Dixon. “We hope to see a new culture grow here on the north island where the all the local communities get involved with climbing, creating a group of likeminded people who want to get outside and do positive, healthy activities. We built the Everest for our community, and we hope it’s something that just continues to grow.”