Erik Bendl has already saved the world and now he’s got it on a string and on a mission to raise awareness about diabetes.
On Monday, Bendl and his dog, Nice found people waiting for them all along their route as the made their way from One Mile, where Bendl spent Sunday resting and repainting the five-foot, canvas globe he has pushed over 5,000 miles and through 39 states since 2007.
Bendl said he needed to spruce up the world because it got a salty soaking during the first leg of his trip, which began Jan. 2, 2013 when he walked through sloppy snow in Tennessee.
Bendl, who is headed towards Tampa, said this is his ninth walk.
As he eases down the road, surrounded by curious, friendly faces, he tells everyone he meets about the importance of exercise and the hidden dangers of diabetes, the disease that took his mother at only 56 years of age in 1987.
Born Gerta Koperek, she lived in Pennsylvania until 1962, when she and husband Richard Bendl moved to Louisville, Ky, where Bendl organized a group of neighborhood women to challenge the school board and to work on the problem of flood control.
In Nov. 1972, she ran and won as the Democratic nominee for third district alderman, known for her outspoken humanitarianism. Bendl won a seat in the Kentucky General Assembly in 1976 and focused her attention on issues affecting the poor and elderly. In 1980 she became the first woman to chair a standing committee in the state legislature. In 1987 she died of a heart attack brought on by complications of diabetes.
Her son, Erik, “saved the world,” when he rescued his globe from the waste bin in the 1980s. When his son turned 7, he inflated it for the birthday party. He began taking the boy and the ball to the park and got lots of attention. That’s when he hit on his plan to spread the word about exercise and health.
Bendl and Nice average about 10 miles a day on their excursions, which last from one to five months. They sleep in a van that he leaves parked at the start of his daily walk, relying on some good-natured soul he meets during the day to ferry him back to pick it up each evening. He camps at fire stations and in Wal-Mart parking lots.
In Apalachicola he camped in an RV site offered to him by Capt. Tony Phillips.
He has created a foundation to accept and disburse funds. He donates to the American Diabetes Association and maintains a blog at www.worldguy.org.
“I get lots of coverage,” Bendl said. “But I started the regular blog because my brother got tired of trying to Google me every morning.”