Special needs

Teen carries brother 50 miles to raise awareness

A teen boy carries his brother for 50 miles to raise money and awareness for cerebral palsy.

1Anchel

Anchel hopes Syona grows up to be the kind of kid who makes a difference. Photo: Anchel Krishna

My newsfeeds are often littered with inspiration porn (a charming term that describes how, in today’s connected world, it’s easy to fixate on someone with a disability doing something pretty ordinary because it makes us feel good).

But every so often a story pops up that makes you realize just how awesome some people can be.

Fourteen-year-old Hunter Gandee from Michigan is one of these examples. As the proud big brother of seven-year-old Braden, who has cerebral palsy, Hunter decided he wanted to raise awareness and funds for a very specific cause—to inspire and motivate engineers and doctors to come up with innovative mobility aids and medical procedures to help kids like Braden.

So he decided to undertake a two-day hike from Temperance, Michigan to Ann Arbor—with his 50 pound brother strapped to his back. The pair endured challenging weather conditions and physical exhaustion, but safely completed their journey. Now, that is what I call an awesome pair of brothers.

This is a story of brotherly love. It’s also a story of advocacy. As a parent of a child with special needs, I’ve been more of an advocate in the past three years than the rest of my time in this world (I’m not telling you how long!). It’s taken me three years to even realize I’m an advocate, and I tend to do best when using a very open, respectful, transparent and collaborative approach. There have been times that I really need to stick to my point and stay focused on the situation so that I can continue to make it productive and keep my cool. But I’ve learned how to speak my mind while treating people with respect, even when we disagree. Over the past weekend a friend asked for our opinion on advocacy as he prepared a presentation relating to his advocacy efforts in his local community. Here’s what I shared with him: “My message about advocacy is that it doesn’t always come wrapped up in a ‘warrior mom’ package (though there is nothing wrong with that)… it comes in all shapes, sizes, genders and volumes… you go about it being you… and make it right for you/your family.”

Whether Hunter and Braden realize it or not, they are advocates for families like mine, for kids like Syona and the siblings who love them. I look at these kids and realize that I didn’t have that kind of awareness at their age.

I think about how often we’re inundated with bad news stories and we hear of bullying in schools. And I wonder how it is that some of these kids just turn out so awesome. Then I offer up a little prayer of gratitude and hope that I can help guide my own daughter to be the kind of kid who makes a difference in whatever way she can.

Follow along as Anchel Krishna shares her experiences as mother to Syona, an extraordinary toddler with cerebral palsy. Read all of Anchel’s Special-needs parenting posts and follow her on Twitter @AnchelK.