• Wilcox family of Sitka completes cross-country run from California to New Jersey to raise awareness about GMOs in our food

WilcoxFamily25thAnniversary

WilcoxFamilyRunMapAfter nearly 3,000 miles and six months of running, the Wilcox family from Sitka reached its finish line Saturday, July 19, in Ocean City, N.J., to complete its cross-country run across the country to raise awareness about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food system and the roles of large agribusiness companies, such as Monsanto, in making it difficult for consumers to know which food contains GMOs.

Fifteen-year-old David Wilcox decided he wanted to run across country back in 2010, when he read about another teenage runner to complete the USA crossing, so he and his father, Brett, 53, started training. In January, Brett quit his job as a behavioral health clinician and David’s mom, Kris, put her cleaning business on hold, and the family rented out its home in Sitka. Brett and David started the run on Jan. 18 in Huntington Beach, Calif., and started running about 20 miles a day, six days a week. While Brett and David ran, Kris and David’s younger sister, Olivia, 13, drove ahead on the course in the used pick-up truck and trailer the family purchased for the trip. Along the way, Brett and David took turns pushing a runner’s stroller loaded with their supplies for the day, water bottles, lunch, some GMO-free lettuce seeds, GMO literature, a few copies of Brett’s book, We’re Monsanto: Feeding the World, Lie After Lie, Book One, and the 15-year-old family dog, Angel. (Note, after awhile, Angel decided she didn’t like riding in the stroller and preferred riding in the truck, so the Wilcox family adopted a new dog, Jenna, while in Texas.)

DavidAndBrett“Being able to run 20 miles with David is a good thing,” Brett said. “Running with him for 20 miles a day, day after day for six months across 13 states is a great thing. I got to know David far better than I would have in our routines back in Sitka. I have a lot of respect for David for sticking with it even when it was tough going. Of course our run would not have been possible if Kris and Olivia had not been there to support us. Our last day’s run included a big radio interview and a police escort to the beach. Kris and several other runners joined in and ran with us. We passed through a cheering crowd as we entered the boardwalk. It was a special moment. Of course, the fact that Kris and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary on the same day we finished our run gave the whole occasion a fairy tale sort of ending.”

The Wilcox family decided to use the run to raise awareness about our food supply because the family is vegetarian, and they don’t like seeing more GMOs enter the food supply, and consumers not being able to find out which foods have GMOs. “Running For a GMO Free USA was the perfect cause for us. We learned that virtually all people — regardless of location — oppose chemically-saturated genetically modified organisms,” Brett said.

Trying to find GMO-free food on the run did become an issue for the family, and for part of the trip they stopped eating corn tortillas because of how much of our nation’s corn now has GMOs (they did find some Navajo corn tortillas they decided to try). GMOs also are in soy, sugar beets, and several other plants, and they may soon be coming to potatoes used by large fast food corporations. Along the way, the Wilcox family passed through St. Louis just in time to participate in the annual March Against Monsanto (an international event on May 24 this year) right outside Monsanto headquarters. Last year, the Wilcox family hosted a March Against Monsanto event in Sitka.

BrettWilcoxAtMonsantoHeadquartersWhen they planned the run, the Wilcox family hooked up with several anti-GMO groups across the country, and those groups helped connect the family to local media outlets and runners where they could spread their message. The anti-GMO groups helped the Wilcox family raise some funds and find places to stay for the trip, and there were two Indiegogo crowd-funding campaigns coordinated by Owen Kindig of Sitka (the first campaign raised $7,500 when it closed in January, and the current campaign still has 40-plus days left to run and has raised roughly $1,400). Along the way, Brett and Kris regularly updated the family’s Running the Country blog and Facebook page. Different media groups covered the run (here’s a link to our story before the run), and the media coverage increased as Brett and David neared the finish line. In recent weeks there has been coverage from small media outlets and large ones, such the Philadelphia Inquirer and Runner’s World magazine. Here is a link to the KCAW-Raven Radio story that aired July 21 about the Wilcox family run.

