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The Journey East

news2Santa Cruz local walks cross-country to raise awareness for Hepatitis C
In the age of freeways and airplanes, transportation is fast and efficient, if not a little dehumanizing. We live in a time in which most people hop in their cars to run even the smallest errand. But this winter, one Santa Cruz resident is ditching his car and hitting the road for a transcontinental trip—on foot.

Meet Joseph Melsha. On Friday, Nov. 26, the Santa Cruz native embarked on a journey that will take him through the United States, with nothing more than a bag stocked with basic amenities (a tent, flashlight, and a small camp stove) on his back and a sturdy pair of walking shoes on his feet. He has plotted a course that will take him to his final destination in Boston, Mass.

Melsha isn’t walking across the United States merely for fun; he’s putting his feet to use to raise awareness throughout the country about a harmful disease, Hepatitis C. Melsha lost his mother to Hepatitis C in 2005. His sister, who lives in Boston, currently lives with the condition, and Melsha’s venture through the country will ultimately lead him to her.

“Walking is the easy part,” Melsha says. “I’ve been walking since I was a year old.” However, walking across the country at the onset of winter is another story. The brutal Midwestern winter prevented Melsha from taking a linear route across the country. Instead, he will tread southward towards Santa Monica and then follow Route 66 through the southwest. He plans to eventually end up in Jacksonville, Fla. before making the final trek up north to Boston.

Melsha decided to walk to Boston to raise awareness on a whim. “In this economy, it’s hard to find work,” he says. “I just felt like I wanted to do something positive with my time … and then I decided I need to see my sister … I just decided, ‘I’m walking to Boston! See everyone in a few months!’”

He decided to make his journey to see his sister an effort that would galvanize the public and spread knowledge about Hepatitis C.  Hepatitis C is a disease caused from the Hepatitis C virus. It infects the liver and can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, and other permanent or long-term liver damage, according to WebMD. The virus gets spread through contact with infected blood. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that approximately 3.2 million people in the United States live with chronic Hepatitis C.

Spreading awareness by walking will be more effective than by travelling through the country by other means because “it takes longer, and it’s a big deal,” says Melsha. “Everybody wonders, ‘So what, Hep. C?’ and then ‘What’s Hep. C?’ and I’ve already raised a tremendous amount of awareness and I haven’t even started walking yet.”

Just days before he set off, Melsha told Good Times that he was encouraged by the attention he had already received from fellow Santa Cruzans. “Everywhere I go people are like, ‘Oh, hey you’re Joe Melsha.’ These are people I’ve never seen before, at places like the grocery store,” he says.

In addition, Melsha has received a lot of electronic support. “Every morning I have over 200 emails with people sharing their stories,” he says. “I wake up crying basically. They’re saying such nice things. Already this has exceeded my expectations.” His visibility can in part be measured through the popularity of his Facebook page, which now receives a barrage of friend requests daily.

As he walks, Melsha will periodically update his fans and followers with photo and video updates on his Facebook page as well as on his personal website, joemelsha.com. These updates will occur whenever he has access to a computer. (“It’s all very informal,” he says.) He plans on walking 10 to 12 hours a day for as long as it takes for him to reach Boston. Although he hasn’t been training at a gym (“I’ve been training by eating Twinkies and staying on my feet … trying to gain a little weight before the journey,” he quips), Melsha feels that he could make it to Boston in as little as 100 days. He estimates the walk will actually take him about six months to complete.

As he walks and educates those he meets, Melsha hopes to inspire others to find a cause they are passionate about. He says, “I want to show people [that] you can do something with your life … You don’t have to be anyone, I’m just Joe Melsha, and I’m just walking.”

