It’s All About God’s Love
Friends and ‘Brothers’ Travel ‘The Way’ Together in Spain
By Margarita Mendoza, El Observador Editor
February 13, 2020
Whoever finds a friend finds a treasure, says the Bible In Sirach 6:14.
Justin Skeesuck and Patrick Gray’s friendship is proof of that. Skeesuck is confined to a wheelchair. He used to live a normal life until he had a car accident when he was a teenager. He developed a progressive neuromuscular disease that started to immobilize his arms and legs and slowly has been paralyzing his body.
One day, Skeesuck imagined following the Way of St. James (El Camino de Santiago de Compostela). The spiritual walk, mainly in the northwest of Spain but may include France and Portugal, ends at the burial site of St. James the Apostle in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. 
Skeesuck mentioned to Gray his desire to make the trip, but his physical condition was a limitation. There are parts of the walk that are difficult to pass, even for those who can walk. 
Gray answered him: “I’ll push you,” persuading Skeesuck to follow his dream. 
Skeesuck and Gray started their 500-mile trek in the southwest of France, and now belong to that minority who have hiked the Camino de Santiago, one in a wheelchair and one pushing. 
They recorded their adventure, wrote the book “I’ll Push You,” and produced a documentary. Now they travel around the country sharing their experience. 
Their message is about how people can achieve more by working together, how to overcome limitations, and how “friendship is a gift and is only good if you share it,” said Skeesuck.
St. Edward Central Catholic High School freshman Drew Pamberton “got inspired a lot” by Gray and Skeesuck’s presentation at his high school last fall. 
“Friendship, in general, it’s pretty good. It’s something special and important you have in your life,” Pamberton said.
The book was chosen at St. Edward CCHS in Elgin as the book everybody read this past summer, explained Ann Marie Dufelmeier, English department chair. It is a tradition at the school that all the staff and students read the same book during the summer.
Skeesuck and Gray were invited to visit St. Edward in Elgin last fall because “this book really spoke to the staff, students and it was a wonderful opportunity to bring the speakers,” said Michelle Kaufman, director of marketing at the diocesan high school.
“We made it available for all the St. Ed family, and we even invited the entire deanery” to read along Kaufman  said.
The two men showed that “friendship is lifelong. They make the difference by never giving up,” Kaufman said. “There are a lot of lessons that were very important (such as) how these kids developed from teenagers to adults. They spoke about very important skills that they can utilize in college, the work force and in life,” said Kaufman.
Skeesuck and Gray explained how their lives have intersected over generations. “My great uncle was best man at Patrick’s grandfather’s wedding,” Skeesuck explained. 
Their mothers met in elementary school and their fathers went to college together.
The audience was captivated by their experiences of overcoming obstacles and maintaing their friendship. 
“Definitely opened my eyes,” said Angel Brito, senior at St. Edward CCHS. “I’ve never heard a story like this before, specially their bond. I don’t think I ever met two individuals as close friends as they were, which is even better. I really loved their book” Brito said.
He was the first one throwing a question to the speakers after their presentation. 
“How do you deal with life knowing that tomorrow maybe the last day?” he asked.
Brito was impressed by the response he got. 
“He said that no one really knows, and I just love how he has a positive attitude about it. He got over that ‘deep dark’ ... he was talking about.”
“The treasure of friendship is to be shared,” Gray said. “Any gift you have been given is only good if (you) use it to bless others. If we hold it to ourselves, it doesn’t matter. We choose to make other people’s lives better.”