A Columbus man who was an active outdoorsman until he broke his neck 15 years ago while trying to retrieve a boy’s lost kite in the ocean is hiking the Appalachian Trail despite being a quadriplegic, thanks to financial and physical support from friends.
O’Ree Crittenden, 44, and his crew ranging from five to 10 members left Saturday from Springer Mountain on their trek, scheduled to take parts of 12 days to cover 87.6 miles on the Georgia section of the trail before they arrive Sept. 7 in Dicks Creep Gap.
Lee Griffith and Chad Pepper, two of his buddies from Shaw High School, led the fundraiser to buy a special wheelchair and other equipment enabling Crittenden to experience this adventure. Before the Ledger-Enquirer featured their story this spring, they had collected $1,725 from 31 donors in two months on their GoFundMe.com page. As of Monday, they have collected $15,725 from 82 donors in seven months.
The special wheelchair is called a TrailRider, a one-wheeler with an all-terrain tire that moves like a rickshaw, with one person pushing in the rear and another pulling in front.
Along the 7.1-mile stretch from the Hawk Mountain shelter to the Gooch Mountain shelter, Pepper told the Ledger-Enquirer in a text message Monday, “I’m in awe of the guys doing the heavy lifting. They made unbelievable time yesterday. Today is going to be a tough day, having less people and more hills.”
Crittenden is assistant director at the Columbus office for Access 2 Independence, which helps the disabled live independently. Pepper owns Columbus-based Greek Key Services, which constructs fraternity and sorority houses. Griffith is an ecologist in Dacula, Ga.