Ashwin Kalyandurg, a 22-year-old medical student at Nova Southeastern University, lent a helping hand to four charities last week. Two hands, in fact.
He surpassed the Guinness Book of World Records’ record for handwalking by walking 5.1 kilometers (3.2 miles) for eight hours to raise funds for the causes. The previous record was held by Sarah Chapman, with 5 kilometers in eight hours in Somerset, U.K.
His journey began last Tuesday at the parking lot of the Clive Daniel interior design store in Boca Raton. In the Pledge-Per-Step Challenge, he raised money for Eat Better Live Better, The Unicorn Children’s Foundation, The Pediatric Oncology Support Team and End Polio Now.
As a boy growing up in Boca Raton, Kalyandurg used to dream of being able to walk on his hands. At 14, he developed a fitness routine to build his upper body strength: 100 push-ups, sit-ups and squats as well as running 10 kilometers every day. After a year, Kalyandurg felt ready to attempt his first hand walk in a pool.
“I felt like I was walking on the moon,” he said, “because the water pulls down on your wrists and lowers the gravity to give you a similar feeling.”
Since then, he has been honing his talent. His fitness routine evolved from hand walking up the ramps in parking garages and climbing up coconut trees to flipping tires on the Florida Atlantic University football field.
This isn’t the first time Kalyandurg has handwalked for charity. He walked 12 hours for the American Cancer Society in NOVA Southeastern. However, this is the first time his distance was recorded for submission to Guinness.
Currently in his senior year at medical school, he has been able to balance these events with his studies.
“I have my board exam to become a doctor next week,” he said, “so after this event, I’m going to study.”
Pledge Per Step was sponsored by charities whose missions spanned from eliminating disease to boosting nutrition. Eat Better Live Better aims to reduce, prevent, and reverse childhood obesity. Founded by Debra Tendrich, the nonprofit provides children and their families with nutritional plans, education and healthy alternatives regarding their daily meals. Tendrich was also the organizer of the Pledge Per Step event. She and Kalyandurg have joined forces before at the Eat Better Live Better 5k in April. Their initial meeting, however, was completely by chance.
“I was in the mall looking for a food court. I asked Debra for directions and she mentioned the 5k (in April) for charity. I said ‘I can do a 5k on my hands’ and that’s where it all started,” he said.
Other charities participating in Pledge Per Step were the Unicorn Children’s Foundation, which aids children and families with special needs, and the Pediatric Oncology Support Team (POST), which provides emotional and financial support to families.End Polio Now, along with the Rotary International District 6930, aim to rid the world of polio completely.
Through partnering with these charities, it’s clear Kalyandurg is making a difference one step — or hand — at a time.