Once-in-a-Lifetime Adventure

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Another Check Mark On Her Bucket List

The teams at Grand Canyon West and Hualapai River Runners specialize in fulfilling our guests’ bucket list desires. That’s why meeting 59-year-old Cheryl Clarke of Bay Minette, Alabama, meant so much to us.

On July 1st, Cheryl became the first wheelchair-assisted Hualapai River Runners guest to handle the 40-mile, day-long raft trip – including some serious whitewater rapids – despite being unable to walk unassisted.

For Clarke, who spent seven years planning the vacation to Arizona, it represented one more check mark on her lifetime bucket list. Last year, she did her first-ever tandem parachute jump followed by a visit to the Panama Canal. Then came rafting the Colorado River to be followed next year by snow-skiing in West Virginia.

Clarke says she has been in a wheelchair since age 13, when she was diagnosed with acute multiple sclerosis. Despite this, the mother and grandmother never abandoned her desire to raft the Grand Canyon, an adventure she first glimpsed on television when she was a little girl. Of course, not much deters Clarke.

“I wheel wherever I want to go in my power chair,” she explains, “including across the five-lane highway over to Wal-Mart when I need to go.”

Colorado River Rafting with Hualapai River Runners

The river rafting adventure, with its lashing whitewater spray, meant her power wheelchair was a no-go. Instead, she used a manual chair, which four river guides lifted into the raft. Clarke got settled into the raft, and the wheelchair was taken to the pickup point at the trip’s end.

For Clarke, her day on the Colorado River was about more than adrenaline. She was accompanied by Colin, the 17-year-old son of her daughter’s best friend. Clarke calls the teenager “a grandson of the heart,” and she designed their trip as a bonding experience before Colin enters adulthood.

Beyond accomplishing a personal goal, Clarke also sees her rating trip as a message to other people like her – people whose life circumstances don’t need to curtail their dreams.

“I did this because I want handicapped people to understand we can have an amazing life,” she exclaims, “I can’t get up out of this chair and take two steps – but that’s the only thing I can’t do. I have a life and it’s full and it’s incredible.”

All of us at Grand Canyon West and Hualapai River Runners will certainly testify to that.

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