Team Reeve Spotlight: Ryan Cholnoky - Blog - Reeve Foundation

For Team Reeve member Ryan Cholnoky, being active and participating in sports has always been a huge part of life. As a former college athlete and active skier, mountaineer, and marathon runner, his ability to push himself both mentally and physically is what motivates him in all aspects of his life. Ryan saw he could take his active lifestyle and use it for good, by teaming up with the Reeve foundation after hearing Team Reeve members speak on the camaraderie and importance of peer to peer fundraising. While he has no personal tie to paralysis or spinal cord injury, Ryan decided that it is important to make his mountaineering achievements more meaningful by putting a cause behind them.

“Learning that 1 in 50 people in the United States are diagnosed with some form of paralysis is very humbling, especially since my entire life has been based around being active,” Ryan said. “I can’t imagine facing an obstacle like paralysis. The pain it can cause not only the affected, but also family and friends, is often not fully understood until it is too close to home.”

This year, Ryan will be climbing Europe's tallest peak, Mt. Elbrus. The mountain stands at 18,500 ft and to make things more challenging, he will carry he skis to the summit so he can ski from the top. His main goal is to help Team Reeve raise funds and awareness for spinal cord research to edge closer to a viable and permanent treatments for all forms of paralysis. This feat will consist of a six-day journey where he will spend several days doing acclimatization hikes in the Caucasus Mountains of Russia to prepare for a possible twelve-hour summit push.

This will not be the first mountain Ryan climbs, nor the last. Ryan’s personal motivation for this climb is driven by his desire to complete the “Explorer’s Grand Slam”. It's a feat only sixty six people in the world have accomplished and includes climbing the seven tallest summits in each continent as well as reaching both the North and South pole. However, it is Ryan’s desire to pay it forward by supporting a cause he truly believes in that is driving him to tackle Mt. Elbrus for Team Reeve, for which he aims to raise $10,000 for the Reeve Foundation.

“Undertaking this challenge, especially one that has multiple steps, is much more meaningful to me knowing it will have a longer-term impact on many people around the world,” he explains. “I like the fact that I’m able to take this opportunity of fulfilling a personal goal and extend it to be a part of something bigger than myself.”

Even with all of these motivations propelling Ryan forward, summiting Mt. Elbrus will be no easy task. The physical and mental capability this climb requires in and of itself motivates him, knowing he is fortunate to be able to take this on in the first place. “This is not an ability that everyone has, and one that can be taken away within seconds. My goal is to help Team Reeve eradicate the disability of paralysis and to make it an affliction that future generations will only read about.”

Having run marathons for Team Reeve in the past, Ryan is no stranger to endurance sports, but these climbs pose a different challenge. “When you’re climbing, there is no one on the sidelines to cheer you on, so being able to remind myself that I am doing it for more than just myself really helps as climbing can pose huge mental challenges,” said Ryan. “It can be as cold as -25 degrees and our summit push is a possible twelve hour day. Although some may consider this an impressive goal, I am far more impressed by those who battle paralysis yet have the resilience to continue to live their lives to the fullest.” To prepare for this summit, Ryan will take on a 16-week long high-intensity program that focuses on endurance conditioning.

Although some may be less inclined to risk frostbite, Ryan is proud to set an example for all that there are many ways to give back and have fun while doing so. From marathons to mountaineering, he is showing that there are a multitude of ways to raise awareness and funds for spinal cord injuries. “When you believe in a cause and feel strongly about it, there are many ways to take your own talents and passions to use them for positive change. It’s exciting to be able to do something you love and know that it’s for a good cause.”

Support Ryan's climb for Team Reeve.

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This blog was written by the Reeve Foundation for educational purposes. For more information please reach out to

Reeve Staff

The opinions expressed in these blogs are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.