Meet a presenter: Rebecca Levenberg

Rebecca is one of our presenters for this year's Story Swap. Rebecca is a teacher and writer who discovered climbing after a traumatic accident changed her body and life. In November 2010, she was hit by a truck while riding her bicycle to work. Now an above-knee amputee – and bionic woman -- she climbs at Go Vertical, has medaled in two Adaptive National Championships, and is currently competing on Team USA in the IFSC Paraclimbing World Championships (#innsbruck2018)! When she’s not at the climbing gym, Rebecca volunteers as a peer mentor for new amputees, and has created a hospital healing garden to bring comfort to patients and families. In her story, Straight Up with a Twist, Rebecca will describe her journey as an adaptive athlete and how climbing helped her find equal footing in two worlds.

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Where are your from and what do you do?
I grew up in the Philly suburbs and now live in Old City. I’ve been a special education teacher for more than 20 years, but recently I’ve discovered a passion for the human side of health care. I volunteer in patient services at several hospitals and serve as a peer mentor for trauma patients and new amputees. I also speak at medical conferences, medical schools, and physical therapy programs about trauma and rehabilitation from a patient’s perspective.

How did you get introduced to climbing?
Before my accident, I was an avid inline skater and cyclist. During my recovery, I attended an indoor rock climbing clinic for amputees. I loved the experience (and the workout!), but because of physical and health set-backs, I didn’t pursue climbing right away. Two years later, I met Paraclimbing World Champion Ronnie Dickson and signed up for an adaptive climbing clinic in the Gunks. It was an exhilarating day, and more importantly, it gave me the confidence and courage to go to my local gym and climb among able-bodied athletes. After that, I was hooked!

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What else do you enjoy outside of climbing?
During my recovery, I set a goal of walking a thousand miles on my prosthetic leg. I decided I’d blog about the journey and what it was like to start over after a life-changing injury. That was more than 7 years ago. I’ve just passed my 6,000th mile, but I’m still walking… and writing! (Follow me at www.my-1000-miles.blogspot.com.) I also love taking photos, baking cookies (Coconut Dark Chocolate Chip is a crowd favorite!), gardening on my pint-sized balcony (basil anyone?), and exploring new neighborhoods in Philly and beyond. Next up: Innsbruck, Austria!

What’s an accomplishment that you are proud of?
I’ve learned to embrace my strengths and difficulties, and I’ve had the opportunity to support and encourage others along the way. Everything else is just icing on the cake!