I’m normally a pretty perceptive individual, but it did not require much of my giftedness to keenly observe a six foot tall globe tethered to a man and rolling down 50 Hwy in Lee’s Summit on Saturday. As a well-seasoned newsman, I happened to have pen, paper, and camera at the ready, so I stopped to accost the globe and its keeper.
The gentleman’s name is Erik Bendl and he hails, along with his dog Nice, from Louisville, KY. He and the gorgeous Rhodesian Ridgeback-Bullmastiff mix have been on foot, destined for Kansas City since June 2nd. As you may have deduced from the obnoxious globe and his dog’s moniker, Bendl has quite a healthy sense of humor. When asked if people often stop, he deadpanned that I was only the second since Kentucky. As mentioned earlier, I’m pretty perceptive, but I fell for the ruse momentarily. He’s just that good. “Really?” I exclaimed as another shutterbug pulled to the shoulder to gawk and click. Bendl half-chuckled and launched into a laid-back drawl telling of the hundreds of locals who had stopped just that day. A giant globe, weary traveler and faithful dog tend to pique the curiosities of passers-by — which is the entire premise of the incredibly effective publicity stunt.
Granted, he’s no Forest Gump, but 500 miles is no walk in the park. You see, when Erik Bendl was in his mid-20′s, his mother, a well-known Kentucky legislator, died of a heart-attack related to diabetes. Representative Gerta Bendl was in the prime of her political career and barely in her mid-50′s. She was so passionate about the people of Kentucky and enthralled in her political aspirations that she neglected her own health, according to Erik.
On the flip-side of that saga is the story of her older brother, Bernie, who is 82. He has lived a long life despite, too, being diagnosed with diabetes while in his 40′s. Bendl’s trek is about sharing their stories. It’s about raising diabetes awareness and hope. It’s also designed as a fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association. In the final days of his journey, Bendl’s priorities are simple and honorable. “I would love to go out and raise a million dollars with this walk, but if I can get just one person with diabetes to take care of themselves so they can be there for their family, it’s worth it,” he explains humbly. He goes on in an online bio, “Though I currently do not have diabetes I know I am at risk and believe through diet, exercise, and (a) good sleeping schedule the world can reduce this affliction.”
He memorializes not only his mother but also his father, by sporting Dick’s weathered fedora atop a shaved and glistening head.
When Bendl’s destination of Kansas City, KS is reached, he intends to drive into Denver and roll the globe to the top of Pike’s Peak in honor of Uncle Bernie’s birthday. Bendl is blogging about the walk at http://www.worldguy.org and you may interact with him on Facebook by searching for “world guy”. Donations to the ADA are possible at http://diabetes.org or by calling 1-800-DIABETES (800-342-2383).