Two New Jersey natives have a different summer story to tell. Instead of hitting the Jersey shore for some swell, sun and fun, Anthony Greco and Rob Bonora of Nutley, N.J., walked cross-country in an attempt to raise money for cancer research and other causes.
Gail’s Angels is one of the organizations that the Greco and Bonora are raising money for. The organization is to help families who are experiencing difficulty because a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
“They represent all that is good with the youth of America and have great concern for the welfare of our communities,” James Babai, president of Gail’s Angels Foundation, said.
Derek’s Dreams is the other organization and it supports research in the genetic disease Ataxia Telangiectasia (AT).
“Their generosity and courage to undertake something of this magnitude was incredible,” Steve Digregorio, of Derek’s Dreams, said. “They are both very selfless young men.”
Starting on June 1, Greco and Bonora flew out to San Diego, Calif., to begin their journey back home. Neither of them had trained for what was to come. In fact, it was a spur of the moment decision.
They were both in their last semesters of college and working full time when they decided in March that they were going to start their journey on June 1.
“We didn’t expect it to be as physically challenging as it actually was,” Bonora said in a telephone interview. “Our preparation was mainly getting the route down and trying to let everyone know about the walk so we were busy throwing fundraisers.”
Bonora joked that their one “training” walk was 14 miles to a mall near their town. “Not really much when you consider we were doing 25-30 mile days,” Bonora said.
As for shoes, they had four pairs of New Balances donated to each of them and random people offered the rest. By the last day, Bonora went through six pairs of shoes and Greco was on his seventh pair for the last day.
The worst experiences along the way were the blisters, heat and the boredom. Every step they took from the ending of the first day until about a month into the trip.
“My blisters never really healed up and each time I swapped shoes it would become worse,” Bonora said. “The pain in our feet made us compensate our stride so then our knees, hips and ankles began to hurt as well.”
According to Bonora, his best experience was meeting people.
“Our hometown mayor, Joanne Cocchiola, sent letters to all the towns we were going to walk through and about half of them responded,” Bonora said.
Sometimes someone from the town would offer their house for the night or they would be set up in a hotel. Most of them would also take them out to eat. “We still keep in touch with many of them and we hope to retrace our steps by car someday soon to revisit,” Bonora said.
As Greco and Bonora were on their home stretch, fire engines, American flags and crowds of fans awaited them on Oct. 7. They were joined by the mayor of Nutley along with the Nutley High School football team.
“It was great seeing so many people from Nutley supporting them,” Val Saar of Nutley said. “When they saw their family and friends for the first time was a priceless moment.”
For more information go to coasttocoastforacure.com