The photo of Jasmine “Jazzy” Jordan crossing the finish line at Times Square in New York City a few weeks ago and another taken with her holding flowers and smiling immediately afterward is reminiscent of another athlete who accomplished a remarkable achievement. It brings back images of U.S. gymnast Shawn Johnson winning the gold medal at the 2008 Olympics.
The similarities are not drawn from their gender or age. Instead it’s because they both share a determined spirit to accomplish a goal despite the odds against their respective endeavors. And because they both finished in the public spotlight — accomplished only through many less glamorous hours, days and months of solitude.
Long before Jazzy began gaining widespread attention in the latter part of her 3,000-mile-plus, cross-country run, she and her dad, Lee Jordan, made their way across the American Southwest in relative obscurity. Of course, there were the sporadic interviews with local media and some attention on a Facebook page, but it was nothing like the momentum of the second half of the run.
Jazzy’s quest to run from California to New York began last year after Sheila Grothe, a family friend and employee of the Jordan family’s specialized hauling and pilot car businesses, died of cancer. The then-16-year-old decided to make the trek to honor Grothe and generate awareness of the plight of many truckers who suffer from a lack of insurance and quality medical care. Jordan chose the St. Christopher Truckers Development and Relief Fund as the beneficiary of the project.
So began an almost yearlong odyssey that was a mix of triumph and hardships. With Jordan’s father, Lee, accompanying his daughter as the driver of one of the family pilot vehicles, they left Palm Springs, Calif., bound for the Big Apple with a hope to make a difference in the industry. Jazzy’s plan was to complete the run on April 17, the one-year anniversary of Grothe’s death. But an injury sidelined her for several weeks. Other setbacks included logistical delays in running along a couple of roadways — one (in Cookeville, Tenn.) requiring them to purchase a permit — and a scary accident in which their pilot car was totaled as they were rear-ended by another motorist.
All of this, coupled with the financial strain of limited sponsorship, took a toll. Lee started the run with three trucks and three trailers. By the end of the journey, the trucks and trailers were gone, and he was looking for work.
Still, he tries to put a positive spin on the situation. “I got to spend almost a year with my daughter helping her realize her dream,” he says. “You can’t put a price on that. There were a lot of trials and tribulations, but we had a lot of fun going across the country, and, at the end of the day, I can say I treasured every minute of it.”
Another parallel to Johnson: Her parents twice mortgaged their home to support her goal.
While Lee is extremely proud of Jazzy’s run — unofficially becoming the youngest female to run across the country — he struggles with whether the run generated enough contributions for the St. Christopher Fund to make a difference in the trucking industry.
“We put our heart and souls into the run,” he says. “We did it for the St. Christopher Fund and the trucking industry as a whole. We did it to generate some awareness that the industry needs help.”
Reading some of the comments on Jazzy’s Facebook fan page, more than 5,300 strong, we believe the run has generated greater awareness concerning the health of truckers, and there is certainly a great deal of appreciation for Jazzy and Lee and what they tried to do. And while the run may be complete, the need for financial contributions to the St. Christopher Fund shouldn’t end with it. Jazzy will lead a 5k run/walk at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, which is being sponsored by Fit for the Road. The 5k is free, but donations to the St. Christopher Fund are being accepted at the event.
We salute Jazzy, Lee and the rest of her family for their sacrifices. It’s easy to forget in the glare of the spotlight at Times Square that the triumphant end was just one moment in an incredible journey that began far from the cameras and cheering fans.
Asked what she was thinking when the National Anthem was playing after she received her gold medal in front of an admiring crowd, Johnson answered,” I was thinking about all the times that no one was there.”
We’re sure Jazzy (and Lee) know what she meant.
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