It’s taken a heart attack and his son’s death to spur a Kentucky man to raise awareness for two causes dear to his heart.
Tom Witten of Garrison, Ky., is making a 1,300-mile cross-country horseback ride with 9-year-old “Scar,” a Tennessee Walker. When Witten stops, he talks about the Wounded Warriors Project and children’s leukemia.
The grizzled rider living the life of a real-life cowboy and his horse travel 20 miles a day with breaks every five miles to feed and water the horse. The journey started on Mother’s Day, May 8, and will finish near Garrison, Colo.
He delivers his commentary about each day on Youtube, found by a search for Tom Witten.
“These were the two causes that resonated with me,” he said. “You wouldn’t believe how veterans are treated. This was something I could talk to people about. I thought about the leukemia because of how much suffering it causes in people, especially children.”
He’d talked about a cross-country trip on horseback for 20 years with his uncle. Last year, he had planned the trip with his youngest son. But his son, Jack Witten, 30, died June 6, 2015 in a 4-wheeler accident in Wyoming.
“My son was supposed to go with me. I’m making this trip in honor of him. I had two heart attacks, the last one being in February. I knew if I was going to do this, it had to be now.”
Witten traveled through Colorado last year with his mother and saw a sign for Garrison, Colorado, near the roadside. That moment convinced him he needed to make his cross-country journey.
Witten stops at a local convenience store and starts telling his story. Usually, help in the form of a horse stable and overnight accommodations is a few phone calls away.
“I get great responses. People are really good to me. I get donations to help get across the country.”
Witten is always more concerned about his horse, a rescue animal who used to drive an Amish-style buggy in Kentucky.
Witten gets along great with his horse. He claims he’s not a very good singer and Scar doesn’t pay attention. When he talks, Scar doesn’t answer back.
“I’d rather my horse enjoy a comfortable place rather than me,” Witten said. “He always gets taken care of first. He’s my main ride.”
Witten is traveling with a friend, Willow Green, who drives a support vehicle. They’ve traveled through Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois and Kansas.
Witten can be contacted at 606-757-2237.