David Sherrer was on a mission. He contacted me in October last year inviting the company I work for, Lippert Components, to sponsor him as he prepared for a four-year journey across the United States and Canada to advance travel accessibility for people with disabilities. David already had a truck and travel trailer RV but was looking for various upgrade products to simplify the mechanics of setting up camp.
About 26 years before, David had been a victim of an unprovoked aggravated assault, shot three times and ever after was a T-8 complete paraplegic. You can read his story in a blog post he wrote in March or watch this video from his visit to Lippert Components in April.
David had been a constant rider in a wheelchair for almost half his life when I met him. Over the years he had championed various programs to secure accessibility rights for people with disabilities and founded Qchair’s Traveler in 2006 to help others find accessible hotels and attractions by reviewing vacation destinations along the gulf coast and the southeastern U.S.
David loved to travel and told me he chose to make the next chapter of Qchair’s Traveler all about RV travel because, he said, “The RV offers access to places I couldn't stay before because there were no accommodations of any kind nearby.”
David had planned to write and produce short videos about his experience, including accessibility reviews on campgrounds, restaurants, museums and other travel destinations. He was also looking for opportunities to show others that RV travel is possible, maybe even ideal, for people with disabilities.
“I want to inspire others with mobility issues to get out and travel,” he told me. And he did. He inspired all of us to consider the disability issues he faced every day. And we are so grateful to have met him.
Unfortunately, I have to tell you with great sadness that our friend David Sherrer passed away July 14, 2015, after a long battle with complications from the spinal cord injury that happened so many years ago. We are all so sad that David won’t be able to take the trip he had planned, but I want to tell you the story of how his trip preparation already inspired so many.
After corresponding by email and talking with David over the phone, our team decided we wanted to sponsor his trip, and so I made a plan for David to visit our Goshen, Indiana, Customer Service facility so we could install several upgrade products to help make RV set up, towing and even relaxation easier.
It wasn’t long after Marketing Director Doug Hertel and I greeted David that Monday morning in April that David was already telling us about someone who’d shown him kindness at one of his stops along the way. He loved to tell stories.After David dropped off his trailer and all 12 upgrade products were installed on his RV, we met up again at a local KOA. We secured him a lovely spot there so we could get to know him, show him how all the products work and help launch him on the trip with media coverage.
Our Aftermarket Sales Director Steve Paul came out to meet David to give him a hands-on demonstration on how each product works and our Brand Manager Lauren Hodges brought donuts and directed the installation of Qchair’s Traveler and sponsorship graphics on his trailer and truck. Videographer Nick Welkie, Photographer Meghann Conte and I spent a couple days getting to know David and learning more about his mission and story. Mid-week, Vice President of Marketing & Public Relations Jarod Lippert and Amy Vicsik, marketing director for Furrion, another company that donated products, came out to meet David.
We invited local media to come out and help us launch David on this adventure. If you’re interested, check out the stories in the South Bend Tribune and RV Pro. We were able to help him share his story through many avenues and we know his message reached thousands. But more than that, everyone at Lippert Components who met David was touched by his desire to help others and we hope to help spread his mission to advance travel accessibility as far as possible.
David told us he had three main goals for his trip across the U.S. and Canada in his travel trailer RV:
Help even just one person to enjoy life by encouraging them to travel and explore
Get the RV industry to think about more universal design Educate the general public to become more accepting of people with disabilities And believe me, David met every one of those goals without even embarking on the adventure.
I haven’t known many people with disabilities in my life, but my eyes were certainly opened to better understand what it’s like to live with a disability. Spending time with David sparked many thoughtful discussions within our team and many of us took these discussions home with us. Not only that, but many of us were inspired by David’s determination to travel despite so many obstacles and we were all encouraged to take time to explore the world around us more. And, of course, the whole RV industry has had a chance to hear his story and think about incorporating more universal designs.
David told us that what he wanted more than anything was for this trip to encourage others to try something they’ve always wanted to do, but were afraid or hesitant to try. He wanted to inspire everyone to stop saying “I can’t” and to start exploring the bright world of possibility all around.
If you’re interested to learn more about how you can help advance David’s mission, his family requests you start by visiting the website of the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization that works to honor and empower injured service members to be successful through various rehabilitation and transitional programs.
From everyone at Lippert Components, thank you, David, for inspiring us to look past our obstacles and see the bigger picture.