This Sunday, May 22, the football field at will be transformed. There will be lots of food and entertainment to reward those for their efforts in participating in .
Lynn Riordan, organizer of the race, is hoping to hit the 1,200-participant mark this year. With 450 signed up so far, she’s confident they can hit that number. Riordan added that the race will be featured on WTNH’s Connecticut Style on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m., which should also help drum up some more interest.
“Last year at this time, we only had 170 and a lot of people signed up the day-of,” said Riordan, who will participate in the event herself. “Provided there’s good weather, a lot of people register that day. We’ve also made some changes to improve on last year’s event.”
The race, which is being run by JB Sports, begins at 9:30 a.m. on the certified 5K course with a timing system that allows runners names to be displayed and announced as they finish. There will be bands playing throughout the race course, including bagpipers from the Emerald Society that runners will see as they begin and finish the race. The Navels have donated their talent for a performance on the football field and kids will be treated to face painting and a balloon artist.
A slew of local businesses have donated food and drinks, including a pig roast by In and Out Deli, sodas from Foxon Park, bagels from Cohen’s, salad and bread sticks from Olive Garden and hot dogs and all the fixings plus paper goods from Stop&Shop.
Though the race isn’t all about competition or fun and games. Matt’s Mission 5K is run in remembrance of Matt Picciuto, who died in an accident caused by speeding on May 23, 2009. He was 18 years old–a senior at North Branford High School who was getting ready to attend Southern Connecticut State University after he graduated.
Riordan is Matt’s mom and since the accident, she has dedicated much of her time to Matt’s Mission, which has three goals: 1. To raise funds to help local students in need "so I could give back to the community that was very supportive of me and my family"; 2. To encourage people to ; and 3. To talk about awareness of driving destructively.
“We were fairly new to town when Matthew died–we had only lived her six years–and from the superintendent to anyone you passed in the street; the support and show of love for Matt, for me, for my children, I’ll never ever forget it,” said Riordan, who also has three daughters. “He wrote in his yearbook that he wanted to make a difference and that was a big push to starting this organization.”
Matt’s Mission 5K is the largest fundraiser throughout the year, but there are a number of smaller ones as well. This year, every school in North Branford took part in some kind of fundraising for Matt’s Mission. Riordan also gives back to the community as she shares the devastation of her experience with students with hopes they will learn to make better decisions (see the PDF of her speech).
“It definitely helps–I can’t imagine not talking about Matt and not allowing him to make the difference he wanted to make,” said Riordan. “It’s the only way I can continue to be his mom and it’s the only thing I can help him with.”
Riordan has certainly made a difference as Matt’s Mission has raised more than $30,000 in each of the past two years. This year’s race has two title sponsors–Lisa and Gene Goodmaster, who are family friends from Florida, and Yale-New haven Hospital Shoreline Medical Center. There are also an additional 80 sponsors who are taking part in the event, 33 percent more than last year.
“I work there, but they have been looking for an event to be a part of. On Matt’s birthday [Jan. 28], they thought it would be an appropriate day to ask to be a part of it and donated $5,000. He would’ve been 20 and it was a great gift,” said Riordan. “There has clearly been an outpouring of support from the North Branford community.”