When Climb So iLL opened in 2012, people flocked to the urban playground to scale its whimsical walls. Since then, the gym has blossomed into much more than an assemblage of vibrant, textured walls and custom designed holds. So iLL has become a dynamic and beloved proponent of the sport. It advocates for climbing on Missouri’s public lands, coordinates re-bolting and conservation efforts in Illinois, and introduces thousands to the sport through unique and imaginative programs.
It’s no wonder So iLL claimed so many of Terrain’s Readers’ Choice Awards this year. [Editor’s note: The business won for “First Place: Favorite Climbing Event,” “Second Place: Favorite Climbing Gym,” “Second Place: Favorite Local Outdoor Gear Brand,” and “Second Place: Favorite Outdoor Personality.”]
“As a small business owner, it is important to give back to the community,” said David Chancellor, co-owner of Climb So iLL. “Climbing has made a huge impact in my life, and sharing this experience has the possibility to impact lives.”
With a successful climbing and bouldering gym, climbing holds festooning gyms nationwide, and a line of environmentally conscious climbing equipment and apparel, the owners decided on a new challenge — giving the gift of climbing.
“It’s been great creating products to help people stay healthy and succeed, but I always felt something was missing,” said Daniel Chancellor, co-owner of Climb So iLL and David’s brother.
Daniel, along with professional climber Kevin Jorgeson — famous for his 19-day, first free ascent of Yosemite’s Dawn Wall with Tommy Caldwell — founded 1Climb to bring kids climbing and bring climbing to kids. Through a unique partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, 1Climb takes club members to local climbing gyms and builds climbing walls within club facilities.
“1Climb has given me the opportunity to help the next generation,” Daniel said. “I’m incredibly thankful to be part of this effort to introduce 100,000 kids to the greatest sport I know.”
In 2017, 1Climb unveiled a 30-foot climbing wall at the Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club in St. Louis, the second 1Climb installation. With Climb So iLL as the project’s local gym partner, the club says it is excited to expand opportunities for young people through climbing. Hundreds of its kids have made their first ascents because of the club’s very own climbing wall.
“When 1Climb approached us with the idea, we were very eager,” said Dr. Flint Fowler, president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis. “It was important to them and important to us that it be a first-rate climbing wall. Now, we are very proud and enthused to have it.
“We believe that climbing is an extremely viable part of our program. There are so many dimensions that benefit our kids. We have a youth development strategy with four parts to it: belonging, usefulness, influence and competence. All of those things can be reflected on the wall, which spills over into other areas of life,” Dr. Fowler said.
After the local club’s climbing wall debuted, So iLL announced another partnership, this time with famous shoemaker, TOMS. In 2018, the two companies launched a limited-edition footwear line and crowdfunding campaign to help fund additional climbing walls through 1Climb. The duo fused TOMS flagship shoe with an ultra-sticky Dark Matter rubber outsole made by So iLL, and So iLL’s Street LV climbing shoe received a special TOMS makeover.
By mid-September 2018, 1Climb had raised $70,037, an impressive 336 percent of its original goal.
“We have a social responsibility to provide empowering resources for young St. Louisans,” David said. “Outreach programs like the ones offered by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and 1Climb will have a lasting impact on the lives of young people.”
Author: Corrie Hendrix Gambill is a contributor to Terrain Magazine.