Parenting

Teen Will Carry His Brother 40 Miles to Raise Awareness for Cerebral Palsy

hunter gandee

Hunter Gandee, 14, has been carrying his 7-year-old brother Braden for years. They've walked around the home, on mountains during family camping trips, and just around the grocery store. But this weekend, the two are embarking on a much longer journey. Hunter will carry Braden for 40 miles, from the gym at Bedford Junior High (where Hunter regularly wrestles) all the way to the gym at the University of Michigan.

It's all to raise awareness for cerebral palsy and to broadcast the brothers' Cerebral Palsy Swagger awareness project. The cause has been near and dear to the family's hearts since Braden was diagnosed with cerebral palsy back when he was 3 months old. The condition, which directly affects Braden's brain, impairs his walking, mobility, and general movement. But he has Hunter there to help.

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"I've been carrying him ever since he got too heavy for my mom," says Hunter. And nothing has separated them since. Their two-day journey, which will start with 25 miles on Saturday, June 7, and end with the final 15 on Sunday, will bring them even closer.

More from The Stir: Mom Talks Raising a Son With Cerebral Palsy & Making a Film About It

The Stir recently caught up with Hunter to hear all about the brothers' journey ...

When did you first notice that Braden was unique?

I remember when he was little hearing that my brother was going to have difficulty walking and that he’d be different from most kids. He was happy as a baby, but a lot of kids are. Probably around the time he started going to preschool, when he was 3, I really began to see how different he was from the other kids, not only in his physical differences, but also his attitude and how positive he was.

What's your favorite thing about your brother?

I think a lot of kids who are not able to walk would sort of give up and not try to pursue their goals in life as much as he has. But for him, it hasn't stopped him.

How did Cerebral Palsy Swagger come to be?

It started out as a dream my mom had. She dreamed I was carrying him. We went from there. Braden has been using a walker, and it’s one of the nicer walkers out there, but he still has trouble going through gravel, grass, or mulch. I wanted to raise awareness and just show people all the difficulties he has to deal with.

What does it mean to you to be able to do this for him and with him?

It means a lot to me. Really, Braden’s my inspiration. He’s helped me through tough times. He’s always there for me. It means a lot to be able to give back to him and to give back to other people who have cerebral palsy.

You obviously walk a lot together, but what's your favorite way to spend time with Braden?

We both really love wrestling. [Hunter is the captain of his wrestling team.] Braden's at every one of my matches, and whenever I need support, I can just look over at him sitting on the mat and I know I can do it. Soon, he'll even be able to start wrestling too, so it'll be something we do together.

So what do you most look forward to about the walk?

I’m really looking forward to the beginning because it’s going to be pretty exciting seeing how many people are out there to support us. And then the arrival, because we’re arriving at the University of Michigan directly. The wrestling team is going to be there, so I’m pretty hyped for that.

What are you doing to prepare?

I'm lifting weights at the high school and carrying him as much as I can. Braden weights 52 pounds, and I'm 153, but we've been walking around the house and around our town to get ready.

You'll be walking for two days. How will you pass the time?

We'll have a lot of people with us, but for me and Braden, we'll just talk. Talk about wrestling, sing to each other, or just talk. I'm excited for the one-on-one time.

How is the rest of the family participating?

My sister is running our blog, my mom was helping out with the Facebook page, and my dad is doing a little bit of everything. They're going to be there on the weekend too. It looks like we're getting an RV and they're going to drive about a mile ahead and we're going to walk to them.

What's next for you? What do you hope to do after this?

I'm going to keep raising awareness for as long as I can after this. I probably won't do anything like this anytime again because Braden's going to continue growing and I won't be able to do it. I want to be a biomedical engineer. I want to build a suit that's like a brace that will allow him to move and lift his muscles slightly for him and show him correct movements. No matter what, I'm definitely going to raise awareness for the rest of my life.

Has your family ever pulled together like the Gandee family to do something so heartwarming?


UPDATE: Hunter and Braden walked this weekend and completed their 40-mile journey in 30 hours, and were joined by over 300 supporters. The Gandee family is not accepting donations, but for anyone interested, donations can be made to the University of Michigan's Cerebral Palsy Research Fund.

 

Image via Cerebral Palsy Swagger/Facebook

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