It’s not every day you see somebody walking along the roadside rolling a giant globe down the highway.
But somewhere in this country almost every day of the year, it’s not unusual to see Erik Bendl doing just that. The Louisville, Kentucky, native was spotted Thursday morning pushing his giant globe from Myrtle Beach toward Conway on International Drive.
The 57 year-old Bendl, a congenial carpenter by trade, is on a mission to bring awareness to those suffering with diabetes. His giant canvas ball is painted as the world, he says, because the disease can strike anyone, anywhere.
His mother died from diabetes and he realized that exercise can play a big part in controlling or preventing the disease.
“I learned that just walking can really help and I wanted to come up with a way to get that message out,” Bendl said. “So, in 1998, I did my first walk in my mother’s honor.”
He has since come up with a nonprofit organization called World Guy Foundation as a means for folks to learn about diabetes and to have an avenue to donate to the American Diabetes Association.
A friend suggested he walk the entire country. Bendl said he opted to make it just the 48 contiguous states. And since 2007, he has done just that, making 19 extended journeys with his globe.
Once he decides which states to visit, he sets out in his trusty van for the next segment. He will park the van and head out on foot. “I somehow manage to get rides back to my van at night,” he said.
Some of the excursions are relatively short, maybe just a few weeks, while others can stretch up to five months. After covering 6,000 miles, Bendl said he quit trying to keep up with the mileage, guessing he’s probably covered an additional 3,000 miles or so.
He tries to stick to the main highways, keeping out of everyone’s way. Sometimes folks will slow down and wave or stop to take pictures.
“I try to get them going so they don’t cause a problem with traffic,” he laughed.
This current walk will take him from Myrtle Beach to Glen Cove, North Carolina. And why did he come to Myrtle Beach for this walk?
Smiling and glancing up at the bright, sunny sky, “It’s beautiful here and it’s November and warm,” he said.
He doesn’t really know how much money has been raised for diabetes awareness since he began his walks, but he says it’s more about the idea of getting people outside and walking than anything else.
Then with a smile and a tip of the hat, he headed west on International Drive, soaking in the sun’s rays and hoping to do his part in the fight against the disease that has taken his mother and so many others.