Comments (25)Add Comment
...
written by cheap links of london charms, August 30, 2012
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...
written by Meeshell Love, July 28, 2012
Joe is nothing but a liar and a thief. I know,
I have Hepatitis C. Stage 4 and very ill.
I also sent him money at one point.
and now he calls me awful names on facebook and tells me to die.
He is a Con and God have mercy on his soul.
...
written by former friend, September 18, 2011
I got suspicious when he kept saying he was taking a southern route and I offered to let him sleep, shower and eat a home cooked meal at my house in Tx...I had known him from Santa Cruz for years...since we were very young. I am so disappointed that it seems he has scammed well-wishers. I knew something was up when first, he passed on the offer of a warm bed and food because he wouldn't be coming through Tx and second, when he started taking trips "back home" to "raise more money". As others have said though, Karma is truly a bi&*$!!!
...
written by Karla, June 30, 2011
Joe is a scam artist! If he can't be found and made to give back all that money he begged, borrowed and stole from people, he ought to at least be thrown off fb! And if opens any new accounts (and you happen to know him) report his sorry butt! Why are people actually still wondering if he's making the rounds in the name of hcv? He probably never left Cal. to begin with! People, I hope your eyes are open and that one day, he'll be exposed for what he is! If he turns up on any hcv forums, look out for him as he's liable to ply his trade there too - that con artist!
...
written by Mellie, June 28, 2011
Joe, you're the lowest of lows and a piece of garbage! You took loads (maybe a few thousand?) from people for a cause. You accepted "donations" and then just took off with it. If I were able I'd have you prosecuted for what you did. If that doesn't happen though, go to hell. Karma's a bi**ch, you'll get yours!
...
written by NotsoblindthatIcan'tsee, June 15, 2011
Joe's raising awareness, my rear end! I warned people ages ago about Joe and what he might be doing, but I got shouted at and called names for not believing and trusting. I'm sorry you all got taken for money and he did give hcv a bad name, which wasn't needed in the least! He walked around Cali. (any proof that's he's gone anywhere else?) This animal (or thing) was the worst kind, the kind of person who preys on others, sick people who's disease can be made worse by the all the stress he's created. I spit on him!
Whoops! I was WRONG!
written by Stephanie Bell, May 25, 2011
A few months later and things have CHANGED!
It seems the general consensus is he's a scam artist.
Little background: I'm from Santa Cruz and have known Joe for over 25 years, and I considered myself his friend. Initially, I supported his 'noble' cause (this was prior to the inconsistencies and concerns) and knowing that, I wouldn't deceive people and play on their sympathies and/or ask them for money, it never occurred to me that he would even be capable of something like that.
However, I no longer consider him a friend. Prior to this decision (as you can see from my other comment), I had defended him publicly, as well as, having sent him money (more than once). So please believe me when I say, I wrote my prior comment with the utmost sincerity. I also was taken in by him. Please know however, that I am so sorry if my comment in anyway persuaded anyone else to donate! I really, really believed in him. But, after he stopped walking for some strange reason that didn't quite make sense last year, and since then has needed money for everything from an ID, to a Bicycle, to a Bus Ticket (for a "walk"?!) and then the numerous complaints on his wall and website that many people had supported him and sent him money, only to have him disappear with all of it....I began to wonder...what happened to him? Out of concern, I called his cell phone and left a message. No reply (although before he was quick to respond, especially after I defended him here in these comments, also when I sent him money). So I tried his girlfriend (also, previously very easy to reach). I asked her what was up and how he was doing, but, rather than answering my simple question, she blocked me and refused to respond...so now what?!
Well, I wondered even more when I read the comments he posted these comments on his wall (he posted all these bizzaro statements after Bin Laden was killed).............

On May 1, JOE MELSHA wrote:

This: "HE [Osama] WAS JUST ANOTHER HUMAN BEING WHO FELT STRONGLY ABOUT HIS BELIEFS."
then this: "Bin Laden was someone's son"
this: "No AMERICAN has ever been as down for his beliefs as BIN LADEN"
this: "I can't believe you lil vag!nas calling a true man a coward"
this: "You all believe GEORGE now that aN"
this: "Your all bunch of pu&#xsi;es that wouldn't even stand up to pee"
this: "You effin spokes in the wheel.... keep peddling for the man.. and believe that someone's death brings peace."
this: "So when do our troops come home? I guess its all over now right?"