DavidWHIZNewsInterviewBrett and David trained for the run, but soon realized their training was a little lacking in LSD (long, slow, distance) runs. David won the Southeast Conference (Region V) cross-country running title in October, but most of his runs during the season were about five miles. Brett, a regular bike commuter, also ran shorter distances, and he and David had one or two longer runs a week. Running 20 miles a day, six days a week resulted in a lot of blisters, several worn-out pairs of shoes, and a couple of injuries along the way. Brett was hobbled early in the run by a bad foot, David had a bad leg, and Brett said he plans to have minor surgery in the near future for another injury.

“I had a couple of months where I couldn’t run, so instead I just walked,” David said. “Probably the best day for me was the day the fourth chiropractor fixed me. He was really nice to us, he let us take a shower. I told him where it hurt, and he told me what was wrong and he told me he was going to fix it and I was sort of wondering if he could really fix it. A muscle that’s supposed to be on the inside of my hip was on the outside. He pulled it over and told me I was fixed. Then he adjusted something else that I didn’t even know was wrong. He also worked on my mom and dad.”

As the miles piled up, the Wilcox family enjoyed the scenery. But sometimes the weather was a bit too hot for folks used to a temperate rain forest and then there were the ticks.

“Pennsylvania was probably the most beautiful state, but I could never live there because it’s too hot and humid,” David said. “I can’t wait to get back to Sitka so I can run the trails and not have to worry about ticks.”

WilcoxFamiyFinishesCrossCountryRunNow that the Wilcox family is done with the run, the next plan is to go to Washington, D.C., to talk with members of Congress and various agencies about GMOs. They already have meetings scheduled with Rep. Don Young and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and hope to add a meeting with Sen. Mark Begich. “It will be fun to pass on to them what we learned from our cross-country run,” Brett said.

The family also will be doing more fundraising to help pay for the trip. “Our run is now over but we’ve spent far more than we’ve received from donations,” Brett said. “If you’d like to help us out with our expenses, please donate online at RunningTheCountry.com or at Indiegogo.com. The name of our Indiegogo fundraising campaign is ‘Help the Wilcox Family Finish Strong.’ Thanks to all the people who have helped us help David achieve his big dream to run across the USA.”

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• Wilcox family prepares to run across country to raise awareness about Monsanto

Fund Run

DavidWilcoxSpeaksAtMayMarchAgainstMonsantoRallyA Sitka family is gearing up for a cross-country run in January to raise awareness about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food and the dubious practices of agriculture giant Monsanto.

David Wilcox, 15, and his father, Brett, will begin their 3,000-mile from Huntington Beach, Calif., to Cape May, N.J.,  with stops in St. Louis (home of Monsanto) and Washington, D.C. David and Brett will receive support from mom, Kris, and sister, Olivia. The current Southeast Conference-Class 3A high school cross-country running champion from Sitka High School, David is hoping to become the second-youngest runner to complete a run across the United States (he recently found out there was a younger runner who did a similar run back in 1928). The family hosted March Against Monsanto events in Sitka in May and October as part of an international movement against the company’s practices.

“Running across the USA! Wow! David and I are growing more and more excited to pound pavement, run trails, meet people, and advocate with millions of like-minded Americans for a GMO free USA!” Brett Wilcox said.

Even though the run won’t start until January, the Wilcox family has several activities planned for December to help publicize and raise funds for the project. Brett recently self-published a book, We’re Monsanto: Feeding the World, Lie After Lie, Book One. Brett and the rest of the Wilcox family will be at Old Harbor Books for a book-signing from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7, and he will give a reading and book-signing at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 15, at Kettleson Memorial Library.

BrettWilcoxWithBookIn addition, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14, David will run 100 laps of the Moller Park track as a fundraiser for the trip. People can pledge per lap, or pledge lump sums at this event. Other runners are encouraged to join in the fun by running in Sitka or wherever they are and recording their laps. Also at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14, the Wilcox family will have a table at the Elvis Monthly Grind at the Sheet’ká Kwáan Naa Kahídi.

