For most parents of an 11-year-old, getting their kid to do a day’s homework is a challenge.
For the parents of Noah Barnes, Robert and Joanne, they are the ones tasked with keeping up with their 11-year-old’s ambition.
Noah is walking across the country — from Key West, Florida, to Blaine, Washington — to raise awareness and funds to help cure Type 1 Diabetes.
Noah’s March took him to Bartow County over the weekend, through Cartersville and down Highway 41 in Adairsville, on days 103 and 104 of the march as he approaches the 1,000-mile mark of the journey.
“I didn’t want to be a diabetic,” Noah said of why he is marching, adding the trip has been fun “because I get introduced to new stuff.”
Noah and his family, including two siblings and parents, have been living out of a bright-orange Jeep and staying with families and a few hotels along the path. While Noah and a parent march, the other parent and Noah’s two siblings ride in the Jeep.
Travelling across highways and small-town roads, such as Cassville Road on Friday, the march is more like a jog with occasional detours and stops at museums along the way, sometimes to discuss the endeavor with the many people they run into across the trail.
There is much to discuss, as Noah would be the youngest person ever recorded to cross the United States on foot, an estimated 4,000 mile-plus trip. The next youngest was a 15-year-old.
“We’re starting to get a little bit of attention, because nobody thought he could get this far,” Noah’s father, Robert Barnes, said. “Nobody thought he would get to the Florida/Georgia border. He’ll be at 1,000 miles the next couple of days. That’s a monumental feat for a kid.”
To allow that monumental feat to happen, Robert Barnes gave up his job as a finance director at a car dealership in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The family expects to spend all of 2017 into the early months of 2018 pursuing Noah’s March.
“When I told my boss, he said, ‘I’m going to have you physicologically evaluated. People just don’t do this. It’s not normal,’” Robert said.
For most families, travelling anywhere with three kids is brave. However, Noah has been “a champ,” according to Robert, and the 11-year-old was the one that convinced his parents to take on the trek.
While doing a school project, Noah — who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 16-months-old — asked his parents what he needed to do to be cured. Inspired by a documentary about Terry Fox and his walk across Canada on one foot to promote cancer awareness, Noah asked how far he had to walk to cure diabetes.
“We had a problem with the administration with how they managed diabetics in Palm Beach County. So we pulled [Noah] out of school a year ago. So this is his second year homeschooling,” Robert Barnes described as to how the idea to march across the United States began. “He was doing research for a project. So he saw this Walk for a Cure, and he came and asked me, ‘How far do I need to walk to be cured?’ I said, ‘It doesn’t really work that way. There’s fundraising.’ ‘Well, what do they need.’ ‘They need money.’”
From that discussion, the idea was born to march across the country.
While the cause was a noble one, Robert and Joanne still unsurprisingly needed plenty of convincing to pack up, leave home and take on the endeavor.
“He’s convincing me and I was like, ‘No. I have a job, I have bills, I have stuff.’ And he said, ‘Well, don’t you want me to be cured?’ So I was like, ‘Well, if you put it that way ...,’” Robert recalled. “It took him about a week to convince me. It took about six weeks to convince Mom. She didn’t want any part of it.”
Eventually, Noah persuaded his parents in June, 2016, and the planning began before the Barneses eventually took off on Jan. 1.
Originally, the family planned on walking about 10 miles per day, but Noah has exceed those expectations and has walked/jogged as far as 24 miles in one day.
While Noah says he hasn’t gotten tired yet, there are perils inherent while jogging along busy highways and the farmlands. Robert pushes a stroller while marching, which sometimes carries the family’s 4-year old, and other times carries such necessities as bear spray, a dog taser and a lot of sunscreen.
Those are just some of the essentials to safely march across the country, something that Robert said less than 300 people have documented doing since 1909.
“Across the United States, usually somewhere between 15 and 20 start, and five to seven finish,” Robert said of the success rate, according to his research. “At the beginning of the year, two of us had started in January. One started in Jacksonville. He got hit by a car just outside Tallahassee and died. Before that, a guy named Joe Bell got hit by a tractor trailer in Colorado and died. A year before that, another guy.”
While navigating the dangers of the trip, Noah continues his homeschooling and has made several stops along the trail to museums, which he said is his favorite part of the trip. The museum he liked the most was the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Florida, where he learned the motto, “The only easy day was yesterday.”
That motto has helped him along the 1,000 miles he has crossed so far, as well as in his fight with the daily struggle of managing Type 1 diabetes.
“Imagine having a professional athlete and you have to track heart rate, foot rate, food — monitor everything,” Robert says as he monitors Noah’s blood glucose levels in a driveway along Cassville Road. “If anything goes sideways, he’s down.”
The family is looking for a sponsor, but also has a GoFundMe account for Noah’s March, and takes donations on its website, noahsmarchfoundation.org. A 501(c)3 non-profit organization, Robert estimated the family has raised roughly $15,000 so far, but added awareness is the primary objective.
“Initially, we wanted to raise a bunch of money, but then talking to people, our pennies we’re going to raise, it’s not going to make any difference. To put a staff researcher on at the University of Florida, it’s $2 million. To raise 20-grand, they’re going to throw a cocktail party with it,” Robert said. “But we still are trying to raise money. We’re looking for a sponsor. We still need money to cross.”
In addition to the families offering a place for the Barneses to stay across the trip, and the financial support, the friendly people they have met across Georgia and in Bartow County have helped the family through the trip so far.
“In south Georgia, 10-12 a day [stopped and talked to Noah as he was marching],” Robert said of the support. “It’s been really good in Georgia.”