I wondered, was this his thanks to everyone for supporting him? Or, was this just his way of telling everyone that he was no longer interested in their support, or walking?
Some folks held out hope that he had been hacked. But, when they saw other similar posting on other peoples walls coming from his cell phone, they figured that, Yes, it was in fact Joe. That coupled with the fact that no one has seen from him or heard from him (or the money) since then, and in fact before then.
I recant my statement, I recant my support
I COMPLETELY RECANT!!! everything I posted previously....(re:one month later and ITS COLD OUT THERE)
written by Stephanie Bell, May 25, 2011
A few months later and things have CHANGED!
It seems the general consensus is he's a scam artist.
Little background: I'm from Santa Cruz and have known Joe for over 25 years, and I considered myself his friend. Initially, I supported his 'noble' cause (this was prior to the inconsistencies and concerns) and knowing that, I wouldn't deceive people and play on their sympathies and/or ask them for money, it never occurred to me that he would even be capable of something like that.
However, I no longer consider him a friend. Prior to this decision (as you can see from my other comment), I had defended him publicly, as well as, having sent him money (more than once). So please believe me when I say, I wrote my prior comment with the utmost sincerity. I also was taken in by him. Please know however, that I am so sorry if my comment in anyway persuaded anyone else to donate! I really, really believed in him. But, after he stopped walking for some strange reason that didn't quite make sense last year, and since then has needed money for everything from an ID, to a Bicycle, to a Bus Ticket (for a "walk"?!) and then the numerous complaints on his wall and website that many people had supported him and sent him money, only to have him disappear with all of it....I began to wonder...what happened to him? Out of concern, I called his cell phone and left a message. No reply (although before he was quick to respond, especially after I defended him here in these comments, also when I sent him money). So I tried his girlfriend (also, previously very easy to reach). I asked her what was up and how he was doing, but, rather than answering my simple question, she blocked me and refused to respond...so now what?!
Well, I wondered even more when I read the comments he posted these comments on his wall (he posted all these bizzaro statements after Bin Laden was killed).............

On May 1, JOE MELSHA wrote:

This: "HE [Osama] WAS JUST ANOTHER HUMAN BEING WHO FELT STRONGLY ABOUT HIS BELIEFS."
then this: "Bin Laden was someone's son"
this: "No AMERICAN has ever been as down for his beliefs as BIN LADEN"
this: "I can't believe you lil vag!nas calling a true man a coward"
this: "You all believe GEORGE now that aN"
this: "Your all bunch of pu&#xsi;es that wouldn't even stand up to pee"
this: "You effin spokes in the wheel.... keep peddling for the man.. and believe that someone's death brings peace."
this: "So when do our troops come home? I guess its all over now right?"

I wondered, was this his thanks to everyone for supporting him? Or, was this just his way of telling everyone that he was no longer interested in their support, or walking?
Some folks held out hope that he had been hacked. But, when they saw other similar posting on other peoples walls coming from his cell phone, they figured that, Yes, it was in fact Joe. That coupled with the fact that no one has seen from him or heard from him (or the money) since then, and in fact before then.
I recant my statement, I recant my support
shake my head
written by meeshell love, May 25, 2011
This man came on Facebook. Added all kinds of people with the Hep C Virus. Myself also. He recieved TONS of money for all of us and now.... he is gone. He is a liar and a thief. Shame on you Joe!!!!!
...
written by Joe Joe, May 18, 2011
They should do a follow up story on how he took money from all these people, stopped walking, and basically disappeared. He is no hero. He is just some bum from Santa Cruz who has no job and used the disease to get stuff.
One month later &...IT IS COLD OUT THERE!!
written by Stephanie Bell, December 30, 2010
@ Kathy and Cory. Did you really just ask someone that is walking thru a blizzard not to ask for money to eat and for shoes?! I also have HEP C and I am broke and I am disabled.I didn't hear him say I have to pay him anything. Where do you get off?! ALSO, I also have a warm place to be, I have food on my table, I don't have blisters on my feet, not to mention, I don't have a$$holes with their opinions of me telling me that it doesn't matter to them that my Mom has passed, my sister is ill, and I have lost more friends than I can count to HEP C, so all things considered, I think I can spare a few dollars for a warm meal. @ Cory and Kathy you make it sound like he is demanding money for Air Jordan's and you don't have a choice. Kathy YOU even told him to "stop asking" as if he doesn't have a God given right. Then you accuse him of ignorance (ironically, YOU would be the one feeling stupid if you knew how knowledgeable he is). Just because someone doesn't do things according to YOUR model of what YOU think is worthy, doesn't mean your way is superior. How dare you, what gives you the right, because YOU have HEP C?! Well so do I, and I don't think that means I get to speak for all of us. NO, he wasn't prepared and didn't ask for money initially, but, I'm SURE you would've found fault with that too (actually that goes to show his level of commitment AND his true intention, but you fail to mention that!). Look, if you are unhappy about life or your condition, why don't YOU go out and do something about it!? Instead of picking on someone that is practically a saint. I know someone that is walking across the country during a blizzard. What are YOU doing other than criticizing him? GET A LIFE or GET LOST!
Go Joe Joe
written by Rain, December 15, 2010
Joe is a friend and we go way back. he is walking for a cause that most people hide from. The dark, the evil, we know what we all have in the closet of out past and today. Help support Joe in the fight to over come what is killing the ones we love and our neighbors. Go Joe.
Joe the hero
written by Rain, December 15, 2010
Joe is a life lone friend from way back. He is a hero that is doing gods work. Help him raise awerness and bring about what's right. Donate to a good cause. Go Joe Go!!

