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Walking to Remember

Paramus, New Jersey, has a thriving Freedom Walk, thanks to the drive of 14-year-old Joey Rizzolo

By Hayley Livingston | null null , null
14-year-old Joey Rizzolo (left) and James Tedesco, the Mayor of Paramus, New Jersey. (Photo courtesy Joey Rizzolo)
14-year-old Joey Rizzolo (left) and James Tedesco, the Mayor of Paramus, New Jersey. (Photo courtesy Joey Rizzolo)

Fast approaching is the seventh anniversary of a day in history that will never be forgotten: Sept. 11, 2001. Helping to honor those who died, as well as those still fighting for our freedom, is 14-year-old Joey Rizzolo.

Joey is holding his second annual freedom walk in the town of Paramus, New Jersey. His first Freedom Walk, in 2007, drew 450 participants. This year he is anticipating more than 1,000 people. Joey hopes that this event will provide people with the opportunity to enjoy food, music, and speeches, as well as a chance to respect, reflect on, and remember that tragic day in U.S. history.

Many people were lost on Sept. 11, and that affected Joey and his friends tremendously.

"It affects me because one of my really good friend's mom died on September 11, so that was a real big motivation to start the Freedom Walk in Paramus," Joey says. It is this thought that drives Joey as he continues to work to make his Freedom Walk a huge success.

So far, so good. Besides drawing hundreds of people to his walks, Joey received a medal for his exceptional public service. He recently went to Washington, D.C., where he was one of 100 students to receive the Prudential Spirit of Community Award.

But it wasn't easy getting the Freedom Walk to where it is today. In fact, it took several steps. First, he went to his schoolteacher with the idea. She then sent him to the superintendent, who then sent him to the mayor. Once the mayor approved, Joey planned a route and organized a committee to help him out. They fundraised, received donations, and spread the word.

This year's Freedom Walk will be easier to plan than the first one because Joey is following his own advice. His new book, 20 Steps to a Freedom Walk, helps people of all ages (including Joey's) plan their own Freedom Walks in their own communities.

"I thought since I had a little trouble organizing my first Freedom Walk it would be a really great idea if someone my age had a little help to organize their Freedom Walk," Joey says.

This year's Paramus Freedom Walk will be held on September 7. There will be entertainment and many people around who feel the same as Rosa Rizzolo, Joey's mother: "People will never forget," she says. "They're not going to forget September 11."

Read more about Freedom Walks in the America Supports You Freedom Walks Special Report!

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About the Author

Hayley Livingston is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

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