January 2011 Reader Athlete – Alyson Ruby Grzyb

Sky Barsch Gleiner
Posted January 8th, 2011

Age: 36
Residence: Sunderland
Family: Husband, Steve Grzyb
Occupation: Preschool teacher
Primary sport: Snowshoeing
VS: You’ll be snowshoeing in the Tubbs Romp to Stomp Out Breast Cancer this month. How many years have you done this?
AG: This will be my eighth, all in Vermont.
VS: What was the inspiration for participating?
AG: I believe January 2003 was the first year there was a Romp in Vermont. I heard about it on the radio, but that year I already had plans for that weekend. The next summer, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. That fall, I heard about the Romp again, and I called up my sister who lives in Maryland. I said, “This sounds like a really fun thing, why don’t you guys come up and we’ll do it together?” That was when the Romp was much smaller. And the team was pretty small, so just the four of us–she and her husband and my then-boyfriend and I–did it, and we tried to raise some money, but only raised about $1,500. The next year, my mom was a lot sicker, and we got a lot of friends together who came and joined us in support of my mom. My mom and dad joined us in 2005. But sadly, my mom passed away in June 2005. Since then, it’s kind of the same core group of people who get together. We’ve lost a few and added a few. Consistently I would say for the past four years, we have had about 20 team members, and lately we’ve been raising around $15,000.
VS: How are you so successful at fundraising?
AG: My mom was very loved by a lot of people, and so in one respect, because she died, a lot of people that knew her and loved her are very willing to donate to this cause. I just got a check in the mail from my grandmother and she said, “Here’s my little piece of remembering your mom.” With 20 people all asking for money, you tend to get a pretty big response. We’re pretty spread out, too. I coordinate the team here from Vermont, but a majority of people come from different states. My dad is in Connecticut, my sister and her husband live in Maryland, and they bring friends. I have cousins from Massachusetts and the Chicago area, so we’re pulling from a wide range of people. We also have a few deep pockets to ask from. There have been a number of people over the years who have consistently given us $500 donations or even $1,000 donations. We have good givers. Also, I think because we’ve been doing it so many years, some people expect it, so they plan on it.
VS: How do your friends in warmer climates prepare for a long snowshoe?
AG: Snowshoeing on a relatively flat and groomed trail (which is what you find at the Romp) is not too difficult. Just walking is enough to prepare you. If we were doing some back-country trailblazing they might need to do more cardiovascular training, but for a simple walk they are okay. The thing that usually hinders them the most is the cold weather, but they have learned to dress in many layers!
VS: What was it about your mom that endeared her to so many people?
AG: My mom was just one of those people that everyone loves. She was cute and funny. She was a good listener. She liked to have fun. She had a kind and generous heart.
VS: How does it feel to contribute that much to breast cancer research?
AG: It’s pretty exciting. The first couple of years, when we jumped from raising $1,500 to the next year was $10,000 … We thought, “Wow this is a lot of money.” When I tell people about it they’re blown away.
VS: What brought you to Vermont?
AG: That’s a long story. My now-husband brought me to Vermont. We are both from Trumbull, CT. We went to high school together. He moved up here after high school, and I had some other friends who moved to Vermont as well. I would say seven years later one of our mutual friends moved back to Connecticut, and it was through him that we saw each other again and then started dating and did the long distance thing for a couple years. We decided one of us should move, and I was ready for a change in scenery. I’ve been really happy ever since. I love it.
VS: How did you get interested in teaching?
AG: When I was in college, I was studying liberal arts with a focus on psychology, but didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I had been babysitting since I was 12 years old. When I graduated, I got a nanny job for the summer and I was looking for anything that might interest me. Working with kids was something I thought I wanted to do. A position opened at a preschool in Branford, CT. It was sort of a part-time assistant teacher position to start, but it quickly grew into full-time, lead teacher position. I went back to school and started working toward a Master’s in early childhood
ed. And I got my teacher’s license in
VS: What do you enjoy about it?
AG: I love the innocence and wonder. They’re learning so much, and so fast, that you can actually watch that happen. I think it’s so fascinating to be a part of that. And also to be unconditionally loved by them and adored. They are awesome. Then they go off to elementary school and pick up bad habits.
VS: What is your favorite place to hike?
AG: There’s a place up in Brandon called Rattlesnake Cliff and the Falls of Lana. I’ve only been there a couple times, but it’s awesome. I do a lot of hiking around this area, at Mount Equinox, Bromley, Lye Brook Falls. I’m a member of the Green Mountain Club Manchester section, so I do some trail work with them and group hikes.
VS: You enjoy reading–what’s a good book you’ve read lately?
AG: I liked The Help by Kathryn Stockett.