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|Extreme Athlete to Climb Santa Monica Stairs for Charity|
By Melonie Magruder
April 17, 2012 -- There are extreme athletes and then there are extreme fundraisers. This month, local actor, martial arts expert and extreme athlete Zac Lee Guarnaccia will combine both a 24-hour long, live-streamed stair-climbing marathon.
The "Step-A-Thon" -- which will benefit Homeless Not Toothless, a nonprofit that provides free dental care for homeless children -- is scheduled to take place beginning April 28 at the Santa Monica stairwell at 4th Street and Adelaide Drive, and will end April 29. Guarnaccia, 47, says he is confident that he will ace the challenge.
"The easiest part for me will be the stair-climbing," he said. "The hard part is selling the fundraising part of it."
Guarnaccia has far-reaching interests. He is a busy private fitness trainer, internet fitness game show producer, stunt man, commercial actor and entrepreneur. He claims that his diverse background and adherence to a healthful lifestyle have kept him from getting sick for more than 24 years.
"I don't smoke, drink alcohol or coffee, or do drugs," Guarnaccia said. "I train regularly, and I'm not interested in ever seeing a doctor."
This particular fitness and fundraising challenge came from his nearly 20-year friendship with Dr. Jay Grossman, a Brentwood dentist who founded the Homeless Not Toothless charity in 1992 with the support of actress Sharon Stone and local foundations like The Skirball Foundation.
Grossman's charity has provided more than $2 million in services to local homeless families over the years, most of them referred by organizations like the Venice Family Clinic. The goal of this particular fundraiser is to raise enough money to renovate a dental wing of a medical clinic in El Monte that serves 28,000 children in foster care.
When Guarnaccia heard of his friend's goal, he jumped on board.
"I told Jay that I wasn't a millionaire, but that I had a strong body and I would use it to help raise money for his clinic," Guarnaccia said. "I developed this web show (the "Fit Blitz Express") that will give 50 percent of all ad revenue to charities. Then I thought about doing an extreme sport event as a fundraiser."
During the 24-hour Step-A-Thon, Guarnaccia says he expects to burn at least 10,000 calories and cover some 450 to 500 sets of ascents and descents on the stairwell.
He selected the 4th Street site because the outdoor stairway will offer healthier air than an indoor facility (he had considered staging the event in the interior stairwell of the tallest building in downtown Los Angeles). It's also a better venue for the public to show up and watch, participate, and cheer (or jeer) him on.
Guarnaccia's event "fuel" will be provided by NutriFit, a local meal delivery service that will offer him high energy, mostly raw food ("Cooking removes most of the nutrients from food," Guarnaccia said).
Before the event, he'll do a lot of cross training -- sprinting, jumping and weights -- while avoiding activities that will put stress on his joints. His diet for the next few weeks will be dense in protein and light on carbohydrates.
"Then, right before the Step-A-Thon, I'll fill up my tank on high energy, complex carbs as fuel storage," Guarnaccia said.
Guarnaccia has attempted fundraising extreme marathons in the past. In 2009, he ran/walked for 24 consecutive hours on a treadmill, covering, he said, more than 64 miles. He didn't do a lot of publicity pre-event, counting on press to cover his accomplishment at the end of the road.
"But I had the bad luck to schedule it the day Michael Jackson died," Guarnaccia said. "So that was sort of that."
For the Step-A-Thon, Guarnaccia plans multiple publicity avenues, including a 24-hour live stream on his website (he will be filming his progress with his own iPhone attached to his chest) and invites supporters to seek their own sponsors and join him in part (or even all) of the climb. Guarnaccia says he will only stop for bathroom breaks.
"This is of course a worthy cause," he said. "But it also brings awareness to people of the benefits of staying fit."
Grossman said this was the first time he had tried an extreme athleticism event to raise funds for the Homeless Not Toothless foundation.
"It's certainly a different flavor. I even have private patients who will donate money, he said, adding that any patient who donates at least $200 gets a free teeth whitening session.
"But this is a first," Grossman said. "Zak's crazy, but I am awed at what he is willing to put himself through."
For his part, Guarnaccia feels confident of the upcoming event. When asked what he'll do the day after the event, he laughed.
"Maybe order a pizza," he said.
More information on Dr. Grossman's nonprofit may be found at www.HomelessNotToothless.org .
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