The Pilgrim’s Journey began as a trip to Spain’s Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage route across the northern part of Spain that the faithful have been trekking for hundreds of years. A special young man named Gabriel, with difficulties walking because of cerebral palsy, inspired the first journey with a small group of people who wanted to help him achieve his dream of completing the Camino. Now that group, known as Team Gabriel, is working to make trail access here and in other places a reality for more people living with disabilities.
The Story of Pilgrim’s Journey
The Camino de Santiago is actually several pilgrimage routes through Spain, all leading to Santiago de Compestela, a city that has attracted pilgrims for over a thousand years. Some of the paths actually date to well before Christianity, trails used by Celtic tribes and ancient Romans. For Christians, and for others, walking the Camino is a spiritual experience.
Team Gabriel came together when one young man, Gabriel, decided he wanted to travel the Camino. He told his teacher Kym Gardner, who fully supported Gabriel’s dream. There was a challenge, though. Gabriel has cerebral palsy, and as a result he struggles to walk without assistance. He is mobile with a walker, but it would be no use to him on a rugged trail.
Traveling and walking may be difficult for those with cerebral palsy, but Kym was inspired to help Gabriel achieve his dream. He assembled a small group of people to make it happen. Together they have guided Gabriel using a special chair, pulling and pushing him along the Camino for two summers in a row. They intend to return each year to cover the entire distance.
Making More Trails Accessible
The experience of the pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago has been powerful for every member of Team Gabriel. It has inspired Kym, Gabriel, and other members to expand their adventure to more places and more people. They dream of making the outdoors, hiking trails, and pilgrimage trails accessible to more people who would otherwise be physically unable to trek them.
The trekking chair Team Gabriel uses requires just two people, one to push and one to pull, to give disabled individuals the chance to hike and enjoy the journey. They hope to be able to provide these chairs to others, starting with the Appalachian Trial and along other trails in their home state of North Carolina. The team is working to raise funds to make these chairs available at national and local parks where anyone can use them.
Team Gabriel has a website, Pilgrimsjourney.com, and an online account to take donations from anyone supporting their mission. They hope to spread the word and collect enough money to help make experiences like Gabriel’s more available to anyone who dreams of trekking but can’t physically do it alone.