LITTLE ROCK — Since her parents are in trucking, 17-year-old Jasmine Jordan understands what it means to be in it for the long haul: so far she’s run more than 1,700 miles across America to raise money for truckers without medical insurance.
Known as “Jazzy” to her friends and family, this former Olympic hopeful came through Little Rock, Ark., recently on her way to Tennessee and points beyond sporting her ninth pair of running shoes and a big heart hopeful of “changing the system so people who don’t have medical coverage” can get help.
The issue is a personal one for the Ashby High School student from Dalton, Minn., (located east of Fargo). Her parents are involved in a trucking company that hauls oversize loads, complete with pilot cars, and the driver for one of the pilot cars, Sheila Grothe, last year died of cancer at only 38, probably because she didn’t have medical insurance, said Jordan.
Although she was coughing repeatedly, Grothe was diagnosed with a gallbladder problem; when her coughing persisted she returned three weeks later and doctors found a grapefruit-sized, cancerous growth in her lungs that had already spread to her brain.
She had put off going to the doctor because she didn’t have medical insurance.
The last time Jordan saw Grothe before she died, Jordan said she was in a nursing home on pain killers and was nearly unrecognizable.
Jordan had been training for the 2012 Olympics since age 14 with a retired Olympic coach from the Ukraine but said she switched gears after Grothe’s death and put her training on hold.
Making the Olympics “would have proved to me that I can do it but this run means a lot more to me because it’s helping other people,” Jordan said.
“I became close to her [Grothe’s] family during the ordeal,” she said. “I don’t want any family to go through that … now they’re stuck with all the [medical] bills and have to file for bankruptcy.”
Since she’s been running from an early age (“I got serious about it at about age 10 or 12,” she says), Jordan decided to start from Los Angeles and run across the country to New York City to raise money and awareness about truckers’ medical plight.
She took her idea to the St. Christopher Truckers Development and Relief Fund (SCF), an organization which provides financial assistance to professional truck drivers who have medical problems and can’t afford health care. SCF also conducts health research to benefit professional drivers and the trucking industry. Assistance can be in the form of direct payment for medical services or prescription drugs, assistance with expenses while recovering from illness while the driver’s out of work, or negotiating price reductions with insurance companies, medical providers and hospitals, according to the organization’s Web site.
“I learned of the St. Christopher’s fund and the work they do and felt I could make a difference starting there,” said Jordan. She’s making a difference for heroes other than truckers.
During her run the U.S. Honor Nework, which honors fallen firefighters, police officers and the U.S. military, teamed up with her to call attention to the fact that 60 percent of the firefighters who died last year died of heart-related issues, said Jordan’s father, Lee. Lee and his wife, Paulette, both are members of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), and have been with their daughter every step of the way, even though times are not the best economically, right now.
“My dad has three trucks and he’s lost two” in less than a year, Jazzy Jordan noted.
When we caught up with her she was at Fire Station No. 14 on Colonel Glenn Rd. in Little Rock. The 17-year-old was accompanied for a few miles down the road by Station 14 firefighter Carrel Coleman, who ran along with her to another fire station to raise awareness for firefighter health.
“We’re so very proud to work with Jazzy,” said Chris Heisler, president and CEO of the Honor Network. “Getting our heroes motivated to get in shape can in so many ways save more lives.”
Jazzy started her run on Sept. 1 of last year and has only stopped once, back in October, to rest when a doctor ordered her to take off for a month because of a stress fracture in one foot. But by Dec. 1, 2009, she was back on the road.
“Growing up in a trucking family environment I do understand the need for truckers and all involved in the trucking business to stay healthy, as that’s the way they make a living and make it possible for many others to make a living as well [because] American moves by truck,” wrote the teen on her Web site, runwithjazzy.com.
“My goal is to raise attention to the growing problem with people who have medical issues who are under insured and not insured.”
She’s courageously vowed to run, not walk, every single step of the way.
From Arkansas she planned to take Highway 70 to West Memphis and on to Nashville, Tenn., and then to Knoxville and from there take Highway 25/70 to Ashville.
In North Carolina she will take Highway 70 from Ashville to Statesville, Highway 64 to Mocksville; Highway 153 to Winston Salem; Highway 70 from Greensboro to Raleigh; Highway 64 (Alternate 264) from Raleigh to Wilson and Highway 301 from Wilson to Emporia, Va.
In Virginia she’ll take Highway 301 from Emporia to Richmond; Highway 1 to Washington, D.C. and from D.C. to Baltimore; from Baltimore to Wilmington, Del., through Delaware on Highway 40 to New Jersey; on Highway 130 to Deepwater, N.J., to Milltown; Highway 1-9 from Milltown to Fort Lee and then on to New York City.
For more information about the St. Christopher Truckers Development and Relief Fund send a letter to Box 30763, Knoxville, TN 37930 or call (865) 202-9428.
To make a donation, click the "Make a Donation" button at the top of the page or call (877) 332-GIVE (4483).
Lee Jordan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dorothy Cox of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at email@example.com.