Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast of the country, claiming the lives of over 100 Americans and leaving millions more without power. Some lost everything they owned. Efforts to help those affected by the hurricane were immediate, including the work of many on this campus.
However, from Nov. 16 to Nov. 20, while most students were busy devising their plans to head home a few days early before the Thanksgiving break officially began, one former student, Ed Kloskowski, Class of ’88, went a little further with his hurricane relief efforts—220 miles further to be exact.
To raise awareness and money for those affected by Hurricane Sandy, the 46-year-old of Allentown, N.J., ran the entire length of the Garden State from top to bottom.
Moved by the assistance of his neighbors in helping clear a tree that struck his house, Kloskowski, a father of two, felt compelled to act and engage in the relief effort himself.
“I wanted to do something that had a little more broad reach,” Kloskowski says. “I thought ‘I can usually run a long way.’ So I said, ‘Let me just run across the state.’”
Kloskowski is no stranger to extreme physical activity. A director of information technology for a Pennsylvania-based pharmaceutical plant by day, Kloskowski is a weekend warrior in the world of extreme sports. He is an experienced mountain climber, triathlete and ultrarunner.
Still, what seemed like the obvious solution to Kloskowski was not so easily understood by his family and friends. Kloskowski says one of the most difficult challenges was convincing people to realize the sense of urgency that existed.
“I said to them, ‘Yeah, I could train for another month or two, or, yeah, I could plan for another month or two months but the difference that I can make is right now,’” Kloskowski says. “I told them: ‘I got what I got. I don’t need it, if I don’t have it. So let’s just do it now,”’And with that he had their full support.
Kloskowski called his mission Run4NJ and launched an online campaign to promote its cause in an effort to raise money for organizations committed to hurricane relief. Kloskowski began his journey from High Point State Park in Montague, N.J. Periodically, he posted videos and images of his progress to the group’s Facebook page to update his supporters.
Members of Kloskowski’s family traveled in a minivan the whole way with the determined runner.
“Without that support, there is no way I could have done it,” he says. Each evening, Kloskowski was fortunate enough to spend the night at the homes of friends and family along the way, with the exception of one evening spent in a hotel. Kloskowski had just five to six hours to sleep and even that was a challenge as the aches and pains kept him up each night.
Those aches and pains were multiplied by Kloskowski’s last-minute decision to run the entire length of the state carrying a 3×5 American flag attached to an aluminum pole.
“It weighed about a bazillion pounds,” he jokes. “I figured, ‘Well, what better thing to carry along when trying to generate some awareness than something reminds not just Jersey but the country that…we are all in it together. We rally and we help each other.’”
After the first day of running, Kloskowski was exhausted.
“That next morning waking up, I felt like I had just run the hardest marathon of my life,” he says.
That may be because Kloskowski ran nearly 52 miles that first day, which is the equivalent of two full marathons.
“I was absolutely shelled. I was tired, I was sore. I kept asking myself, ‘How am I going to run 50 miles today?’”Kloskowski admits that he did not expect to feel such exhaustion until the final day. “The pain just kept layering on and layering on. I spent a lot of time trying to keep myself from getting down.”
Any doubts Kloskowski may have had about himself he quickly dismissed.
“What kept me going was the fact that I committed to do something, people backed me and believed in me,” Kloskowski says. “I was like, ‘You know what, I’m going to honor the support of those people and just not stop until I can’t possibly go.’”
Kloskowski rotated between running and walking and pressed forward.
The support from fellow New Jerseyans, whom he met along the way, was another major source of inspiration for Kloskowski. He estimates that thousands of drivers honked their horns in support and that he spoke with nearly hundreds of people, some of whom had lost everything to the storm. Some people, Kloskowski says, began to cry when they found out what he was doing.
“They cried not because of what they had lost, but because somebody else cared about them,” Kloskowski says. He described it as a “circle of good” that just continued to build on itself.
By the last day, Kloskowski still had to cover 32 miles before reaching Cape May, his final destination.
“I was like, ‘Well I don’t care if I got to crawl. If I can still motor, I’m going to finish this,’” he says.
Kloskowski walked the first 14 miles and amazingly found the strength and determination to run the final 18 to the finish where the local chamber of commerce greeted him.
Among the crowd was his father, sister, wife Kerry and their two children, Jay and Alison. Not to mention the perfect victory beer for the occasion: Sierra Nevada Celebration.
Selflessly, Kloskowski insisted that he was the one doing what he called the “easy job.”
“I’m just out trotting along running to raise awareness and maybe get some donations to help out the organizations that were trying to help those people,” he says.
Kloskowski’s humility makes it difficult to recognize just how much he really accomplished.
Each day that Kloskowski was out “trotting along” he covered an average of 44 miles and to date has raised nearly $10,000 dollars for relief efforts, a figure that continues to grow.
Kloskowski spoke of the value of civic duty and the obligation to serve those in need. What makes the University so great, he says, was the fact that, “It was built by people who felt civic duty to do things for their communities and to serve their communities.”
The University’s newest slogan, “Ignite Change. Go ’Nova” is everywhere: it is on banners and on television commercials—it even has its own website.
At times it can be overwhelming and it is easy to lose sight of what Ignite Change, Go ’Nova really means.
But then people like Kloskowski remind the University community that the slogan is more than just words, it is very real and members of the University community are making a difference.
Kloskowski encourages students to engage in community service efforts, adding that it is one of the most rewarding activities one can do.
“But that’s not why you’re doing it,” he says. “You’re doing it because it is your duty to be a part of your community and to serve that community in whatever capacity you can.”
Good advice from an even better man. Ignite Change. Go Ed.