Brett Bramble is on his fourth pair of shoes since March 13, when he left Delaware for California on foot.
Brett Bramble is on his fourth pair of shoes since March 13, when he left Delaware for California on foot. His cross-country journey brought him and his message on drug addiction and overdose through McPherson County this week, wearing a t-shirt, jeans and a baseball cap and pushing a stroller bearing supplies and a picture of the sister he will never see again.
The 31-year-old Atlanta, Georgia native is raising money and awareness for the 129 people who die every day from drug overdoses. In 2014, his sister, Brittany Bramble, was one of those people.
“She had just turned 28, and on March 15, 2014 she died of a heroin overdose,” Brett Bramble said. “When that happened, I started to learn about how many other people have been affected, mostly through opium and heroin overdoses.”
Bramble began work as an advocate in Atlanta, attending events and putting on fundraisers, including stunts like rappelling down the side of a building.
“I did what I could, and for me, it was a way of dealing with my grief,” he said.
As the one-year anniversary of Brittany's death approached, Bramble had an idea of a fundraiser that would take him beyond his hometown. He could walk across the country in honor of his sister, raising money and awareness as he went to fund a non-profit organization to educate people about the dangers of drug abuse.
“I had no idea how I was going to do it, but I knew I would,” Bramble said. “I started doing exercise, walking around more, and planning how I would do this walk.”
After a year of preparation, Bramble departed Delaware in March and hopes to arrive in San Francisco, California in late October or early November. The idea is to avoid traveling in winter, though that also means bearing the brunt of a Midwest summer.
“Kansas is a lot better than some people said it would be,” Bramble said with a laugh. “The people here have been friendly and great.”
Bramble stayed at Maxwell Wildlife Refuge Monday night, and on Tuesday, his travels brought him to the Knights Hotel on Kansas Avenue, just west of Interstate 135. His arrival in McPherson County marks the halfway point of his journey, and while he has no scheduled speaking events, he takes advantage of any opportunities that come his way.
“I talk to everyone I meet about it,” he said. “Nine times out of 10, the person knows someone who is addicted or who died or is in recovery — you get some good recovery stories, too.”
Bramble has also set up a Facebook page, Overdose Happens, for people to share how drug overdoses have affected them. Sometimes, the stories of uncertainty and fear are posted in real time.
“Just 50 minutes ago, a mom found her son had overdosed, and he's in the hospital right now,” Bramble said Tuesday afternoon. “People go there to share stories of their loved ones, and it's also a place where people can be educated about what's really going on with drug abuse in this country.”
Education and advocacy are at the heart of Bramble's mission. The message he shares with those he meets varies depending on their circumstances, and how closely drug abuse has struck their lives.
“For people who are lucky enough not to be affected, I encourage them to take the time to be educated,” he said. “There's plenty of info out there, and in case they do experience drug abuse in their family, they'll have a head start.”
Bramble said he believes people underestimate how prevalent drug abuse is, and often don't realize how easily someone they love can be affected.
“I've walked halfway across the country, and in every area I've been, someone has said there's a problem,” he said.
For those who are struggling with substance abuse, Bramble encourages them to seek help. He recognizes this can be hard with the stigmas society places on those who are addicted, but he said he's no stranger to having to face those stigmas to get help.
“I used to do drugs, up until 6 years ago,” he said. “If you're struggling, there's no shame in asking for help. Break those stigmas. Take the step of asking for help. If you try to help yourself, people will come to help you.”
Bramble also encourages people to resist the urge to try drugs, and said even those with wild tastes can find enjoyment without them.
“You can still be rebellious and have fun without drugs,” he said.
For updates about Bramble's journey, visit his Instagram page, brettbramblewalks, or his Facebook Page, Brett Bramble Walks. He also has a blog at http://www.brettbramblewalks.com, and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To donate to Bramble's walk and non-profit, visit http://www.gofundme.com/brettbramblewalks.