A 14-year-old boy in Michigan embarked on an ambitious quest this weekend: Hunter Gandee walked 40 miles with his 7-year-old brother on his back tohelp raise awareness for cerebral palsy, the condition that keeps his brother from walking without help.
Saturday morning around 8 a.m., Hunter left from the parking lot of Bedford Junior High School in Temperance, Mich., with 50-pound Braden strapped to his back, the AP reports.
The brothers planned to arrive at their destination, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, on Sunday.
Hunter has deemed the trek the “Cerebral Palsy Swagger.” It’s already gained attention from the local community, national media outlets, and celebrities, and its Facebook page has thousands of likes.
“We’ve gotten contacted by the lead singer of Megadeth, and he’s supporting us and donating. We’ve gotten contacted by the Detroit Tigers, and they’re on board and supporting us. Whole bunches of different people,” Hunter told the AP.
Hunter’s goal is to raise awareness for the muscular condition that afflicts his little brother, who usually needs a walker, braces, or a power chair to get around. The siblings hope to gain the attention of leaders, doctors, engineers, and entrepreneurs to “show them the face of cerebral palsy and the need for new ideas in mobility aides and medical procedures.”
“The walk demonstrates the physical and mental challenges faced everyday by those affected by cerebral palsy, but with support, assistance, and a good attitude, all goals are within reach,” they wrote on the group’s Facebook page.
Dozens of family, friends, and community members came out to show support for Hunter and Braden.
Even students from a rival middle school, Jefferson, are supporting the Gandee brothers: They raised $700 for the cause.
The family isn’t asking for donations, but Hunter raised $350 for the University of Michigan Cerebral Palsy Research Program by selling green wristbands at his school in March.
Hunter’s school is supporting his effort, and let him stage a pre-walk pep rally in the school gym.
“Thank you guys for coming out. Thank you for your support. It means so much to us,” Braden told the crowd at the rally.
Hunter said that he trained for the 40-mile walk by lifting weights and staying active. The 155-pound teen is also a wrestler.
Braden said he believes in his older brother, and has faith he will get them to Ann Arbor. “My brother is awesome,” he said.
Update — June 9, 11:45 a.m. ET: The team pulled off the mission, and arrived in the University of Michigan’s wrestling center on Sunday evening.
“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.”
Hunter told Msn.com that he reached out to a friend who said a prayer for his brother. Then they rested, and changed the position Braden was on his back. That pushed the team through the final 10 miles.
When they reached their destination they were met with outbursts of applause and cheers from those who had came to see the boys at the finish line.