From Rangers to rocks

Elizabeth Howe
August 17, 2018 - 3:31 pm

Photo courtesy of Tara Shupe Photography

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Germany to Missouri to Afghanistan and back, there’s one aspect of Andrew Potter’s life that never changed: rock climbing. So when he left the military after three tours in Afghanistan, he knew exactly how he would continue serving others.

“My father was stationed in Germany in the late 90’s. I first started climbing over there, and I loved it so it stuck,” said Potter, founder of RoKC. “It picked up a lot in college. I went to the University of Central Missouri, and an ROTC friend of mine and I started the University of Central Missouri climbing club.”

While Potter continued climbing, it temporarily took a backseat when he commissioned into the Army in 2009. He deployed for the first time in 2012 before doing two more tours with the Rangers.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Potter

“On that third tour I ended up climbing in Afghanistan a decent amount,” Potter said. “When I realized I didn’t want to make the military a career, I still wanted to find a way to serve others. I wanted to do something I loved, but still be able to serve the community in some fashion.”

This was the beginning of what would become RoKC.

“I realized I could do it,” Potter said. “So while I was still in the Army, still deploying back and forth overseas, in my evenings and spare time I’d write my business plan and do financial projections and market research.”

Potter left the military in February 2015 and opened RoKC’s first location in North Kansas City, Mo. in April 2016. Since then, Potter has opened a second location and has a third location in progress. Through it all, Potter has maintained a commitment to serving the community and has made sure veterans have a special place at RoKC.

“Coming from a military background, what I found was that service members or first responders or anyone who has been called to serve — a lot of times they want a community,” said Potter. “If they left the military and lost that community, they can come into a place like ours and be 100 percent welcomed into a different community that follows the same principles of wanting to serve a greater purpose. Climbing is just a really fun way to do that.”

Photo courtesy of Tara Shupe Photography

In addition to being a community for all climbers regardless of skill level, RoKC supports a number of veteran nonprofits.

“We support a multitude of different veteran projects,” said Potter. “We’ve hosted veteran nonprofits in our facilities to do leadership workshops or team building exercises. We’ve taken veteran organizations outside to climb. These types of activities often help break down some of the barriers that can come with being a veteran.”

“When we do have veterans that walk through the door that may have never tried this before, think they can’t — we’re here to serve them as best as possible,” Potter added. “It doesn’t matter if they have a disability or a fear of heights or any other barrier. We’re here to serve them and help them work through it so they can enjoy climbing just like anyone else.”

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