A disabled man whose friends carried him on their backs throughout Europe are to tackle a new adventure and backpack him through CHINA.
Wheelchair-user Kevan Chandler, 32, was born with spinal muscular atrophy, a condition that impacts the area of the nervous system that controls muscle movement.
Kevan, a public speaker, always wanted to visit Europe but his worries about wheelchair accessibility put his trip on hold.
But the dream became a reality in summer 2016, when a group of his friends encouraged him to explore the continent on their backs.
The group of six modified a child’s carrier to support 75lb Kevan and took it in turns to carry the backpack.
Kevan said the adventure, which saw the group travel to France, Ireland and the UK, was a life-changing experience.
The trip inspired Kevan and his friends Ben Duvall, 28, Tom Troyer, 30, Dan Tenney, 32, Luke Thompson, 28 and Danny Qin, 16, to travel the length and breadth of China in the autumn.
The six pals, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA, will depart on August 30 and visit Guilin, Luoyang and Beijing during the three-week trip.
Along the way, the group plans to volunteer in care centers run by charity Show Hope, an organization which supports children with disabilities in China.
Kevan said: “Four of the guys who went on the Europe trip are coming this time too.
“On our travels, so many people picked up on the idea of what we were doing, which was people helping people, and it didn’t need an explanation.
“We decided to try China this time because there is even more of a cultural and language barrier, but we thought our message would be just as clear and we could still have an impact.
“On our trip we plan to visit three cities, Guilin, Luoyang and Beijing.
“Through our work with We Carry Kevan, we’ve connected with an organization called Show Hope, which runs a number of care homes for children with disabilities in China.
“That’s why we’re visiting Guilin and Luoyang, because it would be nice to connect with these children and be an encouragement to kids with disabilities who’ve probably never met an adult like them.
“It’s a huge part of why we’ve chosen China for our next trip.
“We also plan to see the Great Wall in Beijing and Shaolin Temple – the typical tourist things. But we also want to take it as we go. If there’s a mountain we want to climb we will do it.”
Kevin, originally from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, said his European trip was inspired by the determination of his great group of pals.
He said: “I’ve always wanted to travel and to see these places that inspired me so much but a lot of them weren’t wheelchair accessible.
“I put it to the back of my mind and said maybe someday. I have a group of friends that are just as crazy as me though. They were more determined than I was to make it work.
“It was such an awesome trip. We visited Paris in France and in the UK we stayed just outside London.
“To be able to see the countryside that inspired some of my favorite writers like CS Lewis was wonderful.
“We traveled to Skellig Michael in Ireland, a sixth-century monastery – that was a really profound moment. It was such a great trip.”
Kevan admitted a moment of self-doubt when the group became involved in a car accident while in Ireland and he broke his nose.
He added: “We got into a car accident in Ireland during our last trip and that was one of the low points. I fell in the van and broke my nose and I almost broke my foot.
“I was upset because I kept thinking ‘I’ve failed’ because I wanted to prove I could do this and nothing would go wrong.
“But I realized that wasn’t it at all. I wanted to prove that traveling like this could be done. The experience was life-changing.”
Since the last trip, Kevan founded his organization We Carry Kevan, which aims to encourage wheelchair users to think outside the box in terms of accessibility.
The organization is even working with German carrier company Deuter to create a professionally designed version of Kevan’s carrier.
Kevan said: “Since the last trip, we’ve been working with the company to make a more professional version which is so great. They’re hoping to put it into production in the fall.
“It’s a creative way to make the world more accessible, but it obviously won’t work for everyone.
“That’s why we’re hoping We Carry Kevan will inspire a network of people to find creative ways to make things possible, or at least to try not to limit themselves.
“We’re hoping this trip to China will be even more fulfilling and spread our message even further.”
To donate to We Carry Kevan’s campaign visit: https://www.gofundme.com/wecarrykevanchina