On October 2, 2017, Michael Connor Feehan passed away at the age of 19. Today we seek to celebrate his life by launching the first phase of a proposed new Boulder Trail in Shelby Farms Park. “Michael’s Rock” will serve as a pilot to demonstrate the value of an outdoor climbing amenity that allows all Memphians without regard to socio-economic barriers to enjoy the sport Michael loved so deeply.
Michael brought joy to everyone around him. And he invested in the hopes, the dreams and the accomplishments of others. He always thought of everyone else, before he ever stopped to think of himself. Underneath his quiet, reserved personality, Michael was able to love his family and friends harder and deeper than most. He always pushed people to go way beyond what they thought they were capable of in order to reach their fullest potential.
Michael excelled both as an athlete in multiple sports and as a dedicated student, graduating with honors and continuing on to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. When it came to any outdoor activity, Michael set the bar high. From ice hockey to ice climbing, snow skiing to wakeboarding, cross-country running to fly fishing, and of course (and especially) rock climbing, Michael was an absolute natural.
Whenever Michael climbed, all the cares and pressures of normal adolescent life fell away and his pure, joyful spirit radiated from every pore, infecting everyone around him with his love of exploration and adventure. While climbing, Michael was united with nature and felt closest to God. For friends who had the privilege to witness this, it was a thing of wonder and a beauty to behold. Every time he climbed, Michael communed with nature in general and the rock in particular. His passion was absolutely infectious.
Through this first pilot boulder of the proposed Shelby Farms Boulder Trail, we seek not only to remember Michael as he was in life but also to pass on to others his passion for climbing and the outdoors. Through this memorial and every person who interacts with it, Michael will live on and continue to inspire people as he did so often in life. “Michael’s Rock” will also give his family and friends a physical place in Memphis to remember him and honor his beautiful, radiant life.
The Shelby Farms Park Boulder Trail:
What is bouldering? It’s a form of climbing that involves short but complex “problems” — a route or sequence of moves — which require only the skills and strength of the body and mind to reach the top. Anyone can do it. Bouldering is usually done on small boulders in the outdoors or artificial rock formations indoors without the use of harnesses, ropes, or any climbing gear besides optional climbing shoes.
“Michael’s Rock” will constitute Phase One of the Shelby Farms Park Bouldering Trail and would be located near the Woodland Discovery Playground, a lively location attractive to all ages with easy access to parking and restrooms. It would entail a 10ft specially-designed artificial boulder with climbable features and holds, easily accessible to all with safe and dynamic climbing problems ready to be enjoyed by anyone up for the challenge. Michael’s Rock and the Bouldering Trail to follow will meet all codes and safety requirements of a playground.
After “Michael’s Rock” has proven successful, more boulders will be established along a walkable (or run-able) path. This layout would create a sense of true outdoor wilderness climbing, mimicking the formations of boulders in a natural setting which Michael loved so much.
(Not the actual boulder — Just a picture of bouldering for reference.)
In the past, rock climbing has been a largely middle to upper class sport. Rock climbing usually requires having the means to purchase expensive gear like harnesses, rope, special climbing shoes, and much more. In cities especially, it is hard for the larger community to have access and exposure to this wonderful sport. A bouldering trail in Shelby Farms Park will guarantee broad access to the the art and sport of climbing for the entire community. This would fulfill Michael’s dream of growing the sport and introducing it to young people who wouldn’t otherwise have had the opportunity.
Our goal is to raise $25,000 through this GoFundMe effort in order qualify for a 1-to-1 match from a local foundation. We hope to dedicate Michael’s Rock on October 2, 2018, the first anniversary of Michael’s passing. This will enable us to turn a day of grief and sadness into one of hope and love. This project will not only allow Michael's family and friends to honor his life, but it will also provide the greater Memphis community access to a sport with lasting and widespread benefits.
Please help us honor the life and passion of a young man so dearly loved by so many. Keep his beautiful spirit alive by donating. Any amount will make a difference.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
- Marc Floresca
- Jordyn Patchett
- Rick Bartl
- Mariann Barksdale
- Shane Horton
Organizer and beneficiary
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