August 2023
by Jennifer Belk and Eric Opelt

Eric and Jennifer were planning an epic 9 state road trip adventure with Team Gleason to the west coast when Eric’s ALS symptoms started to rapidly progress.

A long road trip was out of reach, but Jennifer was determined to get Eric on the road. Modest Mouse and the Pixies were playing in Chicago and Jennifer was going to make it happen.

Last minute issues pushed an easy two day drive into a one day-long haul, but they made it. Team Gleason played a small role in this mighty adventure, but we are grateful we could help.

Here’s Jennifer’s story:

Seeing Eric enjoy the music as much as he did was a pure delight and watching the people around him make friends with him. It was our very last hoorah together. 

Prior to the show, Eric and I took a stroll on the riverwalk and it was amazing. The views, the weather, the atmosphere, it was a wonderful experience.

Hotels are always a challenge, accessibility does not mean the same thing to a hotel owner as it does for a wife trying to navigate her husband’s wheelchair through narrow heavy doors while loaded down like a pack mule.  

Eric wanted to see these bands from his youth once before he dies and we made that happen. The joy on his face the whole night was priceless. Chicago accessibility was great in that they had accessible transportation to and from the venue that were easily scheduled and accessed. The driver even taught me some things about Eric’s chair that I didn’t know.

Don’t wait, just do it.  Plan it and go.  Put on your patient pants and know that there will be obstacles to overcome but don’t allow them to stop you.  We almost didn’t make it because the path is not easy, travel is hard on both of us but in the end the trip was worth the work.