Eric Bendl has the weight of the world in his hands, and he’s been pushing it from Lubec to Acadia National Park to raise diabetes awareness.
The 55-year-old from Louisville, Kentucky, has walked thousands of miles across the country with his dog, Nice, and a 6-foot globe that he made out of an inflatable inner tube and canvas. Bendl has completed 15 trips, which have taken him to all 48 contiguous states, since embarking in his first long walk in 2007, from Louisville to Pittsburg.
He says he wants others to get in the habit of walking.
“If we all walk every day, we can keep diabetes under control, sometimes turn it around and often prevent it,” he says.
Bendl began traveling in honor of his mother, who died from diabetes at age 54. He blogs, maintains a public Facebook page and strikes up conversations with the people he encounters on his walks, and says people meet him with nothing but enthusiasm.
“And if they don’t know what I am doing, once I tell them what I am doing, the enthusiasm comes," he says. "So, it seems to be a message that doesn’t get old, that we need to take care of ourselves. If we want to save ourselves, go for a walk.”
Over the years, Bendl has garnered a following. Danielle Nelson, a small business owner from Ellsworth, stopped by to greet Bendl. She says she wanted to wish him luck and and show her support.
“I have a lot of family and friends who are affected by diabetes, both type 1 and type 2. So, I just think it’s important to bring awareness for that, and it’s just a great opportunity for him to help others learn more about diabetes,” she says.
Bendl says he hasn’t decided the route for his next trip.