JOAQUIN MANCERA | BRISTOL HERALD MAIL
Having faced disability from birth, Abingdon resident Brian Stanley knows the value of care provided by Shriner Hospitals. Stanley plans to help give back by hiking the Appalachian Trail from start to finish.
Stanley, who was born with a physically disabled left arm, will begin a solo hike the entire Appalachian Trail on March 5 in an effort to inspire and raise funds for children with disabilities.
A long-time resident of the Abingdon area, Stanley believes that by getting out there and realizing his own dreams, he will inspire others who are overcoming a disability. He said he hopes to show that a disability doesn’t define who you are, despite what many members of society may think.
“I think it’s important for kids to be able to see other people who look like them, make things happen, aim for the stars,” Stanley said. “We cannot let a disability define us. I really believe society is already going to do that. We have to adapt and overcome, and if I can be an inspiration to just one child, I think I will have achieved my goal.
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As a member of the Shriners, Stanley hopes to bring the outdoors to children who may not have the ability to experience it for themselves. As he travels the 14 states that make up the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, he also aims to raise $5,000 for Shiners Children’s Hospitals.
“Our (Shriners) motto is to have fun helping kids, so we raise money for kids,” Stanley said. “If a family is unable to afford the services, we (the Shriners) will cover that cost 100%. We accept patients from all over the world.
Stanley will arrive at Amicalola Falls State Park in Downsville, Georgia, which holds the main approach that feeds into the Appalachian Trail (AT), on Friday, March 4. He will start hiking to the trail on Saturday March 5th.
“The way it works, you take the approach trail to the top and then it’s another 9 miles until you actually hit the AT,” Stanley said.
In the past, Stanley has traveled sections of the TA, including the majority of the trial in Virginia. In order to prepare for the hike, Stanley did three to four weekly 15-mile hikes on various smaller trails with varying terrain, as well as working out at the gym. He is currently in California hiking in that part of the country.
“In fact, prepping for this hike usually takes about three or four days a week to do 15 miles in varying terrain, whether it’s in a gym or on a trail,” Stanley said. “The most recent one I did was a few days ago 15.4 miles up Mount Diablo here in California.”
Along with hiking trails in California, Stanley also figured out logistics, like resupply drop-off points for items like food, anti-inflammatory foot cream and shoes. He also spent time researching the best map for the AT and what GPS app to use.
“I’ll take a paper map, and I’ll also use an online GPS service that should locate me or point me in the right direction,” he said.
Stanley pointed out that if all else fails, when it comes to TA, you’re never really alone. He prepared a sign that on one side says AT hiker to town, and on the other side AT hiker to trail, for when he has to hitchhike.
“On an AT hike, some towns are out of the way, so I have to hitchhike from the trail to a grocery store or dollar store to restock,” Stanley said. “The nice thing about TA is that there’s usually always someone around. You’re never that far from civilization.
As Stanley prepares to embark on his journey this week, he shared some tips for those who want to start exploring the various trails in the Tri-Cities area.
“Start slow, start light and take as many pictures as possible,” he said.
Stanley will be on the TA for five to seven months. He will be uploading videos of his TA trip every two weeks to his YouTube channel, “Outdoors with Brian, the Hiking Shriner,” and posting images to his Instagram, as well as sending photos to Shriners International, which will document his journey.