TEMPERANCE — A 14-year-old boy told hundreds of supporters Saturday he knew giving his little brother a 40-mile piggyback ride to Ann Arbor will be a challenge, and he’ll be thinking of them when the going gets tough.
“We are walking 40 miles and I am carrying 50 pounds, it’s going to be difficult,” said Hunter Gandee of Temperance, an eighth grader at Bedford Junior High School. “But really ... with all this support, there isn’t much that’s holding us back.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Temperance teen treks for a cause
Hunter departed for the 13-hour walk after a 15-minute send-off attended by students, parents, school faculty and staff, and community representatives. His younger brother, Braden Gandee, 7, a first grader at Douglas Road Elementary School, has cerebral palsy and uses a walker and braces.
Braden has been in physical therapy since he was 3 months old. Hunter said he wants to draw attention to problems Braden and others with cerebral palsy face.
To prepare for his feat, Hunter had been lifting weights and “carried Braden around the community as much as possible” the past six weeks since Hunter and his mother came up with the walk idea, Hunter said.
“I am about to set out on a journey called A Walk to Ann Arbor, and I am excited about it,” Braden said. “Hunter is really strong, and I actually can see him do it. He always looks out for me and I am happy that he is there for me.”
Scores of green balloons filled with helium soared into the air Saturday morning as about 200 people set out on foot from the junior high school north on Jackman Road to see Hunter and Braden off.
The boys told The Blade that the walk to the University of Michigan by today would take about 13 hours of total walking time.
They said they chose Ann Arbor as their destination because Braden had participated in clinical studies there, they have family there, and they both cheer for the Michigan Wolverines.
Hunter weighs 150 pounds and is a junior high football player and wrestler. The boys’ parents, Danielle and Sam Gandee, will drive ahead of them, and the boys will be accompanied by supporters. The family lives in Temperance and includes Kerragan, 13, and Kellen, 6.
“They’ve always been really close,” Mr. Gandee said of Hunter and Braden.
“Ever since he was little, Hunter always had a lot of concern for Braden, always wanted to help him out. He has just been very attentive to Braden’s needs. ... They just have love for each other.”
The boys will walk local roads and planned to make stops in Dundee and Milan, Mich., the latter to spend Saturday night before completing their trip today at the U of M’s Bahna Wrestling Center.
Hunter 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.
Cerebral palsy impairs movement and is caused by brain injury during pregnancy. Hunter has a Facebook page called Cerebral Palsy Swagger, a Twitter account @the_cp_swagger, and an Instagram account @cerebral_palsy_swagger.