Oktibbeha County Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver makes his way from Mathiston to Starkville via Highway 25 on Friday afternoon. Carver has been training for a charity walk he will complete next Saturday from Columbus to Starkville, a total of 29 miles, to benefit Joelle “JoJo” Lindner, a 7-year-old girl who attends Carver’s church and is battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Photo by: Mary Alice Weeks/Dispatch Staff
April 10, 2014 10:50:56 AM
After weeks of preparation, Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver is about to embark on one of his toughest challenges to date.
It's not wrestling with an important piece of legislation or protecting his constituents' interests with a decisive vote: Carver is about to walk from Columbus to Starkville Saturday to raise money for 8-year-old Joelle "Jo Jo" Linder's family.
Linder, a Starkville Christian School second grader, was diagnosed with leukemia Father's Day 2013. The family will use proceeds from Carver's walk to help offset travel costs to Jackson's Blair E. Batson hospital for monthly checkups and as-needed treatments.
While in-home treatments force her to miss time with fellow students, Jo Jo, a straight-A student according to her mother Melissa Linder, keeps up with her school work via streaming lectures and testing.
Carver's route will take him to Starkville via frontage roads along U.S. Highway 82. His journey will begin about 4 a.m. Saturday and end about 2 p.m. at the Cotton District Arts Festival, where the Linder family says they will meet him at an impromptu finish line.
The Ward 1 alderman asks those interested in donating to give at least $1 per mile, or $29.
"Regular travel costs can add up when you factor in the small things like oil changes," Melissa Linder said.
The family has raised about $5,000, which includes a single $1,900 donation.
Carver began training for the walk about a month ago. Besides conditioning himself by walking partial routes, he also began strenuous biking and swimming regiments. With increased exercise came weight loss, and the Ward 1 alderman said he's now increased his food intake to 5,000-7,000 calories per day.
"I guess I didn't realize how far 29 miles would be until I started. I'm always hungry now." he said. "After 90 minutes of continuous walking, your body really starts to notice what you're doing. It's been a learning process helped out by marathoners calling and giving me hints -- small things like having a good pair of shoes.
"I think I might have to do a triathlon or an Iron Man competition after this," Carver added. "This isn't just for Jo Jo; it's for leukemia awareness in general."
Although Carver alerted the Mississippi Highway Patrol about his upcoming walk and plans on wearing as many pieces of reflective clothing as possible Saturday morning, safety issues remain in the back of his mind, he said.
"You don't realize when you're driving, but when a fully loaded 18-wheeler comes by you at full speed while you're walking, you really feel it," he said. "Safety is always on your mind, but I haven't had any real issues yet. I'm getting used to it (with each subsequent training walk)."
"We're definitely asking for a lot of prayers for Ben for making this walk," Melissa Linder added.
Those interested in donating to the Linder family can send checks to P.O. Box 1314, Starkville.
Carver asks that donors write words of encouragement -- for example, "Keep fighting!" -- in the check's memo line.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch