Visiting the past with a modern twist
Don Bender, 65
limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, 10 years
Owned an auto body shop for 27 years and has designed and built three hovercrafts. Retracing the steps of 19th-century explorers Lewis and Clark on the Missouri River via hovercraft. Traveling inches above the water’s surface, the hovercraft allows Bender and his four team members to travel long distances quickly and efficiently. It took Lewis and Clark two weeks to sail the distance Bender’s team covered in an hour.
The expedition began in St. Louis on May 14, the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and took 5½ days to travel 906 miles to Yankton, S.D. A few months later the team traveled from Yankton 942 miles to Fort Peck Dam, Mont., in 5 days. This summer the third and final leg of the trip will take the team from Fort Peck Dam approximately 1,200 miles to the mouth of the Columbia River between Washington and Oregon, and should take 6 or 7 days.
"I’d certainly recommend [the expedition]. It’s an experience that you can look back on, and you also give encouragement to other people with disabilities so that they don’t feel that they cannot do anything. The people you associate with are so important because they can help you overcome some of the things that you can’t do. If I was to try this trip on my own, I couldn’t do it, but with the help of friends, I was able to."
Ron Hames, 42
limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, symptoms since birth
Self-employed owner of an Internet store that sells family safety products for emergencies and natural disasters. The Web site, opened in September 2003, enables Ron to work from home and spend more time with his wife Sally and sons Nathan, 6, and Mitchell, 4. Ron developed the Web site’s concept — family security — to help families attain "peace of mind."
After leaving his job as a project manager and planner for a water special-effects company, Ron decided to teach himself how to create a Web site. Though software suppliers were discouraging, he persisted. "I should not have been surprised because everything in my life has been like that. A year and a half later, our Web site is comparable to other professional Web sites out there."
"I just hope that my success in developing a Web site will inspire others to pick up a book, learn something new and change their lives. Disability or not, people must push themselves and never stop learning. You just have to go after something, and give it all you can, regardless of what tomorrow brings."