Crossing the Finish Line: part-time law student inspires fellow students to volunteer

Daniel Kuzma (third from right) gathered a team of students from the part-time class and Associate Dean Laura Zuppo for a marathon run for charity.

Daniel Kuzma (third from right) gathered a team of students from the part-time class and Assistant Dean Laura Zuppo (third from left) for a 5k run for St. Jude’s on March 4.

Part-time Stetson law student Daniel Kuzma carves out extra time to inspire fellow students to volunteer to help raise money for charity. The busy father of two started his first year in the part-time law program this year at Stetson, and organized a 5k fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in March that raised close to $6,000. A total of 150 people participated in the 5k that Kuzma organized on a warm Saturday in March, among them 11 students in Stetson’s part-time class, Stetson Law Assistant Dean Laura Zuppo, and Kuzma’s precocious youngest son Kristopher. Runners’ ages ranged from a one-year-old in a stroller to a 79-year-old, Kuzma shared.

“People often ask me if my kids have cancer,” said Kuzma, whose two sons Kristopher and Danny often join him on 5k runs. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a parent with sick kids. That’s why I run for St. Jude’s.”

Kuzma with Christopher (left) and Danny (right). Photo courtesy Daniel Kuzma.

Kuzma with Kristopher (left) and Danny (right). Photo courtesy Daniel Kuzma.

Kuzma said he is constantly inspired to cross the finish line by the people he has met along the way. Kuzma described meeting a hospitalized child last year before the Memphis Marathon who was determined to finish the race. She walked every day for 26 days until she finished the marathon.

When Kuzma initially toured Stetson law school’s sunny Mediterranean campus, he had not yet finished college. He promised Assistant Dean Zuppo after his tour of the law school that he would be back in four years, a promise he kept. When Kuzma told Zuppo about the 5k he was organizing with the part-time class, he said she jumped at the chance to participate.

“Having support and encouragement at the finish line is so important,” Kuzma explained, who remarked that he was impressed by the members of the Stetson community who came out to show support for the 5k in March.

“We’re not just raising money. We’re inspiring people who didn’t even know they could run a 5K,” Kuzma said.

The 41-year-old started running for charity to teach his sons the importance of giving back. Kuzma has raised more than $20,000 for St. Jude in just three years. He ran his first half-marathon in Nashville five years ago, with plans this year to run a marathon in Nashville on April 29 and in Memphis on Dec. 3.

As an undergraduate at St. Petersburg College, Kuzma pitched the idea of a 5K for charity. Today, the Clearwater mayor, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, LabCorp, Dolman Law Group, U.S. Air Force, Orangetheory Fitness, Fit2Run and Wawa show support at the 5k.

Kuzma said he wanted to use his volunteer work to show his children the importance of being an advocate, a responsibility he takes seriously.

“I wanted to be a voice for people who can’t put a sentence together,” said Kuzma. “If we have an ability or a skill set, we have to do more.”