MORRIS – A man and his horse, have taken to the road to raise money for Western Wishes – an organization that grants wishes to children facing adversity "who love the western way of life."
Tye Sturgeon and his horse Edward began their ride March 15 in Batesville, Arkansas. In the months since, Sturgeon turned 20 and has and traveled through three states – and has 45 more states to go on his journey.
"You have to be a man with a vision to have an adventure like this," he said.
Tye's vision originally was to be a cowboy, and a professional Bronc rider, but that vision fell short when he was injured while in the rodeo circuit and he had to give up his dream.
His dream now is to help other's dreams come true.
"When I was talking about doing the ride a man named Adam Garcia came up to me and mentioned doing the ride for Western Wishes, I told him I had to think about it," Sturgeon said. "I thought about it for two weeks and then the minute I watched a video online about Western Wishes I was hooked."
Last week Sturgeon ended up on the Doug and Kathy Lowery farm in Mazon, where he stayed for a couple of days before walking with Edward to the horse farm owned by Robert and Holeigh Strange south of Morris, where he spent the weekend.
"He's doing it for a good cause and made a memorable impression on us," Holeigh Strange said. "I want to cry when I talk about him, it was overwhelming getting to know him."
The kindness of strangers is how Sturgeon is making his trip with limited income from sponsors coming in each month. He is typically camping at fairgrounds or alongside the road as he makes the journey.
"Sometimes I camp, sometimes I sleep in barns, every day it's something different," he said. "That's what makes this ride important."
He said it's the stops along the way and the questions of strangers that allows him to get the word out about his mission to make wishes for children come true.
"If I meet one person a day and they share it on their Facebook, the word has gotten out to many," he said. "Everyone in the world relates to wishes and dreams."
He said his friends thought he was doing it to get famous, but that isn't why he undertook this journey.
Sturgeon said his vision is to finish this ride. His parents told him they knew he was destined to do something great; he feels he finally found what that is.
"At first I was kind of shocked," his father Jasson said during a phone interview from his Arkansas home. "As parents he makes us proud. If anyone can do this, he'll be the one to do it."
Sturgeon told his parents that it was a good cause, and that there were some kids who couldn't even get out of bed let alone follow their dreams.
Sturgeon's trip will take two to three years the way he has it planned, and he will travel through every one of the lower 48 states at some point during his journey. His goal is to raise $30,000, according to his website, americanwishride.com.
He said several have tried it before, but most have failed. One man made it to all 48 states but did it in sections – never in one continuous journey like he has planned.
"I'm just trying to step up to the plate and get the job done," he said. "I've got a 20-year-old body with a 35-year-old state of mind."
He's averaging 10 to 15 miles a day, some days making it only 5.
"I'm just trying to make progress," he said. "That's my goal each day I set out."
Edward, his trusty 12-year-old American Paint horse, is being checked out by veterinarians along the way on a regular basis, and when he's tired Sturgeon rests him.
"I'm gonna get sick along the way, he's gonna get sick along the way," Sturgeon said. "We just have to rest when we need to and do the best we can."
Lisa Leach manager, trainer, and riding instructor at Rocking L Ranch of Morris where Sturgeon and Edward were resting Monday, said that the pace Sturgeon and Edward are doing isn't hard on a trained athlete like Edward.
"Horses are like trained athletes; it's just a matter of conditioning. Some people take their horses to races where the horse and rider run 100 miles in 24 hours," Leach said.
To follow Sturgeon and Edward on their journey, check in with them at americanwishride.com or follow him on Facebook or Twitter. Donations also are accepted on the website of Western Wishes at westernwishes.org.