Mike Silvestri says two of his favorite activities are running and dining out. Next month, he’s doing one to save the other.
The 34-year-old Brookfield resident, an avid runner and marathoner, is committing to the “Goggins Challenge” on March 5, when he’ll run four miles every four hours for 48 straight hours. Along the way, he’s raising money for the Connecticut Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Relief Fund, hoping to help state eateries get back on their feet after COVID-19.
Silvestri, who ran the Boston Marathon in 2011, says he’s always been a “challenge person.” He’s a fan of David Goggins, an ultra-endurance athlete and retired Navy SEAL, and decided to follow along with his running challenge, which in its second year. As the challenge is on a national platform through social media, Silvestri thought it would be a good chance to raise money for a cause.
“I figured I’d combine my crazy tendencies with challenges like this with raising money for something good,” he said.
A friend in state politics put him in touch with the Connecticut Restaurant Association, which announced the creation of its relief fund in January. Silvestri decided to raise money to contribute to the fund, which will provide one-time $5,000 grants to eligible businesses.
“With the pandemic, everyone had to stay home, and missing that restaurant, going out [experience] — that was taken from everybody,” he said. “And a lot of those restaurants suffered.”
Silvestri set up a GoFundMe site, encouraging his friends and followers to donate to the cause, or to consider doing the challenge themselves. He raised $3,000 in six days, he said, then upped the goal to $6,000.
The challenge begins at 11 p.m. on March 5, and Silvestri will run four miles during each subsequent four-hour block during the a 48 hour period. The schedule will have him running through the night, and he’s still planning how to sleep, stretch, and refuel throughout the duration.
He’s also finalizing his running route. He’d like to run through downtown Danbury and Bethel, with plans to pass by restaurants along his path.
Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, said he was heartened by Silvestri’s show of support.
“People [are] really understanding what a restaurant does for their community, the impact that it has, and wanting to do creative things to support it,” he said. “It’s been really incredible to see individuals, businesses, come to us and say, ‘We know you've been hit so hard, we want to do our part, how can we help.’”
The relief fund received an initial donation of $500,000 through a partnership with DoorDash. Dolch said the fund has received about 760 applications from Connecticut restaurants. About 90 applicants will receive funding in the first wave of grants, he said.
As a small business owner himself, Silvestri said he empathizes with restaurant owners. He started his own recruitment firm, Silvestri Staffing, just four months before COVID impacted the global economy. The pandemic has affected his business to a degree, he said, as offices close and employees are laid off.
“It’s just really been a sad year,” he said.