MERIDIAN -- A local family is changing lives 1,200 miles at a time: the Ogdens set out with a mission to ride along the West Coast and raise awareness and money for wheelchairs to be delivered to those in need in developing countries.
"The only thing that kept us pushing so hard was knowing that we're doing this for someone else," Chair the Hope co-founder Nathan Ogden said.
The family conquered their goal in 11 days, inspiring those who heard their story to persevere, despite disabilities and fears. It has been about two weeks since the Ogdens finished their ride. It didn't come without challenges, but they say they always had their mission at the forefront. Through the "Chair the Hope" bike ride, the Ogdens set out to raise money for the Wheelchair Foundation because they know first-hand how critical a wheelchair is.
"It was a successful, amazing ride that we'll all remember and we know that everything we did will change someone's life forever," Ogden added.
The Ogdens set out on a 1,200-mile trek from Bend, Oregon to the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles to prove you can do hard things.
"We averaged about 115 or 120 miles a day," said Heather Ogden, Nathan's wife and co-founder of Chair the Hope.
It was a journey sparked only four months prior, by a spontaneous notion.
"The thought was kind of given to me of: this will make a difference in people's lives," Heather added.
A journey she felt called to, and one that the whole family jumped on.
Sixteen years ago, Nathan broke his neck in a ski accident on Mt. Bachelor in Oregon.
"Three days before Christmas while snow skiing I came off a jump wrong and I shattered my neck and was paralyzed- paralyzed everywhere initially," Nathan said. "And over the next year, I gained back most of my upper-body strength, and my legs starting to move a tiny bit."
Then, Nathan says, he came down with pneumonia because his lungs were weaker. He went unconscious in his sleep and was rushed to the hospital. While he was there, he says he fell off an x-ray table while he was still unconscious, and broke his neck again.
"After the second neck break a year after the first one, I lost use of my hands, triceps and everything from the chest down. And I haven't been able to regain any of that."
His message through life as a quadriplegic and through this adventure: do not let excuses stand in the way of your ambitions.
"This was hard, but we learned a whole lot," Nathan said.
"People say you can't do it in this amount of time, but you actually can do it if you work really hard," said the Ogdens' ten-year-old daughter, Cortlyn.
The family of six is not a bike-riding family, they say. They only owned two bikes when they decided to pursue this journey -- and both had flat tires. The family only trained for about a month once they got their road bikes and gear.
"The whole project was completely based off of faith because it was a very overwhelming, huge project," Heather said.
Their motivation through the ride: changing lives by raising money to give wheelchairs, hope and independence to people in under-served areas of the world, who don't have access to them otherwise.
"You just think of who you're going to do it for and what cause you're doing it for," 12-year-old Malani Ogden said.
The family had pictures from the Wheelchair Foundation of people in need in developing countries receiving wheelchairs. That was motivation for them each and every morning, Malani said.
"If we wanted to give up or we just couldn't do it or whatever, we just looked at them and knew that we could do it. We can do hard things."
"That's what was pushing us, driving us. That's what got us up those hills," Nathan added.
Through the Wheelchair Foundation, just $150 purchases a wheelchair to be delivered to an individual in need in a developing country.
"That now can go to these individuals that are sitting on a dirt floor and they're not able to go live life the way they want to. They don't have that agency. And this will allow that," Nathan said.
Along with more than $30,000 in donations, several businesses sponsored Chair the Hope and thousands supported them through social media.
While Heather and Nathan say it was amazing to see their family pull together and tackle this task, their ultimate goal is to hand-deliver the wheelchairs they rode all those miles for.
"Our hope is to be able to take our family now that they've ridden the miles for this cause, to then be able to take them and actually help put together wheelchairs and lift the people up and put them in the chairs that they rode for," Heather said. "I think that will be the most rewarding and sweetest experience of this whole ride. Being able to see that reward at the end of having people get their wheelchairs and have that new independent life is going to be amazing."
The Ogdens hired a film crew to document their adventure, and are planning on showing the film in about a month. Through the ride, they've raised more than $30,000 through donations, and are trying to get to $40,000 through a matching donation.
"We're going to keep pushing until we can get as many wheelchairs out there as we possibly can," Nathan said.
You can still donate to the cause at ChairTheHope.com.
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