When Boys Town founder Father Flanagan witnessed several older boys helping to carry Howard Loomis, a boy with Polio, up and down the stairs, he asked one, Reuben Granger, if he found it difficult. The boy’s response was, “He ain’t heavy, Father… he’s m’ brother.”
This now iconic saying — and the statue of two boys associated with it — is what came to mind when I read about brothers Hunter and Braden Gandee.
This past Saturday and Sunday, 14-year-old Hunter, along with his family and many friends, walked 40 miles from his middle school in Temperance, Michigan, to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The whole way, Hunter carried his 7-year-old brother Braden — who was born with cerebral palsy — on his back.
The walk was developed as a way to raise awareness of cerebral palsy, and to encourage people to continue developing new resources — including medical procedures and mobility aids — for those who have the disorder. But I think it did much more than that.
It showed what true brotherly love is all about.
“He always looks out for me. It means so much to have a brother like this,” Braden said in an interview with Ann Arbor News.
The Gandee family chose the University of Michigan as the walk’s destination because the brothers are both big fans of the wrestling team. Hunter himself is a wrestler at his middle school, an activity Braden joins in on and hopes to take part in himself one day.
“Braden sits mat-side at Hunter’s matches, and he keeps stats. He knows the tournament brackets when Hunter is in there,” said the boys’ father, Sam Gandee. “Hunter wanted to tie this (walk) in with Braden’s love of wrestling and do something hard.”
Hunter admitted that the long walk was not easy.
“There was a point where the chafing on Braden’s legs did get too bad, but we switched some things around and tried out a sling in a different way,” he said.
It was a phone call from a friend who prayed with the brothers that helped them to push through and finish the trek.
“I can’t even describe to you how special (Braden) is to me,” Hunter told Fox News. “I can’t put it into words.”
Although he was the one to carry Braden, not the other way around, Hunter showed how the brothers’ relationship exemplifies an important aspect of love — self-sacrifice.
Speaking about Braden, Hunter said, “He’s awesome. He’s always there for me.”
He’s m’ brother.
Hannah M. Brockhaus is an intern for OSV Newsweekly.