Austintown man is climbing for a cause


By KALEA HALL

khall@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Ryan Sheridan could have just written a check to support the Rich Center for Autism of Youngstown, but instead he decided to raise money by climbing a mountain.

The mountain isn’t just any mountain: It’s Mount Kilimanjaro – the tallest mountain in Africa at 19,341 feet and the highest free-standing mountain in the world.

Sheridan, 36, of Austintown conquered the mountain last year in seven days, but this year he is shooting for four days and hoping to raise $30,000, or $10,000 for each day he shaved off last year’s time through his GoFundMe “Climb for a Cause” account. Sheridan started his climb at 7 a.m. Tuesday with the goal of being done by Friday.

“The whole time we were climbing [last year], I was hoping to climb it faster,” Sheridan said. “I want to do it faster, and do it for someone else.”

Sheridan, who owns Braking Point Recovery Center in Austintown, decided that the someone else would be the Rich Center after he toured the facility and liked what he saw.

“Everything about it just made you feel good,” he said.

The Rich Center is located inside Youngstown State University’s Fedor Hall. The school has teachers specialized in working with students on the autism spectrum. There are 72 students and 45 teachers at the center. Teachers work one on one with students.

The center started as a day program in 1995 and developed into a tuition-free school that provides occupational and speech therapy to students one time a week at no cost. Students are covered by the autism scholarship that is funded with state and local shares. Other funding to run the school is provided through donations.

Donations allow the school to provide more services at no cost to parents.

“It all counts,” said Melanie Carfolo, executive director of the Rich Center. “[Sheridan] is really risking his life taking on a task that most people would never consider. He’s not just doing it for himself but for someone else.”

The money Sheridan raises could go to help buy special apps for the iPads the students use inside the classrooms at the center or it could help cover the therapy sessions the center provides free of charge to students.

“In the very near future we are looking to expand,” Carfolo said.

An anonymous donor provided the funds necessary for the expansion that will include a life-skills center, a professional meeting room and additional therapy rooms.

Last year, Sheridan climbed the mountain with his 15-year-old daughter, Brittany Christmas, and his brother, James.

“It was a life-changing experience to be on top of that mountain,” he said.

He had learned about the Mount Kilimanjaro challenge while running the World’s Toughest Mudder race in Neveda. He told his daughter if she wanted to get the latest iPhone, she would have to climb the mountain with him, so she did.

“She’s glad I push her into these things,” he said.

The climb was hard and came with some dizziness and nausea, but they completed the trek.

“The last ascent took 7 hours and 20 minutes,” Sheridan said.

Sheridan prepped for the trek by wearing a heavy climbing pack he keeps in the back of his car. The whole point is to pace yourself.

“You aren’t going fast. You are just walking,” Sheridan said.

Sheridan’s “Climb for a Cause” GoFundMe account can be found at: gofundme.com/g7-climb-for-a-cause.

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