February 13, 2009
|Cole (left ) and Greg Ruzicka
Greg Ruzicka (LL.M.’81) aids the needy on “Fox’s Secret Millionaire”
By the time Greg Ruzicka (LL.M. ’81) was 32, he was already a millionaire. Nowadays, he is the principal and managing partner of Ruzicka & Wallace, LLP, which specializes in real property litigation. He is the owner of two houses in Newport Beach, CA and Maui, HI; a collection of cars that includes Mercedes, Audi and Roles Royce; and a private airplane. But Ruzicka, along with his 22-year-old son Cole, decided to give back to those in need with Fox’s reality TV show “Secret Millionaire.” On the show, millionaires travel to the most destitute areas of the country, posing undercover as poor for one week. At the end of six days, they reveal themselves to the residents they’ve met, and they donate at least $100,000 to the people of their choosing.
Fox sent Ruzicka and his son to live in Imperial Beach, CA, one of the most polluted beaches in America where 20% of its residents live below the poverty line. The experience was eye opening for the two, who were given only $150 to begin their weeklong stay. They found themselves living in squalor, in a one-bedroom apartment with roaches and holes in the wall. The taxing experience changed how the two saw poverty and the people afflicted by it.
“It seems like so many people who are wealthy think that people are poor because they’re ignorant or uneducated,” said Cole. “It’s people with all the money…who are the ignorant ones.”
Over the course of their stay, the Ruzickas met three people whom they felt were deserving of their fortune.
They met Linda after taking a job in construction to pay their expenses for the week. Linda had suffered a severe back injury after falling during one of her construction jobs. Because she didn’t have health insurance, she was homeless for almost a year, even spending some time living in a river bottom. When Greg and Cole met her, she was still trying to get out from under her debt, but she volunteered once a week with a homeless shelter. The Ruzickas were touched by her determination, and they gave Linda $25,000 at the end of their stay.
The second person to whom they donated money was Kathy, a woman who had turned her house into a homeless shelter, supporting many homeless children off of her social security benefits. She said she spent at least $200 a week on food.
“There’s just love all over that house,” said Greg. “Where we live, stuff like that just doesn’t happen.”
To help Kathy in her cause, Greg and Cole provided a carload of toys for the children, as well as a check for $50,000.
The final recipient of the Ruzickas’ generosity was Emily, a young girl who was undergoing treatment for bone cancer. Because Emily’s parents worked for small companies, they did not have health insurance to pay for Emily’s medical bills, and they had both taken an emergency leave of absence from their jobs.
“I’ve got the highest respect for the whole family. They’re going through a very rough time. And they were dealing with it with such strength. It was very, very emotionally moving,” said Greg. The Ruzickas gave Emily and her family $50,000.
Although the Ruzicka family gave much needed assistance to the people of Imperial Beach, what Greg and Cole took away from the experience was priceless.
“This whole experience has been very difficult and very emotionally exhausting, but in these past few days I feel like I’ve really done something, really accomplished something,” said Cole. “It’s just money that we don’t necessarily need, but it will change their lives.”
>>View Greg and Cole Ruzicka in Episode One of Fox’s “Secret Millionaire”
Reported by Elizabeth Ress