By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
More than five years ago, Maranda Bradley’s life changed forever. She sustained a very serious spinal cord injury due to a bad car accident. Now, she’s training to hand-cycle (cycle propelled by her arms) the northern route of the Trail of the Tears.
“I lost my life twice right after the accident because of the brain injury, blood clots in my neck, a stroke, two collapsed lungs, and the overall bad position of my physical body,” said Bradley, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. “God brought me back for a purpose and to be a voice for the voiceless.”
She will depart on the over 950-mile journey from Georgia to Oklahoma in September 2021 that Bradley has dubbed the Trail of Love Ride 2021.
The idea developed two years ago. “We were in a Cherokee Choices Healing Retreat and the Remember the Removal riders shared their stories of community and I thought ‘I wish I could do that’. The doubts started to come in saying ‘but you are in a wheelchair’, ‘but you can’t afford it’, or ‘you can’t drive’. Then, the thoughts that were not my thoughts came in telling me do it by handcycle, build a team, take this journey like my ancestors did. We are all God’s creation and we are going to pray for others along the way. We were all called to be disciples and in the end what we believe is what matters.”
Bradley added, “My faith in my Creator will be what sustains me on this journey.”
She noted, “My service dog in training, Amilyah, will be running alongside me as we go. Her name is Amilyah and her life is a redemption story in itself. She is a rescue dog from a kill shelter, and she is an amazing part of my life.”
Currently training for the long journey, Bradley said sometimes it is very challenging. “I have had some physical issues fracturing my leg and my ankle which put me out of the cycling for a few months. I am getting back on it, but because of my physical limitations I need help with the set-up. I have been practicing in my driveway several times a week and practicing in therapy with Ulela Harris at the Cherokee Indian Hospital. I also strength train at home with weights and bands.”
While challenging, she remains positive in her thoughts, “The messages that I want to convey to others is that with Christ you can do all things. It may look differently for you than with others. You may have to do things a different way or get there a different way, but anyone can do anything as Christ being their strength and help. It is an honor to be able to represent my Tribe well and do this adapted journey.”
Bradley is currently raising money for the journey and has a GoFundMe Page (https://www.gofundme.com/f/21lb3e4hio) set up in the hopes of raising $20,000 to help pay for a covered trailer for her bike as well as travel funds for the trip.
The end of the trip is not the end of the message nor the journey for Bradley. “The goal after we come back is to have an adaptive recreation program for our Tribe. It is a dream of mine to have older folks and differently-abled folks included, but not limited to those in wheelchairs, to be able to have movement. Everyone’s life is better with movement. Some kind of movement and exercise in a person’s life makes their mental health, spiritual health, and physical health better and improved.”
Bradley said she’s tired of having difficulties gaining access to certain places. “This is 2020 where we should have equal access for everyone with no physical barriers. I want to change the face of disability. I want to have people look at people and say ‘yes, she can’ and not look at the limitations and disqualify someone because of their disability or mental health. This is where I am at in life now. I am 36 and a single mother, and I just want to make a difference in the world around me.”