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Boys and Girls Homes residential students visit UNCW ropes course for first time

A group of residential students at Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina experienced the thrills and white-knuckled excitement of high and low ropes course climbing for the first time this week at Seahawk Adventures' Challenge Course on the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s campus.

The ropes course was part of the students’ schedule of recreation therapy for the week. Their first obstacle was simple. To reach the ropes course, students walked a quarter mile through long leaf pines ringing with the buzzsaw of cicadas.

At the course, UNCW student worker Addie Schwab briefed the students on safety, reminding them to “respect the environment” and “be responsible for each other.” Then she held up her ring finger.

“Does anyone know what this symbolizes?” she asked.

Different students yelled out:




Schwab said they were very close.

“It’s commitment. You got the vibe,” she said, “Today, we are committed to the activity and to each other. We encourage you to try something outside of your comfort zone.”

In the first activity – the Nitro Swing -- students needed to swing on a low rope swing across a small area and land on their feet inside a plastic hoop. Each student needed to help the others on his or her team get across to their hoop or that person would have to take another turn.

Schwab explained that the Nitro Swing activity would show “who steps up as a leader, who does strategizing and works on group trust. The high and low courses work on that as well.”

Before he stepped up to the Nitro Swing, one boy had a solution to the problem of how to reach the swing since the game did not allow them to step into the circles.

“I have an idea. Somebody hold onto someone else’s arm and someone hold that person’s arm and then pull them back to reach the rope.” His plan worked, and the students began swinging and dropping into the circles. The students already in the circles helped steer the swing and steady their peers as they jumped.

One girl was worried about falling saying: “I’m scared I’m gonna die.”

Her friend replied, encouraging her to swing: “Well, if you die this close to the ground, we have a worse problem.”

After lunch, students suited up in helmets and climbing gear for the main ropes course. Starting on the low ropes course in teams of four, the children wobbled and held onto each other as they crossed a wire suspended only by their harnesses and ropes. Some fell off and swung in their harness until they could pull themselves back up on the wire, and then walked out on swinging beams. Then the spent the last part of the afternoon 35 feet in the air on the high ropes course braving the Fidget Ladder, walking across plank walkways, swinging on the giant swing through the air and zooming across on ziplines that one of the workers dubbed “The Wheeee.”

Residential parents dared each other to climb the high course with the students. While some met the challenge, others stayed on the ground yelling encouragement to the students to take the next step or swing to the next obstacle.

*Students’ names are withheld and faces obscured in photos and videos for their safety and privacy.

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