Chris Brannigan receives a donation from Mike Inniss of Harpswell during Brannigan’s barefoot march along Route 201 between Gardiner and Brunswick. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

The U.K. father walking barefoot from Maine to North Carolina in an effort to raise money for his daughter with a rare genetic illness completed his journey on Monday.

Chris Brannigan covered 1,000 miles finishing in Raleigh, North Carolina. Brannigan came through Brunswick on Sept. 6.

During the walk, he raised about $125,000 for a therapy for Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, a rare genetic condition that affects about one in every 10,000 live births in the U.S. — including his 9-year-old daughter, Hasti.

“People from across the twelve states that I visited were incredibly, incredibly kind and that for me is really heartwarming and special because ultimately my wife and I can’t do this on our own, we are relying on the kindness of strangers to make this a success,” Brannigan said.

In total, Brannigan’s charity, known as Hope for Hasti, has raised $1.5 million since being founded in 2020. Last year, Brannigan raised nearly $800,000 on a similar 700-mile barefoot trek across the U.K. In order to fully fund the gene therapy, they are looking to bring in $3.5 million.

Originally, Brannigan was planning to finish in Jacksonville, North Carolina — an additional 200 miles — but called it off early because Hasti became sick.

Throughout the trek, glass and sharp metal were among the objects Brannigan stepped on, and he said the social isolation, particularly in the more rural areas, was also a challenge. Ankle, back and neck injuries flared up, Brannigan said, but having to navigate dead skunks on the side of the road was probably the worst.

“If I never smell a skunk again, I’ll be happy,” Brannigan said.

The journey began in Maine because of The Jackson Laboratory, a research institute in Bar Harbor that has worked to develop the gene therapy for Hasti.

“We are so proud of Chris and all that he has accomplished in these last couple of months to raise awareness for CdLS and rare diseases more broadly,” said Dr. Cathleen Lutz, the director of the Jackson Lab’s mouse repository and rare and orphan disease center. “His story has raised important awareness about the work that we do as researchers to help families like his. It has helped millions of Americans understand that there is hope for children living with rare diseases, that people do care and that science is on their side. I believe for those reasons the march was a true success.”

Going forward, Brannigan said that he is not sure if another barefoot trek will be in the works. Right now, he said, he is looking forward to going home to the U.K. on Thursday, seeing his family and continuing to raise funds for his daughter’s treatment.

“It’s not rare to have a rare disease, I think that’s the message we would like people to take away,” Brannigan said. “This is something that effects millions of families in the United States, so more needs to be done than what is currently being done.”

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