The Press Newspaper
She’s pushing a baby stroller given to her by a “trail angel.” In it, Jodi has five gallons of water, her tent, sleeping bag, laptop, books, canned goods and mustard.
Pushing the stroller beats carrying a 25-pound backpack. Or, digging up the gallon jugs of water she buried on her recon trip last year.
Jodi’s on mile 3,465 of her 4,834 hike across America to raise awareness and money for her friend Jeremy Eby and others who suffer from Neurofibromatosis, a neurological disease more common than similar diseases like muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis and Huntington’s Disease.
Jeremy, 28, a childhood friend and fellow Clay grad, has undergone five operations to excise brain tumors. The tumors cause swelling in his brain which affects his balance. He uses a walker or a wheelchair for mobility and is on disability.
Eby said funding for research to find a cure has decreased in recent years from $20 million to $4 million annually. Eby hopes Jodi’s walk will help push funding back up.
While he struggles to walk around his Holland home, Jodi’s been walking across America since February 29 For most of the last seven months, she’s shared her adventure with fellow hiker, Josh Howell of Biglerville, Pennsylvania, who is raising awareness for Alzheimer’s Disease in honor of his mother who suffers from it. But, for one month, when Josh left the American Discovery Trail to visit his parents, Jodi walked the Nevada desert alone.
Imagine that sight—a young woman pushing a baby stroller along the long, lonely road through the desert in the heat of the day. Many have imagined the worse. Passing motorists have called the police and a day hardly goes by that a patrol car doesn’t stop them saying they are responding to a call about “ a crazy couple hiking through the desert with a baby.” Imagine how her parents, Scott and Joanne, and her friends worry as they read her daily on-line journal. But, Jodi has discovered America is full of trail angels. Many have stopped to help her and to donate money. Some have given her a place to sleep and fed her. Others, like the man who gave her the baby stroller, gave what she needed to make the hike endurable, a pair of gloves, a book and even an Ipod shuffle with audio books.
Looking back on the last seven months, Jodi is surprised boredom hasn’t become an issue. She has a companion to share the trail and when the two tire of each other she talks or sings to herself or listens to the silence. It’s in that silence, enlightenment sometimes shows itself. “The ideas and thoughts that an eight-month hike provoke are amazing,” she says. “Living with passion, following your heart, love, simplicity, questioning societal norms, communion with God, pursuing bigger adventures…I suppose a hike like this changes a person. My hope is that more people are inspired to follow the dreams in their hearts or even to set out to do pilgrimages of their own.”
Jodi and Josh walk an average 25 miles a day and take off an occasional day for a change of pace. She’s worn out four pairs of shoes and suffered through blisters on her feet and general soreness. But, this former personal trainer at the Eastern YMCA is in the best shape of her life and looking forward to finishing her hike at Point Reyes National Seashore, just north of San Francisco She has about 1,000 miles to go and hopes to reach her final destination November 8th.
Jodi has raised more than $5,000, far short of her $100,000 goal, but she has touched the lives of many people and raised awareness of Neurofibromatosis through her personal conversations, interviews with the media and her on-line journal.
When Jodi finishes her hike she will stay in California and sightsee. Josh, her companion for seven months, will go back home. The two have grown close. They share similar personalities, beliefs and interests. Whether they will share more is undetermined. Jodi says, “We care about each other a lot and neither of us are totally ruling out the possibility of a future together. But, after nearly nine months of being together, side by side, 24/7 we have decided to spend some time apart and gather our thoughts individually.”
Jodi hopes to be back in Oregon for Thanksgiving. And, what has she learned while devoting eight months of her life to help others?
“We are truly living at the needs level. It is funny how little we have, yet we are happier and more peaceful then we’ve ever been before. Simplicity is a beautiful thing.”
You can follow Jodi’s adventure by going to www.presspublications.com and clicking on her photo on the home page. You can donate by making out a check to NF Inc and mailing to Jodi Harrington, 1034 S. Coy Road, Oregon, OH 43616.
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