Setauket man plans walk to NYC to help wheelchair rugby team

Setauket man plans walk to NYC to help wheelchair rugby team

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Alan Ghidaleson, shown with his wife Diane, is planning to walk 68 miles to New York City to raise funds for the New York Warriors. Photo from Alan Ghidaleson

With his 68th birthday on the horizon, Alan Ghidaleson, founder and owner of Feasts for Beasts in Mount Sinai, decided he wanted to do something to help others. After talking with a business associate, the Setauket resident decided to take on a 68-mile trek to New York City on foot to help those who can’t walk.

The New York Warriors play wheelchair rugby competitively at Stony Brook University and in New Jersey. Photo from Alan Ghidaleson

Ghidaleson said one day while he was talking to his insurance agent Mark Legaspi, he was inspired to raise money for the New York Warriors Wheelchair Rugby team. The squad, made up of quadriplegics, play quad rugby competitively at Stony Brook University and in New Jersey. Legaspi is the New York state chairman of Easterseals, a nonprofit that provides services to those with disabilities. He told Ghidaleson about the Warriors, which the nonprofit sponsors and helps.

Legaspi said it’s exciting to hear when someone wants to donate their time to help others.

“Alan’s drive to help is tremendous,” Legaspi said. “He always goes out of the way to help people.”

With his 68th birthday on Oct. 3, the pet supply store owner decided to walk to New York City. His hope is that his fellow North Shore residents he passes along the way will support the cause by donating. All the funds collected will go toward the New York Warriors to maintain their equipment.

Ghidaleson said he plans to leave Oct. 1 or 2, depending on the weather, and he estimates the walk could take around 28 hours, also based on weather and road conditions. The business owner has already mapped out the trip. He will leave his home in Setauket, walk along Route 347 until it merges with 454 and then Route 25 in Commack. From there he will take Route 25 and pass towns such as Dix Hills, Woodbury, Syosset and Jericho. When he reaches New Hyde Park, he will walk along New Hyde Park Road to Route 25A and then take that west to the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. He plans to end his walking journey at the Whiskey Tavern at 79 Baxter St. in Manhattan.

Ghidaleson said he thought long and hard about safety when he mapped out his trip. One of the reasons he ruled out Route 25 in Smithtown is due to a stretch of the road west of the Bull statue where there is no shoulder to walk. He also found that Route 25A would be longer mileage-wise while not having as many businesses and restaurants as Route 25 does.

“Alan’s drive to help is tremendous. He always goes out of the way to help people.”

— Mark Legaspi

While the Setauket resident doesn’t walk regularly, he said he does work out. He has already taken some practice walks, building from eight to 13 miles, and he said he recently finished a personal best of 32. He has a 40-mile walk planned before the big day.

“Once I do 40, then I’ll be prepared to do the distance,” he said.

Ghidaleson said he plans to celebrate the end of the walk at the Whiskey Tavern with his wife Diane, son Todd and his wife Cassie and his daughter Jenna and her boyfriend Mike. The business owner said they weren’t surprised when he told them what he had planned.

“I like doing challenges,” Ghidaleson said. “I like doing things that physically are demanding, and I like helping people. So, it’s a good combination.”

Darren Templeton, a member of the New York Warriors, said a couple of his teammates are also hoping to greet Ghidaleson at the end of the walk and met him recently when he traveled from Setauket to Hackensack, New Jersey, to see one of their games.

Those who are interested in donating to the walk can make checks payable to Eastern Wheelchair Athletes’ Foundation and mailed to the organization at 18 Strong Drive, Kinnelon, NJ 07405, or dropped off at Feasts for Beasts, 45 Route 25A, Mount Sinai.