EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – She was only given 12 years on earth. The life of Sophi Sanchez may have been short, but she leaves a lasting mark in our world. For one Eau Claire man, Sophi’s journey with cancer is leading him down an unexpected path of his own. First News at Nine’s Jessica Mendoza has the story.
Josh Walworth doesn’t consider himself an athlete.
“I’m probably 40 pounds overweight from years of not doing anything,” said Walworth.
That changed last week when he started a one thousand-two hundred-and sixty-nine-mile journey. One thousand two hundred and sixty-nine is not a random number.
One thousand two hundred and sixty-nine is the number of days twelve-year-old Sophi Sanchez battled cancer. Her story has impacted so many. Yet, her impact on Walworth is unique.
He never met Sophi. Her family’s house is on his route, for Express Waste Management.
“I was on a route every Friday in Stanley I got to their house and there were three garbage cans there and there was some garbage on the ground and I was already in a bad mood that day so i texted the office and said I’m not going to pick it up and they said well their daughter has cancer and my response was so that means they can’t get it in the can or what,” said Walworth.
A week later, Walworth learned more about Sophi.
Walworth said, “Her story was the first story that popped up and it had her picture. It said 12-year-old Stanley girl coming home on hospice and instantly it hit me right in the stomach.”
It was a wakeup call.
“I thought how selfish can you be,” said Walworth.
He knew he needed to do something. Something to make a difference.
Walworth said, “It came out to 1,269 days she fought cancer so I thought I’m going to run and walk that many miles in a year and then I added it up and it came out to 3 and a half miles seven days a week for a year up to her one-year memorial.”
Walworth says no days off because Sophi did not take a day off either. Her mom, Jennifer Cornell says Sophi was not the kind of girl who would ever give up.
Cornell said, “You told her she wasn’t going to do something by god she would find a way. She would always find a way.”
What Walworth didn’t know, is just how accurate his tribute to her, was to her character.
“She was a kid that before she had cancer, she was very active, she was always outside, never wanted to be inside. The way that she inspired him to want to do this is amazing,” said Cornell.
Walworth named the cause, Sophi’s Memory Miles. Which will raise money to be donated to the Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, where she was treated.
“Everything he has done he has asked us, and we talk almost daily and it’s honestly one of the most amazing things ever and it’s a beautiful tribute to her legacy,” said Cornell.
Gary Zuleger has known Walworth for more than ten years and walked alongside Walworth during his first community walk.
Josh’s friend, Zuleger said, “His feelings towards her situation were very strong and it moved him to do something even if it’s little.”
Zuleger has great confidence in his old friend’s goal.
“I’m sure that he’s going to do it whatever he does he puts his mind to it. He’ll get it done,” said Zuleger.
Wednesday Walworth approaches his 39th mile. That leaves 1,230 more to go.
In Eau Claire, Jessica Mendoza, First News at Nine.
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