By Stefanie Donahue
Since departing Key West, Florida on foot last January, 11-year-old Noah Barnes has shown that determination can take a person a long way – literally. After walking approximately 4,200 miles across the country, Barnes and his family will arrive in Blaine on Saturday, December 9.
The cross-country walk has raised money and awareness to cure Type 1 diabetes. Local organizers have planned a series of events on Saturday to welcome the family.
At 16 months old, Barnes was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, also called juvenile diabetes. The incurable condition can cause hunger, fatigue and blurred vision due to improper production of insulin by the pancreas. Between 2011 and 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 17,900 new cases of Type 1 diabetes in patients under 20 years old.
“Noah, as a little baby, was very sick,” his mother Joanne said. Concerned for his health, she and her husband Robert took Noah to the hospital. The diagnosis completely shifted their routine, she said. Each day, it’s crucial that Noah routinely tests his blood sugar levels and adjust his diet and insulin intake, she said.
Inspired by the story of Terry Fox, a cancer research activist who attempted an east-to-west-coast run across Canada with an amputated leg, Noah decided to take action, asking how many steps it would take to find a cure.
In 2016, he convinced his parents to drop everything and take him, his 8-year-old brother Jon and 4-year-old sister Angela on a trek across the US.
The couple sold their Florida home, Robert quit his job as a finance director and Joanne, a homeschooling stay-at-home mom, prepared a multitude of lessons to educate her kids on the road.
“I had to jump on board and tell myself, ‘you only live once,’” Joanne said.
Joined by his father, Noah has spent the past 341 days walking. Donning bright yellow vests that read “Noah’s March,” the pair departs around 10 a.m. to walk an average 17 miles each day, six days per week. Noah takes breaks to homeschool and consume roughly 2,000 to 5,000 calories-worth of food. Despite going through 11 pairs of running shoes, Noah said he’s only “a little tired.”
“I think it’s great that I get to spend time with my family,” he said. “I feel good.”
Joanne, Jon and Angela travel in the family’s orange Jeep. Often, they leap ahead of the walking route to find a place to stay for the night and organize meetings with interest groups. The meetings help to boost awareness about Type 1 diabetes and help rally the diabetes community together, Robert said. Out of the connections they’ve made along the way, the family has been offered a place to stay for about 200 of the more than 300 nights they’ve been on the road, he said.
So far, Noah and his family have raised over $20,000 for the Noah’s March Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The money covers travel expenses and goes toward diabetes research organizations, including San Diego nonprofit, Diabetes Research Connection.
After arriving in Blaine, the family will drive to San Francisco and then San Diego for additional meetings. In January, they will drive west from Florida to continue spreading the word about the foundation and raise more money for diabetes research.
“When we decided to do this, we decided to do it as a family,” Joanne said. “It’s been an incredible journey and I’m glad we did it.” To learn more, visit noahsmarchfoundation.org.