Monday, June 15, 2015

Teen carries brother with cerebral palsy for fifty-seven miles to raise awareness

Hunter Gandee, a 15-year-old high school freshman from Michigan, completed a fifty-seven mile walk on Sunday with his little brother riding on his back.  8-year-old Braden Gandee has cerebral palsy, a disease that has made him unable to walk without assistance, and Hunter carried him the whole way as part of a mission to raise awareness about the condition.  The event, dubbed the "Cerebral Palsy Swagger," began at Braden's school in Lambertville, Michigan, and ended at the University of Michigan Pediatric Rehabilitation Center in Ann Arbor.

It's not the first time Hunter Gandee has carried his brother on a long trek.  A year ago, the then-14-year-old carried Braden on a forty-mile walk, this one from the Gandees's hometown of Temperance, Michigan to Ann Arbor.  That hike lasted two days.  While the family states that this second trip is not a fundraiser, Gandee did set up a GoFundMe campaign after people last year expressed a desire to donate.  The proceeds will go toward the construction of an accessible playground at Braden's school.

During the fifty-seven mile hike, the elder Gandee alternated between the use of three different harnesses to help him bear the weight of his sixty-pound brother.  Rest stops were set up every three miles, and physical therapists would attend to both Gandees and help stretch out their muscles.  Hunter also carries Braden in everyday life, in places where he believes it is more convenient than Braden's walker, but not usually in walks of such magnitude.

Friends and family accompanied the brothers on their long journey.  On the second day, Hunter says he collapsed from exhaustion, but his friends picked him up and he was able to continue on to the third day.  Police and fire departments also escorted the teen, and spectators lined his route to yell out encouragement.  At last, on June 7th, 2015, the two Gandees crossed the finish line and broke the ceremonial tape.

Hunter gives credit for the idea of the Cerebral Palsy Swagger to his mother, noting that she had a dream in March 2014 about him carrying Braden to raise awareness, and that three months later that's exactly what he did.  Though both the 2014 and the 2015 walks were exhausting, Hunter says that he believes it is up to his generation to bring about change and to make the world a more accessible place.

You can read more about Hunter and Braden Gandee on ABC News, CNN, Fox News and affiliate Fox8, and on the Cerebral Palsy Swagger Facebook and Instagram.

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