Matt Kluender, Stevens Point, and his uncle, Don Kluender, Marshfield, who started on a two-month, 3,000-mile wheelchair trip from Stevens Point to Long Beach, Calif., Friday, June 15, were forced to return to central Wisconsin sooner than expected after a wreck destroyed their support trailer.
The Kluenders were just outside of Cameron, Mo., on the morning of Monday, July 2, when a Jeep Cherokee drove into the equipment trailer being pulled behind the project’s support vehicle. No one was hurt in the crash, but the trailer and the supplies it contained, including extra batteries and wheelchairs, was a “total loss,” said Matt Kluender.
According to the Cameron Citizen-Observer, the van was traveling westbound at about 10 miles per hour when “61-year-old Janice Watkins of Cameron… traveling westbound in a 2004 Jeep Cherokee… ran into the trailer with the front end of the vehicle becoming lodged in the trailer.”
The van was damaged but drivable. Kluender and his team returned to central Wisconsin the morning of Sunday, July 8, after waiting a few days in a hotel for someone to drive down with another vehicle to pick up Don’s mobility scooter.
Matt Kluender said he was disappointed but not deterred by the setback. “I’m going to rebuild and head down to that location (in Missouri), and start again,” he said, noting it will likely be next summer when the trip resumes. “I was having a blast out there. I met a lot of really nice people.”
One of those people included Brent Chapman, a professional bass fisherman from La Crosse who had met Kluender earlier in the day July 2 and came across the accident scene. Kluender said Chapman paid for two nights of the hotel stay for the Handi-Able team in Cameron.
Matt, who has brittle bone disease, was making the trip using his electric wheelchair as a way to help bring awareness to the disabled and to show they can achieve their dreams. His uncle Don, who has health issues that limit his mobility, accompanied him on an electric scooter. They were accompanied by the van and trailer, which had the logos of local businesses that helped sponsor the trip and that people signed along the way.
People can see photos and read updates from Kluender’s trip on Facebook by searching for “Handi-able Project.” Additional information is available the project’s website at www.handi-able.com.