Man Honors Sister After Drug Death With Cross-Country Walk

By McCarton Ackerman 11/22/16

Over the course of eight months, Brett Bramble walked from Delaware to San Francisco to honor his late sister's life. 

Man Honors Sister After Drug Death With Cross-Country Walk
Brett Bramble Photo via YouTube

Brett Bramble lost his sister to a drug overdose two years ago, but ensured her memory will live on after successfully completing a walk across America to raise awareness of the dangers of substance abuse.

The Atlanta native took his dog, Domino, and began the walk on March 15 in Cape Henlopen, Delaware, blogging about his experience along the way. Brett brought a keychain with his sister's face imprinted on it to keep him motivated as the cross-country walk became physically grueling. 

He endured extreme weather conditions, a dog attack and even had to ship Domino home due to extreme heat. But on Saturday, Nov. 12, he finally arrived in San Francisco after eight months and celebrated by jumping into the Pacific Ocean. 

"Love was by far the biggest thing that kept me going. I was able to keep my sister alive with her love. I made that peace out there and I know I will be okay,” he said to NBC Bay Area. "I feel really good about my accomplishments. I feel like I was able to reach many people and help make a difference by sharing my sister's story."

Brett and his sister, Brittany Leigh, both used drugs recreationally growing up. But after getting into trouble with the law and having a judge threaten him with a long jail sentence, Brett said he immediately stopped on his own.

Brittany wasn’t as fortunate. At age 20, she married a man who dealt drugs and began using pills and meth herself. Eventually, she progressed to heroin and suffered two overdoses, the second of which killed her just two weeks after her 28th birthday.

Looking for ways to honor her and spare other families from suffering similar pain, Brett ultimately decided on his cross-country walk. He left his family behind for the journey, including his young daughter, but felt it was a necessary sacrifice for an important message.

“I feel terrible, but this has to be done,” he told The Fix in August. “It’s a one year sacrifice, and she’s going to gain a lot out of this too.”

Brett visited with local school officials, churches and police in each he town visited, urging them to hold discussions about addiction and recovery. But what he didn’t expect was the extent to which people would support his journey. He was moved by the generosity of complete strangers regularly opening up their homes to him, offering home-cooked meals and a place to stay for the night.

"Nine times out of 10, the people I talked to were affected in some way by substance abuse whether it was them or somebody they knew," he said.

But now that the walk has been completed, Brett plans to continue honoring his sister with a speaking tour and eventually a book, all with the goal of educating others about the dangers of substance abuse. 

"I want to share this story," he said. "I want to keep my sister's legacy alive by helping others."

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.