Going the Distance with Swagger to Spare
With Hunter and Braden Gandee of Temperance, Mich.
It's not uncommon for a young boy to see his big brother as a hero, but for Hunter and Braden Gandee, the feeling is mutual.
Like many brothers, Hunter, 16 , and Braden 9, share a passion for sports. But it was their close bond that led them on an amazing journey together.
Braden was born with cerebral palsy, which causes muscle weakness and limited mobility. After seeing his brother's daily struggles, Hunter wanted to raise awareness for cerebral palsy and help others understand the challenges Braden faces.
In June 2014, Hunter and Braden set our on a 40-mile walk from their hometown Temperance, Mich. to the University of Michigan while Hunter carried Braden on his back. They named their adventure The Cerebral Palsy Swagger.
"We wanted a catchy name that would not only define our project, but also stick in people's minds," Hunter said. "Swagger is to walk with an attitude or purpose, and that's exactly what we were trying to do."
After successfully completing the initial 40-mile trek in two days, the brothers set out on a 57-mile walk in June 2015. "We took a slightly different route to reach new towns, but the goal was the same -- to continue to raise awareness for cerebral palsy," Hunter said.
To the boys' surprise, people started sending donations of support, eventually totaling over $200,000. After considering how they might use the funds, they decided to build an accessible playground for Braden's school.
With the support of volunteers, the impressive accessible playground was completed in October 2015. The new playground has accessible equipment and a rubberized surface that's easy to maneuver with Braden's walker.
Hunter has received numerous awards for his achievements, including Presidential Service Award and Sports Illustrated's 2015 High School Athlete of the Year. Throughout the process, he has remained humble and keeps moving forward.
"We are an average family just like everyone else, and we believe anyone can create a project to impact and improve their community," Hunter said. "All it takes is a dream, support, and courage to follow through."
The brothers are now planning a third Cerebral Palsy Swagger walk on April 20th, with plans to walk a whopping 111 miles in five days. To follow their journey, check out the Cerebral Palsy Swagger Facebook page for updates -- we can't wait to see what's next for this inspiring pair!
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