Rizzo in semifinal of Runfulness Project

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Danielle Brock, left, and Sally Rizzo support each other in doing something about sexual assault and child abuse on Kaua‘i, discussing ideas last week at Longman Jiu-Jitsu in Koloa.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Sally Rizzo demonstrates a self-defense kick last week at Longman Jiu-Jitsu in Koloa.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Sally Rizzo follows the stay-back push with a self-defensive elbow during a demonstration last week at Longman Jiu-Jitsu in Koloa.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Sally Rizzo

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Sally Rizzo talks about being comfortable in the martial-arts hall last week at Longman Jiu-Jitsu in Koloa.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Sally Rizzo demonstrates a stay-back, self-defense kick, at Longman Jiu-Jitsu in Koloa last week.

KOLOA — Three miles into her regular morning run, Sally Rizzo’s mind raced.

Training for an upcoming 50K in Hilo, she recalled a recent workshop held by friend and women’s kickbox instructor Lila Metzger that held a self-defense workshop for girls 11 to 14 years old at Longman Jiu-Jitsu in Koloa.

Rizzo also thought about a recent story she read detailing the potential loss of funding for sexual-assault programs on the island.

And it was around this time in March she heard of Brooks Sport Running’s Runfulness Project, a competition to submit ideas you have while running for funding.

At the confluence of these thoughts, Rizzo, coming up on mile five, had an idea: develop self-defense courses that can be deployed or held at her partner’s martial-arts academy to empower women.

“This is a community-empowerment solution, proactive,” Rizzo, 31, said. “Let’s try to prevent this from happening, because once it happens, people will have the tools to be able to protect themselves.”

With workout partner Danielle Brock’s help, Rizzo applied for the Runfulness Project.

“I saw the power of it,” Rizzo said. “This is something that we could like really spend time investing into and developing. We could develop something that could be easily duplicated or integrated into existing programs. It wouldn’t have to be something new. It could be something we just come in and teach. But it’s also something we can empower instructors with what they’re already doing.”

Rizzo’s background in grant-writing and working with community-action agencies assisted in completing the project application. She seeks to develop a program to meet people where they’re at, whether that’s finacially, phsyically, emotionally or geographically.

“I saw an opportunity in the community to fill a need, right?” Rizzo said. “That takes more than one person. It’s a problem that’s bigger than one problem. It’s homelessness and sexual assault, it’s domestic violence, it’s drug use. Where can we help fill the gap?”

The public-voting period for the Runfulness Project opened today and runs through May 10, allowing the public to choose from five semifinalists, of which Rizzo is one. Voters can cast votes twice a day from each email address. The winner will receive $100,000, and four runners-up will receive $25,000 each.

“Having funding would allow us to do certain goals that would kind of speed up the process and make it more efficient and more streamlined in a way that we can deliver it to people more effectively,” Rizzo said, noting that she’d go through with the idea no matter what, and has gotten support from various sources.

Julian Marquez, a second-degree black belt in Brazlian jiu jitsu and an accomplished mixed-martial artist, has offered support along the way, as well as his gym, Longman Jiu-Jitsu, and Paul and Terry Kuribayashi, who own the Kukuiula Store where the gym is located.

The international contest has entries from the United States and Europe. Public voting accounts for 49% of the final tally, according to the rules, and the other 51% is scored by judges.

To learn more, visit brooksrunning.com/runfulness-project. Rizzo, too, is open for comments and community partners, who can reach her at mindfulharvest@gmail.com.

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Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or sbodon@thegardenisland.com.

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