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September 26, 2011

This was suppose to be our first post about an adventure we recently shared on Grand Island in Lake Superior with Primo Matt. The trip report and pictures are ready to post, but today is not the time. 

Some, if not most people have a hard time understanding "WHY" I usually take the difficult path with Kellisa. This afternoon, with the force of a ton of bricks, my dedication to Kellisa's Path was strengthened to new levels.

Four days ago, one of Kellisa's friends went home from school sick with a fever. Kellisa has known this little girl for over 9 years. In addition to school, their paths have crossed at dance class and summer camps. Today, Kellisa came home from school with the news that her friend passed away.

A beautiful girl traded her wheelchair for a set of wings way too soon!

With a heavy heart, I will attempt to answer "WHY" with a few common questions and answers from encounters I share along Kellisa's Path:

Why do you take Kellisa with you?

Kellisa loves the travel and adventures just as much as me...maybe more.

Why do you go on so many adventures when most people would be happy with just one?

See the previous answer and because I can. There will be a day when I can't get Kellisa to the summit or the bottom of a canyon. Hopefully, that day is many decades away, but it can be tomorrow and I think about that every single day. When I can't get Kellisa to those faraway places, her adventure career will be over and that breaks my heart. Most parents say, "you can do anything or be anything when you grow up" to their kids. I'll never be able to think or say that about Kellisa.

Are you looking to find something on your trips?

Absolutely! I'm looking for a miracle for Kellisa.

A miracle? The next time you fly somewhere, take notice of how many people need a wheelchair for boarding a plane (especially on Southwest). I've been averaging 150+ flights for work every year for many years, plus an additional 20-25 flights a year with Kellisa. I take notice on every flight and there is at least one miracle on 95% of all flights. Unfortunately, Kellisa hasn't been the beneficiary of a miracle yet, but I've devoted myself to trying.

Something amazing happens at 35,000ft. to most of the people who needed that wheelchair to board a plane ahead of everyone else. How do I know these miracles occur? Because 9 out of 10 people who use a wheelchair to board do not need them to get off the plane. Some of the healing is truly amazing and it should be reason for further study by doctors and clergy:  

I've seen people run to catch the tram to the terminal while dragging 3 carry-on bags when two hours earlier they needed a wheelchair.

I've seen people run to baggage claim and walk off with two overloaded suitcases when two hours earlier they needed a wheelchair.

I've had people push me while holding their carry-ons to walk off the plane first when two hours earlier they needed a wheelchair.

When I see people faking disabilities, I hope Karma will cause these people to someday wheel a mile in Kellisa's wheelchair. Does that make me a horrible person or just a frustrated father who loves his daughter with everything he has?

Here's a tip- look for airport wheelchairs at the gate. If someone can walk into the airport to get a wheelchair from an airline, they will most likely be walking off the plane without a wheelchair. I know there are probably a few non-disabled people that really need the extra help for long walks and I'm OK with that, but that is not the case most of the time. 

Kellisa always needs her wheelchair and I anxiously await the day she walks off the plane. Until that day, I will always have an extra reason to fly as often as possible with Kellisa. In my thoughts and prayers, I offer to be the last person on every flight for the rest of my life and love that middle seat between two huge smelly guys with no overhead space for my backpack, if that miracle would just come through for Kellisa. There is no greater picture in my mind than Kellisa's proud smile as she gets out of her chair and "bring feet" to walk off a plane for the first time.

Here's a picture from our recent 5 day trip to the upper Midwest. This is Kellisa and our mountain of gear I have to navigate alone through the airports:

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