...
written by Kathy M., December 14, 2010
Spreading HCV awareness is much more than wearing a placard on your back. Your mom may have died from HCV but are you truly knowledgeable about this disease, Joe? If questions are asked of you, are you able to answer them in depth? I have to admite, I'm a bit skeptical about this walk... at first there was no mention of needing money from others, now you're outright asking for it. Please stop as many cannot afford it. Many have already gone through a great deal just treating with this disease. Have you any idea of what it entails, both financially and mentally?
...
written by Cory, December 13, 2010
Joe, I dont trust anyone that puts pressure on people to send money via online for shoes, food and shelter. You're not out of Cal. yet, but you're broke. Didnt you prepare for this trip? How are you gonna make it the rest of the way without taking money from those with hepc?
...
written by Yvonne Frazier, December 12, 2010
Your mother would be proud of you!
...
written by Holly Angell, December 08, 2010
Yeah Joe!!!! What you are doing is absolutely amazing!! I have been kept updated on Joe's journey to Boston through facebook daily. He is posting some great pictures! If you feel you need to help Joe with his journey I highly recomend you look up information on Hep C and to also visit joemelsha.com to donate cash to help fund his journey.
Thank you Joe
written by Betty Almonrode, December 07, 2010
I will be praying for you through the trip. Thanks for telling people about Hep C. It needs to be talked about. I am one of those people who is fighting the Hep.C. I would to know you on face book. Betty
...
written by Rebecca Lyens, December 07, 2010
Way to go Joe, Rock on!
HEPATITIS C
written by CINDY BROWN, December 07, 2010
KEEP ON TRUCKIN JOE.......... GET THE WORD OUT! HELP US GET THE AWARENESS OF THIS DISEASE OUT TO THE WORLD! YOU ARE MY HERO!!!!!!!!!!
...
written by Jeff T, December 04, 2010
Joe and his older brother stayed withus for a while around 1978 when we still lived in Federal Way, Washington. He doesnt look that much different than he did when he was a kid. We wish him success in his endeavor. Becky and Jeff T.St. Paul, Minn
Go Go Go!
written by Frank M, December 02, 2010
Rock on Joe! You are my hero too!
joes big sister (in boston)
written by judyann hukill, December 02, 2010
my little brother is my hero and as soon as i can im going to try to join him i cant walk far because i had back surgery and i just got surgery on my arm but i trying to get things going to make his trip easier i would like to have hotels and restrants help him out as much as possible and im making up t shirts to raise money to help him meet his goals people should not have to loose half a family or even a member of the family to HEPc it a slow painful way to go no one should have to endure that . and thank you for seeing a good cause and helping my little bro. judyann hukill
Way to go Joe!
written by Robin Carlisle, December 01, 2010
I used to see you treking your way up Branciforte... This is a much bigger deal! That is awesome that you are walking... And raising awareness about something that has affected you... And that affects so many other people. Rad Joe! Rad.
WELL WORTH THE WALK
written by Joe Melsha, December 01, 2010
Thanks Sean Foley and Keyana !

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