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Issue of October 29, 2014
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Erik Bendl and his dog, Nice, walk along S.R. 64 near the S.R. 335 intersection east of New Salisbury Monday morning. Bendl is walking to Kansas City to raise money for diabetes research. Photo by Alan Stewart (click for larger version)

He's got the whole world, on a string


May 06, 2009 | 08:44 AM

Erik Bendl of Louisville has the world in his hand, or at least on a string.

Actually, the world is a giant rubber globe connected to a glorified dog leash similar to the other one he holds in his left hand, which is connected to his Rhodesian Ridgeback-Bullmastiff mix named Nice. With his right hand, Bendl rolls and guides a 60-pound rubber globe along the road, dodging everything from cars to trash to other dogs.

Folks driving along S.R. 64 heading west may come across Bendl, Nice and their giant six-foot globe in the coming weeks as he walks from his home in the Highlands in Louisville to Kansas City, all in an effort to raise money for the American Diabetes Association. He'll stay on S.R. 64 until he reaches the Indiana-Illinois state line.

Bendl, 47, started his 512-mile journey Saturday and hopes at least to reach Kansas City in about two months. If he feels up to it, he may walk farther.

Two years ago, Bendl walked with Nice and his globe from Louisville to Pittsburgh, where he's originally from. He also has walked from Louisville to Lexington, Ky., and back.

The globe is a rubber ball covered in canvas and hand-painted with green continents and blue oceans. Bendl used it at a church camp years ago, and when the woman who owned it was ready to get rid of it, she called Bendl. He took it home and pumped it up for his son's seventh birthday party, but the globe was too big for Bendl's backyard, so he and his son took it for a walk around the Highlands.

Bendl found that people would frequently stop, smile and ask him about the globe, so he decided to put the attraction to good use. Walking with his dog doesn't attract attention, but add a six-foot-tall globe to the mix and everyone wants to know what's going on.

Bendl's late mother, Gerta Bendl, who was a state representative in Kentucky, died from complications from diabetes at age 54. Her 82-year-old brother, "Uncle Bernie" as Bendl calls him, has managed diabetes since he was in his 40s.

"That's what it's all for. Diabetes affects so many people, but, ultimately, it comes down to taking care of yourself," Bendl said, while adjusting an already sun-faded fedora. "My mother thought more of her job than taking care of herself after she was diagnosed.

"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."

Bendl has a Web site, worldguy.org, where people can follow his journey. He's also got pages on Facebook and MySpace. Anyone who would like to donate to Bendl's cause can do so by donating to the ADA in his name at diabetes.org.

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