It started as an idyllic father-son trip, like many they have taken together.
David Estridge and his teenage son traveled to Colorado to watch their beloved Phoenix Suns take on the Denver Nuggets. After the game the Estridges, decked out in their Suns gear, were taunted and threatened by an angry stranger who yelled from a nearby residential high-rise.
Then the stranger pulled out a gun.
Shots were fired, and David Estridge was hit. Multiple times.
“I felt for sure I was dead, and my only thoughts were how to let my boy live,” said Estridge.
Once Estridge was able to assess the situation, he found the injuries were mild, as the shooter was using a varmint rifle. However, the emotional and psychological injuries remained. Plagued by nightmares as he processed the experience, he decided it was time for a change.
“The injuries of getting shot were just mild but I thought I was dead, and from the experience I felt a hole in my life open that I could no longer fill with financial justification,” Estridge shared.
Estridge had spent more than a decade working in the corporate world. His wife Misty, a basketball coach and teacher, served in the U.S. Navy for eight years.
While in the military, Misty Estridge was aboard the USS San Antonio, docked in Pascagoula, Mississippi, when Hurricane Katrina made landfall. The crew were some of the first responders to help.
She ended her Navy career after the passing of her son’s father, a Marine, just prior to his scheduled deployment to Afghanistan.
“This made me really wake up and reevaluate my life,” said Misty. “I knew that I loved my job and helping people, but I loved my son more. I started looking for ways to do both.”
Misty joined the National Marine Sanctuary in Washington, DC, where she was a Senior Systems Administrator and ISSO. She still found ways to give back to her community.
“My sister and I signed up to be Cub Scout masters/leaders and I coached basketball and baseball,” said Estridge. “I truly enjoy volunteering and giving back.”
She returned to her Texas roots when her grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. There she took a cyber security job while pursuing her teaching degree – and met David. Shortly after, she got her first coaching job and began mentoring and teaching full-time.
David and Misty Estridge married in 2020, blending their two families. Their journeys, both individually and together, are filled with tragedy and hope – the latter of which is their ultimate mission in serving others. To provide hope.
Forging a New Path
Together, the Estridges were ready to make a change when an opportunity presented itself: Wheelchair Accessible Transportation, LLC. Founded in Tyler, Texas, with just two vans, the company had served the transportation needs of people with disabilities for more than two decades. Last year, the original owner was looking to sell the business.
Wheelchair Accessible Transportation, LLC has a long history of helping in disasters, serving as evacuation transportation for wheelchair users. For the Estridge family, purchasing the company was the perfect next step.
Tragedy Springs, Inspiring Hope
“We could have retired and been OK,” said David Estridge. “But we saw an opportunity to empower and improve lives. We decided to take a gamble and put our trust in the intersection of business and compassion that this company embodies.”
As David considered his mortality – and his desire to have an impact in the world – the decision to purchase Wheelchair Accessible Transportation, LLC was easy.
“It took the courage to try and do something different and positive,” he reflected. “It is a frightening and risky thing to gamble your livelihood in starting or buying a business.”
Estridge, who had a personal relationship with Regions Bank, went to his local branch in Tyler, where a referral from Branch Manager Sueanne Holland led to introductions to Regions’ SBA Sales Manager Jimmy Williams and SBA specialist Trent Kimball.
“From the start, Regions really engaged with us,” noted Estridge. “They made it easy and clear, while letting me be me and build my way, doing business at the intersection of banking and good human business endeavors.
“We refinanced our home to get the capital, but we wanted to do good in the world,” he continued. “Trent was able to help us bridge the gap. Had it not been for our personal connection with Regions Bank, I don’t think we could have carried through.”
One of the biggest aspects of their business plan is contracting with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and sub-contractors to help with evacuations during natural disasters.
“From the start, Regions really engaged with us. They made it easy and clear, while letting me be me and build my way, doing business at the intersection of banking and good human business endeavors.”
“Helping people and giving back truly pays off and is extremely rewarding,” said Misty Estridge. “I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do to grow and help as many people as we can in the near future. It has already been an honor to serve the communities.”
Since purchasing the business, the Estridges have grown their fleet to more than 50 vehicles, expanded into the Las Vegas and Phoenix markets, and entered the event transportation space.
“Working with Misty and David was fantastic,” said Kimball. “They were not just taking over a business, but really had a vision for where they wanted to take it.”
From Super Bowl LVII to Austin City Limits to Formula One racing, the Estridges are creating a specialized experience for their clients who may otherwise struggle to find accessible transportation to these big-ticket events.
“This has been a tremendous opportunity to reach people and create a VIP experience for people with disabilities in addition to serving the day-to-day needs and milestone moments,” said Estridge, who noted some of the most rewarding rides have been those connecting people with their loved ones.
He recounts stories of taking hospice patients to their children’s graduations, transplant patients to life-saving treatment appointments, and providing vans for those with longer-term transportation needs.
Turning tragedy into a life of inspiring hope is a family affair at Wheelchair Accessible Transportation, LLC, where their mission is to provide empowerment in mobility.