On Sunday, Michigan teen Hunter Gandee raised his brother Braden off his back and triumphantly into the air after carrying him and astounding 40 miles. Though the 14-year-old, 155-pound wrestler had planned and trained for the event, when he finally made it to the University of Michigan’s Wrestling Center, he said he was, “more tired than I think I’ve ever been.”
What made it all worthwhile was the precious cargo on his back. It was, after all, seven-year-old Braden who had inspired the “Cerebral Palsy Swagger.”
Born with CP, a disease that affects his mental and physical capabilities, Braden is incapable of walking without help. Though he currently uses a walker, braces, or a power chair to get around, there is still a lot of room for improvement in mobility assistance for those with the disease.
Hunter decided to take it upon himself to help raise awareness about CP. By attempting the 40-mile walk with his brother on his back, Hunter hoped to demonstrate the mental and physical challenges those with CP face every day.
“Whenever I’m going through something that’s difficult and doing something that’s hard, I see him and how he worked through it, and it just kind of pushes me through,” Hunter told CBS News.
So, the two brothers departed from Bedford Junior High in Temperance, Michigan and headed toward Ann Arbor on Saturday. The weather was warm and sunny but by Sunday, light rain presented the walkers with colder, more challenging conditions.
Around the 30-mile mark, the crew considered stopping. “Braden’s legs—the chafing was getting pretty bad,” Hunter said. Though he was worried about his brother as well as his own increasing fatigue, the duo carried on. With the help and encouragement from friends and family, they were able to complete the remaining 10 miles to the finish line, just as the weather began to clear. They passed under the “Go Blue” banner by mid-afternoon to thunderous applause.
“My legs are pretty sore. But we pushed through it. And we’re here,” Hunter said. “I can’t even describe to you how special [Braden] is to me. He’s awesome. He’s always there for me. I really just wanted to give back to him in some way.”