Harford County has been a witness to some strange and unusual things, but nothing as unusual as seeing a life-sized globe rolling down Route 40, followed by a middle-aged man and his dog.
Erik Bendl, commonly dubbed as WorldGuy, and his dog Nice are taking the Northeastern states one ball roll at a time to promote diabetes awareness. The two started their journey for the fourth time on April 21—ironically Earth Day, in Washington D.C. Since then, they’ve been trekking throughout each state between DC and Maine to raise money for diabetes.
When Bendl’s mother, Kentucky State Representative Gerta Bendl, died a week shy of her 55th birthday from diabetes, Bendl took the initiative to start the walks. In her honor, Bendl has been walking on marches like the one he’s walking currently since 1998, where he walked 190 miles for the American Diabetes Association.
Since then he’s walked 430 miles from Kentucky to Pittsburgh, then 570 miles from Kentucky to Kansas City.
Bendl first came in contact with the infamous globe while working at a summer camp. “About when I was in my 20s, I worked in a summer camp and the world was a part of the games, and when the woman in charge decided she didn’t need it anymore, she knew I liked it and gave it to me,” Bendl said.
After he had the ball, he and his son would pump it up and play with it in the park. “After months of playing in the park and hundreds of people planting the seed in my head, telling me to take the ball with me on the walk if I was serious about it, I did,” Bendl said. Since then, he and the ball have been inseparable, bound together by a tethered leash.
Next to the globe is Nice, the dog, who fittingly mimics his name in character. Bendl said, “The lady who gave me Nice, her nieces and nephews kept telling Nice to ‘be nice’ when he was a puppy, and since then it’s stuck, and it’s been a good name for him.”
In addition to being a good companion on the long walks, Nice serves as a decent guard dog. Although Bendl and Nice have never been confronted by any kind of danger, “he’ll see teenager thug-types, and they’ll see Nice, and that will diffuse the danger real quick,” Bendl said.
However, every once in a while the duo will run into people who just are generally unhappy. On May 8, Bendl was walking in Havre de Grace, with the wind whipping around his globe. “One lady yelled at me to get out of the road while her husband flipped me the bird,” Bendl said.
But Bendl’s optimism shines, for throughout his journey he’s run into more good people than bad. “The people in Maryland were really nice; they were really polite,” Bendl said.
Joseph S. Castro, D.D.S, was kind enough to fix Bendl’s tooth while he was in Maryland. “All the dental nurses were cooing over Nice, and on Wednesdays, they have soup for lunch, so they asked me to come in,” Bendl said.
Bendl finds kindness all over the United States. According to him, Fairfield, Illinois has had the most welcoming people he’s come across yet. “It had the nicest people; it was pretty cool. Everyone knew everyone and it was a tight-knit community – really cool,” Bendl said.
As Bendl left Maryland on May 9, he offered this simple advice, “Keep active, go for a walk, take care of yourself, exercise, and diet. Especially if you’re at risk for diabetes so you can know your kids and grandkids.”
Julia Earnshaw can be reached for comment at [email protected]