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Do it again: Alumni set to walk LI a second time

Group raised $22,000 for the Developmental Disabilities Institute last year

Last spring, a group of then-fresh St. John’s graduates completed a 128-mile walk from the Brooklyn Bridge to Montauk, Long Island to raise money for Developmental Disabilities Institute, a Smithtown, Long Island-based organization that specializes in providing services for people with autism.

One year later, it’s time to hit the road again. John Kenny and Nathan Holmes along with Morgan Zajkowski, Michael Sardone, Ellen McBurney, Peter Barker, Marita Rausch and John’s brother, Liam Kenny, will embark on their second trek in late May that will total 125 miles and thousands of dollars raised.

“I think there are a couple main things that made us want to do this again,” Holmes said. “Selfishly, I think I can speak for the whole group and say we had a great time. We met some incredible people along the way and it was an awesome adventure to cap off our time at St. John’s.”

DDI, which operates schools and services throughout Nassau and Suffolk County for both children and adults with autism, was a logical choice for the group to partner with because of their resources and mission.

“We wanted to do it with an organization that had the resources to deal with a project like this because we didn’t want to take away from the core missions of an organization,” Kenny said. “They were so receptive to the idea, it caught us off guard. They wanted to meet right away. It was awesome.”

The group will depart from the Brooklyn Bridge on May 25 and plans to complete the journey seven days later at the tip of Montauk. A map of the route can be viewed at DDI’s website, ddiny.org.

Kenny and Holmes said the group plans to make four stops at DDI-operated schools along the route where they’ll get to meet the people who will benefit from the money raised that is slated to help renovate playgrounds and classrooms. Those stops are also what help keep them going, they said.

“We had assemblies with the kids and got to meet [them] and they made signs and posters,” Kenny said. “The reception we got from the staff, teachers and aids was just overwhelming.

“The kids were so excited that we were doing this and just being around them and then the teachers rallying behind us too, it kind of gets you through those long afternoons and long evenings of walking because you know you’re walking for more than just yourself,” he added.

The St. John’s alums said they’ll average 17.9 miles-per-day, which requires physical endurance and training walks. A couple weeks ago, they walked around 22 or 23 miles from home in Jamaica, Queens into Brooklyn, then back into Queens and over into Manhattan, Kenny said.

“It was like our big training walk because it’s not just a physical thing, it’s definitely mental too,” Kenny said. “I left my house at 8:30 [a.m.] and got back at 7 [p.m.] so you know you’re going to be putting in the time.”

Anybody who wants to walk can join, Kenny said. He suggested the best time to come along would be from the Brooklyn Bridge to St. John’s – a distance of about 11 miles or at the end from downtown Montauk to the lighthouse, which covers around five or six miles.

An event will be held at The Point Bar & Grill in Montauk from 3-6 p.m. on May 31 – the day the group arrives in Montauk.

The group raised $22,000 from last year’s walk and is currently taking donations of all sizes (from $5 to $5,000 so far, according to Kenny). Donations can be made by visiting ddiny.org.

“What DDI is all about, their cause and what the money is going toward, you can’t get a better cause,” Kenny said.

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