A Kid Carries His Brother With Cerebral Palsy For 40 Miles
Like many older siblings, Hunter Gandee, 14, likes to give his little brother piggyback rides. Over the years Hunter has carried Braden, 7, to the grocery store, on beaches and even up mountains. He does it for love, he does it for fun and he does it because Braden has cerebral palsy. Braden uses a walker to get around, but it doesn’t move easily on sand, mulch, grass or snow, or in crowded areas.
This Saturday, at 7. am., Hunter is going to start carrying Braden around—and he’s going to do it for 40 miles, to raise awareness about CP. The boys are calling their walk The Cerebral Palsy Swagger. They’ll leave from Bedford Junior High School in Temperance, Michigan, where Hunter is in eighth grade and the captain of his wrestling team. They’ll be accompanied by volunteers as parents Danielle and Sam drive ahead of them. The family will stop overnight in the town of Milan, and are planning to arrive at around 2:00 p.m. at the Bahna Wrestling Center at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Hunter got the idea for the walk after he roped in students to sell green Cerebral Palsy awareness wristbands for a dollar each, back in March; they raised $350 for the Cerebral Palsy Research Consortium of Michigan. “Hunter began to wonder how he could reach more people,” Danielle recalls. “A few days later, I had a dream about Hunter carrying Braden to Mackinaw City. We talked about it, decided that Mackinaw was not an option with our busy summer schedule, but agreed that the University of Michigan would be perfect! Braden has participated in studies there and received therapies there, Hunter plans on attending college there, it is a reasonable distance and we just love U of M! And so it all began.”
She acknowledges that carrying Hunter for 40 miles is a “challenge”—Hunter is in great physical shape but Braden is a good 54 pounds. Still, she continues, “it is meant to be difficult, exhausting but not impossible, the same as it is with Braden every day.”
Hunter is driven by a desire to help people get to know Braden—a goal I completely relate to as the mom of a child with CP. People often tend to see Max’s disabilities over his abilities, and it’s up to our family to help them meet the child behind the cerebral Palsy. Hunter is similarly determined, says his mom, “for people to see Braden’s strengths and value his abilities, but also become aware of his challenges and to see that a large part of what limits Braden is the inefficient equipment available today. He wants people to meet Braden, care for him, remember him and develop a desire to help him. Help by creating truly accessible public buildings, schools, playgrounds and mobility aids and equipment that are stylish, fun and work on all kinds of terrain.”
Danielle and her husband have two other children, and describe the relationship of all their kids as “typical.” As she says, “The fight sometimes, pick on each other, intentionally annoy each other, but they are also all best friends. Hunter makes sure Braden does his work. He doesn’t let him slack—he pushes him to be his best.”
Braden can’t wait to get going. He says, “I am excited about the walk, very very excited! I am happy I get to meet all the new people. The band is gonna play at Hunter’s school. And I am very excited to go to the University of Michigan and see the wrestlers! I might even get Kilwins Fudge! And I get to spend so much time hanging out with Hunter. I love my brother. He is Superman!”
He has no worries about the distance. “I like to be on his back,” says Braden. “I don’t have to get tired and he is very fast!”
They say you can’t know a person’s situation until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. In walking forty miles, Hunter is going to help a whole lot of people better understand Braden’s world. Happy trails, boys.
From my other blog:
Images: Courtesy of Danielle Gandee
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