January / February 2016
By Alyssa Baker
Tony Constanzo’s approach to challenges in life has been to “find your limits and push through them.” He has done just that for the past 21 years as a dedicated firefighter for the City of La Porte Fire Department. Tony is an inspiring member of the community who is passionate about cultivating health and wellness. He feels so strongly about this vision that he decided to run over 439 miles to honor fire fighters and EMS first responders who have lost their lives.
The Honor Run
Tony’s 439.77 Mile Honor Run took place over 11 days during October’s Fire Prevention Week as he ran from Beaumont to Austin. He stopped at each fire service memorial along the way to honor firefighters and EMS first responders in a unique and impactful way. Tony physically touched each memorial when he arrived in the evenings and when he departed in the mornings. He knew that a run would be very different from an auction or profit share dinner, and he accepted the challenge. The run took about one year to organize, and planning the route alone took about four months. He even decided to add fundraising to the run by allowing others to run with him in sections. When asked why he chose to run this immense distance, Tony soberly responded, “I wanted it to be so extreme that I felt a small piece of the discomfort that the fallen and their families have felt.” He discussed the extreme amount of pain his body endured during the run, and he expressed the emotional discomfort, as well. He grimaced when he remembered waking up in the mornings and feeling like someone had beaten his legs over and over again with a baseball bat. As Tony and his crew read heartbreaking stories of the fallen at each memorial, he noticed how emotions swelled and realized that no one involved understood the impact that the run would have. Tony, in spite of his pain and even injury along the way, denied any pain medications or other aids to ease his discomfort. Tony pushed through by reminding himself, “This is not about me.” Throughout the discussion with Tony, he was mindful of his purpose and passion to be “a vessel” and honor the fallen. He discussed emotional experiences of feeling the fallen firefighters as his running partners. They were with him the entire way. He discussed the changes he noticed in his support crew as they stopped at each memorial. “The energy was almost surreal,” Tony expressed, “I feel like I was in a coma for eleven days.” He gave credit to his medical crew and the volunteers who encouraged him and escorted him throughout their local cities. Tony is also being studied in medical research by Valdosta State University to examine how his body responded to this training and extreme activity. Tony’s goal to raise awareness was achieved as several news stations and community members witnessed his journey.
Tony continues to put his energy into fire service and his charitable organization. He has plans to continue his path as an “ultrarunner” and even travel across the country for certain races. But when asked if he would ever do an honor run like this again, he replied, “No way. It would never have the same level of impact as it did the first time.” He has toyed with the idea of doing more of a road trip and stopping through local taverns to have a drink with the fallen and converse with those honoring them.
Footsteps for the Fallen
Footsteps for the Fallen is a charitable organization that raises scholarship money for Texas children of firefighters and EMS first responders. The organization was recognized by the IRS in 2014, and this is the first year that funds are available to give two applicants $1,000 scholarships. Tony started Footsteps for the Fallen when his son was applying for college and his family realized that only one scholarship was available for children of firefighters in Texas. Tony feels passionate about giving back to the fire service, and he is extremely excited to personally meet with the two chosen applicants and award them their scholarships in February, 2016. Look for upcoming events to donate and participate at: footstepsforthefallen.org
Team Footsteps is a group of volunteers with a desire to honor our heroes by promoting health and wellness in the Fire Service. Members volunteer at races and other service events that align with their goals of health and wellness in the community. Many have dedicated their own lives to maintaining health and wellness, and they participate in several runs with the team. Membership does not require any running experience; however, Tony supports several team members who also have a special interest and passion for running. He has driven cross country to cheer on several team members and watch them race. Tony tells his team members and runners, “Anyone can run! Just go out there and have fun.”