+
True
MDA Live Unlimited

One day, Justin Skeesuck asked his longtime friend Patrick Gray, "Do you want to go across 500 miles of northern Spain with me?"

He was talking about the Camino de Santiago — a pilgrimage hike which, on foot, usually takes about a month to complete.

Today, people of all different religious and cultural backgrounds make the journey for many different reasons, and it would be challenging for anyone.


It was especially challenging for Skeesuck, who doesn't have use of his arms or legs.

[rebelmouse-image 19531035 dam="1" original_size="600x299" caption="Justin with his wife Kristin. Image via MDA/YouTube." expand=1]Justin with his wife Kristin. Image via MDA/YouTube.

Skeesuck uses a wheelchair and has minimal upper arm and upper torso mobility due to multifocal acquired motor axonopathy (MAMA), a type of neuromuscular disorder that affects the body's motor functions.  

However, this wasn't always the case. Before the disorder began to take hold, he and Gray had a very physically active friendship.

As kids, they only lived a few miles apart and would often skateboard to each other's houses. But, once they reached college, Skeesuck's foot began to weaken, so they had to hang up their boards.

The progression of Skeesuck's disorder changed the dynamic of his friendship with Gray forever.

[rebelmouse-image 19531036 dam="1" original_size="1274x634" caption="Gray and Skeesuck. Image via MDA/YouTube." expand=1]Gray and Skeesuck. Image via MDA/YouTube.

The hardest adjustment came in January 2010, when Skeesuck lost the use of most of his upper body. That's when he and Gray went through a dark period where it was incredibly difficult to feel hopeful.

Then, slowly but surely, they began to adapt.

Since he can no longer dress himself, bathe himself, or feed himself, his loved ones — like Gray — stepped up to help him. While certainly challenging, it strengthened their bond in a big way.

[rebelmouse-image 19531037 dam="1" original_size="600x280" caption="Gray pushing Skeesuck in his wheelchair. Image via MDA/YouTube." expand=1]Gray pushing Skeesuck in his wheelchair. Image via MDA/YouTube.

"His willingness to invite me into the rawest and most difficult parts of life demonstrated a trust few people are given," writes Gray in an email.

Skeesuck and Gray's decision to hike the Camino was by far the greatest challenge the friends had undertaken.

[rebelmouse-image 19531038 dam="1" original_size="629x341" caption="The Camino de Santiago. Image via MDA/YouTube." expand=1]The Camino de Santiago. Image via MDA/YouTube.

Skeesuck found himself inextricably pulled to it, but he knew he couldn't make the pilgrimage without his best friend. And when he asked Gray if he'd come with him, he didn't hesitate. Gray simply replied, "Yeah, I'll push you."

What followed were two years of careful planning and 35 days of an adventure they would never forget.

The pilgrimage had never been done by someone in a wheelchair, so their strategy had to be planned down to the smallest detail. In the end, it took over 100 people helping out to make it feasible.

[rebelmouse-image 19531039 dam="1" original_size="700x341" caption="Skeesuck on the trail with his helping hands. Image via MDA/YouTube." expand=1]Skeesuck on the trail with his helping hands. Image via MDA/YouTube.

Gray trained for 12 months, six times a week, pushing himself to the limit. Three months before the journey, he was pushing Skeesuck on all types of terrain, working to increase his endurance up to 12 miles at a time.

Meanwhile, Skeesuck prepped in a different way. The trip was quite expensive, so he created a fundraising campaign to help get them there.

"The journey was made possible by countless individuals providing grassroots support," Skeesuck writes.

They went into it with no expectations. They came back with a newfound strength of those who live life without limits.

[rebelmouse-image 19531040 dam="1" original_size="700x338" caption="Skeesuck and Gray on the trail. Image via MDA/YouTube." expand=1]Skeesuck and Gray on the trail. Image via MDA/YouTube.

The journey was more challenging than they could've anticipated, often in ways that had nothing to do with physical efforts. Both friends missed their families immensely and faced many personal demons along the way. For one thing, it was hard for Skeesuck to watch Gray and fellow helpers push themselves beyond their physical limits.

In the end, however, it taught him that such an offering can be a gift for everyone involved, no matter who's doing the physical pushing.

"Being willing to let someone pick up something for us is just as much a gift for them as it is for us," Gray explains. "The flip side is obvious."

Their life-changing experience inspired Gray and Skeesuck to help push others to achieve more.

[rebelmouse-image 19531041 dam="1" original_size="1200x624" caption="Gray and Skeesuck. Photo via "I'll Push You."" expand=1]Gray and Skeesuck. Photo via "I'll Push You."

