On July 31, Kai Lightner launched the nonprofit Climbing for Change, which will partner with brands, climbing gyms, and existing organizations to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the climbing community.
The Climbing for Change mission statement reads: “Connecting underserved communities with individuals and organizations that seek to increase minority participation in rock climbing and the outdoor adventure industry. From athletes to industry leaders or filmmakers, we aim to make our industry a more inclusive environment.”
With the formation of Climbing for Change, Lightner is taking direct action to facilitate DEI initiatives and ensure that impactful, long-lasting change is made. Climbing for Change will award grants to BIPOC individuals to attend national and international climbing competitions, cover some expenses for a trip to push their limits outside, to assist with getting professional certifications (i.e. routesetting, guiding, coaching), and more. The non-profit will also work to advance DEI initiatives with funding and grants, as well as facilitating partnerships to offer affordable gym members to BIPOC climbers and help with fees related to outdoor adventure programs.
“After having consistent conversations with companies and aspiring allies about diversifying our industry, the consensus was clear; many wanted to create long term change, but few knew how,” Lightner wrote on Instagram. “Thus, Climbing for Change was born, an organization dedicated to gathering funds and partnering with businesses to provide funding and opportunities for DEI initiatives across our industry. From scholarship opportunities to facilitating connections, our goal is to assist underserved communities and create a more diverse and inclusive environment in the outdoors.”
In the few days since its inception, Climbing for Change has garnered widespread praise from the community, amassing over 3,500 followers on Instagram, with fellow athletes expressing their approval and appreciation. Ashima Shirashi wrote on Instagram: “So proud, inspired, and appreciative of Kai Lightner for being a catalyst for DEI in the climbing industry and beyond.”