Erik Bendl has walked more than 2,000 miles dragging a giant globe for the cause of diabetes awareness, and a few miles of his trek were through St. Charles Parish last weekend.
Bendl’s journey has taken him and his dog, Nice, through 33 states and he ended up in Luling last Friday with his easy smile and joking manner.
Bendl has a family history of diabetes, having lost his mother at the age of 54 to the disease. Bendl originally used the nearly 6-foot-tall ball to play with his young son, but said that people would always come up to him and ask what the ball was for. One day, he just decided the ball’s purpose would be to raise the awareness of diabetes.
He quoted the movie "Forrest Gump" when asked about how he survives each day of his walk, saying, "When I’m hungry, I eat. When I’m tired, I sleep."
Bendl said he uses the "good people" system – relying on good Samaritans to return him to his van after each day’s walk. He then drives the van to where his walk ended that day and sleeps through the night. He also spends time each day patching and painting the globe.
His ride back to the van on Friday came from a Luling volunteer fire fighter who was nicer than he appeared.
"A young man came up to me wearing a shirt saying ‘I can only be nice to one person a day, today’s not your day, tomorrow’s not looking good,’" Bendl wrote on his blog. "He had face piercings, tattoos all over his arms and a low-boy Mohawk.
"The man later gave me a ride back to my van 14 miles back down the road. His shirt was not a true representation of his character. He was a hard worker and a volunteer firefighter. ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’"
Bendl said he often parks his van overnight in Wal-Mart parking lots because they are usually open to travelers from all over the country – but the Luling store was an exception to that rule.
"The store manager sent a woman out who apologetically asked me to leave," Bendl wrote of the Wal-Mart on Highway 90. "I took it in stride and walked a little way up the road to Majoria’s Supermarket where the owner…allowed me to stay without a bit of hesitation.
"A family business that still survives even with a superstore in the neighborhood. It worked out for the better, my walking a little farther, because I had a beautiful view of the sunset from Majoria’s Supermarket."
Throughout his St. Charles walk on Highway 90, Bendl was met by helpful parishioners who offered him snacks and shelter.
"Even though the day had the winds in our faces, the wonderful people I met all day let me rest, gave Nice (the dog) constant attention," Bendl wrote of Des Allemands. "I still haven’t figured out how to pronounce where I am, it de Catfish Capitol of the World.
"The people here are great."
Before beginning to walk years ago, Bendl was an independent carpenter out of Kentucky, where he still officially lives.
"I talked to the boss and he said it’d be okay," Bendl said of leaving for his first walk.
Over the next four-and-a-half years, he has been on five separate walks to help diabetes organizations and encourage people to get healthy with exercise to control and prevent diabetes.
Bendl said he prefers those supporting his cause to send donations to the American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org. Follow Bendl’s journey on his blog, www.worldguy.org.
|Erik Bendl and his dog, Nice, have walked through 33 states in order to raise awareness for diabetes. Bendl’s mother died of diabetes when she was only 54.|