Thursday, June 10, 2010

Crossing the Country for a Great Cause via Power Wheelchair

I'd like to introduce you to Matt Eddy and his buddy Ron. Two guys on a cross country trek. Matt driving his power wheelchair, using a ventilator, determined to get to California. Ron, his respiratory therapist and all around support person, determined to help Matt reach his goals of setting a Guinness World Record for the coast-to-coast journey by wheelchair. Together they are raising awareness and money for Matt's Place - their efforts to provide independent housing for people with severe disabilities capable of living on their own.

Matt and Ron had a celebratory send-off from Lynn, MA on June 6, where Matt contemplated the Atlantic Ocean (above) before departing. Traveling on back roads and accompanied by at least one other person and an RV, they plan to arrive in Long Beach, CA sometime in October. Though this may seem wildly ambitious for someone with Duchennes Muscular Distrophy who can only move 2 fingers, Matt and Ron succeeded in completing this journey in 2008 - proof of their heartland crossing in the photo above. I can only imagine that since then, these two have missed being on the road together, despite its hardships.

And hardships have been part of the first week of their journey. An underpowered wheelchair, a dying support van, battery problems with the video camera attached to Matt's chair, and crazy rainstorms have slowed them down. While they were lingering in the Boston area fixing things, I cruised Route 20 from Springfield to Sturbridge watching for them where their itinerary suggested they would be. It was a meditation of the road, a slice of America. In that 30 mile stretch I found urban zones, country highway, neighborhoods, roadside attractions and distractions of all types. Hills, curves, wide shoulders, narrow shoulders, no shoulders, sidewalks - even without seeing them, I gained a real appreciation for the rigors of traveling by wheelchair on the road. Go Matt!

I'm hoping to catch up with them in a day or two. You can follow their journey via facebook and Matt's online journal, support them with a donation, and read the Boston Globe article on their departure day. The fastest updates may be on rollin' across america if like me, you hope to meet them, sign their support vehicle for a $1, and cheer them on.

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