Hunter Gandee is a Michigan teenager and high school wrestler, who has just taught us all a little bit about “sharing the load.” Gandee, who is only 14 years of age, completed a 40-mile walk to raise awareness of cerebral palsy. And no one can deny that he accomplished that. Gandee carried his 7-year-old little brother Braden on his back for the entire journey.
Because of Braden’s condition, he is unable to walk. Big brother Hunter has been helping Braden to get around all of his life, but took the responsibility to a new level by carrying Braden in the The Cerebral Palsy Swagger – an event designed and sponsored by the Gandees to raise awareness about the debilitating muscle disorder.
On Sunday, Hunter, who had trained for months with weights in order to be able to carry 50-pound Braden for miles upon miles, battled heat, rain and fatigue, but walked over the finish line carrying something else – a huge smile.
Hunter said at one point he even thought about stopping because he was so exhausted. “Honestly, yes, there was a point that we did consider stopping,” Hunter said. “Braden's legs – the chafing was getting pretty bad. We did have to consider stopping. It was at about the 30-mile point.”
But Hunter said before he gave up, he reached out to a friend via a phone call. The friend in turn said a prayer with Hunter, and the strength he gained from that moment, along with a short rest, was all that Hunter needed to complete the last 10 miles.
The group – which included the Gandee family and countless friends – started at Hunter’s school, the Bedford Junior High in Temperance near the Ohio border, and ended their trek at the University of Michigan's wrestling center. The school was packed with well-wishers, and even the high school band played them off. Others joined the walk as they saw the group go by and learned of the cause.
Reports NewsDay: “At the top of the hill, Hunter lifted up Braden so he could touch a ‘Go Blue’ banner erected for them near the walk's endpoint. The move was met with thunderous applause and cheers from those who had gathered to see the boys finish the trek.”
As you might imagine, the first word that Hunter replied with when asked how he felt was: “Tired.” The teen said he was “more tired than I think I've ever been. My legs are pretty sore. But we pushed through it. And we're here.”
Said Hunter: “I can't even describe to you how special (Braden) is to me. I can't put it into words. He's awesome. He's always there for me. I really just wanted to give back to him in some way.”