DEANSBORO, NY — Jack London said in his classic novel, The Call of the Wild, “There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life.”
The 2015 Daniel Barden Highland Mudfest held at MKJ Farm in Deansboro invoked a similar joy as runners powered their way through ice-encrusted water obstacles, muddy hills and grueling physical endurance on their way to the finish line in honor of a little boy’s life who tragically will never see a mud puddle again.
The Mudfest was established in 2012 after the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Newtown, CT, that year. Daniel Barden, the event’s namesake, was one of the first graders killed in the incident. A daughter of event co-organizer, Karin Williams LaBanca, was inside the elementary school that day. She escaped physically unharmed but her next-door neighbor, Daniel, did not.
The William’s family (and Williams Fence Company) along with countless friends, volunteers and sponsors sprang into action to help the Barden family cope with their loss and promised to help another community heal.
“It’s not going to change anything, but I think it takes their mind off of it for a minute or two, said Jessica Williams Poyer. They come here and see that a random little town — this community four hours from their town — cares about them and is enveloping them in love.” In its first two years, the Mudfest has raised more than $100,000 for local charities.
The third installment featured a five-mile run, a 5K event and a half-mile obstacle course for children. The courses contained an array of 19 natural and man-made obstacles with names like: The meat grinder, gravity cavity, kilt-lifter, the spin cycle, the horizontal mamba, monkey around and culminating with a narrow log walk over frigid water at Paul Bunyan’s Cabin.
Over 1,000 folks with team names like the Newtown Cannon-ballers, Keep calm and mud-on, Beast mode, Lady lagers, Zoe’s squad and the Manor mudders, ventured into the slippery abyss with a capacity crowd of supporters and bagpipers cheering them on and nurturing Daniel’s spirit.
The event’s mastermind of eternal fortitude, Dan Williams, thanked all who supported the notion of a positive change in combatting senseless violence on children and communities. “This is one of the best days of my life,” he said.
With the help from runners and major sponsors: Pepsico, Saranac Brewery, NY Sash, K-Rock, Clinton Tractor Company and Paragon Athletic Club, the Mudfest proceeds will benefit Odyssey Adventure scholarships, which are made possible through a partnership with the Clark Foundation in Cooperstown, NY. Sixteen local eighth graders will participate in a 10-day, 80-mile canoe leadership experience through the Adirondacks in July. The youngsters selected, name a charity that affects them in some way, and the Mudfest will donate equally to the charities they name.
To learn more about the Daniel Barden Highland Mudfest and The What Would Daniel Do Foundation visit www.bardenmudfest.org or www.whatwoulddanieldo.com .