Yesterday I witnessed something amazing…the fulfilment of a man’s selfless dream. Patrick Gray is an extraordinary person. For those that don’t know, his best friend has a degenerative disease and is now in a wheelchair. They have known each other since they were born and have the most incredible friendship. Their bond is so rare.
In June, 2014 Patrick took his friend Justin Skeesuck on the Camino Frances pilgrimage. They documented it all and wrote a book (both called “I’ll Push You”).
It is a wonderful story. I urge you to read it and/or watch the film.
Anyway, this led them to believe more people should have the opportunity to get out into the world and really experience the freedom and challenges on the Camino De Santiago. And so, “the Accessible Camino” was born. Dealing with the logistics and drawing on their previous experience, they have managed to create a monster and their first camino with a band of volunteers and wheelchair pilgrims was completed yesterday.
I was lucky enough to be in the Plaza D’Obridoiro as they arrived and wheeled up to the front of the cathedral. There was no dry eye to be found and a huge crowd had gathered to await their moment of victory. At the rear of the group was my friend Tony and his RSL buddy Graeme from the Blue Mountains in Australia. Graeme’s face, peering out from between the corks hanging from his hat, was one of pure pride and delight. He had an Aussie green and gold flag on his lap and he was absolutely beaming. Tony was soaking up the moment with raw emotion in his eyes. It was beautiful to see. He gave me a quick sweaty hug and I felt his heart beating. I will never forget this moment!
The logistics of this endeavour and the true belief that it was entirely possible astounds me. The Camino is not a lovely walking path. It challenges the best of us and weather is unpredictable. I am in awe of Justin and Patrick, and what they have achieved. After chatting with them later, I hear they have more planned for next year and are already booked out. Wow.