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Teen finishes 40-mile walk while carrying brother

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - A Michigan teenager who wanted to raise awareness about cerebral palsy by walking 40 miles with his younger brother strapped to his back battled heat, rain, fatigue and more to finish the trek Sunday.

Hunter Gandee, 14, had been planning for weeks to pull off the walk, hoping to put a face on the muscular disorder that prevents his 7-year-old sibling, Braden, from being able to walk without help. But all his organizing couldn't prepare him for the conditions he faced as he packed the 50-pound boy over two days.

Mich. Teen Starts 40-Mile Walk For Cerebral Palsy Awareness

He even thought about giving up along the way.

"Honestly, yes, there was a point that we did consider stopping," Hunter said. "Braden's legs - the chafing was getting pretty bad. We did have to consider stopping. It was at about the 30-mile point."

A phone call changed all that.

Hunter reached out to a friend, who said a prayer for the brothers. That, combined with some rest and a change in how Braden was positioned on his brother's back, helped the boys make it the final 10 miles.

It may have taken a bit longer than they anticipated, but the Gandees and more than a dozen of their family members and friends strolled up a winding road Sunday toward the University of Michigan's wrestling center.

At the top of the hill, Hunter lifted up Braden so he could touch a "Go Blue" banner erected for them near the walk's endpoint. The move was met with thunderous applause and cheers from those who had gathered to see the boys finish the trek.

Asked how he felt, Braden replied simply: "Tired."

Hunter said he was "more tired than I think I've ever been. My legs are pretty sore. But we pushed through it. And we're here."

More than 30 hours earlier, Hunter, with Braden securely strapped to his back, left the parking lot of Bedford Junior High in Temperance near the Ohio border. Just before their Saturday morning departure, well-wishers packed the gym for a send-off and the school band performed.

The boys' parents and two other siblings accompanied them on the walk. A caravan of cars and other walkers also joined in.

The goal of the walk, called the Cerebral Palsy Swagger, was to raise awareness about cerebral palsy and hopefully inspire new ideas for mobility aides and medical procedures.

Braden typically uses a walker, braces or a power chair to get around.

Hunter, a 155-pound wrestler, said he trained for the trek by lifting weights and staying active. And by checking the weather forecast.

Saturday was warm and sunny, but Sunday was cool and rainy. The boys were prepared, though, and packed a variety of outerwear.

By the time Sunday afternoon arrived, the rain had subsided and they completed their triumphant march into Ann Arbor under sunny skies.

For Hunter, the walk was about doing something for his brother.

"I can't even describe to you how special (Braden) is to me. I can't put it into words," the teen said. "He's awesome. He's always there for me. I really just wanted to give back to him in some way."

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Greg June 09 2014 at 8:35 AM

Awesome kid and awesome role model. Beyond his years. Parents should be extremely proud of the fine young man they raised

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1 reply
bettyboopcda Greg June 09 2014 at 4:52 PM

Awesome is the word. What a fine young man. There are lots of good kids out there. Sadly many more aren't.

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1 reply
kcarthey bettyboopcda June 09 2014 at 5:18 PM

I really disagree with you, seeing today's youth as exceptional. But as in every generation, some see only the bad in life.

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auntiesuzieq June 09 2014 at 7:58 AM

Awesome...I can't stop crying. I miss my beloved sister Joanne who had CP. Even though growing up in the 50's with a huge heartache and burden.....she was the best thing in my life.......a gift of God. i am grateful every day that I can walk and speak! Not spoiled, entitled and selfish like kids today. She changed everyone who took the time to meet her.
Reach out to the disabled. They and their families appreciate it. She died at 47 but is with me always from above!

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2 replies
whcduan auntiesuzieq June 09 2014 at 12:56 PM

God Bless Her And All Your Family.

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Claire auntiesuzieq June 09 2014 at 2:12 PM

auntiesuzieq.......These brothers and I'm sure you and your sister Joanne are very special people. However, don't presume to call all of our kids today are "spoiled, entitled and selfish". That certainly is not the case.

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4 replies
lalalexm June 09 2014 at 10:39 AM

This gives a whole new meaning to "He ain't heavy, he's my brother". What a great show of brotherly love. God bless both of these boys.

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1 reply
s247247 lalalexm June 09 2014 at 1:33 PM

That was my exact thought when I read the headline.

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sadmaawk June 09 2014 at 8:00 AM

It just amazes me how some people can be so good, and others, not so much. One of life's mysteries I guess. God bless you both. Hunter, you are very special.

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Brian June 09 2014 at 8:41 AM

Love. If you believe that Love and God are the same, then you must believe that Love creates miracles... This boy is a believer. He believes in Love: Of his brother, of his himself and whether he realizes it or not, of his God. Manifesting a miracle takes belief in all of that. Very inspirational. Thank you, Braden. Thank you, Hunter. And thank God for a small miracle you helped to create.

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1 reply
Karen Brian June 10 2014 at 12:21 AM

Oh get out of here.

My word; the credit goes only to HUNTER. This has to do with Hunter's feelings for his brother and nothing else.

Geeezzzzzz.........can't you people put it to rest.

People are awesome withOUT your silly religion always breathing down our backs.

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slloyd414 June 09 2014 at 8:11 AM

What an incredible big brother!

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Jo June 09 2014 at 7:59 AM

What an awesome big brother he is!

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blsuber June 09 2014 at 9:01 AM

WOW. So proud of this young man. There are some dynamic people in the world.

Flag Reply +8 rate up
Mike June 09 2014 at 9:16 AM

That's what responsible big brothers do my friend. Congrat's.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
torp8r June 09 2014 at 8:34 AM

Nice story

Flag Reply +5 rate up
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