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Family Honors Daughter's Memory in a Very Special Way

The song "I Would Walk 500 Miles" is taking on new meaning after hearing about the Houston-based Cobb family and their 4,000-mile trek across America. The grieving family did so in honor of their daughter Julia, who had Ewing's sarcoma and died in October 2013.

Julia's last days with her family were spent at Disney World on a Make-a-Wish trip. Almost a year after she died in August 2014, Jennifer and Jonathan Cobb, along with their three other children and 14-year-old pet golden retriever, began their 4,000 mile journey in Julia's name.

"The walk itself took 320 days," Jennifer Cobb told Today.com. "We decided to walk from Disneyland to Disney World because that's where we had our last great memories of Julia."

The family walked an average of 20 to 25 miles every day for 10 months. Jennifer and Jonathan would take turns driving an SUV alongside them, packed with snacks and drinks. Their 11-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son, who were homeschooled, would take study breaks in the car. Their youngest daughter, only 4 years old, would walk about a mile every day.

They had no sponsors and very little money, relying on the kindness of strangers to provide for them, and provide they did. Hotels comped their rooms at night, strangers paid for their meals at restaurants and they received donations for their other expenses.

"We did it on a wing and a prayer," Jennifer Cobb told Today.com.

The Cobbs took any opportunity offered to them to tell their story about Julia and the JuCan Foundation. They spoke at schools, churches and rotary clubs. They formed the foundation to raise support and awareness of pediatric cancer and named it in memory of their daughter. Julia's nickname was "Ju," and she had made up her own motto of "JuCan," combining her nickname with the beginning of the word "cancer."

"She'd see someone pushing an IV pole with ten bags of chemo hanging from it, and say, 'I just want to tell you that JuCan,'" Cobb told Today.com. "This big message out of a tiny little body."

The Cobbs continued to spread her message of motivation everywhere that they went. However, their journey was not an easy one. In Mississippi, their dog became sick and had to put to sleep. The most grueling part was walking through the Mojave Desert. Temperatures would reach highs of 120 degrees.

"There's about 250 miles between Barstow, California, and [Las] Vegas, where there's nothing in between," Cobb told Today.com. "Things die out there. It's just like an old Wild West trail."

As they headed further east, their walk became easier. People began to recognize the family in their bright yellow T-shirts as their story spread.

"We took our lesson from Ju," Cobb told Today.com. "And every day, we still struggle. It's great to talk about the fun, inspirational walk, but we are grieving still. We very much miss our daughter every day. But in the midst of our grief, we said, what's the best way to get through this? To help other people. If we walked 4,000 miles and only impacted one person, then it's still worth it."

In a most fitting end, the Cobb family arrived at Disney World on Father's Day last month, almost a year after first beginning their walk in honor of Julia.

Image via Today.com

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