Choices Changemaker: Could You Walk 111 Miles?
Hunter, 16, did—while carrying his brother on his back—all to raise awareness for his sibling’s struggles with cerebral palsy.
Hunter Gandee’s entire body ached. The relentless burning in his legs was accompanied by a razor-sharp pain that rocketed through his hip with every step, and his shoulder muscles twisted into tight knots under the harness that secured his 9-year-old brother, Braden, to his back.
Hunter’s discomfort as he carried the 70-pound third-grader a full 111 miles through the boys’ home state of Michigan last April was unlike anything he’d ever felt. But it was quite similar to the discomfort that Braden, living with cerebral palsy, feels daily.
“We wanted the walk to be a challenge for me in order to represent the challenges that Braden faces every single day,” Hunter says. “Walking and even sitting down at the dinner table are things that most of us do without thinking, but they’re struggles for him.”
To share his message, Hunter routed his three Cerebral Palsy (CP) Swagger awareness walks—he’s done one every year for the past three years—to pass by schools and community hot spots so that people could learn about cerebral palsy and be inspired to take action. And guess what? It worked!
While the goal of the CP Swagger walks was to raise awareness (not funds), Hunter received so many donations that he was able to build a handicap-accessible playground at Braden’s school. The original playground had no ramps—a perfect example of an obstacle that might cause those with physical limitations to be isolated from their peers.
“I was originally doing this just for my brother, but it’s not just for Braden anymore,” says Hunter. “If we can get rid of the unintentional physical barriers people with disabilities face, the social barriers will fade away on their own.”