Hiking the Grand Canyon in a wheelchair sounds like something daredevil Evel Kneivel would attempt, right? It may sound a little crazy, but when it’s your dream, you go for it. You do what it takes, you find a way, and—thanks to around thirty old and new friends—the next thing you know, the cool river water that flows through the Canyon floor is rushing through your toes.
All 14-year-old Anthony wanted was to dip his feet in the Colorado River. That was his dream, and the 30-plus group of friends and volunteers, many of whom didn’t even know the boy, assembled just to help him achieve that dream. Anthony suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and only a few months ago he became restricted to a wheelchair after losing the use of his legs.
Anthony’s journey began with the treacherous 10-mile hike to the floor of the Grand Canyon, long-recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World and a daunting challenge for the outdoor adventurer. The trip down the rocky, steep trail took about six hours, as Anthony had to stop repeatedly to have his back and legs stretched, and paramedics had to monitor his oxygen and make sure that he got the proper amount of food and water.
The boy used a specialized wheelchair with harnesses and support bars, which resembled a litter or “sedan chair” used to carry kings and queens in ancient Rome and Egypt. Carriers who helped navigate the chair around curves, over difficult, craggy terrain and through water, would switch off every 20 minutes to ensure there was always a fresh set of arms helping Anthony on his trek.
As you’d expect, Anthony’s parents and younger brother joined the team as he lived his dream. The group’s first sight of the Colorado River at the canyon floor was breathtaking for everyone, and for Anthony, the day got even better when the team handed him a letter from his grandparents. The letter had been sent along for this purpose and spoke of how proud they were of Anthony’s courage and determination. They said that his positive attitude and outlook are infectious.
Anthony’s mother Jill said, “He’s so happy and good. He’s always the most adventurous one. He’s the one that’s always like, ‘Come on, let’s go.’ I have to remind him he’s in a chair and we’re not!”
Indeed, the group was so humbled by Anthony’s excitement that nobody complained at all when the trip back out of the canyon took more than two days, with the need to rotate carrying crews reduced to 15 minutes at a stretch.
Everyone agreed the odyssey was worth it just to make Anthony’s dream come true. Here’s the news story about his extraordinary hike through the Grand Canyon. What’s the most ambitious journey you’ve taken?