5 days. 111 miles. 2 awesome brothers. 1 incredible story.
An 111-mile walk would be a meaningful accomplishment for anyone.
But it was even more so for Hunter and Braden Gandee, neither of whom would have started the journey if not for the other.
Braden, 9, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age 1.
He usually uses a walker to get around. But, inspired by a dream their mom had, Braden's 16-year-old older brother Hunter decided to take a walk with Braden on his back to raise awareness for CP. Hunter said he is inspired by "just seeing my brother fight through all the struggles and how he battles everything with a positive attitude."
"I thought the idea was crazy," Braden said. Crazy or not, he agreed to go along for the ride.
The brothers, who live with their family in Temperance, Michigan, first walked together in June 2014 for 40 miles, then they did it again the following year for 57 miles.
This year’s walk was the longest yet for the brothers, totaling a whopping 111 miles and taking five days to complete.
"There was never point where I was tempted to quit," Hunter told Upworthy, "but there was a point where I was worried we might not be able to go on. On the fourth day, I started having a lot of pain in my hip, and it got really bad at a few points."
He says a friend prayed for him, and he was able to complete the journey.
Hunter carried Braden on his back for all but the last half mile, which Braden completed with his walker.
The journey took them from the steps of Bedford High School to the Michigan capitol. Friends, family, and complete strangers joined in along the trek.
All four Gandee siblings participated in the walk, which they’ve started calling The Cerebral Palsy Swagger.
"Me and my siblings are just like normal siblings," Hunter says. "We fight, laugh, and have fun together. Braden just has some extra needs, so we have to be there for him a little extra."
Braden goes to therapy every day, and he says he has to "learn how to do things like walking that most others don't have to learn."
Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects body movement, muscle coordination, and balance.
It usually affects the part of the brain that’s in charge of muscle movements, and while it cannot be cured, early treatment can make a big difference. "I wish that people would realize that people with CP are just like other people," Braden said about his condition. "They just have to work a little bit harder."
"Our goal for this walk was to challenge the world at all levels to take the necessary steps towards inclusion," Hunter says.
He also helped to build an accessible playground at Braden’s school and hopes that their walks bring awareness to those flaws in our society that create unintentional barriers for people who happen to have disabilities.
"I hope more people will learn about cerebral palsy so they can raise awareness," Braden said.
This will be their last Cerebral Palsy Swagger as Braden is now 70 pounds and Hunter is getting ready for college next year.
But I have a feeling their journey toward inclusiveness won’t stop here.
Right on, Gandee family!