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Current Page: Living | Tuesday, June 09, 2015
Michigan Teen Carries Brother 57 Miles in Shared Battle With Cerebral Palsy: 'Walking Is His Biggest Struggle'

Michigan Teen Carries Brother 57 Miles in Shared Battle With Cerebral Palsy: 'Walking Is His Biggest Struggle'

Hunter Gandee, 15, and his brother Braden, 8. | MLive

For the second year in a row Hunter Gandee took off on a long walk with some extra cargo to raise awareness for cerebral palsy. Like last year, Gandee made the trek with his brother on his back, completing the 57-mile journey across parts of Southeast Michigan on Sunday.

Gandee, 15, carried his brother, Braden, 8, all 57 miles over three days from Braden's elementary school in Lambertville, Michigan, to the University of Michigan's Pediatric Rehabilitation Center in Ann Arbor. Gandee's brother suffers from cerebral palsy.

"I wanted to show people the struggles that Braden has to go through daily," Gandee explained. "I wanted to go out and show people we can make the world a better place for people with cerebral palsy." Gandee has called his little brother an inspiration to him, adding, "He is always there for me."

The two started out with the entire elementary school joining them for a few blocks on their journey.

"It was exhilarating for our students," said Carol Perz, the school's principal. "They wanted to be a part of it. The event gave students a chance to learn more about disabilities and support a peer," she declared.

Last year, Gandee carried his brother 40 miles, and said they had so much success with the trip the previous year they wanted to try it again. Gandee's mother had a dream in 2014 that he was carrying his brother to raise awareness for the disease, so he said: "that's just what I did three months later."

The Cerebral Palsy Swagger Walk, now in its second year, is already a success. The brothers emphasized that the goal is not to raise money but awareness.

Along with raising awareness, last year they also helped raise around $130,000 for a new handicap accessible playground at Braden's school and have reportedly raised additional money this year for another playground, without soliciting funds.

"Walking is his biggest struggle and we wanted to show people that," the 15-year-old said.

Cerebral palsy is one of the more common causes of chronic childhood disability. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease "is a group of disorders that affect's a person's ability to move and maintain balance and posture."

"If it weren't for everybody cheering and walking with us, I wouldn't have been able to do it," Gandee said.

People lined the sidewalks to cheer on the brothers and Gandee said that at no point during the long trek were there less than 15 people at their side.

"The recognition shows that people see what we're doing and they're believing in us," he declared.

The trek was well documented on social media, especially at the Facebook page "The Cerebra Palsy Swagger."

"I'm like other kids but the only difference is walking," Braden commented in a video on the Facebook page.

Olympic silver medalist and wrestler Jake Herbert, who lives in Ann Arbor, also came out to show his support for the Gandee family and their cause.

In January, NBC News, which has aggresively covered the story of the two brothers, aired a segment covering changes to Braden's life after the 2014 walk.

"I think it's up to my generation to change things and make the world more accessible," Gandee asserted.

"Everyone of us has the potential to change the world, it's just a matter of finding the way to do it, he added in a video put out by the Michigan Fitness Foundation."

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