BY CURT LIBBRA
June 4, 2014
As the Wilcox family of Sitka, Alaska, travels across the country, they hope to sow inspiration in their children, opposition to genetically modified foods, and also, a little lettuce.
Brett and Kris Wilcox, two of their children, David, 15, and Olivia, 13, as well as their dogs, Angel and Jenna, a shelter dog they adopted while crossing through Texas, made a brief stop in Highland last week. They camped Thursday at Glik Park before taking off Friday morning on their way to Atlantic City, N.J.
HALF WAY THERE — The Wilcox family is making their way across the country and stopped in Highland last week. From left Olivia, 13, holds the family’s new pet, Jenna, while her mother, Kris, holds their other dog, Angel. The ladies drive the family’s truck and camper trailer while Brett Wilcox and 15-year-old son David go across the country on foot. The family is talking against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as they move across the nation.
CURT LIBBRA/NEWS LEADER
The idea for their journey emerged a few years ago when Brett was reading an online article about a teenage girl who had made the cross-continental trek on foot.
“We showed that article to David, and he said, ‘I want to do that,’” Brett recalled.
And the thought never left David’s mind.
“He kept bringing it up,” his father said.
So the Wilcoxes started to put a plan in motion — although the thought of actually going through with it left them feeling some trepidation.
“It scared the heck out of us, because this is not a responsible thing to do,” Brett said.
Responsible or not, the wheels began turning in January. Brett and Kris both quit their jobs — his as a mental health/substance abuse counselor, and hers in a cleaning business. They flew to Salt Lake City and bought a truck and camper trailer, which Kris, Olivia and Angel go down the road in, while the boys and Jenna follow on foot.
They departed Huntington Beach, Calif., (about 30 miles south of Los Angelas) on Jan. 18, with a crowd of well-wishers to cheer them on.
“There were people there to meet us. We didn’t know any of them, just by Facebook,” Kris said.
They made nine miles that first day but have been averaging about 20 miles per day since, even with David nursing a hip flexor strain.
“If I wasn’t injured, I’d be going faster. We’ve just been walking (for about two weeks),” David said.
Going faster is the reason David wanted to take on the challenge in the first place. As a freshman this past year, he won his regional cross country meet. But he hopes for even bigger accomplishments.
“I thought, if I do this, I will come back faster and be able to beat more people,” he said.
But for Brett and Kris, there were parental, as well as political, motivations behind agreeing to the 3,000-mile undertaking.
Brett said he grew up in a working-class household where an experience such as the one he and his family are now on could have only been a pipe dream.
“I really wanted to help David accomplish a big dream… This is an opportunity to rewrite history, to say to David, ‘If you have a big dream, you can achieve it,” Brett said.
“It’s an adventure,” Kris said.
And adventure is something this family is big on. Brett and Kris, who moved to Alaska after having taught English in Japan for several years, also have two older daughters, both of whom they encouraged to do exchange programs. They did, one in Bolivia and one in Thailand.
“I think the world is just an incredible place. I want them to get out and see it while they’re young,” Kris said.
See it they have — 2,000 miles worth across California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri before hitting the Prairie State and resting in Highland.
“Every town has a claim to fame, and we’ve seen them all,” Kris said. “But a big highlight is the people we’ve met.”
As they meet new faces, they tell whoever will listen of their belief that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are harmful. To help cultivate their message, they hand out packets of organic seeds along their way.
A GMO-free world is something they strongly believe in. Brett has even written a book on the subject, We’re Monsanto: Feeding the World, Lie After Lie, which targets the world’s foremost GMO company. Just after walking into St. Louis on May 24, Brett and David both spoke at a “March Against Monsanto” rally at the company’s global headquarters.
“We are not even coming close to covering the cost (of the trip),” Brett said.
But that’s OK.
“We are doing it for faith, not for money,” Brett said.