By Jennifer L. Warren
Greg Buzulencia has been making powerful physical stamina statements with his body, traversing intricate, rugged, and elevation-laden trails for multiple hours as a trail runner since 2006. Next month, he wants to use that passion to send an even louder message, making his voice heard about a topic dear to his heart: Domestic Violence.
Buzulencia, along with fellow trail runner and endurance athlete, Benno Rawlinson, plan to do something many would deem unfathomable: Run the entire New York Section of the Appalachian Trail. The duo’s incredulous feat entails 88 miles, virtually no sleep (perhaps a quick nap), 7 or 8 stops for nutrition, clothes changes and other essentials, all the while fueled by guiding forces of love, respect and justice.
The plan for the run was planted a while back; however, it only recently became very personal and incredibly meaningful when Buzulencia learned of a fate that broke his heart.
The date was February 11, 2020 and his business partner’s best friend, Nikki Addimando, had just been sentenced to 19 years to life behind bars for having had killed her husband after a long, sordid history of domestic abuse. Her plea was self defense, and the evidence heavily pointed at her innocence; however, she was still convicted. Adding to the confusion was the recently signed law: The Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA), allowing for reduced sentences allotted to domestic abuse survivors, which was not acknowledged in Addimando’s case.
“When we found out this law was not being applied, it felt so wrong; the whole system just seemed to be going against Nikki from the very beginning,” explained Buzulencia, who lives in Beacon with his wife and young son. “To have so much proof about the domestic violence and then just have it thrown out was such a huge injustice; it was heartbreaking, and I felt helpless, thinking what can I do?”
It didn’t take long for Buzulencia to find his answer once he learned an appeal process was in motion. Well aware of his “crazy mountain running” love, Buzulencia was led by his heart to create a way to fuse it with this urgent need to use his voice for justice. He was further ignited by the present state of affairs in our country, aimed at bringing racial relations to the forefront; he too, wanted to start a much-needed discussion, and the time was very ripe to do so.
“I wanted to be a male voice championing a cause; I remember thinking how can I let all these kinds of cases with domestic abuse keep happening, and as a man and not step up,” explained Buzulencia. “It made me think about how we outside of domestic violence need to help; it’s our responsibility to be vocal about it for those who can’t be.”
That “noise” will begin to happen on October 3, 2020 when Buzulencia and Rawlinson lace up for what they are hoping is a 24 hour journey through the Appalachian Trail. It’s an elusive (never done without stopping to sleep before) trek that Buzulencia is not completely sure the duo will conquer, as so many intangibles align their course. However, the cause and its meaning have added an undeniable propelling force slanted in their favor.
“It’s 17,000 feet of climbing, and the terrain is constantly rocky- some fist-sized- with some scrambling, making it more like a 120 miles in some ways,” described Buzulencia about the course. “This is something I already had in mind to do, but now having this cause to push us will really increase our chances.”
It’s Buzulencia’s intent to raise enough monies needed to assist Addimando with the hefty legal fees she will be faced with during the appeal’s process; if any funds are leftover, they will go directly to the care of her two young children who are staying with her sister.
Those wishing to make a contribution can visit the website: www.abigrun.com. Here, visitors can also learn of another way of helping by becoming a part of a virtual running team, raising money themselves for domestic violence by forming teams and logging in completed miles. This option remains open through the end of October, Domestic Abuse Awareness Month, and why Buzulencia scheduled his run during this time.
No matter what the outcome, Buzulencia is excited about and 100 percent committed to the opportunity to have his voice heard as well as raise awareness about this critical issue which affects countless people.
“Maya Angelou once said, ‘When you know better, you do better,’” said Buzulencia. “This is too important to me now; it’s a win-win any way you look at it.”