Rotary’s motto is “service above self” and Christa Brelsford, the speaker at Rotary Club of Los Alamos’ meeting Tuesday, exemplifies this motto.
The Santa Fe Institute Post Doctorate and champion rock climber lost her right leg when a building collapsed on her during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. In response, Breslford started Christa’s Angels, an initiative to support the friends and colleagues she worked alongside in Haiti. Additionally, she raised almost $5,000 for the Haiti Partners Children’s Academy and partner school through a fundraiser called Christa Climbs for Haiti on Crowdrise, a website that utilizes crowdsourcing to raise money for charitable causes.
In 2010, Breslford had joined her brother in working for a literacy and environmental organization when the earthquake hit. It took two men to shift and dig through the rubble to find her before transporting her on a motorcycle to a United Nations Peace Keeping Center. She was eventually sent to a hospital in Miami.
“So I had better days,” Breslford said. Still, five days after leaving the hospital, Breslford was back at the gym and two weeks later she went ice climbing.
“Climbing was, for me, how I recovered,” she said.
Breslford won gold in the Paraclimbing World Championship amputee leg category. The competition was held in September in Spain. On top of that, she had a baby and continues her work at the Santa Fe Institute.
Brelsford told club members that she has been climbing since she was 12 years old. She convinced her parents that this was a good idea. Earning a gold medal in the Paraclimbing World Championship “was fun;” she said. “For me it was about what’s possible.”
The experience also inspired Breslford to give back to those who helped save her. “I really wanted to find a way to make good from it,” she said, adding that Christa’s Angels has helped with education endeavors in Haiti.