Former trucker on Handshake JourneyBy PAT BROWN,
If you have traveled up Highway 49 within the last few days you may have noticed a wheelchair rolling backwards down the highway. It’s a strange sight, but it does have a purpose.
The owner/operator of the chair is Dennis Schulz. His purpose for the odd mode of travel is to draw attention to his program, Handshake Journey, and some charities which he holds dear to his heart.
His first purpose is to raise funds for homeless veterans. This is important to him, he said, because we would not have the opportunity to do the things we do had it not been for those veterans who sacrificed themselves for our liberties.
Another group he holds in respect and raises funds for is first responders and law enforcement personnel. He said he had not always been on the right side of the law, citing his former occupation as a long-haul driver. He explained that it had been more an issue of respect.
Things have changed since his truck-driving days, and he now has a strong relationship with those people. If you log on to his website on Facebook you can see that relationship has changed based on the testimonials about Schulz from actual law enforcement officers.
Schulz had a tragic accident while driving his 18-wheeler. It required the removal of his leg while he was conscious. The odds of his surviving were not good, but he pulled through. He lost his father to Alzheimers at the same time and shortly after lost his mother to cancer.
And as it often does, tragedy came in threes. He also lost his cousin, who was deployed with the military overseas.
Schulz is now staying in Hattiesburg as he logs his trip to Hattiesburg from his last stop in Carthage. His plans are to visit with Brett Favre, former Green Bay Packers quarterback. This is after his jaunt from Canton to Jackson to meet Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant.
Bryant was not the first politician Schulz has met. He had the moxie to pay a visit to Washington, D. C., where he was finally summoned to meet the President and First Lady. He was given extensive access to the White House, and President Trump sent him a personalized birthday card. The part of the White House visit he cherished most, he recalled, was being allowed in the Oval Office.
He participated in the Veteran’s Day ceremony at the University of Kentucky, where he helped carry a corner of the American flag as he hopped on one leg out on the field.
His trips have taken him to Wrigley Field in Chicago, where he got the Cubs jersey he was wearing last Friday.
In his Hand Shake Journey Schulz has logged over 1,000 miles thus far. Once he completes the trip to Hattiesburg he will be bound for Houston, Texas, where he hopes to meet Houston Texans football player J. J. Watt.
His typical day consists of riding about five miles in his chair. He travels backward so that he can use his leg to assist in propeling the chair. He estimated that he had raised about $6,000 so far through his Go Fund Me page. He said that anyone interested in supporting his effort should mention his name in the post so he can have a record of how much money has been raised.
He has the support of his girlfriend, Jean Wales, who works as a spotter to keep traffic from getting too close. She also makes contacts with local media so Schulz can get his story out to the public.
He is now in his third chair. His last one was donated by a medical supply company that found out about what he was doing.