By Michael Schaffer - Managing editor
An entourage of trucks, trailers, horses, rider, support staff and a hand-made covered wagon traveling across Iowa to raise awareness for a fatal and rare brain disease spent Saturday night in Centerville at the Appanoose County Fairgrounds.
Tammy Mohr, of Ute, is riding horseback west to east across southern Iowa through communities like Red Oak, Creston, Osceola, Lucas, Chariton, Melrose, Centerville and Bloomfield. The ride is called "Trottin' For Taylor" and is Mohr's way to raise awareness and money to combat the fatal brain Infantile and Late Infantile Batten disease. Mohr's grandson, Taylor Lee Mohr, 7, was diagnosed with the incurable Late Infantile Batten disease in early 2008.
The family was told Taylor would not live past the age of 12. Taylor was 4 1/2 years of age at the time.
Taylor is bedridden, blind, on a feeding tube and can't walk or talk, Mohr said. He is in constant pain and is on nine different medications to keep him comfortable, she said.
The journey east began at the Missouri River on June 1 and took 11 days to reach Centerville. They will finish the ride at the Mississippi River in Lee County.
Mohr, who has ridden 14-year-old Cola 10 of the 11 days, said it took 203 miles to reach Centerville. Mohr said if she had to she would do the ride all over again.
"Absolutely. The only thing I think I would change up is, I would lengthen my time in each town," Mohr said. "So that I had more time to get out and visit with the people."
Mohr said along the way they have encountered nice, considerate people and communities, well wishes, prayers and free accommodations.
"Like (Friday) night we stayed at Camp Appanoose and they let us camp for free," Mohr said. "Everywhere we've camped they've allowed us to stay for free. Every single community all along the way has been phenomenal."
And yet the ride across Iowa has brought forth something Mohr didn't expect, like stories of hurt and pain.
"It seems like the majority of the people that are drawn to us have had tragedy in their lives and they just want to share their story a little bit with me," Mohr said. "And I've had dozens and dozens of people that have come up and shared their story. It's like part of their feeling for their loss. And I had not expected that at all."
Karen Beam, who lives in Charter Oak, six miles from Ute, has covered the entire distance with Mohr, her 45-year-old best friend.
But not too far into the cross-state trip, W. D. Brooks, of Unionville, Mo., drove west with his hand-made covered wagon and horses in tow to Glenwood to join the journey. Mohr said Brooks read about the trip in the Daily Iowegian and decided to sign up.
Mohr said Brooks has been a God send by carry essential supplies.
"I didn't think about water along the trail," she said. "And he did. He carries water in his wagon for us."
Mohr said the banner and the wagon is helping to draw attention to their cause.
"That covered wagon is exactly what we needed to get the attention," she said. "If there's just a couple of horses and these T-shirts, you're not going to notice."