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500 Miles, Two Best Friends, One Wheelchair

Two life-long friends experience a deeper meaning of friendship as one pushes another in a wheelchair through Spain's Camino de Santiago. Read Transcript


[MUSIC PLAYING]

If you have those moments in your life, where you just know,

inside and out, it's something you're supposed to do.

I just knew.

I just knew.

NARRATOR: For Justin Skeesuck, it

would be the epic adventure he and lifelong friend, Patrick

Gray, had talked about for years,

a 500-mile trek on the legendary El Camino de Santiago.

For centuries, people have been making the pilgrimage that

traces the steps of James the apostle,

from the foot of the French Pyrenees to the Santiago

de Compostela cathedral on the west coast of Spain.

Every year, roughly 250,000 hike the trail, but very few

do it in a wheelchair

I said, hey, do you want to go across 500 miles

in northern Spain with me?

And his answer was, yeah, I'll push you.

PATRICK GRAY: I didn't have any other thought then,

yeah, I'll push you.

Because we've just shared so much of life together,

and it was just one more opportunity

to build more memories.

NARRATOR: It's a friendship that started 40 years ago.

Together they have supported one another

through tournament's, graduations, milestones,

and even disease.

In 2004, Justin was diagnosed with multifocal acquired motor

axonopathy, an autoimmune disease that

has slowly robbed him of all of his motor skills,

and will eventually take his life.

It has left him completely dependent on his wife, Kirsten,

for daily care.

But Patrick didn't give it a second thought.

PATRICK GRAY: We didn't think about the challenge.

We had no idea how difficult it was going to be.

It was just, OK, the decision's been made.

It's important to him, so it's important to me.

We'll figure it out.

NARRATOR: The hike is a five week

trek that traverses mountains, rivers, and desert.

Training and preparing for the trip would take two years.

Overcoming the doubt that crept in every now and then

took prayer.

Pat would be completely freaked out.

I would be more calm and just kind of like, OK,

we're going to get through this.

And then, you know, I would be then freaked out,

and he would be calm.

Luckily, we were never in the same cycle together.

Talking about like two hamsters on wheels,

but they were going at different paces Different points

at different points in time.

But we had never--

we had never prayed so hard, I think, ever, ever, together.

NARRATOR: Then, in June of 2014, they

said goodbye to their families in Boise, Idaho,

and boarded their flight to Paris, France.

Should be the two of us.

NARRATOR: With them was a film crew documenting their journey

to raise awareness for Justin's disease.

Two days later, as they made their way up the Pyrenees

Mountains, reality set in.

PATRICK GRAY: The trail consistently

pitches one way or the other, and so we're

always on a little bit of an angle to the right or the left.

So Justin's constantly having to move back and forth

to shift his weight, while communicating to me

what he's going to see coming up.

Come on.

Come on.

[BREATHING HEAVILY]

JUSTIN SKEESUCK: We had some very steep declines,

and we had safety harnesses attached to me

and they'd have to--

two or three people have to get behind Patrick.

Stop.

Stop, Pat.

Pat, Stop.

I'm stopped.

Pat, back up.

Back?

OK.

JUSTIN SKEESUCK: My wheelchair weighs about 250 pounds with me

in it and the weight of gear, and the chair

itself or whatnot.

So it's quite heavy to, you know, pull you straight down--

straight down the hill--

and it's very slow moving and going up.

One, two, three.

PATRICK GRAY: There were moments where we literally thought

this might be it for the day.

Like we're done.

Mechanical malfunction.

WOMAN: Oh gosh.

It's hard not to feel like a burden in this.

[GRUNTING]

Oh, I'm cramping.

You know, I don't know how much time he has.

You know.

It's really hard to let somebody do that for you.

NARRATOR: But, as only good friends can,

they kept each other going.

Yo, what's up, bro?

[LAUGHING]

The dynamics that we just kind of just embrace,

vulnerability, accountability, really

being honest with each other.

Kind of unabashed honesty about who we're at, what we feel.

If we don't agree with something,

just throwing it all out there.

And being OK, A, saying it, and, B, being OK receiving it,

has just created this dynamic that

exists where there's no fear.

There's no fear within our relationship,

and that, I think, is where God has really

been able to mold us into kind of one unit.

JUSTIN SKEESUCK: We both took our expectations off the table,

and however that played out is however it played out.

And if he just needed a listening ear,

he has a listening ear.

If he needs somebody to laugh with, somebody to laugh with.

Need somebody cry with, he needs somebody to cry with.

I just wanted to be there for him.

PATRICK GRAY: OK, seriously, Dude, it's time to walk

[LAUGHING]

I'm just faking it, guys.

NARRATOR: But their honesty and trust

wasn't the only thing that got them through the journey.

[GRUNTING]

God was with us every step of the way.

Someone will show up out of nowhere.

High five.

PATRICK GRAY: You have those, you call them angels,

and whether they're angels or not, you know, I don't know,

but there are people who God's using.

We met people from 27 countries, we had over 100 people help us.

So think about that, at least 100 moments,

or periods of time, where people were placed

in our path for a reason.

NARRATOR: With God, and the help of complete strangers,

Justin and Patrick finished their pilgrimage in 35 days.

Looking back, they have come to appreciate their friendship

even more.

For them, it's not about sacrifice or humility.

It's about love.

PATRICK GRAY: This whole journey has revealed to me

the truth that we are so much better together

than we are alone.

JUSTIN SKEESUCK: We're meant to live life together,

and that's where God calls us to be.

It's way more exciting, way more fun.

Pushes you in ways you never thought you could go,

or who you could be as a person.

PATRICK GRAY: So often, the beauty that God wants us to see

is within one another.

The opportunity for provision is one another.

The opportunity for experiencing God's love

is to love his point into our wife, or our husband,

or our children.

It's community, it's embracing others and loving them,

and just a recklessly, you know, passionate way.

NARRATOR: Since returning from Spain,

Justin and Patrick founded Push Inc,

an organization that helps groups and individuals achieve

their dreams.

Together, the two have co-written their first book,

inspired audiences as motivational speakers,

and are eagerly awaiting the documentary,

aptly titled, "I'll Push You," which

will be released this October.

You can see God at work.

You can.

You can see God at work, right in front of us.

When you ask God to take control of your life,

hold on, because you're in for a wild ride.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

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