Tommy Cuccias told several women — who were afraid to walk at night — that he would lead them in a stroll through Valley Stream, Malverne and Lynbrook. The group of 10 formed the Valley Stream Street Walkers a month later at their first official three-mile trek on Sept. 12.
“It’s awesome, it’s really wonderful,” Bridget Barbaro, a Franklin Square resident, said about the group. “I met a lot of people that live in the area that I wouldn’t have known.”
Since then, the Street Walkers, which meets at North Cottage Street and East Beverly Parkway in Valley Stream every Tuesday and Thursday at 7 p.m., has grown to about 50 men, women and children. “It just took off from that,” said Cuccias, the owner of Valley Stream Bicycle Center. “Some days we have over 20.”
The group attracted the attention of Deputy Mayor Vincent Grasso, and his wife Mary, who joined the Street Walkers on Dec. 12. Grasso said he liked the idea of the group because it brings residents together.
“People from all over the community from different walks of life get together, get to know one another and contribute to a stronger sense of community,” Grasso told the Herald in a Facebook message. “I think that is priceless in a time when so much effort seems to be directed towards tearing at our social fabric.”
Since the group walks for about an hour and 15 minutes, Cuccias said, people around the town call to him and sometimes ask to join the Street Walkers. One woman, he said, even offered the Street Walkers water bottles.
“People will be in their driveway and they’re yelling out, ‘You guys are the Street Walkers,’” Cuccias said. “The running joke is that everyone’s yelling my name and then I’ll talk to them and everyone will say, ‘Who was that?’ and I’ll say, ‘I don’t remember.’ I don’t, I’m bad with that.”
At the end of the walks, Cuccias encourages all of the members to scream for a video he posts on Facebook on the Valley Stream Street Walkers page. In December, he also made a group of teenagers and adults get on a swing set and climb monkey bars as they passed a playground.
“We’re getting from teenagers to people in their 60s, and they’re all coming and having a blast,” Cuccias said.
For the members, the group is also a way to lose weight. Cuccias said he shed about 15 pounds, and Barbaro said she lost eight. Others in the group also saw health benefits. “I try going to a gym, but doing this, my blood pressure went down and I lost 16 pounds,” said John LaBarbera, a Valley Stream resident. “I told Tommy, ‘You saved my life, one step at a time.’”
To find out more about the Street Walkers and watch Cuccias’s videos, visit the group’s Facebook page.