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TEMPERANCE — The ballad “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” was an international hit in 1969, long before Hunter Gandee was born.
But next month, the 14-year-old intends to live up to its message by carrying his brother 40 miles from Bedford Junior High School to the University of Michigan over two days for a cause close to his heart.
His younger brother, Braden Gandee, 7, a first grader at Douglas Road Elementary School, has cerebral palsy and uses a walker and braces.
To Hunter, his little brother is “my inspiration,” and he assists him in every way he can. Braden has been in physical therapy since he was 3 months old. Because of his brother, Hunter has adopted cerebral-palsy awareness as a personal cause.
Cerebral palsy impairs movement and is caused by brain injury during pregnancy. Hunter wants to heighten public awareness of cerebral palsy and the challenges it poses. He has a Facebook page called Cerebral Palsy Swagger, a Twitter account @the_cp_swagger, and an Instagram account @cerebral_palsy_swagger.
Hunter also raised $350 for cerebral palsy research at the University of Michigan by selling $1 CP Awareness wristbands at the junior high. The Bedford Board of Education honored him and Braden during its May 1 meeting.
Hunter said he knows the 40-mile hike on June 7 and 8 with his brother will be hard. But if any eighth grader can do it, he can. The muscled youth weighs 150 pounds and is a wrestler and football player on the junior high teams. Braden weighs 50 pounds and will be carried piggyback by his brother.
They will depart at 8 a.m, with a sendoff from the junior high, which will be specially opened for them that Saturday morning. School board members and other district officials, along with friends and supporters, will be there to send them off.
The boys will not walk alone. A group of volunteers will accompany them, and their parents, Danielle and Sam Gandee, will drive ahead of them. The family lives in Temperance and includes Kerragan, 13, and Kellen, 6.
“I’m excited about the walk,” said Braden. To keep his brother occupied, he added, “I’ll talk to him. I’ll sing songs.”
Hunter estimated the entire walking time at 13 hours. They’ll use local roads and make stops, including in Dundee and Milan, where they’ll spend the night. Their journey’s terminus will be the Bahna Wrestling Center at UM.
Contact Carl Ryan at: email@example.com or 419-724-6095.