Regional: Family walking across the country to honor daughter
JuCan/You Can. How to help
Jonathan and Jennifer Cobb and their children, Jonathan, Jen and Jaxie, are walking across the U.S. from Disneyland to Disney World to honor their daughter Julia, who died from a rare form of bone cancer. They could use some support and the use of an RV. For more information and to follow the Cobbs, visit www.JuCanFoundation.org, or search for Julia Cobb JuCan Foundation on Facebook. Individuals can also call 888-995-8226, or email info@JuCan.cc.
VAIL — Julia Cobb was 8 years old when cancer killed her on the last day of her Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World.
Cancer almost killed Jonathan Cobb, her father, and did kill both her grandmothers.
After nine years of cancer and three family deaths, the Cobb family decided it was time they took a stroll in the sunshine. They left their Houston home and are strolling from Disneyland in Anaheim, California, to Disney World in Orlando, Florida, more than 3,000 miles.
The route meanders across the country, as a stroll should, and was inspired by two happy trips Julia made before she died from Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer.
“We hope the walk sends the message that there is life after tragedy,” Jonathan said.
By the way, her friends call her Ju, and everyone was her friend.
WHY THEY WALK
They walk for pediatric cancer awareness and research. They launched a foundation, the JuCan Foundation, because if Ju can do it, then you can do it, said Jennifer, Ju’s mother.
But as much as that, they walk because they love it, and yes, everywhere they go they stop and smell the roses.
When Julia died, a reporter from Beaumont, Texas, said, “Ju went from one Magic Kingdom to the next.”
“We can’t go to her kingdom right now, but we can do this,” Jennifer said.
As they thought about it, they went from “wouldn’t that be great?” to “let’s do this.” And so they are.
They traded in two used cars for a used Chevy Suburban (the “Juburban”) and hit the road. A small trailer carries everything they thought they’d need for a year.
They strolled through the Central Rockies last week — Grand Junction, Rifle, Eagle/Gypsum, Vail and Summit County — and are somewhere in the Denver area about now, or maybe farther east. They’ll turn south at Salina, Kansas.
Sometimes people along the way open their homes or offer a meal. Team JuCan is easy to spot in their neon shirts. Some pull over because they’re curious about the family walking along with the purple Suburban.
They say anyone is welcome to join.
“We welcome anyone to walk with us, be it a mile, 2 miles,” Jonathan said. “Even if it’s just a pat on the back to say we’re here for you.”
They still need support.
“Walking is the easy part,” Jennifer said.
They could use some sponsorships. They could also use an RV. You could loan it to them for the rest of the trip, or donate it to their foundation and take the tax deduction.
Originally, they’d hoped to reach Walt Disney World by March 17, St. Patrick’s Day and Ju’s 10th birthday. They might not, Jennifer said. They’ll get there when they get there.
They hope to raise at least $413,000. It’s from Julia’s favorite Bible verse, Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”
“It’s been a heartbreaking nine years of cancer after cancer after cancer,” Jennifer said. “But at the same time we want to be part of helping someone else so they don’t have to suffer like Ju did.”
They get up in the mornings and walk 20-25 miles. They usually stay in motels. The three kids, Jonathan, 13, Jen, 11, and Jaxie, 4, walk most of those miles.
When they finish for the day, they return to their hotel in the vehicle. Next they start walking in the exact spot they finished the day before.
They’ve been through the Mojave Desert and through the mountains. They’ve had to be creative with some of their routes, taking pipeline roads through Nevada, being careful to watch for snakes.
When they strolled through Vail, they’d walked 950 miles in 108 days, so far. The kids take the kid route, up and down hills and mountains, through creeks and off the beaten path as much as possible. The kids don’t have much trouble sleeping at night.
Jonathan is a minister’s son who survived a rare form of intestinal cancer — one of the lucky few. As he was surviving it, his mother-in-law was dying from it. He knew what his daughter faced, the pain and struggle, the setbacks and disappointments. He told his daughter to focus on the first three letters in cancer — “can.”
“You do what you can do, and let God do the rest,” Jonathan said.
“Ju was an amazing person,” Jennifer said. “She never asked why or thought of herself, even though she never had one bit of good news. Yet she continued to march on and encourage others. That’s what we to choose to do now.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vail daily.com.
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