That's why they decided to share their story with the world in a new book and documentary film, both entitled "I’ll Push You." They also started Push Inc. to present the film, and they’ve partnered with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), which helps fund neuromuscular disorder and disease research that can lead to more people having experiences like this.

The film will be presented in more than 500 theaters across the county in a special one-night-only release and feature information about MDA and the work the organization does to support families like Justin’s.

That and Push Inc. are part of their post-Camino emphasis on motivating individuals and organizations to strive for what they thought was impossible. For Skeesuck, that starts with asking yourself why you want to get there.

"If your why is strong enough that no matter what you face you will continue on, then it’s time to look at the how," Skeesuck writes.

Everyone needs help every now and again. When that time comes, you'll want to have people you trust at your back, pushing you forward.

Watch Skeesuck and Gray's whole story here:

This beautiful friendship shows just how much is possible when you have a support system.

Posted by Upworthy on Wednesday, September 20, 2017
via Chewy

Adorable Dexter and his new chew toy. Thanks Chewy Claus.

True

Every holiday season, millions of kids send letters asking for everything from a new bike to a pony. Some even make altruistic requests such as peace on Earth or helping struggling families around the holidays.

But wouldn’t the holiday season be even more magical if our pets had their wishes granted, too? That’s why Chewy Claus is stepping up to spread holiday cheer to America’s pets.

Does your dog dream of a month’s supply of treats or chew toys? Would your cat love a new tree complete with a stylish condo? How about giving your betta fish some fresh decor that’ll really tie its tank together?

Or do your pets need something more than mere creature comforts such as life-saving surgery?

Keep ReadingShow less
Celebrity

U.S. Soccer star expertly handles an Iranian reporter’s loaded questions about race.

Tyler Adams’s response proves exactly why he’s the captain of the US soccer team.

Tyler Adams expertly handles Iranian reporter's question

Reporters are supposed to ask the right questions to get to the truth but sometimes it seems sports reporters ask questions to throw you off your game. There's no doubt that this Iranian reporter who was questioning Tyler Adams, the US soccer team captain at the press conference during the World Cup had an agenda that didn't involve getting to the truth.

It's not clear if the questions were designed to throw the young player off of his game or if the goal was embarrassment. It really is hard to tell, but Adams handled the unexpectedly harsh encounter with intelligence and poise when some may have found it justified for him to get angry.

Keep ReadingShow less
Photo by Jeremy Wong on Unsplash

Teen raises $186,000 to help Walmart worker retire.

In America, many people have to work well past the age of retirement to make ends meet. While some of these people choose to work past retirement age because it keeps them active, some older people, like Nola Carpenter, 81, work out of necessity.

Carpenter has been working at Walmart for 20 years, way beyond most people's retirement age just so that she can afford to continue to pay her mortgage. When 19-year-old Devan Bonagura saw the woman looking tired in the break room of the store, he posted a video to his TikTok of Carpenter with a text overlay that said, "Life shouldn't b this hard..." complete with a sad face emoji.

In the video, Carpenter is sitting at a small table looking down and appearing to be exhausted. The caption of the video reads ":/ I feel bad." Turns out, a lot of other people did too, and encouraged the teen to start a GoFundMe, which has since completed.

Keep ReadingShow less

This article originally appeared on 07.22.21


As if a Canada goose named Arnold isn't endearing enough, his partner who came looking for him when he was injured is warming hearts and having us root for this sweet feathered couple.

Cape Wildlife Center in Barnstable, Massachusetts shared the story on its Facebook page, in what they called "a first" for their animal hospital.


Keep ReadingShow less
Family

Mom's praise of audiobooks 'post-baby' has parents sharing how it changed their lives

'Audiobooks have helped me regain a part of myself I worried was lost. Let people read however they can.'

Canva/Twitter

Let people read however they can.

Not too long ago, it seemed like you could only be loyal to one team—team “physical books” or team “e-readers.” There was no neutral territory.

That debate might have dwindled, but it echoes on as people take a stand on physical books versus audiobooks, which have become increasingly popular—nearly half of all Americans currently pay for an audio content subscription, and the average adult in the U.S. listens to digital audio for a little over an hour and a half each day, 28% of that being spoken word. Audiobooks had a particularly big surge during the COVID-19 pandemic, as listeners found the activity more comforting and satisfying than a regular book while under quarantine.

You’d think that the general mindset would be “reading in any form has great benefits, so do whatever you want!” But alas, humans do find odd hills to die on.

Keep ReadingShow less