For Brett Bramble, Sundays in autumn are meant for Falcons football. Brett's dad purchased season tickets when the team played in Fulton County Stadium, and recently, he gave them to his son. Missing a game is not usually an option for the Georgia native.
Next season, however, will be different.
Bramble has put football on the back burner as he embarks on a long, winding journey: After losing his sister, Brittany, to overdose in 2014, he's begun a cross-country walk to raise awareness for drug education and treatment.
"I wish that no one else ever has to have the same hole in their heart," Bramble said. "I hope that by doing this, I can bring some sort of support to any others that have lost a loved one to an overdose."
The data is staggering: According to Bramble's website, 47,054 Americans—129 per day—died of overdose in 2014 alone. And while the 2015 statistics have yet to be released, they're believed to be even worse.
The elements surrounding this issue—the substances, prevention tactics, state and federal laws—need to be talked about more to buck the current trend. Decreasing the number of drug-related deaths won't be easy, but Bramble knows he can play a big part in making sure that happens.
"This epidemic needs attention and my main cause is to try and help with that," he said. "I want to educate people who use drugs, or are around people who use, about Naloxone. The shot that reverses overdose. Naloxone is literally saving lives and people need to know about it and how to get it and how to use it."
With his dog at his side, Bramble hit the road on March 15—the two-year anniversary of Brittany's death. His plan is to go a steady pace through a diverse path, one that will take him to Washington D.C., Kansas City, the Rocky Mountains, the Golden Gate Bridge and many places.
This trip has already made an appreciable impact during its early stages. People have started pulling over to the side of the road when they see Bramble shuffling on the edge, and when they ask if he's OK, he explains his goal and expands the conversation.
Additionally, social media has given the cause a tremendous boost. Bramble's Facebook page is up to 3,326 likes as of Sunday; outlets from major newspapers to TV stations to People Magazine have learned about his expedition and given it coverage.
Bramble has even been showered with motherly love: After hearing his story, some local women, all of whom have lost children to drugs, have driven as much as two hours to give him presents, buy him hotel rooms, order him pizza and offer encouragement.
"The support is what gets me motivated to get on the road every morning," he said from West Virginia.
Of course, Bramble is making lots of personal sacrifices. Many of his nights are spent in a $20 tent he bought at Wal-Mart. He's missing out on a lot of time with his five-year-old daughter, Brooke. He's eating a lot of simple foods like rice, beans and trail mix (he brought whiskey, though, just in case). And, of course, Bramble willl miss a lot of the 2016 NFL campaign.
But he understands any hardship faced on the road pales in comparison to the loss of a loved one. So he keeps on walking, sometimes more than 50,000 steps a day.
"I want Brittany back so bad, but since she is gone I hope that I will be able to save at least one life in her honor," Bramble said. "I know she would like that."
Images courtesy of Brett Bramble