TEMPERANCE, Mich. — Hunter Gandee pinned a Sports Illustrated magazine against the exterior of Forest View Lanes to sign an autograph while Eric Ebron of the NFL’s Detroit Lions walked in with no fanfare.

The 6-foot, 4-inch tight end, the Lions’ 2014 first-round draft pick, isn’t used to being upstaged, but he was OK with it: Hunter was the star of the show.

“I might get his autograph after this is over,” Ebron said. “His story is worldwide. Fifty-seven miles is unique even just to walk.”

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A week after Hunter walked to Ann Arbor while carrying his little brother with cerebral palsy, he walked onto the pages of Sports Illustrated’s High School Athlete of the Month — an honor celebrated at the bowling alley.

“It’s a tremendous honor that I never imagined I could have the title of,” he said. “This was to spread awareness. This helps get further awareness.”

Hunter, 15, walked 57 miles from June 5-7 from Douglas Road Elementary to the University of Michigan’s Pediatric Rehabilitation Center, all with his brother Braden on his back. He wanted to call attention to the needs of those with cerebral palsy.

The Sports Illustrated piece also discussed Hunter’s perseverance in wrestling.

Each of the past two summers Hunter, a freshman at Bedford High School, carried his little brother to Ann Arbor. The 8-year old’s daily struggle with cerebral palsy is what inspires Hunter to tough out the walk.

Hunter inspired Sports Illustrated.

“We pick amazing kids with inspiring stories,” said Ali Fenwick, a reporter for the magazine. “(This award) is for kids making an impact beyond the scoreboard, excelling on and off the field. They are two brothers who are so dedicated to each other with an unbreakable bond.”

A few hundred community members and a lot of family friends came to the ceremony. The alley offered free bowling, cornhole and volleyball to visitors. Sports Illustrated handed out small gifts and copies of the magazine. The Marines had representatives too; they sponsor the award.

The story was featured in the June 15 edition of Sports Illustrated, and a 9-minute video is posted of the brothers journey on SI.com.

Hunter got a kick out of meeting an NFL player, even if his favorite team is the Carolina Panthers. Ebron invited their family to a Lions game this fall and said he’d get field passes for them.

“You have a young hero in this city, he’s destined to do big things,” Ebron told the crowd.

© 2015 The Blade
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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