It is an honor and a pleasure to introduce you to a true American hero, Jasmine "Jazzy" Jordan.
In less than two weeks, Jazzy will run into New York City, completing her run across the US that began in Los Angeles in September 2009. And last Thursday, several DOT employees joined with staff from the Owner Operators Independent Drivers Assocation (OOIDA) to accompany Jazzy into Washington, DC.
Even more impressive than her record-setting effort--she will be the youngest ever to run across America--is that she's doing this to raise awareness and funds for the St. Christopher Fund for trucker relief.
Look, truck driving is not an easy way to earn a living. So the St. Christopher Truckers Development and Relief Fund provides financial assistance to drivers who have medical problems and cannot afford health care. SCF also conducts health research to benefit professional drivers and the trucking industry.
Jazzy grew interested in SCF when an employee of her family's trucking company, Sheila Grothe, was diagnosed with cancer:
"I heard that Sheila wasn't able to afford some of the treatments for her cancer, and it didn't seem right. All my life I've heard that 'America moves by truck,' and I just thought someone should tell people about how independent truck drivers have a hard time with health insurance and how the St. Christopher Fund helps. Then maybe the fund could have more money available for people like Sheila. Since I'm a runner, I tried to think of something to do with running."
After Sheila died on April 17, 2009, Jazzy went out for a run. "It's what I do when I'm stressed or need to think," she explains. "And that's when I decided to try this cross-country run."
With the help of her father, Lee, who put aside his own trucking company to support Jazzy, her run began a few months later.
Through 118 degree heat in California to the shin splints that have plagued her since New Mexico and the many days it took just to cross Texas, Jazzy has persevered.
"I don't think of the hard stuff when I'm out there," she says. "I think of the good moments, like running into West Memphis, Arkansas, where two fire trucks made an archway of extended ladders and the sidewalks were lined with elementary school students who then joined me on the road. That one brought me to tears. Good tears."
And now, Jazzy is in the final stages. She cleared Baltimore over the weekend, and looks to cross into New York City on June 15, nearly 3,200 miles after she began.
"It's been great," Jazzy says, "despite the pain and injuries. I've met lots of interesting people and awesome support. And the trucking community has just really gotten into this, so we've had 'friends' all over."
What a positive outlook! You know, in addition to just being a terrific kid and huge asset to the St. Christopher Fund, Jazzy has also been an individual influence, inspiring people to get out and move to improve their own health.
"I met a truck driver named Ed German who weighed over 400 pounds. Then, he said he heard about what I was doing and decided to change his lifestyle. He cut out the three or four quarts of pop he drank every day and started getting more exercise. By the time I met him in person, he was already down below 300 pounds! That's the kind of story that keeps me going for the long haul."
Well, that long haul is almost over as Jazzy approaches New York. But there's still time for everyone to learn more about this extraordinary young woman and her heroic mission at her website and on her Facebook page.
I want to thank the DOT employees who braved the weather and the miles Thursday to support Jazzy's DC run. They represent the deep commitment to service I have come to know well at DOT.
And, of course, I want to thank Jazzy for being such a terrific inspiration to us at DOT, to the trucking community, and to the nation. I wish you a strong finish!