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Noah’s March: 11-Year-Old Breaks a Record Walking for a Cure

One step at a time, Noah Barnes is raising awareness for a cure for Type 1 Diabetes.

January 4, 2018

When Noah Barnes saw a documentary about Terry Fox, the Canadian athlete who tried to run across the continent to raise awareness of cancer, it gave the then 10-year-old an idea: He could do the same for his disease, Type 1 Diabetes.

According to the American Diabetes Association, over 1.25 million Americans have Type 1 Diabetes. For those with the more prevalent Type 2 Diabetes, the body is unable to process insulin effectively, whereas Type 1 Diabetes is characterized by the body’s inability to produce insulin. Type 1 can only be managed by regularly administering insulin either via shots or an insulin pump that delivers doses at intervals throughout the day via a catheter.Noah smiles with his family, who traveled alongside him throughout his on-foot journey across the U.S.

“When Noah first came up with this idea, initially I thought, ‘Well, that’s really charming and cute,’” Joanne Barnes, Noah’s Mom, recalls. “But when you start thinking about it logistically and financially, leaving home to do this — it was completely nuts!”

The Barnes — Joanne, her husband Robert, and their three kids, Noah, 8-year-old Jonathan and 4-year-old Angela — were then living in Juno Beach, Florida. Robert was working as a Finance Director for an automotive retailer while Joanne homeschooled the children.

“I really had to soul-search and think, ‘What have I done that’s significant?’ Yes, I’ve had three children and that’s pretty huge. But what have I done?” Joanne says. “And I started thinking about how huge this was — Noah would do something really big, why would I hold him back from doing something really great?”

The Barnes decided to embark on the journey as a family. Robert quit his job and they sold their home in Juno Beach. In the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 2017, Noah touched the Atlantic Ocean in Key West Florida at the southernmost point in the continental United States, beginning his long walk across America.

His route would take the family on a trek to the opposite corner of the U.S., ending in Blaine, Wash. Robert accompanied Noah on every step, with Mom and the other two children leapfrogging in the family’s orange Jeep Wrangler, providing support, and walking with Robert and Noah on ccasion.

Noah smiles with his brother as they cross a set of train tracks on their 4,240-mile journey.

Robert and Noah’s routine consisted of walking 8 to 12 hours per day, 6 days a week, with an extra day off once a month. They covered 16 miles per day, on average. Joanne continued to homeschool the children on the road.

On the road, Noah and his family met hundreds of people, spreading the word about Noah’s disease and raising awareness for a cure. When the family wasn’t on the move, their days off were spent meeting with local media, visiting diabetes research centers at universities across the country, and spreading the word that Type 1 Diabetes is not a lifestyle disease, but a chronic condition in need of a cure. From coast to coast, the family was able to raise over $24,000 for research.

On Sept. 1, 1980 — 143 days into his quest — Noah’s inspiration, Terry Fox, was forced to end his run to raise cancer awareness due to chest pains. His cancer had further metastasized, and he died several months later. Throughout Canada, Fox is widely considered a national hero and his efforts have inspired annual Terry Fox runs that have raised millions in cancer research. 

On December 9, 2017, 343 days after Noah first began his walk in Florida, the family preps for the end of their trek. They’re up before 7 a.m., prepping for Noah’s final 6-mile leg to the Pacific Ocean. The morning starts with an insulin level check for Noah, and one of up to 8 shots he receives daily.

Along the route, Noah maintains a brisk pace — today accompanied not only by his dad and brother, but also extended family, friends, and supporters from the community.

As he finishes his walk — a total of 4,240 miles — Noah becomes the youngest person on record to cross America on foot.

When asked what he is looking forward to now that his march across the U.S. is complete, Noah says “Spending more time with my family.”

With Noah’s march across America complete, the Barnes family hopes to return to Florida, but aren’t sure exactly where they will resettle.

But, one this is certain: Noah and his parents look forward to continuing their mission to raise awareness for a cure for Type 1 Diabetes. That, and “spending more time with my family,” says Noah.

Learn more about Noah’s journey and his family’s fundraising efforts at Noah’s March Foundation, Inc


Aileen Imperial

Aileen Imperial is a multimedia and documentary producer with a commitment to thoughtful observation and engagement. Her work has aired nationally on the PBS American Masters series, PBS NewsHour, and she is a 4-time Emmy winner for feature videos in the Arts, Culture, and Human Interest. Find her on Twitter: @imperealize

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