“The topic of genetic modification can be heavy and confusing–confusing primarily because Monsanto and other chemical giants don’t want us to know about the problems associated with modern chemical-based agriculture,” Brett Wilcox said. “We’re Monsanto: Feeding the World, Lie After Lie is a fun, fast and creative approach designed to cast light on Monsanto’s products, poisons and lies. I wrote We’re Monsanto to give mainstream Americans the power to say no to Monsanto’s GMOs, say no to agricultural imperialism, and to say no to Monsanto’s lies. Once we understand that Earth’s natural biodiversity and agroecology are the true solutions to feeding a hungry world, we free ourselves from Monsanto’s poison-saturated false promises.”

To learn more about the run, you can read this Dec. 2, 2013, article from the Daily Sitka Sentinel or go to the Wilcox family website, Running The Country. The family also has created a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo.com, Running for a GMO-Free USA, where it hopes to raise money to help pay for the trip. In addition, Brett moderates a Facebook group, March Against Monsanto SE Alaska, and a group page about the run called, Running The Country.

• Sitka joins communities around the world to host a local March Against Monsanto on Saturday, May 25

March Against Monsanto Yellow 72Millions of people around the world, including several in Sitka, will take a stand by hosting a local March Against Monsanto. The Sitka march takes place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 25, at Castle Hill. So far, more than 370 marches around the world are planned on May 25.

The Sitka March Against Monsanto is being organized by Brett Wilcox, who has created a Facebook page with more details. Brett and his 14-year-old son, David, will take things a step (OK, many steps) further when they start a transcontinental run across the country in January to raise awareness about some of the ethically challenged practices of the agri-business Monsanto. These include creating GMO (genetically modified) foods that are unlabeled and untested, putting patents on crop seed so farmers have to pay high fees to plant food, and more.

In addition to the march, various Sitka residents will speak on a variety of topics, such as how GMO-food causes health problems, the number of former Monsanto executives who now work for our government, farmer suicides in India due to Monsanto practices, the Monsanto Protection Act slipped into the recently passed US Farm Bill, etc.

This month, Brett hosted free Monsanto Movie Nights at 7 p.m. on Fridays, May 10, 17 and 24, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

According to a press release about the event:

Sitka’s March Against Monsanto will be held on Castle Hill, the location where Russia sold the vast territory of Alaska—land it did not own—to the U.S.A.

March organizer, Brett Wilcox, chose Castle Hill for Sitka’s March Against Monsanto for its symbolic significance. “There are many similarities between the original ‘Land Grab’ that took place with the first European expansion and Monsanto’s current global ‘Seed Grab,'” Wilcox states. “Both involve the privatization of Nature, a concept that was largely foreign to Native Americans and Alaska Natives. And both have resulted in loss of freedom and loss of life. The difference is that Monsanto’s seed grab not only further disenfranchises Native Americans; it disenfranchises all nations and all people. The citizens of the world are, as it were, sitting in our canoes in Sitka Sound, watching powerful people and corporations claim and repackage life as their own, thereby stealing our seed sovereignty and seed freedom.”

Chuck Miller, a Tlingit “Elder in Training”, will preside at the event. “My grandmother used to teach my family that we need to treat our food with respect or it will not provide for us,” Miller states. “My ancestors’ teachings are still a very big part of my life and I want to be able to pass that on to my children, grandchildren and those yet to come. GMOs are not the way to treat Mother Earth and the generations yet to come. I urge all the Native people of Alaska and our non-Native brothers and sisters to come and support this cause.”

“Sitka’s March Against Monsanto will not be a traditional march,” says Wilcox. “Sitka’s event will be a ceremony to honor nature as well as the indigenous people of Alaska and the Americas. We will stand on Castle Hill united with the people of the world in defense and protection of life and nature.”

For more information about the Sitka March Against Monsanto, contact Brett Wilcox at 747-7437 or brett@runningthecountry.com, or contact Chuck Miller at 752-9955 or cohomojo25@yahoo.com. KCAW-Raven Radio aired a story on Tuesday, May 21, about Brett’s and David’s plans to run across the country and to host this march. Brett also recorded a commentary for KCAW-Raven Radio.