Former Army Ranger sets off on 3-day run for Phoebe Jonchuck

Alex Estrella is an experienced ultra-distance runner and a former U.S. Army Ranger. He’s finished a number of long-distance runs, once completing a trip from Macdill Air Force base to Key West.

On Friday Estrella took off on a three-day run with a purpose. Five-year-old Phoebe Jonchuck was killed by her father when he threw her off a bridge on the approach to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on January 8, 2015.

Phoebe Jonchuck, family photo
Phoebe Jonchuck, family photo

Estrella never knew Phoebe or her family but he was moved by the story. “Something came upon me that something had to be done, so I just got ready to do the run for Phoebe,” he said.

After hearing about Phoebe’s death Estrella decided to dedicate a run in her memory to raise money for the Shriners Hospital. “I just felt compelled that I had to do something to help these other kids to turn a tragedy into a beautiful thing,” he said.

Army Ranger runs for 5-year-oldPhoebe’s grandmother came out to wish him well on the start of the run. “I think it’s amazing because I didn’t know there were people out there still that would do something so special,” Michele JonChuck said.

She believes Phoebe would be happy knowing what Estrella is doing. “I know that she’s looking down right now and that she’s happy about what he’s doing for her,” the grandma said.

For her, events like this help keep her granddaughter’s memory alive, even though the pain is still there. “I’ll never forget her. No one will ever take the spot in my heart that belongs to her,” Jonchuck said.

People who want to donate for Estrella’s run can do so here. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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