By SHANNON HAUGLAND
Sentinel Staff Writer
May 21, 2013
Two Sitkans will start a 3,000-mile journey in January with a single step – or stride.
Brett Wilcox and his son David, 14, plan to run across the country to raise awareness about issues related to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and their effect on human health and the environment.
They will be joined on their project, called “Running the Country,” by a support team of family members – Brett’s wife Kris and daughter Olivia. Other friends and supporters are volunteering to run or ride along for part of the journey.
The Wilcoxes say on their run across the country they will carry a message of the importance of healthy food, healthy diet and healthy exercise.
“A big part of healthy living is knowing what’s in our food,” Brett Wilcox said. If successful, he said, David will be the youngest person to complete a cross-country run, and the two runners will be the first father-son team to do it. David will be 15 when he starts the cross-country run in January. He and his father tentatively plan to cover 15 miles a day, running six days a week.
David became inspired to make the trip after learning of a teenage girl who completed a transcontinental run at age 17.
“Initially, it was David saying ‘I want to do that,’ about three years ago,” Brett Wilcox said. “Then it sat on the back burner. When David pressed me and Kris a few times, it was like: we have a very talented son, who wants to do something extraordinary. Are we going to say no or do everything we can – ethically – to make this happen?”
Brett said he and his family live fairly conservative lives, and that this will be something of a change from that.
“We get up, go to work, go home and take care of our family,” he said. “The thought of stepping away from our jobs is unsettling and it will take a lot of support from a lot of people to make it a reality.”
Along the way, the family will be stopping at community centers and public events, and making scheduled talks about and raise awareness on genetically modified organisms. They’ll explain what the public can do to “secure a safe, non-GMO food supply,” Brett said.
The Wilcoxes and Running the Country garnered early support from the Sitka Conservation Society because of their joint concern about genetically modified organisms. SCS helped organize the protest in Sitka recently to raise awareness of the dangers related to genetically modified salmon, and the organization is active in promoting sustainable food systems.
“We are facing a really scary threat of genetically modified salmon in Alaska,” said Andrew Thoms, SCS executive director. “Our community’s livelihoods are intricately connected to wild Alaska salmon. Introducing a ‘Frankenstein salmon’ into the environment could cause disastrous consequences to our wild salmon stocks and our local industry. The more people know about this threat, the better. Running the Country will help spread the word about what people want for our food system and counter the voices of large food corporations that are pushing GMO foods.”
The Wilcoxes plan to start their run in southern California and stick to a southern route during the winter months before starting to angle north to the finish on the East Coast, some eight months later. One important stop will be St. Louis, Mo., where the headquarters of the Monsanto Company, a leading producer of genetically modified seeds, is located. Another will be Washington, D.C.
“Monsanto says it will feed the world, and we’ve found the opposite is true,” Brett said. “It’s taken the seeds out of the control of the farmers … instead of food security they’ve created food insecurity.”
Brett is also working on publishing two books on his own that the family will carry on the trip to publicize their message about the importance of healthy food choice, diet and exercise. The self-published books are called: “Sexy Body, Sexy You: Discover The Secrets to Weight Loss, Life, Love & Loot” and “We’re Monsanto: Feeding The World, Lie After Lie.”
Brett Wilcox is spreading the word locally in other ways about his concerns with GMOs, including organizing a local March Against Monsanto Movie Nights, a series of films that will wind up May 24. The movies have been shown on Friday evenings at Centennial Hall starting at 7 p.m.
The March Against Monsanto is set for 2 p.m. Saturday on Castle Hill, one of nearly 400 such demonstrations organized in communities around the world.
The Wilcox family has lived in Sitka for more than 12 years. Brett, 52, is an outpatient mental and behavioral health counselor at SEARHC Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital, and Kris has a house cleaning business. David has three sisters, Olivia, 12, and Erika and Brittany who attend college in Utah and Hawaii.
Brett said the cross-country run will need many supporters and sponsors. The Wilcoxes have their own Running the Country site at www.runningthecountry.com, and also a Running the Country page on Facebook.
Photo Credit: Jeff Arndt