June 9, 2014
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Hundreds of friends, family and supporters joined the University of Michigan wrestling team yesterday (Sunday, June 8) as Hunter and Braden Gandee completed their Cerebral Palsy Swagger -- a 40-mile walk from Temperance, Mich. -- at the Bahna Wrestling Center.
Hunter and Braden Gandee
Hunter, a 14-year-old wrestler at Bedford Junior High, carried his seven-year-old brother, Braden, on his back for 40 miles from the Bedford Junior High wrestling room to the Bahna Wrestling Center. Braden has cerebral palsy and uses a walker, braces and a power chair.
The walk took approximately 18 hours and included an overnight stop in Milan. The brother battled heat, rain and fatigue -- and briefly considered stopping around the 30th mile -- to finish the walk.
The Ann Arbor Police and Fire departments assisted in the arrival, providing the walkers an escort over the 94 interchange on State Street. The Gandees were greeted by supporters, including several members of the Wolverine wrestling team, at the bottom of the hill to Bahna. Senior/junior Chris Heald (West Bloomfield, Mich./West Bloomfield HS) walked the full 40 miles.
Football's renowned M Club Go Blue banner served as the finish line at the top of the hill, and upon reaching it, Hunter lifted Braden up to touch the banner to loud cheers and applause.
The Gandees completed several media interviews and met with friends and other attendees, including several families with children affected by Cerebral Palsy, before sharing a private meal inside Bahna with the wrestling team. They wrapped the day with a tour of the building and wrestled and played on the mats for more than an hour.
The goal of the walk was to raise awareness of Cerebral Palsy -- to get the attention of the up-and-coming leaders, doctors, engineers and entrepreneurs and show them the face of Cerebral Palsy and the need for innovative ideas in mobility aides and medical procedures. The family is not asking for donations, but for those interested, they are directed to the University of Michigan Cerebral Palsy Research Program.
The Cerebral Palsy Swagger has garnered considerable local and national attention. The Gandees have already appeared on ABC News, Fox News, Huffington Post as well as numerous Detroit and Toledo news outlets. A feature story is expected tonight (June 9) on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams at 6:30 p.m. EDT.