All-terrain wheelchair sends Springville friends on extreme adventures advocating for inclusive experiences

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When Ryan Grassley and Sam Durst go adventuring, they go extreme. From the Narrows at Zion National Park, to Delicate Arch at Arches National Park – and even to the rolling hills of their backyard – each adventure is filled with extreme joy that wouldn’t be possible without a special chair.

Sam was born with cerebral palsy, and for the first 36 years of his life, wasn’t able to experience the thrill of rolling up and down a rocky trail or the freedom of rolling down a hill unassisted, In 2019, however, he was introduced to what’s called the Extreme Motus Chair by his longtime friend Ryan Grassley, and together, they’re making adventure-filled history.

The Extreme Motus is an all-terrain wheelchair that was created by firefighter Dale Pitts who designed it for a young girl who was paralyzed in an accident he responded to. According to the company’s website, the chair has a “durable lightweight aluminum frame that is strong enough to bounce over and through the most challenging trails but light enough to be used for a 5k road race.”

Sam was introduced to the chair when Grassley was commissioned to advertise the product to the masses. All it took was doing what good friends do best, and that is having fun. Grassley took Sam out on adventures with his camera in tow, and several hundred million views later, the two are nationally recognized, if not world renown, and the chair is also gaining a lot of traction.

“Our videos have generated over 100 million views across all of the platforms,” Grassley said. TikTok alone probably has 150 million views. I just knew that if I could make videos that people would watch, that eventually one of those people watching would say, “I need that for my son or daughter or friend or grandma or grandpa.”

Sam’s infectious laugh and love of the outdoors has proven to not only be a success as far as sales go, but in opening a world to people who might not be aware of the need for a product like this. Chief Executive Officer of Extreme Motus, Adam Beesley said that he has so many stories of individuals and families that have been positively impacted by the chair. 

Every chair has a story

“There’s a couple up at the Hill Airforce Base who had triplets; one passed away at birth, and the other two boys have severe mobility issues,” Beesely explained. “They found us on social media and they bought two chairs for both of their sons who are teenagers now. Another couple found us on social media, and they have a daughter with severe mitochondrial disease, and it was really hard to get her outside. They got her a chair, and it was the first time she had been able to be outside in months.”

Beesely told of another story of a man from Nebraska who bought the chair for his wife, who was able to use it one time before she passed away. 

“That man called and talked to Ryan after his wife passed and said, ‘You know what? I don’t regret one minute of it.”  He said he had the best experience with his wife, and after she passed, he donated the chair to someone else in need. It’s stories like that, that just make it all worthwhile. We’ve sold about 260 chairs, and every one of the stories is unique.”

One of the unique stories comes from Sam who has now become the face of the Motus. Unlike many individuals with cerebral palsy or other mobility-related disabilities, Sam’s parents have made it a goal to make sure that Sam experiences the outdoors. According to Sam’s mom Christine Durst, when the Motus came along, however, it made experiencing the outdoors extremely better and more efficient. 

“Sam downhill skis through the National Abilities Center, and has done that since he was 14, and he’s 41 now,” Christine Durst explained. “About 20 years ago, BYU helped develop something that we can run with him in and we can attach it to our bikes and go biking, so we take him biking a lot. He used to have some friends that would do triathlons with him and then do 5K and 10K races like the Freedom Festival.”

“We just like being outdoors, and so this is just another tool for us to get Sam out, and be able to have him enjoy what we all enjoy,” she continued. “It’s far better than sitting in the house doing absolutely nothing  – especially where we live in such an amazing state where we have such a diversity in the north and the south. It’s just so amazing and it’s so fun for Sam to be able to enjoy that as well.”

Since the TikTok videos of Sam and Grassley have gone viral, their family adventures have had a bit more of a celebrity outing feel, and Durst says that Sam has a good time with it. 

“It’s amazing how many people recognize Sam and Ryan,” she said. “One time we were in Bryce Canyon and this girl goes, ‘Sam, is that Sam?’ She was from Ohio, and said she watched Sam on TikTok. Just this last fall, we were in the Seattle area and we were on the pier area and we were walking by and this one man goes, ‘Sam? Sam?’ and I turn around, and he’s like ‘Oh, my gosh! Our family is just big, huge fans of Sam!’ They got their picture taken with him, and it was really neat. Sam loved it!”

Accessible to all

Over the past few years, Grassley and Beesley have seen the impact the Motus has had on Sam and others like him, and have made it their mission to make the chairs accessible to all who need them.

They have four chairs that they lend out to those who need them, free of charge. Beesley said that they have had people from around the country travel to Utah just to use a chair. It is stories like these that have spurred a new initiative to get the Motus in State and National Parks. Recently, Grassley, Beesley and Sam went to the State Capital to advocate for this. 

“We’re trying to help our senators understand that the most beautiful places in our state aren’t accessible for people unless they have the right piece of equipment,” Grassley said. “Our first step was speaking with Forest Service and State Park rangers and saying, ‘Hey, we have this piece of equipment that can make your park accessible to people with special needs.’

“Sam’s whole family couldn’t plan a vacation to a national park because they’re not going to leave their son behind,” he further explained. “When we hiked Delicate Arch with Sam in the Motus, we got up there and Sam’s family had been to Arches before and Sam and his mom sat in the van while the other half of their family went on a hike. So when we got everybody up there together as a family with the Motus, his mom was crying her eyes out because for 36 years, she sat in the van. When you don’t have access to these trails for all, you’re not just excluding the person with cerebral palsy or whatever their disability is, you’re excluding that person’s whole family and circle of friends from visiting these places.”

By the end of this legislative session, Grassley and Beesley said they hope to have some laws passed so that all who want to, can have access to these great places. 

“As Extreme Motus continues to break ground with its all-terrain wheelchair, let us join in the call to action to fortify accessibility and embrace inclusive tourism,” the website states. “By doing so, we ensure that the beauty of Utah, from the majestic mountaintops to the serene valley floors, can be experienced and cherished by all. Whether you’re a thrill-seeking adventurer or a nature-loving wanderer, remember that the trails are open, and the vistas await.”

Sam and Grassley’s adventures can be found on TikTok @extrememotus. For updates and information on the Motus, go to extrememotus.com.

Arianne Brown
Arianne Brown
Arianne Brown is a mom of nine who writes columns for many local and national publications. She currently resides in Payson, and enjoys looking for good happenings in her area and sharing them for others to read about. For more of her stories, search "A Mother's Write" on Facebook.

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