It all started with a jump.
One day in June 2015, Gavin MacCall and his 4-year-old daughter Lylah were spending a rare day inside their Northglenn, Colorado, home watching NBC’s American Ninja Warrior when Lylah suddenly decided to become a warrior herself.
“She moved this one green chair we have and just jumped from the back over the front of it,” says MacCall, 40, a photographer for a boxing company. “I never told her how to do it. I never showed her how to do it. She just kind of ran up, put her arms on it, hopped herself up and over.”
Inspired, Gavin decided to create a mini Ninja Warrior training course inside their home, using his sofa as a warped wall.
He posted the video on Youtube and it got about 700,000 views, he says.
So he decided to build a larger one in their backyard.
“I was scouring Craigslist and just keeping an eye out for free materials, and where I work I got probably 25 pallets that I used throughout the course just as free material,” he says. “The whole course probably ended up costing me $40, $45 just because I had to buy the rope for the cargo net. Then I had to buy the plywood for the warped wall. Everything else I just got for free.”
That’s when things really exploded. He posted the video — which shows Lylah making her way through the course, cheered on by an audience of her favorite stuffed animals and narrated by her dad — on Reddit and it quickly became a hit.
It has more than one million comments on it, he says.
“I can’t get through them all,” he says. “I sat there one night for two hours and read comments, one after the other. I was in tears. This is crazy how this is inspiring people to want to do this themselves.”
It also made him realize how he is building confidence in his daughter without even realizing it.
“I’ve never really studied how to be a dad,” he says. “A lot of the comments were about what this course is doing — teaching her confidence and being able to learn to try again and do those types of things and not be scared to try something that looks dangerous or difficult.”
It’s also something they can do together.
“When it’s warm, we’re out there all day,” he says. “I’ve gotten rejuvenated and I get my exerise and I don’t have to go to a gym or anything like that. I get to be a kid again.”
Next up? An even bigger and better training course for his daughter. He already raised $1,000 for it via a GoFundMe account.
“I’m planning on a salmon ladder then I’m probably doing a jump-hang, which is a hallway where you jumped then you put your feet out …and you basically climb up the wall,” he says. “I’m going to try to come up with a different version of the quintuple steps, which are the first obstacle that’s been in all the Ninja Warrior courses. I have to figure out some other fun things— the balance beam. I’ll use the cargo net for something. I didn’t spend eight hours tying that cargo net just to use it once.”
Gavin, who is divorced, says the courses are making him and his daughter closer than ever.
“All I really have in my life right now is her and I can focus my attention on what she needs and it shows,” he says. “Just the other night she read a whole book. It’s a kid’s book, but it’s got words in it and she’s only in kindergarten.”
Nicole Weisensee Egan