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Jess Beecher died due to complications from epilepsy on July 17, 2007. Her parents, Jason and Amy Beecher of West Fargo, and brother Noah, will be visiting over a dozen national parks and monuments throughout the West while on a 21-day journey where Jason will take photos that will be for sale to raise money to help support the battle against epilepsy and tuberous sclerosis.

Journey for Jess helping the battle against epilepsy

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After 18 months of planning, Jason and Amy Beecher, along with their son Noah, are traveling about 8,000 miles to raise support of the battle against epilepsy and their also support their daughter, Jess, who died of the disease in 2007.

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"Initially we thought just Amy and I but it has evolved into a family event," Jason Beecher, West Fargo, said.

On their 21-day (July 10-Aug. 2), 8,000-mile trek, the Beechers will visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Glacier National Park, Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, Mount St. Helens National Monument, Crater Lake National Park, Redwood National Park, Yosemite National Park, Devil's Postpile National Monument, Grand Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park.

At those points of interest, Beecher is taking pictures that will be for sale, the proceeds of which go toward the point of this trek, Journey for Jess.

The Beechers' daughter, Jess, was born Jan. 7, 2004, and her parents describe her as an easy to care for baby in the beginning.

According to their Web site, www.journeyforjess.com, "At about 3 months of age, unbeknownst to us, Jess had her first small seizures. On Sept. 1, 2004, at about 8 months of age, Jess had a 17-minute tonic-clonic seizure that prompted her first ride in an ambulance and visit to the ER."

Doctors thought it was a simple childhood seizure and she was sent home with an appointment scheduled for later. Two weeks later, though, she had another seizure, and more continued from there.

"She tried over a dozen anti-seizure meds, a special epilepsy diet, had two brain surgeries resulting in a complete corpus callosotomy, and through all of these interventions, she continued to have daily seizures. All without a known cause, as her brain structure was normal and there were no signs of infection or inflammation," her parents posted.

She died June 18, 2007.

"When Jess died, all I knew was that I wanted to do something to help raise money and awareness for seizure disorders," Beecher said. "I didn't want to do things that had been done before like silent auctions or benefit dinners. I wanted to do something different. The more I thought about it, the more I thought about trying to make a fund-raiser out of my love of photography. The Journey For Jess is what I came up with."

Beecher calls himself an amateur, self-taught photographer who became interested in photography when he and his wife moved to Boulder, Colo., and his aunt gave him a camera.

"I started taking pictures and never wanted to stop. I love the planning that goes into being in the right place at the right time to take a good picture," he said.

He drew from the teachings of photographers Galen Rowell and Ansel Adams, so when planning the Journey for Jess trip, he picked national parks those two photographers used as subject matters and plugged in a few extras along the way.

All proceeds from sales of his photos taken on the journey will go to the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota and Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance of the Upper Midwest.

Beecher has set a goal of giving $10,000 to each of the organizations, for a total of $20,000. They have raised about $8,000 thus far.

To bring more awareness, last year, during the Dick Beardsley Half Marathon, the Beechers' sponsored a mile in honor of Journey for Jess, and they hope to again this year.

To donate to the Beechers Journey for Jess online, visit www.journeyforjess.com, and to follow their journey, visit www.journeyforjess.blogspot.com, where the family will be posting regular updates, photos and videos throughout their trip.

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