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Slice of Life

Alumni found pizza-centered fundraiser in the Big Apple

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News Feature

It’s easy to grab a slice of pizza in a city like New York. But Joe Cutrufo, ’05, has turned it into a challenge.

Cutrufo, and fellow Bridgewater State graduate Mike DeGagne, ’06, set out one day in 2013 to eat slices from pizza parlors in each of New York City’s five boroughs. It turned into an annual tradition, and now it is a fundraiser for Cutrufo’s employer, the nonprofit organization Transportation Alternatives.

Sounds like a deliciously easy way to raise some dough, right? There’s a catch. Participants in the 5 Boro Pizza Challenge cannot use cars. Taxis and ride-sharing services are also off limits. Participants must rely on public transportation, bicycling and/or their feet.

While the pizza shops change every year, it typically takes almost five hours for the fastest pizza lovers to complete the journey, said Cutrufo, Transportation Alternatives’ communications director. His wife, Shannon Moriarty, ’05, is a co-organizer of the challenge.

The event has its roots in Bridgewater’s orientation program: Cutrufo, Moriarty and DeGagne met as orientation leaders. 

Cutrufo was an English major and communication studies minor and served as news editor for the student newspaper, The Comment. He praised faculty members such as Dr. Lee Torda, an associate professor of English, for preparing him for the working world. 

“I came out of there feeling much better prepared to leave,” he said. “I felt surprisingly prepared to take the next steps and excited to do that even though I really enjoyed being there.”

As a student, Cutrufo was curious and had passion and enthusiasm Torda wished she saw in all her students, she recalled. 

“He didn’t settle, he didn’t want to settle,” she said. “He wanted to explore new things and learn new things.”

Cutrufo studied urban and environmental policy and planning in graduate school at Tufts University, and found a way to marry his undergraduate and graduate studies by working for organizations such as Transportation Alternatives.

“I’ve always been passionate about biking, walking and walkable cities,” he said. 

Pizza Challenge participants may encounter subway delays, streets that are not conducive to bicycling and roads that are challenging to cross on foot – woes Transportation Alternatives advocates to be fixed.

“It’s also a celebration of the city’s many different transportation alternatives,” said Cutrufo. “You can travel great distances without needing to get into a car.” 

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