|Justin and Pat (photo from their Facebook page)|
Here’s Mary Van Poolen, [Easter Seals] Marketing and Corporate Relations intern, with [a] guest blog post.
I’ll push you
by Mary Van Poolen
Easter Seals Project ACTION staff members were at the Every Body Walk! Summit in Washington, D.C. last month and spoke with two courageous friends about the incredible journey they are about to undertake. From June 1 to July 12, 2014, Justin Skeesuck and his best friend Patrick Gray plan on taking a 500 mile trek across northern Spain. The two men were born a little over 24 hours apart and were friends from the get-go.
These life-long friends have a deep relationship that spans over 38 years. They tell their supporters, “We travel together; we live life together through ups and downs, and most importantly, will do anything for each other.”
Normally the Camino de Santiago walk takes travelers about 4 weeks, but because of Justin and Pat’s circumstances, it will take them 5-6 weeks. Justin has an auto-immune disorder that attacks his nervous system. He has loss of movement in his legs (and, more recently, his arms and hands) and uses a wheelchair. Pat reflects on the day they began planning their journey, “We were sitting in his living room and…uh, he asked me, ‘you wanna go across 500 miles of northern Spain with me?’ and I said, ‘I’ll push you.’”
Justin is a motivational speaker, an accessible travel consultant, and a trainer who inspires and instructs people with disabilities how to overcome challenges when traveling. Patrick, “the best friend,” is a program manager for St. Luke’s Hospital in Boise, Idaho. He will not only use his physical strength to push his best friend 500 miles on this journey, but will use his skills as a registered nurse to help Justin with his everyday needs.
The Camino used to be a Roman trade route until it became a Christian pilgrimage to Santiago, Spain. Justin and Pat will be leaving from St. Jean Pied de Port on the French side and ending in Santiago de Compostela on the west coast of Spain. They are taking the journey to actively promote physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health and wellness.
Justin and Pat want to inspire others with the world changing message that there is more to life than just sitting around and complaining about our daily challenges; life is too short and dreams are achievable if you only try! The two live by this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
In partnership with Emota, a digital storytelling company, Pat and Justin are creating a “real-time” documentary covering the 500 mile wheelchair journey, and you can read more about it all now at their I’ll Push You website.
I am amazed by the strength that Justin and Pat have both as individuals and as friends and hope their story will be heard, shared and end up impacting the lives of others. “This turned into fuel to do more,” says Justin, “to dream big, that’s a world changing message.”