Cowboy on horseback passes through Greencastle with a cause

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Johnny Warnshuis alternates which horse he rides on his cross country trek. He ambled through Franklin County on July 30, stopping whenever anyone wanted to find out who he was and what he was doing. He shared information on two specific illnesses but invited people to support various organizations linked on his website.

A journey of 5,000 miles that Monday included the Greencastle-Antrim area is almost over for a California cowboy. Johnny Warnshuis left Redding on March 28, 2011 on a mission, to raise awareness for two related diseases — Guillain Barre' Syndrome and Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy.

"I used to have a real life," he said Monday morning on U.S. 11 South in Greencastle. "Sickness in the family sent me out on horseback with forty bucks in my pocket."

Sitting atop Boog, a registered quarterhourse paint, with Sandy, a rescued mustang carrying the gear, Warnshuis said he wanted people to know about the existence of GBS and CIDP. His mother contracted the latter a few years ago, two days after receiving a flu shot, and immediately became paralyzed. She is now in a convalescent center. She is mobile, but receives a $10,000 treatment every month or the paralysis returns.

"We spent every last dime to help her," he said.

With no home, and no job in construction management, Warnshuis hit the road, to make something good out of a bad situation. He has relied on the hospitality of others. Half the time he has lodging for the night. Otherwise, he pitches a tent.

"I couldn't make it without the American people," he said. "People feed the horses and me. I don't need much."

He believes in giving back, and directs people visiting his website www.cowboyforacure to donate to any number of medical charities.

"You get what you give," he added.

Warnshuis, 44, has been through 16 states. He and his trusty steeds cover 20 miles a day, and rest after every two or three. Together they have walked through four feet of snow in Oregon, endured 120 degree temperatures in the Grand Canyon, and faced blizzards, lightning and tornadoes in Texas.

"We've been in it all," he said.

He will meet up with his girlfriend Sherree Hogg, who manages the website, in Times Square in New York City and they will get married on The Today Show. The wedding was delayed because Warnshuis is behind his original schedule.

Trudy Smith, employed at World Kitchen, learned that the cowboy was on the property, and came out to chat. She was diagnosed with GBS four years ago, spent a week in the hospital, and then five weeks recuperating. She has some lingering side effects. Warnshuis gave her his business card and alerted her to a blog for victims of the neurological disorders. Bob and Jean Cressman heard the rider was in town, and stopped to give him a donation.

With a gentle nudge to Boog, the trio continued north along the side of the road. When the mission is accomplished, Warnshuis and his bride plan to trailer the horses to Mt. Jackson, Va. and continue their good works from a stationary location.