On the eve of his entering the Missionary Training Center to serve an LDS mission for two years, 19-year-old Gates Hunsaker broke his neck in a snowboarding accident and became paralyzed from the chest down.
Over a year and countless visits to hospitals later, Hunsaker’s story inspired his friend, 15-year-old Ben Smith, to raise awareness by doing what he loves — longboarding.
This past Monday, Smith began a journey on his longboard to publicize Hunsaker’s situation. He began in Kanab, just north of the Arizona state line, at 6 a.m., and is currently traveling through Utah. Smith hopes to gain donations from his travels; donations that will be used to help the expense of Gates’s physical therapy, as well as to modify Gates’s vehicle so he can drive himself.
Smith will be in the Provo area tomorrow, and plans to stop by the BYU Creamery on 9th at 11:30 a.m. to share his experience and story as to why he’s raising awareness.
In his blog covering the event, Smith said, “I’m doing this because I love to longboard. But I’m mostly doing it because I want to do something for my friend … I just want to do something good for Gates.”
Before his journey began, the Utah Highway Patrol and UDOT were contacted and agreed to help in any way possible. Smith’s path takes him along Old Highway 89, back roads and bike paths.
“Ben initiated this all on his own,” said Rick Smith, Ben’s father, in a press release. “Rather than encouraging others to skateboard with him, Ben hopes people will come out to cheer him on, to learn about Gates and to donate to help him.”
Ben’s blog allows viewers to track his progress and donate.
After longboarding over 400 miles, Smith plans to reach his destination — Portage, Utah — in about another week.