GARLAND, Box Elder County — Brian Allen was surprised when his LDS bishop asked him participate in a youth pioneer trek.
The 34-year-old has been in a wheelchair for 16 years. He certainly didn't want to be a burden.
But Allen, the Garland 4th Ward Young Men president, accepted the invitation and covered the 27-mile journey over ruts, rocks and mud bogs, inspiring others and being inspired himself along the way.
"It was all great," Allen said. "I would do it again."
Just two weeks before his high school graduation in 1999, Allen was involved in an ATV accident that crushed his spinal cord and left him paralyzed below the waist.
For the pioneer trek, many thought Allen would ride in a rickshaw, but he had other ideas. With the help of a friend, Allen reconfigured his wheelchair to add a third wheel on the front, a 12-inch bike tire, for a more comfortable ride on the rough terrain.
Then Allen had the always smiling, ever-cheerful, 18-year-old Taylor Nelson.
Nelson, one of four stake youth leaders who helped plan the event, volunteered to push Allen the entire distance, which included trails at Martin's Cove, Sixth Crossing, Rocky Ridge and other historic Mormon handcart pioneer sites.
With the customized wheelchair, Nelson's muscles and the help of a few others, Allen passed through the dust, over the sand and up the steep, bumpy hills. He was carried over rivers, and only once did he accidentally fall out of his chair into a clump of sage brush, Nelson said.
The experience taught Nelson about the blessings of serving others, keeping a positive attitude and never giving up.
Nelson is facing another challenge. His own father is battling cancer.
"While I was pushing (Allen), I realized everyone has hard times. If you can keep a joyful perspective, you can accomplish anything," said Nelson, who will soon leave on a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "I also learned the Lord has a plan for all of us."
Allen was grateful for Nelson's kindness and relished the opportunity to be among the youths.
"I probably had a smoother ride than most, and no blisters," Allen said. "I have a lot of respect for the young people like Taylor. They are strong kids. I appreciated their help and developing relationships with them. I hope the strength and spiritual highlights they received from this experience will help carry them on in their lives and the trials they face."
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: tbtoone