It’s one of the stranger headlines we’ve encountered. A man from Nashville has been spotted pushing a giant ball around in the name of diabetes awareness. Some people would start a petition, or write to their MP; but not Erik Bendl.
It sounds bizarre – and a quick look at the video confirms that it is, in fact, bizarre – but it’s also a noble quest. Erik Bendl, the man behind the ball, has been fighting this fight for 15 years.
Along with his dog, Nice, Erik is walking to raise awareness after his mother died of diabetes. So far, he’s walked over 6,000 miles, blogging his unusual adventures every step of the way.
Erik, a carpenter, made the giant globe – six foot in diameter – for his son to play with in the local park. Unsurprisingly, people were curious. Why the globe? Why push it round the park? What was Erik trying to say?
“Diabetes pretty much rolled off my tongue instantly,” Erik says. “Even though my mom had been gone eight to 10 years, I still remembered. She didn’t get to see her grandchildren.
“I’m a guy walking across the country with the world, trying to spread the message of ‘Save yourself by walking. It’s been a real good experience for me to show what I’m talking about: a daily activity. I can see or at least feel the results.”
Erik’s mother isn’t the only one of his relatives affected by diabetes:
“I have an uncle who has been diabetic, like my mom, since his 40s,” Bendl said. “So eight years ago, I walked to celebrate his 80th birthday to Pittsburgh from Louisville, using him and my mother as an example. She passed at 54. He at the time was 80. He’s now 88, still kicking.”
So far, Erik’s epic stroll has raised more than $5,000 for the American Diabetes Association. Helen Overfield, director of the ADA’s office in Louisville, Kentucky, says:
“He is passionate about discussing diabetes with people as he travels. He is a free spirit, and rather unconventional, that for many may raise an eyebrow – but has a heart of gold.”
We salute you, Erik. And your giant globe.