“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”
The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when
But I’m strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother…
“Beyond sore, beyond tired, beyond thankful, beyond blessed.”
Those were the words tweeted by 15-year-old Hunter Gandee Sunday after he successfully carried his 8-year-old brother on his back — for 57 miles.
Hunter’s brother, Braden, has cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects body movement and muscle coordination. Braden cannot walk without assistance.
In 2014, Hunter embarked on a challenge which he dubbed the “Cerebral Palsy Swagger” to raise awareness about his brother’s condition. For the challenge, Hunter walked for 40 miles while piggybacking Braden. The idea was to demonstrate “the physical and mental challenges faced everyday by those affected by cerebral palsy.”
At the time, Hunter said the journey had made him more exhausted than he’d ever been in his life.
Still, for this year’s challenge, the teen decided to push himself even harder.
Hunter and Braden started their journey on Friday in Lambertville, Michigan. Three days, 57 miles and a few breaks later, the pair arrived at their final destination — the University of Michigan’s Pediatric Rehabilitation Center in Ann Arbor.
That was “definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Hunter wrote on Twitter after completing the challenge.
Hunter told the Associated Press that the challenge was a big success. “We were able to reach more people,” he said. “That’s what our goal was.”
According to MLive.com, it was an emotional moment for not just Hunter and his family, but also for some onlookers, when the brothers finally reached their destination.
“When I first heard about this last year, I immediately started crying,” Maureen Kijek, a supporter at the finish line whose son has cerebral palsy, told the news outlet. “As a parent [of a child with the condition] you feel alone so often. It’s nice to see a community come together in support.”