Douglas Road Elementary in Bedford township has a brand new playground, inspired by Braden Gandee, 9, who has Cerebral Palsy.
NBC News first introduced the Gandee brothers’ story in June 2014 when the pair set off — with Hunter carrying Braden on his back — from their home in Temperance, Michigan, and walked forty miles to the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus to raise awareness about cerebral palsy. Along the journey, people cheered them on.
The story of Braden and his brother Hunter made national news with what they called the “CP Swagger.”
All that attention brought generous donations from individuals across the country, including from teams of engineers who offered to build a new playground for the community, accessible to people suffering from disabilities.
Braden Gandee always had a simple dream: to play at recess alongside his classmates.
“I just had to sit back and watch them [friends] have fun,” said Braden “I really wanted to do what they did.”
With the help of dozens of volunteers, including his big brother, Braden and all his classmates can now play together.
“Before at recess, Braden was only able to do a few things: ride his power chair around the blacktop or use his walker,” Hunter Gandee, Braden’s brother said. “He had one handicap accessible swing.”
But now the possibilities seem endless.
“It’s just a good feeling,” Braden said. “Now I can go out and play with my friends.”
Kids with all different abilities can set sail on the new pirate themed, inclusive playground set.
“What’s really cool about it, is that Braden is going to be able to play with his friends,” Hunter told NBC. “It’s got special equipment he can use with his friends and he’s going to have so much fun.”
“3 weeks ago it was a dirt pile and an empty field,” Donnie Stevens, the president of the Parent Teacher Association at Douglas Road Elementary said.
The playground idea started some 18 months ago. The PTA spearheaded the fundraising after being inspired by the Gandee’s.
“The moment it became reality is when you see Hunter walking with Braden down that long hallway,” Stevens said.
He says the community really rallied around the effort, donating time and money to make it all possible.
“Piece by piece we got to where we’re at now,” he said.
The Gandee’s hope this will encourage other school districts and neighborhoods and most importantly educate people about Cerebral Palsy.
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